Watkins’ Celebrated & Invigorating Bitters
John R. Watkin’s – Lancaster, Pennsylvania
09 April 2019
I’ve had tucked away and stored in a digital folder, the upper-most advertisement for John R. Watkins, Agent, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Foreign and Domestic Wines and Liquors, Raspberryade, Rectified Whiskey and Watkins’ Celebrated Bitters, &c. Watkins was located on the southeast corner of Centre Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The advertisement was found in the 1867 Directory of Lancaster County. I’m not familiar with this bitters and I’ve certainly never seen a bottle.
Here is the new listing by Bill Ham within the forthcoming Bitters Bottles Supplement 2:
W 54.8 WATKINS CELEBRATED BITTERS (also Watkin’s Invigorating Bitters, same brand), John R. Watkins & Co., Southeast corner of Centre Square, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Watkins was a wholesale and retail dealer in foreign and domestic wines and liquors, raspberryade, rectified whiskey and Watkins’ Celebrated Bitters, &c. – 1867 Directory of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Here is an odd listing within the first Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham Bitters Bottles book for another J. R. Watkins bitters bottle. I see no connection. The listing may want to be updated in Bitters Bottles Supplement 2.
W 55 L… Watkins Gen-de-can-dra Stomachic Tonic Bitters
J.R. Watkins Company, from ocean to ocean.
Flask, Amber, ARM
Gen-De-Can-Dra Manufactured only by the J.R. Watkins Medical Company, Proprietors of Dr. Ward’s Remedies, Winona, Minn.
Montreal River Miner and Iron County Republican, Saturday, May 26, 1894
The La Harpe Advertiser, Thursday, February 3, 1921
This advertisement below from the Reading Times 0n Tuesday, December 22, 1868, titled “Health! The Greatest Blessing!” Notice that the bitters is now called Watkins Invigorating Bitters. As typical for most bitters of this time period, the product is touted as being a cure-all for just about everything. The product is again sold wholesale and retail by John R. Watkins, who is noted as being associated with his wine, liquor and porter establishment at Centre Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Centre Square in Lancaster
From 1863 to about 1969, John R. Watkins was located on the southeast corner of Centre Square (now Penn Square) and Soldiers Monument in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is a 43-foot tall Gothic Revival memorial which stands in Penn Square in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was dedicated on July 4, 1874, at its present site on the northeast intersection of King and Queen Streets. The monument’s original intention was to pay tribute to Lancaster Union soldiers killed during the American Civil War. However, today the Soldiers and Sailors Monument also represents those who have served in subsequent American military conflicts.
John R. Watkins
John R. Watkins was born on October 7, 1822 in Wales, Great Britain. He was married in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on November 10, 1853 to Margaret A. Kendig. Their household occupants (besides husband and wife) that were listed in the 1860 United States Federal Census were Anna L. Watkins, Ruth Watkins, John F. Watkins, Philip K. Watkins, Isaac M. Watkins, William J. W. Watkins and John R. Watkins.
Though records are scarce, we see that on February 21, 1857, Watkins was appointed U.S. Postmaster for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. By 1860, the United States Federal Census lists his occupation as an Innkeeper.
In the 1863, 1864 Gopsill´s Directory of Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon and York, Pennsylvania we see John R. Watkins selling Liquors at Centre Square. He is living at 178 N. Queen. Both addresses in Lancaster.
In 1867, we see his first advertisements for Watkin’s Invigorating Bitters and Watkin’s Celebrated Bitters. These were the same brand. That same year, “Watkins purchased the bottling establishment of Mr. Mishler and is now engaged in bottling.” according to the Reading Times.
He would continue advertising the bitters in 1868 and stop in 1869. Watkins would die in 1875.