Botanic Nerve Bitters – Herb Medicine Company, Philadelphia

Botanic Nerve Bitters

Herb Medicine Company – Philadelphia

26 April 2019

I came across some nice pictures of a partially labeled (about 90% compete) Botanic Nerve Bitters bottle from a past eBay sale. The gentleman who sent the images felt that the brand might be unlisted even though Bitters Bottles referenced a B 166.5 Botanic Nerve Bitters. Note that I clipped away the background in Photoshop. That catalog listing is:

Dr. Miller, Philadelphia
WAT Supp Lost
Trade Mark April 1866 issued to Dr. John P. Miller, Herb Medicine Co. Philadelphia. The business began in 1885.
Drug Catalogs: 1880 Goodwin, 1887 MP, 1888 RS, 1896-7 and 1901-2 JP&K Co.

There is also reference above the B 166.5 listing of a B 166 Botanic Kidney, Liver, Blood and Nerve Bitters being sold by Dr. Miller (John P. Miller) in Philadelphia. The notice came from the Public Ledger on May 21, 1884. There is a notation, “As this date precedes Botanic Nerve Bitters, it is assumed Dr. Miller shortened his brand name when he applied for a trade mark, or perhaps, these additional words were data on the label, and the bottle was lettered with the shortened name.”

The black and white trade card image in the book, pictured next to the listing, depicts both a weak and a healthy proud rooster in a ‘before and after’ scenario. Here is a color version.

I can see that we need a little more evidence to determine if this bottle is unlisted or listed.

If you notice on the label on the bottle above, the ‘Botanic Nerve Bitters’ name can be mostly read. We get into a little trouble at the bottom of the label where we can just make out ‘Medicine Co’. and possibly, ‘Philadelphia’. There is also an illustration of a pile of stones and marsh grass on the label, and get this, it is also embossed on the bottle and noted as ‘TRADE MARK.” How great is that? What is this, a cairn?

A quick search online reveals this great image below of a Botanic Nerve Bitters box and fully labeled, with contents, bottle held by the National Museum of American History. This confirms of course, that our subject bottle is B 166.5 in Bitters Bottles. The listing says the box is 8 7/8 in x 3 in x 2 in and the bottle is 8 3/4 in x 2 7/8 in x 1 7/8 in.

Cure of kidney, liver, blood, nerve diseases, and their kindred complaints such as dropsy, nervous prostration, debility, human decay, loss of energy, mental and physical weakness, overworked brain, defective memory, dimness of sight, pain in side, liver complaint, lame back, cloudy urine, losses and escapes, costiveness, headache, pimples on face, night sweats, consumptive decline, weakness arising from abuse or overwork, impotence, aversion to society, unfitness to marry, melancholy, restlessness, loss of spirits, etc. etc. brain and nerve food.

Here are two representative newspaper advertisements below for Botanic Nerve Bitters depicting a rather dismal looking young man. Notice that ‘Cure’ and ‘Remedy’ is also used to describe the product. The first ad is from The Times (Philadelphia), Friday, August 19, 1887. The bitters is noted as being Prepared by The Herb Medicine Company in Philadelphia, PA. They are selling the bitters for 50 cts. per bottle or $5 for a dozen from Dr. J. P. Miller’s Drug Store on 15 N. Eleventh Street. The second ad is from The Press Herald, Friday, October 30, 1891. The address changes for Herb Medicine Company to 346 Dillwyn Street.

The bitters was advertised from 1885 to 1891 or so. Sometimes later advertisements are selling the product for less than the marked value and sometimes they are probably unloading attic or unsold stock.

Do not expect one bottle to cure you. Cases of long standing may not feel much change for the better until two or three bottles have been taken. Half a dozen bottles cure more than three-fourths of the cases yet there are some very bad cases that require more.

Here is a final newspaper advertisement below from The News Journal on Saturday February 27, 1904. No more bitters. The Herb Medicine Company was now prominently selling Asparagus, Watercress and Buchu Compound for the same afflictions as the Botanic Nerve Bitters. It also looks like the dismal man is back. The times had changed. Bitters no longer had a good name, no matter how you pitched it.

Select Listings:

1840: John P Miller, Birth Date: 30 June 1840, Birth Place: Pennsylvania, Father: Peter Miller, Mother: Elizabeth Beekley – Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966
1870: John P Miller, Physician, Age in 1870: 30, Birth Year: abt 1840, Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Dwelling Number: 247, Home in 1870: Jenner, Somerset, Pennsylvania, Personal Estate Value: 500, Inferred Spouse: Sarah Miller, Inferred Children: Mary J Miller, Anna B Miller, Household Members: John P Miller 30, Sarah Miller 26, Mary J Miller Anna B Miller 2 – 1870 United States Federal Census
1880: J. P. Miller, M.D., Age: 40, Birth Date: Abt 1840, Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Home in 1880: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Street: Haverford Ave., House Number: 4929, Dwelling Number: 184, Marital status: Married, Spouse’s name: Sarah Miller, Father’s Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Mother’s Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Household Members: J. P. Miller 40, Sarah Miller 36, Mary Miller 14, Annie Miller 12 – 1880 United States Federal Census
1900: John P Miller, Piano Tuner, Age: 59, Birth Date: Jun 1840, Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Home in 1900: Philadelphia Ward 34, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ward of City: 34th, Street: Vine Street, House Number: 6060, Sheet Number: 5, Number of Dwelling in Order of, Visitation: 80, Family Number: 84, Marital status: Married, Spouse’s name: Sarah Miller, Marriage Year: 1866, Father’s Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Mother’s Birthplace: Pennsylvania, Household Members: John P Miller 59, Sarah Miller 56, Mamie J Miller 33, Anna B Miller 32 – 1900 United States Federal Census
1908: John P Miller, Death Date: 15 January 1908, Death Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

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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