Dr. Michael Cox’s Bitters – Pittsburgh
H. Obernauer & Company
23 September 2018
I’d forgotten about my Dr. Michael Cox’s Bitters with the three embossed cocks until somebody posted a picture of an example on PRG Facebook the other day. What a cool bottle. I always thought it was from New Orleans around 1885 but it is really from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a really late, tooled lip bottle. So late, the proprietor Herman Obernauer could have people place orders for his bitters by phone!
According to Bitters Bottles, the label reads, “Dr. Michael Cox’s Brand Stomach Bitters, H. Obernauer, Pittsburgh” and pictures three fighting cocks. Need to find a labeled example. I suppose the cocks are a graphics representation of the name Cox. Don’t know who Dr. Cox was of if he really existed.
Hermann Obernauer was born in Württemberg, in southern Germany in 1856 and spent his late teens and early twenties traveling throughout Europe as a salesman. He came to America in 1880 and settled in Pittsburgh.
Mr. Obernauer (pictured left) was a life-long liquor man nesting in Pittsburgh. We first see him running a saloon in 1884 on 395 Fifth Avenue. In 1886, H. Obernauer & Co. is listed as Wholesale Liquor Dealers at the same 395 Fifth Avenue address. Eventually this address morphs into 400 Fifth Avenue in the 1890s where Mr. Obernauer continues to sell whiskey and wine both wholesale and retail. He was also listed as a distiller. You can see an H. Obernauer & Co. shot glass on the left from the Pre-Pro Whiskey web site.
You can also see a neat picture taken in May 1911 of his liquor establishment at the corner of Fifth and Stevenson below. He adorned the sides of the building with painted whiskey bottle graphics for Berthana Medicated Wine, Belle of Pittsburg Whiskey and H.O. Brown Gin, the latter two being patented products from the distillery he operated. If you look closely, you can see his stacked bottles on display in his storefront windows.
Read: 1400 Fifth (1892-1915): Herman Obernauer & Co.
In May of 1902, we see the first advertisements for Dr. Michael Cox’s Bitters as a cure for stomach and kidney problems. The same ads appear in 1903 with a telephone number. H. Obernauer & Co. were listed as Sole Agents and said the bitters were available at all druggists and saloons. This surprises me a little bit as I thought the product was on the street in the late 1800s. Usually when you have a signature brand, you advertise the first opportunity you get. Obernauer sold his business in 1915 – several years before the enactment of Prohibition – and spent the rest of his career in real estate.
Hermann Obernauer was a member of the Rodef Shalom Congregation 66 years and founder often Beneficial Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He was also a member of Pittsburgh Lodge No. 11 of the Elks, William Tell Lodge No. 44 of the Odd Fellows, the B’nai B’rith and the fraternal, civic and welfare societies. Oberhauer would die on the evening of 09 Febuary 1947 after a brief illness. He was 91.
The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:
C 242 DR. MICHAEL COX’S BITTERS
motif of three standing fighting cocks: two facing right and one facing left
/ DR. MICHAEL COX’S BITTERS // f // f // f //
// b // H. OBERNAUER & CO. / PITTSBURGH
L…Dr. Michael Cox’s Brand Stomach Bitters, H. Obernauer, Pittsburgh
10 1/4 x 2 3/4 (8 1/4) 1/4
Square, Amber, LTC, Tooled lip, Extremely rare
Label: Graphic label pictures three fighting cocks.
Dr. Michael Cox’s Bitters – Pittsburgh – Meyer Collection
H. Obernauer Billhead (circa 1900) – H. Obernauer & Company, Obernauer Family Papers and Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center
H. Obernauer & Company located at the corner of Fifth and Stevenson. See enlarged picture below. – The Obernauer Family – Rauh Jewish Archives
H. Obernauer & Company located at the corner of Fifth and Stevenson. See full picture above. – The Obernauer Family – Rauh Jewish Archives
1856: Hermann Obernauer was born in Württemberg, in southern Germany in 1856.
1876: Herman Obernauer was discharged from military duty in his native Germany on 22 July 1876. – The Obernauer Family – Rauh Jewish Archives
1880: Hermann Obernauer settles in Pittsburgh.
1884: H. Obernauer, Saloon, 395 Fifth Avenue (Daniel Obermeier, Saloon, 91 Sixth Avenue) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1887
1885: Herman Obernauer became an American citizen on 19 December 1885. – The Obernauer Family – Rauh Jewish Archives
1886: H. Obernauer & Co., Wholesale Liquor Dealers (H. Obernauer), 395 Fifth Avenue (Dan Obermeier Liquor, 383 Beaver Avenue) – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1887
1887: H. Obernauer & Co., Wholesale Liquor Dealers (H. Obernauer) (Daniel Obermeier Clerk), 395 Fifth Avenue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1887
1888: H. Obernauer, Liquors, 395 Fifth Avenue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1888
1889: Notice (below): Obernauer & Co. Moving Back From Ohio to Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Dispatch, Saturday, June 29, 1889
1892: H. Obernauer & Co., Wholesale Liquors, 400 Fifth Avenue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1892
1893: Ad for H. Obernauer & Co., 400 Fifth Avenue – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1888
1894: Notice (below) H. Obernauer to have their bottles registered – The Pittsburgh Press, Monday, July 16, 1894
1895: Personal Notice H. Obernauer to give away free bottle of wine or liquor – The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 30 1895
1895: Ad (below) A Teaspoonful Prescribed for H. Obernauer & Co. – The Pittsburgh Press, Friday, December 27, 1895
1898: Notice (below) Practical Patriotism, H. Obernauer & Co. Gives Money – Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Thursday, June 23, 1898
1899-1900: H. Obernauer & Co., 1400 5th Ave – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1899
1902: Ad (below) for Obernauer & Co. sole agents for Dr. Michael Cox’s Bitters – The Pittsburgh Press, Saturday, June 28, 1902
1902: Ad (below) for Obernauer & Co. sole agents for Dr. Michael Cox’s Stomach Bitters – The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, Febuary 15, 1903
1907: Herman Obernauer patent and trademarks for various products related to his liquor trade on 05 February 1907. The Obernauer Family – Rauh Jewish Archives
1908: H. Obernauer & Co. Liquors, 1400 5th Ave., Bell phone Grant 1958 – Pittsburgh Directory, R.L. Polk & Company, 1908
1909-1910: H. Obernauer & Co. (Harry Obernauer), Liquors, 1400 5th Ave – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1909
1940: Hermann Obernauer, Age 84, born abt 1856, Birthplace Germany, Home in 1940: 515 Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Also Harold Obernauer 53 – United States Federal Census
1947: Herman Obernauer death notice. – The Pittsburgh Press, Monday, February 10, 1947