Dr. Smith’s Magic Bitters
John Brown Adkins – Council Bluffs, Iowa
09 December 2018
The Magic Bitters
Looking at the ad above we can see that Dr. Smith’s Magic Bitters was reportedly used extensively during the Civil War by thousands of soldiers who served in the Department of the Cumberland. The Army of the Cumberland dates back to the creation of the Army of the Ohio in November 1861, under the command of Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson. The army fought under the name Army of the Ohio until Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans assumed command of the army and the Department of the Cumberland and changed the name of the combined entity to the Army of the Cumberland.
Described as eminently a western article and needed by “Every Western Family in the Land,” the bitters consisted of wild cherry bark, fruit and a healthy amount of rye whiskey. A gentle tonic invigorating for the blood and a beverage to be used as a stimulant. Yes, I bet it packed a punch.
The new listing by Bill Ham for the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:
S 125.7 DR. SMITH’s MAGIC BITTERS, For Sale by John Brown Atkins, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Council Bluffs Bugle, dated October 17, 1867
Dr. Smith’s Magic Bitters also called “The Magic Bitters” was reportedly used extensively during the Civil War by thousands of soldiers who served in the Department of the Cumberland. Dr. Smith was noted as being the proprietor which may be an advertising ploy by Atkins.
Dr. Smith and the J. B. Atkins Building
We do not really see who Dr. Smith is as he is noted as the proprietor of the Magic Bitters but the ad notes that because he can not keep up with the demand for the bitters, that it is now being offered for the first time by J. B. Adkins, a druggist by trade, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is pictured above in the studio shot. It must have been a short run as I am not aware of any bottles either embossed or labeled.
I like the photograph at the top of the post showing the two-story building with the J. B. ATKINS bas-relief letters on the front facade. If you look closely, you will see that John Brown Atkins is standing proudly in the doorway and his windows and shelves within are fully stocked. I also see a camel and rider sitting on a box. Look at the roof, as there is a cool sculptural mortar and pestle on top of the building and painted graphics on the side advertising J. B. Atkins selling Drugs, Chemicals, Perfumery, Paints, Oils, Glassware etc. His address is 351 West Broadway. You can see the numbers on a column on the left side of the building.
Dr. T. B. Lacey
It looks like the second story had a separate front entrance with stairs for his son-in-law, Doctor Thomas B. Lacey, Physician and Surgeon. His daughter Mollie had married Dr. Lacey in 1878. Two years later they had a son, Thomas Jr. You can see his sign and probably Lacey standing in the doorway. I wonder if this is really our Dr. Smith? Two windows are partially open, so with the dust, I hope he didn’t do his surgery upstairs.
Dr. THOMAS B. LACEY, a thirty-third degree Mason and while active one of the most prominent physicians in this section of the state of Iowa, holding the chair of surgery in the Creighton Medical Institute, died at his home 540 Sixth Avenue. Dr. lacey was one of a family of physicians. His father and his grandfather were physicians and his son Thomas Lacey, has followed in the same profession. In addition to being a thirty-third degree Mason, deceased was past grand commander of the Knights Templars of Iowa and past grand high priest of Royal Arch masons. He was also a prominent member and past exalted ruler of the Council Bluffs Lodge of Elks.
Five years ago he was forced to relinquish his practice and has since been an invalid, gradually losing ground. He is survived by his son Dr. Thomas Lacey and his brother Charles Lacey of Chicago, who was with him at the time of his death. He had been in the city for thirty-one years and at the time of his death was 55 years of age. The funeral will take place from the residence Wednesday afternoon.
Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, Monday, March 25, 1907
John Brown Atkins
John Brown Atkins was born in Wayne County near Detroit, Michigan on May 29, 1835. The 1880 United States Federal Census says his parents were from Ohio while the 1900 Census says his parents were from New York. He would marry Lydia B. Allen in Arapahoe County, Colorado on October 16, 1859 and they would have two children, Mollie who was born in 1861 and Henry Charles Atkins who was born in July 1866.
We first see J. B. Atkins in 1856 listed in a Michigan business directory as a partner with William Conger, the concern named Conger & Atkins, Druggists & Grocers.
In 1861, Atkins was commissioned as an officer in Company B, New Mexico 1st Infantry Regiment. He mustered out on May 1, 1862. After the war, John B. Atkins came to Council Bluffs in the summer of 1866 after a varied experience in the western and southwestern territories and on the Pacific coast. He opened a drug store in a small wooden building, which he erected for the purpose near the site of the building he subsequently built and occupied continuously with his drug store for nearly forty years.
In 1903, his health started to fail, so in August of that year he sold his business to Robert E. Anderson. Hoping to aid his health, John, his wife Lydia, and the rest of the family traveled to Los Angeles in October of 1903 in the hopes that under the genial influence of the tropical climate he might regain his wasted strength. Unfortunately John only lasted a few months in California and passed away December 5, 1903. His body was held in Los Angeles until February 1904 when he was returned to Council Bluffs for burial. John Atkins was a life long Mason and he was prominent in Masonic organizations in Iowa.