Looking at Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters and The Fish Bitters

Looking at Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters and The Fish Bitters

Ware & Schmitz, Philadelphia

31 August 2018

I can not believe that I have not definitively written about the original figural fish bitters bottles before so I thought I would dust off my laptop and put something together. There are three variants worth noting and that includes Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters and The Fish Bitters (centered and off-centered mouth versions). There are also later 20th century bottles.

William Harrison Ware patented the bottle design in 1866 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bitters recipe was from “the great scientist, Dr. Gottlieb Fisch of Berlin, Prussia.” I guess we can see where the the fish bottle design originated. W. Harrison Ware was a liquor dealer who was born in New Jersey around 1835. The fish bitters brand sold from 1866 to 1882 or so. Ware & Schmitz (William H. Ware & Charles M. Schmitz) were the proprietors. They typically marketed with the “Fisch” name although many bottles are embossed “Fish”.

W. H. Ware, Design for a Bottle, Patent No. 2522, dated December 4, 1866

The bottle label reads, “An unequaled beverage and appetizer invaluable for dyspepsia, general debility, languor, loss of appetite and any complaint requiring a tonic bitters. Free from the deleterious effects of alcoholic drinks, for which it is an antidote. It is prompt in action, palatable to the taste, and bracing and invigorating in its effects upon both the body and mind.”

Cast iron Fish Bitters mold – Philadelphia Museum of Art

The bottles are extremely collectable and come in a wide range of colors including clear, aqua, amber, yellow, citron, medium green and cobalt blue. The fish bottles were made at Whitney Glass Works in Glassboro, New Jersey. Advertisement below from 1874.

Ware died in 1882 and is buried in Philadelphia at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Later figural fish bottles.

In 1922, Eli Lilly & Company began using the blown glass fish bottle for cod liver oil and continued its use until 1933. The bottles were manufactured by the Faimont Glass Company of Indianapolis. The bottles were produced in four sizes: one pint (10″ long), one-half pint (8 1/2″ long), 4 oz (6 1/4″ long) and a salesman bottle (3″ long) which was not filled but used as an empty sample.

Wheaton Glass Company later made cute little Dr. Fisch’s Bitters in a variety of colors.

Read: Early Cod Liver Oil Bottle

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listings in Bitters Bottles  for the Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters and The Fish Bitters are as follows:


Doctor Fisch’s Bitters

F 44 Doctor Fisch’s Bitters
DOCTOR ( ad ) // FISCH’S BITTERS ( ad ) // W.H. WARE / PATENTED 1866 //
11 3/4 x 3 5/8 x 2 3/8
Fish, Applied mouth and Rolled Lip, Amber – Common; Aqua, Clear – Very rare
Label: On bevel or stomach a picture of a fish with details in German and English.
Drug Catalogs: 1876-77 and 1880 Goodwin
In 1922, Eli Lilly & Company began using the blown glass fish bottle for cod liver oil and continued its use until 1933. The bottles wee manufactured by the Faimont Glass Company of Indianapolis. The bottles were produced in four sizes: one pint (10″ long), one-half pint (8 1/2″ long), 4 oz (6 1/4″ long) and a salesman bottle (3″ long) which was not filled but used as an empty sample.

F 44 Doctor Fisch’s Bitters


The Fish Bitters (centered mouth)

F 45 The Fish Bitters (centered mouth)
THE ( ad ) / FISH BITTERS ( ad ) // W.H. WARE ( ad ) / PATENTED 1866 ( au ) //
Ware & Schmidz, 3 & 5 Granite Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
11 1/2 x 3 5/8 x 2 1/2
Fish, Applied mouth and Rolled Lip, Amber – Common; Aqua, Clear, Yellow, Green,
Yellow olive, Lime green and Reddish puce – Very Rare; Cobalt – Extremely Rare
Label: Prepared from the recipe of Dr. Gottlieb of Berlin, Prussia. An unequaled beverage and appetizer invaluable for dyspepsia, general debility, languor, loss of appetite and any complaint requiring a tonic bitters. Free from the deleterious effects of alcoholic drinks, for which it is an antidote. It is prompt in action, palatable to the taste, and bracing and invigorating in its effects upon both the body and mind.
Fish Bitters

F 45: The Fish Bitters (centered mouth)


The Fish Bitters (off-centered mouth)

F 46 The Fish Bitters (off-centered mouth)
THE ( ad ) / FISH BITTERS ( ad ) // W.H. WARE ( ad ) /
PATENTED 1866 ( ad ) // // b // W.H. WARE / PATENT 1866
Ware & Schmitz, 3-5 Granite Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
11 3/8 x 3 3/4 x 2 1/2
Fish, Mouth off center, Applied mouth and Rolled Lip, Scales like cobble-stones,
Amber-Scarce; Clear – Rare; Aqua – Extremely rare, Cobalt Blue – Extremely rare

F 46: The Fish Bitters (off-centered mouth)


Newspaper Advertising

Advertisement: Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters – Jacksonville Republican, Saturday, September 9, 1871

Ware & Schmidt, Philadelphia, Proprietors for Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters – The Montgomery Advertiser, Friday, June 21, 1872

The Great Tonic of the Age – Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s Bitters advertisement – Quad City Times, Monday, August 19, 1872

Dr. Fisch’s Bitters advertisement – The Rock Island Argus, Thursday, July 17, 1873


Trade Cards

Two kitten-themed W. Harrison Ware advertising trade cards from the Joe Gourd collection. Both promoting Doctor Fisch’s Bitters on the reverse side. Circa 1880.


Tough to Catch Fish

F 46: Extremely rare medium green The Fish Bitters (off-centered mouth)

F 46: Extremely rare cobalt blue The Fish Bitters

F 46: Extremely rare aqua The Fish Bitters

Fish Bitters – FOHBC Virtual Museum

F 46: The Fish Bitters in Clear glass


Fish Tank Gallery

The Fish Bitters – Ed Gray photograph

Fish Bitters – Krist Collection

Fish Bitters at 2014 Houston Bottle Show – Meyer collection


Select Listings:

1835: William Ware, Birth Date: Abt 1835, Birthplace: New Jersey
1863: William Ware, merchant, 1433 Spruce – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1866: W. H. Ware, Design for a Bottle No. 2522, dated December 4, 1866
1868: Ware & Schmitz (William H. Ware & C. M. Schmitz), liquors, 19 N Water – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1870: Advertisement: The Fish BittersThe Tri-Weekly Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 1870.
1870: William Ware, Liquor Dealer, Age: 33, Birth Date: Abt 1837, Birthplace: New Jersey, Home in 1870: Philadelphia Ward 10 District 28, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Married: Amelia M. Ware, Household Members: William Ware 33, Amelia Ware 41, Charles Ware 11, William Ware 7, Morris Ware 4 – United States Federal Census
1870-77: Ware & Schmitz (William H. Ware & C. M. Schmitz), liquors, 3 Granite – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1871: Advertisement: Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s BittersJacksonville Republican, Saturday, September 9, 1871
1872: Advertisement: Ware & Schmidt, Philadelphia, Proprietors for Dr. Gottlieb Fisch’s BittersThe Montgomery Advertiser, Friday, June 21, 1872
1873: Advertisement: Dr. Fisch’s Bitters – The Rock Island Argus (Illinois), Thursday, July 17, 1873
1877: Ware & Schmidt, liquor – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday, May 15, 1877
1880: William H. Ware, Liquor Dealer, Age: 45, Birth Date: Abt 1835, Birthplace: New Jersey, Home in 1880: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 135 North Thirteenth Street, Married: Amelia Ware, Father’s Birthplace: New Jersey, Mother’s Birthplace: New Jersey, Household Members: William H. Ware 33, Amelia Ware 30, Charles A. Ware 1 – United States Federal Census
1880-82: W. Harrison Ware, liquors, 3 Granite, h 135 N 13th – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Directory
1882: William H. Ware, Birth: unknown, New Jersey, Death: Sep 1882, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Burial: Mount Moriah Cemetery

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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