Democratic Bitters


Democratic Bitters

18 November 2015

Apple-Touch-IconAHere is a communication below from James Viguerie who periodically helps out with bitters posts. Looks like we have references to an unlisted Democratic Bitters made by Dr. Samuel R. Whitlow from Peoria County, Illinois around 1871 and 1872. The bitters was most likely named as a reference to the 1872 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I am not aware of any bottles in collections.

The top support image is the interior of Ford’s Grand Opera House of John T. Ford, (1829-1894), on East Fayette Street (between North Howard and Eutaw Streets) in Baltimore, Maryland during the 1872 Democratic National Convention, (built 1871, razed 1964). 

James Viguerie email:


I meant to do more research on the Democratic Bitters but never have so I thought I should just send some references along to you. Attached is the patent number and another reference mentioning the bitters. I did not see it listed in the Bitters Bottles books.


March 1871 United States Patent Office patent for Improvement in Medical Compounds or Bitters (Democratic Bitters), Samuel R. Whitlow, Limestone Township, Peoria, Illinois

1872 Internal Revenue Records vol 16

J.D. Sickles of Peoria, Illinois arrested for selling Democratic Bitters – 1872 Internal Revenue Records vol 16

I decided to just type up a summary of all my bitters related patents in a spreadsheet. That way I can sort by patent number, date etc. I am only at 60 entries right now but will send you the whole thing when done. There should be some good information to help better date some Bitters, identify who put them out, and there location. Many patents have the recipes for the bitters being patented. It could be interesting too when the request was put in vs. when the patent was awarded. Sometimes I see a 2 year difference so they may be older than what the patent date shows. I was a little surprised to see several woman had patented bitters in the 1800s. The witnesses might be useful information too. However, they could just be friends of the patent applicant and not in the business.


Democratic Bitters was described in the patent above:

The ingredients and their respective quantities are Oil of cinnamon, twenty-five drops; oil of sassuhas, twenty drops; oil of cloves, twenty-three drops; tincture of spikenztrd, three ounces; tincture of comfrey, two ounces; tincture of columba, two ounces; white sugar, one-half pound; spirits, one gallon; water, one quart; curcumin or curcuma, a suiiicieut quantity to give the desired color.
Mix the oils above mentioned with the spirits, add the sugar and water, and lastly the curcumin, and bottle up for use.
The dose is a wine-glass full three times a day, and is for the curing of or invigoration of the stomach, liver, and the entire human system, and for improving the digestion, strengthening the lungs, counteracting malaria, and purifying the blood, acting as a. general tonic and gentle stimulant.

I like that…spirits, one gallon!

A search reveals the following newspaper listings.


Jonathan D. Syckles of Canton, Illinois arrested for selling Democratic Bitters – Alton Telegraph, Friday, June 28, 1872


Dr. S. R. Whitlow warning the public to not buy Democratic Bitters from Sabastian Winters – The Dixon Telegraph, Wednesday, September 25, 1872

Select Samuel R. Whitlow Listings

1826: Samuel R. Whitlow was born in February 1826 in Illinois.
1856: Samuel R. Whitlow married Lavina Mary Eads on June 8, 1856, in Peoria County, Illinois, when he was 30 years old.
1863: S R Whitlow, Dillon, Illinois, 8th Congressional District. Age on 1 July 1863: 37, Estimated birth year: abt 1826, Place of Birth: Illinois – U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records
1870: Samuel R. Whitlow, age 42, Patent Right Dealer living in Peoria, Illinois – United States Federal Census
1871: Patent: March 1871 United States Patent Office patent for Improvement in Medical Compounds or Bitters (Democratic Bitters), Samuel R. Whitlow, Limestone Township, Peoria, Illinois (see above)
1872: Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland
1872: Newspaper Notice: Dr. S. R. Whitlow warning the public to not buy Democratic Bitters from Sabastian Winters (see above) – The Dixon Telegraph, Wednesday, September 25, 1872
1880: Samuel R. Whitlow, 52, Doctor, Birth Year: abt 1828 in Illinois, Home in 1880: Limestone, Peoria, Illinois, Married Louenia Whitlow, Household Members: Samuel R. Whitlow, 52, Louenia Whitlow, 41, Marian Whitlow, 23, Sylvania Whitlow, 15, Edward Whitlow, 12, Matthew Whitlow, 9, Samuel Whitlow, 9, Mary Whitlow, 5, Hatta Whitlow, 1 – United States Federal Census
1900: Samuel Whitlow, 74, Birth Date: February 1826 in Illinois, Home in 1900: Peoria Ward 7, Peoria, Illinois, Marital Status: Widowed, Father’s Birthplace: Virginia, Mother’s Birthplace: North Carolina, Also: Marian Whitlow, 42, Josephine Whitlow, 42, May Whitlow, 18, Charles Whitlow,16, Henry Whitlow, 15, Anna Whitlow, 12, Joseph Whitlow 4, Samuel Whitlow, 74 – United States Federal Census
1901: Samuel Whitlow, Physician, r 131 Hickory – Peoria City Directory

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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