Bissell’s Tonic Bitters – O. P. Bissell, Peoria, Illinois

Bissell’s Tonic Bitters

Orrin Porter Bissell – Peoria, Illinois

12 May 2019

I thought I would post today on Bissell’s Tonic Bitters, a pretty cool bitters square from Peoria, Illinois. This brand should not get confused with Bissell’s Dandelion Bitters from Keene, New Hampshire.

I picked up my golden amber example from the Bottles and More Auction XVIII in August 2006. It is pictured at the top of the post. My labeled example is pictured below and was obtained at the Morro Bay Antique Bottle Show in March 2014.

Here are the Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listings in Bitters Bottles:

O.P. BISSELL * / PEORIA ILL // f  // b // L&W
9 x 2 3/4 (6 1/2) 1/4
Square, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth and Tooled lip, Very rare
* “& CO” has been peened out. Tonic Bitters superimposed over slug mark indicating prior use of panel. This particular bottle shows the result of blowing in a mold of frame and removable panels. The connection between lettered panels and beveled frame is unusually crude.
BAR p20, UMB 387
See: Great Western Tonic Bitters
B 109.5 BISSELL’S / TONIC BITTERS / PATENTED JANY 21. 1868 // f //
9 x 2 9/16 (6 1/2) 1/4
Square, Amber, LTC, Very rare
Narrower bottle than B 109
B 110 sp // O. P. BISSELL’S // sp // TONIC BITTERS //
7 1/2 x 3 1/8 x 1 1/2
Rectangular, Clear, LTC, 2 sp, Extremely rare
BAR p 126
See: Great Western Tonic Bitters
L. Bissell’s Tonic Bitters
9 1/4 x 2 3/4 (6 5/8) 3/8
Square, Amber, LTC, Applied mouth, Rare
BAR p 50, UMB 46, WAT 143
Label: In German, Grosses Best Liches Tonic, Magen-bitters und Bluttreiniger
See: O.P. Bissell’s Tonic Bitters

Orrin Porter Bissell

O. P. Bissell was born in March 1826, in Colebrook, Coos, New Hampshire. His father was Morgan Bissell. He married Mary Ann Reynolds on October 17, 1854 in Rhode Island. They would not have any children. Something pulled Bissell to Peoria, Illinois as the 1860 United States Federal Census lists him as a merchant. He must have been very successful as his Real Estate Value was listed as $40,000 and his Personal Estate Value at $100,000.

U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations Records show Bissell registering in 1863 and by 1865 he is listed as a Dry Goods Merchant selling Yankee Notions addressing at 17 S. Washington in  Peoria.

O.P would patent his Bissell’s Tonic Bitters on January 21, 1868 which is embossed on his bottles. Business would pick up with his patent medicines trade and his tonic bitters was the star. He would use an eye-catching illustration of a buck as his trademark. An 1872 Root’s Peoria City Directory sums it up pretty good with his listing reading, Orrin P. Bissell, wholesale dealer in notions, fancy goods, cigars and tobacco, sole proprietor and manufacturer of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters, 17 S. Washington and Commercial Place. These types of listings would continue up into 1891 or so though he would relocate to 412 Hamilton Street where he would have his office and laboratory.

OP was still manufacturing his bitters in 1892 when he died on October 29th of that year.


Letter and Envelope
B 109 Office of O. P. Bissell, Manufacturer and Proprietor of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters and Dealer in Patent Medicines, Office and Laboratory 412 Hamilton Street, Peoria, Illinois Dated and post marked January 18, 1892.

Letter – Office of O. P. Bissell, Manufacturer and Proprietor of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters and Dealer in Patent Medicines, 412 Hamilton Street, Peoria, Ill. January 18, 1892 – Ben Swanson Collection

Envelope – O. P. Bissell, Manufacturer of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters and Dealer in Patent Medicines, Office and Laboratory 412 Hamilton Street, Peoria, Illinois, post marked January 18, 1892

Orrin P. Bissell Loan. This is an 1871 note that outlines an agreement between Henry V. Flagler and Orrin P. Bissell. Mr. Bissell was to repay Mr. Flagler $5,000 plus interest.


BISSELL’S TONIC BITTERS PATENTED .JANY.21.1868 / O.P. BISSELL PEORIA ILL. / L&W (on base). B-109, 9”, listed as “very rare.” According to Ring-Ham, the “& CO” has been peened out, and “TONIC BITTERS” is superimposed over a slug mark, which indicates possibly that a mold with interchangeable lettered panels was used to fashion this bitters. Grades 9.0. – American Bottle Auctions

Heckler Lot: 10 “Bissell’s / Tonic Bitters / Patented. Jany.21.1868” – “O.P. Bissell / Peoria Ill” Bitters Bottle, Lorenz and Wightman Manufacturers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1863-1872. Square with beveled corners, brilliant yellow, applied sloping collared mouth – smooth base embossed “L & W”, ht. 9 inches. R/H #B-109 Outstanding brilliant color. Bold embossing. Listed as very rare. Fine condition.- Heckler Auction #141

Select Listings:

1826: Orrin Porter Bissell birth 30 Mar 1826Colebrook, Coos, New Hampshire, Father: Morgan Bissell – Various
1854: Orrin Porter BissellMarriage Date: 17 Oct 1854, Marriage Place: Rhode Island, Spouse Name: Mary Ann Reynolds
1860: Orrin P Bisell, Age 34, Birth Year abt 1826, Birth Place: New Hampshire, Home in 1860, Peoria Ward 5, Peoria, Illinois, Post Office: Peoria, Dwelling Number: 2840, Family Number 2835, Occupation: Merchant, Real Estate Value, 40, 000, Personal Estate Value: 100,000, Household Members, Orrin P. Bisell, Mary A Bisell – 1860 United States Federal Census
1863: Orrin P. Bissell, Merchant, 37, New York – U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865
1865: O.P.Bissell, Dry Goods Merchant, Yankee Notions, 17 S. Wash. Peoria, Illinois – Roots Peoria, Illinois, City Directory
1868: Bissell’s Tonic Bitters patented January 21st, 1868 (embossed on bottle)
1870: Oran P. Bissell, Maker Notion Merchant, Age in 1870: 43. Birth Year: abt 1827, Birthplace: New Hampshire, Dwelling Number: 639, Home in 1870: Peoria Ward 3, Peoria, Illinois, Personal Estate Value: 50,000, Real Estate Value: 10,000, Inferred Spouse: Mary A Bissell, Household Members: Oran P Bissell 43, Mary A Bissell 43 – 1870 United States Federal Census
1872: Orrin P. Bissell, wholesale dealer in notions, fancy goods, cigars and tobacco, sole proprietor and manufacturer of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters, 17 S. Washington and Commercial Place; res Hamilton us 2 a Jefferson – Root’s Peoria City Directory
1876 – 1891: Orrin P. BissellPatent Medicines, 412 Hamilton, Peoria, Illinois – Peoria, Illinois, City Directory
1880: Orrin P. Bissell, Patent Medicines, Age: 51, Birth Date: Abt 1829, Birthplace: New Hampshire, Home in 1880: Peoria, Illinois, Street: Hamilton Street, House Number: 412, Dwelling Number: 37, Marital status: Widower, Father’s Birthplace: New Hampshire, Mother’s Birthplace: New Hampshire, Household Members: Orrin P. Bissell 51, Jane M. Tibbitts 42 – 1880 United States Federal Census
1881: City Directory Advertisement (Below): O.P. Bissell, Manuf’r and Proprietor of Bissell’s Tonic Bitters, Patented January 21st, 1868, 412 Hamilton Street, Peoria, Ill. – 1881  Peoria City Directory

1892: O P Bissell, Bitters Manufacturing, 204 N. Madison av., Peoria, Illinois – Peoria, Illinois, City Directory, 1892
1892: Orrin Porter Bissell death, 29 Oct 1892 (aged 65–66)

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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