Professor Virchow’s Iron Bitters – Chicago


Professor Virchow’s Iron Bitters – Chicago

04 September 2015 (R•120615)

Apple-Touch-IconAJeff Burkhardt (Cedarburg, Wisconsin) sent the following e-mail and two pictures of a Professor Virchow’s Iron Bitters. I have not seen one of these bottles before so I thought this was pretty cool. Nice to see that Jeff took the time to find out a little bit about the bottle.

Hello Ferdinand,

Just picked up a PROF. VIRCHOW’S IRON BITTERS, a bitters that I’d never seen before. A quick search reveals that HERMAN KAESTNER was a pioneer tobacco merchant and possible saloon owner(609 Wells St.) in CHICAGO in late 1890s.

The bottle, V-23 in the Ham/Ring listing, is rated extremely rare and came from an old Wisconsin collection. Carlyn listed in her FOR BITTERS ONLY so she may have had one. This is what makes bitters collecting so exciting…always a new, extremely rare find around the corner!




V 23Drawing

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:

6 3/4 x 3 (5 1/4)
Square, Amber, CM, Extremely rare
Lettering reads base to shoulder

“PROF. VIRCHOWS / IRON BITTERS / MAN’FRD BY THE / CHICAGO BITTERS CO. / HERMAN KAESTNER / SOLE AGENT”, (Ring/Ham, V-23), Illinois, ca. 1880 – 1890, medium amber, 6 3/4″h, smooth base, applied mouth. Cleaned to its original luster but retains some minor imperfections mostly along the edge of the base. Rated as extremely rare, which it must be as none have been sold at auction in the last 25-years! – Glass Works Auctions | Auction 109

Read about another iron bitters: Baltimore’s Iron Bitters – Brown Chemical Company

Herman Kaestner

Herman Kaestner was born in Saxony, Germany around 1822 from parents also from Saxonia. He received his United States citizenship on 03 September 1855 in New York City, N.Y. and moved to Chicago, Illinois to become a pioneer tobacco merchant. Listings for his cigar business can be found in Chicago as early as 1861. He next would lose his property and stock of tobacco in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Rebuilding, he again went into the cigar and tobacco business until he moved into the saloon business in 1886 at 609 Wells Street in Chicago. He jumped on the bitters bandwagon around 1890 with his Chicago Bitters Company enterprise and is listed in the bitters business in an 1891 Chicago City Directory. This is why the bottle is extremely rare. He died in 1895.

He named his bitters after Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow who was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician, known for his advancement of public health. He is known as “the father of modern pathology“. I doubt they ever met though they could have met the professor in Germany before he came to United States.

If you look at the bottle mouth, it looks like it has an applied lip. This is odd if it is dated around 1890. Maybe Jeff can confirm this?

Mrs. Kaestner, nee Gebhardt, came over from Germany in a sail boat in the 1850s, and the time consumed in making the trip was seventy-seven days. The trip was accompanied by many perils. (Chicago: Its History and Its Builders, a Century of Marvelous Growth, 1912)

Professor Virchow


Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician, known for his advancement of public health. He is known as “the father of modern pathology” because his work helped to discredit humourism, bringing more science to medicine. He is also known as the founder of social medicine and veterinary pathology, and to his colleagues, the “Pope of medicine“.

Born and bred in Schievelbein (Świdwin) as an only child of a working-class family, he proved to be a brilliant student. Dissuaded by his weak voice, he abandoned his initial interest in theology and turned to medicine. With special military scholarship, he earned his medical degree from Friedrich-Wilhelms Institute (Humboldt University of Berlin) under the tutelage of Johannes Peter Müller. He worked at the Charité hospital under Robert Froriep, whom he eventually succeeded as the prosector.

Although he failed to contain the 1847–1848 typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia, his report laid the foundation for public health in Germany, as well as his political and social activities. From it, he coined a well known aphorism: “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale”. He participated in the Revolution of 1848, which led to his expulsion from Charité the next year. He published a newspaper Die medicinische Reform (Medical Reform) during this period to disseminate his social and political ideas. He took the first Chair of Pathological Anatomy at the University of Würzburg in 1849. After five years, Charité invited him back to direct its newly built Institute for Pathology, and simultaneously becoming the first Chair of Pathological Anatomy and Physiology at Berlin University. The campus of Charité is now named Campus Virchow Klinikum. He cofounded the political party Deutsche Fortschrittspartei, by which he was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and won a seat in the Reichstag. His opposition to Otto von Bismarck’s financial policy resulted in an anecdotal “Sausage Duel” between the two. But he ardently supported Bismarck in his anti-Catholic campaigns, the social revolution he himself named as Kulturkampf (“culture struggle”).

A prolific writer, his scientific writings alone crossed 2,000 in number. Among his books, Cellular Pathology published in 1858 is regarded as the root of modern pathology. This work also popularised the third dictum in cell theory: Omnis cellula e cellula (“All cells come from cells”); although his idea originated in 1855. He founded journals such as Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medizin (now Virchows Archiv), and Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (Journal of Ethnology). The latter is published by German Anthropological Association and the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory, the societies of which he also founded.

Virchow was the first to precisely describe and give names of diseases such as leukemia, chordoma, ochronosis, embolism, and thrombosis. He coined scientific terms, chromatin, agenesis, parenchyma, osteoid, amyloid degeneration, and spina bifida. His description of the transmission cycle of a roundworm Trichinella spiralis established the importance of meat inspection, which was started in Berlin. He developed the first systematic method of autopsy involving surgery of all body parts and microscopic examination. A number of medical terms are named after him, including Virchow’s node, Virchow–Robin spaces, Virchow–Seckel syndrome, and Virchow’s triad. He was the first to use hair analysis in criminal investigation, and recognised its limitations. His laborious analyses of the hair, skin, and eye colour of school children made him criticise the Aryan race concept as a myth.

He was an ardent anti-evolutionist. He referred to Charles Darwin as “ignoramus” and his own student Ernst Haeckel, the leading advocate of Darwinism in Germany, as a “fool”. He discredited the original specimen of Neanderthal as nothing but that of a deformed human, and not an ancestral species. He was an agnostic.

In 1861, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1892, he was awarded the Copley Medalof the British Royal Society. He was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1873, and entitled an ennoblement “von Virchow”, but which he declined. [Wikipedia]

Select Listings:

1822: Herman Kaestner born 1822 in Saxony, Germany.
1855: Herman Kaestner Naturalization, 03 Sep 1855, New York
1860: Onychomycosis. – Professor Virchow exhibited to the Berlin Medical Society a specimen of a nail affected with what he terms onychomycosis. It consists of a vegetable parasite, first described as affecting the finger-nail by Meissner, and very frequently observed by Virchow in the nail of the great toe at Wurzburg. It occurs far less frequently in Berlin. The preparation exhibits the characteristic white appearance of the surface of the nail, due to the presence of a fungus situated deeply at the bottom of the nail. It resembles porrigo favosa, but is not identical with it, porrigo of the nail being less deeply placed than onychomycosis..— Deutsche Klinik, No. 38., Medical Times and Gazette, 1860
1861-1870:  Herman Kaestner, 88 Wells, Cigars, Tobacco, Retail – John C.W. Bailey’s Business Directory of Chicago
1868: Herman Kaestner, 88 Wells, Cigar Manufacturers and Dealers – Commercial Directory of the Western States
1870: Herman Kaestner, Cigar Dealer, Age in 1870: 48 Estimated Birth Year: 1821 Birthplace: Germany, Home in 1870: Chicago Ward 19, Cook, Illinois Race: White Gender: Male – United States Federal Census
1874: The yellow pigment is now designated bilirubin. On standing, it becomes greenish from oxydation, and is converted into biliverdin, which accounts for the dark colour usually presented by the bile in the gall-bladder after death and in the faeces. Biliverdin is also the principal colouring matter of the bile of the herbivora. Bilirubin is now known to be formed from blood-pigment or haemoglobin by the hepatic cells, in the passage of the blood through the liver. That this was the source of the bile-pigment, was suggested at the end of last century by a distinguished Fellow of this College, Dr. W. Saunders, who observed: “Green and bitter bile, being in common to all animals with red blood, and found only in such, makes it probable that there is some relative connection between this fluid and the colouring matter of the blood, by the red particles contributing more especially to its formation. This view, revived in our own day by Virchow, is supported by the apparent identity of bile-pigment with the pigmenthcematoidin found in old extravasations of blood, and by the fact that what appears to be bile-pigment can be produced from blood-pigment by the action of chemical reagents; by the discovery of Zenker and F’rcrichs of crystals of haemotoidin in inspissated bile and in the bile of jaundiced urine; by the observation of Gubler that bilirubin and hajmatin give the same play of colours with nitric acid, except that the green colour is most persistent in the former, and the violet in the latter;  by the discovery of Frerichs, Kuhne, and others, that when any. – Virchow’s Cellular Pathology, English Translation, p. 144; Kuhne, Lehrbuck dcr Physiol, Chcmie. Leipzig, 1866, p. 89.
1876: Herman Kaestner, cigar manufacturer, 23 Lake, r 692 N. Franklin – The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago
1880: Herman Kaestner, Cigar Manufacturer, Age in 1870: 58 Estimated Birth Year: 1821 Birthplace: Germany – United States Federal Census
1882: Herman Kaestner & Company, 18 North Clark, Cigars – Chicago Illinois City Directory
1886-1889: Herman Kaestner, saloon, 609 Wells –A. N. Marquis & Co.’s Handy Business Directory of Chicago, Volume 1
1889: The advisability of appointing school doctors in Germany, we are told, was suggested by Professor Virchow in 1889, and in 1900 medical inspection of schools was actually in operation in Wiesbaden, Konigsberg, Niirnberg, Darmstadt, Frankfort, Dresden and Leipzig. In 1899 the Board of Health of New York City had 250 medical inspectors for schools at a salary of $360, with a chief at a salary of $2,500. In Chicago, in January, 1900, a daily inspection was begun with fifty-six inspectors receiving fifty dollars a month, to work from 9A.M. till 12 noon. The city of Boston is divided into fifty districts, with a medical inspector to each. Germany and America, the great progressive countries of the world, are alive to the necessity of making the health of the children a matter of first importance. We occasionally appoint a medical officer often quite unfitted for the work by training or special experience to act under the School Board and make the best arrangements he can with the Medical Officer of Health, but at best our methods are blundering, cumbersome, and to a great extent useless. – Med. Press and Circular
1890: Herman Kaestner Voter Registration – Living in Cook County Illinois 31 living in precinct 6 years. Current address 7 Hammond Court
1891: Herman Kaestner, Bitters, 79 Hammond – Chicago Illinois City Directory
1895: Herman Kaestner died o7 August 1895 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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One Response to Professor Virchow’s Iron Bitters – Chicago

  1. Froggy says:

    Wow, great amount of add’l info Ferdinand! Always a touch-down when we pass you a ball. And, no the lip is not applied, but tooled.

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