Looking at some French Bitters

Looking at some French Bitters

French Bitters – Morse & Williams – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

01 March 2018 (R•032318)

A really cool French Bitters (pictured above) put out by Morse & Williams showed up on the Glass Works Auctions | Auction 119 that closed this past Monday night. I wasn’t familiar with the bottle and see that it is rated ‘extremely rare’ in Bitters Bottles. The listing even notes “dug near Torch Lake, Michigan“. So I wonder, is this a second example? Where is the bottle from? Who is Morse & Williams?

Updated in BB2
F 86 FRENCH BITTERS // f // MORSE & WILLIAMS // f //
9 3/4 x 2 5/8 (5 3/4) 1/4
Square, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, 2 sp, Extremely rare
Put out by Dr. French & Son, Hillsdale, Michigan. Brand was represented by James Allen &  Son, Dated around 1870
Example dug near Torch Lake, Michigan

Below is the Glass Works Auctions write-up on the lot which seems to not reference Bitters Bottles unless they know of other examples.

125. “FRENCH BITTERS – MORSE & WILLIAMS”, (Ring/Ham, F-86), American, ca. 1870 – 1880, medium amber, 10”h, smooth base, applied sloping collar mouth. Pristine perfect condition. Very rare and one of only a very few known examples. Larry Umbreit Collection.

A quick search pulls only one advertisement (below) for this brand and confirms that it is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin around 1869. Yep, pretty darn rare.

The listing in Bitters Bottles may want to be updated to include Milwaukee, Wisconsin and 1869 as noted in the advertisement.

French Bitters advertisement noting Morse & Williams.- Semi Weekly (Milwaukee), Wisconsin, Saturday, July 3, 1869

In my own collection, I have a few bitters with ‘French’ in the name. Many others by Frenchmen, many from New Orleans. This includes French Aromatique Bitters (F 85) and Steinfeld’s French Cognac Bitters (S 186). I even posted previously about French’s Cockade Bitters (F 89.5) and French’s Virginia Tonic Bitters (F 88L) where I have some advertising material and I am aware of the super rare Pasquier’s French Hygienic Bitters (P 29) from Louisville. I love that bottle.


Dr. F. French’s Strengthening Bitters

Dr. F. French – Hillsdale, Michigan

As usual, when I search for a specific bitters on the internet using various search engines like Google or research sites like Newspapers.com, Ancestry.com and Fold3, I come across other similar bitters. Since ‘French’ was the key word, I pulled up the following:

Dr. French’s Bitters (F 89) from Michigan. Dated around 1870. Put out by Dr. F. French & Son in Hillsdale, Michigan. It looks like his son was Charles G. French. The brand was represented by James Allen & Son. The listing may want to be updated in the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2 to include the information above and clarify the bitters name as Dr. F. French’s Strengthening Bitters.

Dr. F. French’s Strengthening Bitters noted on the reverse of this Presential Series advertising trade card – Joe Gourd Collection

Dr. French’s Strengthening Bitters advertisement put out by Dr. F. French & Son, Hillsdale, Michigan – Steuben Republican (Angola, Indiana), Wednesday, July 27, 1870

Here is another Dr. French’s Bitters noted below. Maybe the same bitters though the marketing approach is different. The “F’ initial is missing from Dr. French’s name and this advertisement is 12 years later. It is in the same region though. Could be left over stock.

I checked with Bill Ham, co-author of the Bitters Bottles books and he provided the following listing for Bitters Bottles Supplement 2. 

Advertisement
F 83.2 DR. FRENCH’S BITTERS, A genuine Western Tonic, especially for farmers, Lumbermen and others exposed to our changeable climate. The trade supplied by Allen, Moon & Co..

Dr. French’s Bitters. Probable the same bitters though the marketing approach is different – The Saint Paul Globe (Minnesota) Wednesday, December 27, 1882


French’s Bitters

La Plata, Missouri

French’s Bitters (unlisted?) from La Plata, Missouri. Advertisement below from 1877. For sale in La Plata by Miller & Miller, Druggists and sold at Grimsley & Phillips’ Pioneer Saloon. The La Plata Home Press was a Democratic paper established on August 18, 1876 by J. B. Thompson. This eight page paper was released every Thursday in La Plata, Missouri by the Home Press Publishing Company. The paper’s name was changed to simply Home Press in 1880, but the original name was restored just nine years later. The paper was bought by Editor James Lewis Baity in 1898. The advertisement below is a great example of cross marketing the bitters as a medicine and alcoholic beverage sold in bars.

This could be the same bitters as the theme French Bitters from Milwaukee but I doubt it. A new listing may want to be added to the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2. See update below.

Advertisement
F 85.7 FRENCH BITTERS, For sale by Miller & Miller, Druggists, and at Grimsley & Phillips” Pioneer Saloon in La Plata, Missouri, circa 1876-1880

French’s Bitters advertisement – La Plata Home Press (Missouri), Saturday, July 21, 1877


Dr. Griffith’s Savatti (or Sattavi) French Bitters

Dr. Griffith (Griffith & Son) – Lawrence, Kansas

Dr. Griffith’s Savatti (or Sattavi) French Bitters (unlisted?) from Lawrence, Kansas. Advertisement below appeared from 1868 to 1869. Dr. Griffith established a chemical laboratory in Lawrence, Kansas. He is noted as a graduate of the London University.

Funny how the ad below spells both ‘Savatti’ and ‘Sattavi’. Which is correct? Both seem to be a last name of someone.

I checked with Bill Ham, co-author of the Bitters Bottles books and he sees no listing for this bitters. A new bitters listing may want to be added to the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2. Updated below.

Advertisement
G 116.2 DR. GRIFFITH’S SAVATTI FRENCH BITTERS, Griffith’s Chemical Laboratory, Lawrence Kansas, 1868-1869

Savatti French BittersLawrence Daily Journal (Kansas), Saturday, March 13, 1869


Dr. Ford’s French Stomach Bitters

Dr. R. T. Ford – Monongahela City, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh)

Dr. R.T. Ford put out a Ford’s French Stomach Bitters, calling it a medicine in Monongahela City, Pennsylvania which is early Pittsburgh. The advertisement below is from 1860.

A new bitters listing may want to be added to the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2. Updated below.

Advertisement
F 62.5 FORD’S FRENCH STOMACH BITTERS, Dr. R. T. Ford, Moningahela City, Pennsylvania, Advertised 1860

Dr. Ford’s French Stomach Bitters advertisement – Monongahela Valley Republican (Monongahela City, Pa.), Thursday, September 6, 1860


Dubonnet French Bitters

I. H. Oppenheim – Atlanta, Georgia

In the late 1907 advertisement from Atlanta, Georgia below, I. H. Oppenheim is trying to get rid of his entire stock including “Dubonnet” a celebrated French Bitters, splendid tonic and appetizer” $1.00 a bottle, regular price $1.50. This gets us away from the hard core bitters from a few decades prior as this is more of a drink stimulant.

A new bitters listing may want to be added to the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2.

Dubonnet French Bitters advertisement – The Atlanta Constitution, Sunday, October 27, 1907


French Bitters in Volume

I can find many advertisements from across the country where large volumes of ‘French Bitter’s are being imported and sold. I can not associate any brand names and wonder what this is all about? Here are a few examples.

1 Cask French Bitters

Being auctioned by F.W. Bennett & Co. in Baltimore, Maryland in 1864.

1 cask French Bitters being auctioned by F.W. Bennett & Co. – The Baltimore Sun, Saturday, February 27, 1864


Fine Kentucky Liquors, French Bitters, McHenry Lager Beer and J. Schlitz Milwaukee Bottle Beer

Sold by Antony Englen’s Saloon & Restaurant in McHenry, Illinois in 1888. Is this a generic listing or a reference to the French Bitters which I lead off in this post. I seriously doubt it as it is about 20 years later. There would be more Morse & Williams French Bitters bottles out there.

Fine Kentucky Liquors, French Bitters, McHenry Lager Beer and J. Schlitz Milwaukee Bottle Beer advertisement – The McHenry Plaindealer (Illinois), Wednesday, July, 22 1891


Boyle & Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio selling Domestic Liquors, Wines, Cordials and French Bitters

I think we are going to have to call this a generic listing too. The interesting thing here in this early 1859 advertisement below, is reference to Boyle & Co. being an agent for F. Goule’s Japanese BittersI checked with Bill Ham, co-author of the Bitters Bottles books and he sees no listing for this bitters. A new bitters listing may want to be added to the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2 (see update below).

Advertisement
F 83.3 FRENCH BITTERS, Boyle & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, advertisement 1859, Boyle & Co. is referenced as an agent for F. Goule’s Japanese Bitters

French Bitters listed generally in this advertisement along with F. Goule’s Japanese Bitters. – The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Virginia) Thursday, October 20, 1859


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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