Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dr. Boerhaave's Stomach Bitters

The number of western made 1860's decade bitters bottles can almost be counted on both hands (aproximately 13 embossed on glass brands). Out of almost 100 brands manufactured for the western market, this is a pretty exclusive group. Most collectors would be pretty excited to have an example from this group.

Of those 13 brands of bitters bottles, approximately 4 are known in a square shaped container. This Boerhaave's example is in company with the Rosenbaums Bitters, Alex Von Humboldts Bitters and the G. A. Simon's Bitters as the only square shaped bitters made during the 1860's, (there are of course the Dr. Renz's Bitters and the E. G. Lyon's bottle but these continued into the 1870's decade).

Now that is an exclusive group! This particular example has some wonderful glass characteristics, the surface of the glass is whittled, which is not normally seen on these bottles, the old amber coloration varies in shades from the bottom half of the bottle being darker while the upper half is much lighter, with the neck and top being a darker shade again due to glass thickness. The embossing is quite bold, with the letters themselves being gloppy in appearance (my term used to describe the peaks and valleys of the letters due to the glass not forming evenly in the cavaties). There are currently 11 examples in western collections, 4 are a dark green coloration, 5 are various shades of amber, 1 is a light green color and 1 is a yellow olive coloration.

The firm of Siegfried Wertheimber and Louis Waterman were the manufacturers and proprietors of this bitters. It was first advertised on March 7th, 1868 with the principle depot being at 311 Commercial St, San Francisco, by June of 1868 the firm was advertising this product from their 219 Commercial St, S. F. address. Dr. Boerhaave's Bitters was also being advertised thru the Portland Morning Oregonian newspaper from May 15th, 1868 thru January 28th, 1869, Millard and Van Schuyver were the agents for Oregon. The Los Angeles Star newspaper ran an advertisement for the Boerhaave's Bitters placed by a local druggist for several mos. in 1868 as well.

Wertheimber & Waterman also marketed a cordial called The Splendid and another bitters called Boonekamp and Maag-Bitters, these two products continued to be advertised without the Boerhaave's bitters throughout 1869 in a Sacramento newspaper. At the 1868 San Francisco Mechanics Institute Fair, Wertheimber & Waterman displayed two kegs of their Boonekamp and Maag-Bitters along with a case of their Dr. Boerhaave's Stomach Bitters.

In a notice placed in the San Francisco Daily Examiner newspaper, the firm of Wertheimber & Waterman dissolved their partnership on September 25th, 1869. Siegfried Wertheimber having sold his entire interest in the business to Phillip Wertheimber and the firm continued as before under the name of Wertheimber & Waterman. [see post of September 21, 2009 for additional information on Dr. Boerhaave's Bitters.]


  1. Warren,
    Very informative article on this product.
    Is the Boerhaave's pictured the one that changed hands at Vegas? She sure is a beauty!

  2. Hmmm, looks like old RS has taken a liking to the Colt's Model of 1911. The "Hard Ball" grows on 'ya, doesn't it?

  3. There are quite possibly a few more than 11 examples, more like 14-15. Some collectors don't "share the wealth", as it were, instead rely on anonymity.

  4. It is interesting that of the 1860s Western squares Warren refers to, there are about the same number of examples known(give or take), of each. I believe the "count" is 15 or so small Rosenbaums, 14 Alex Von Humboldts, and about the same number of Boerhaave's... Pretty wierd. The G.A. Simon's is the oddball of the foursome of 1860s squares with only one mint, and 4 damaged I believe.

  5. Many years ago, We dug a broken in place Simon's that was a beautiful light puce color. It came from a lot in Old Sac., on the south side of K St, at the alley between Front and 2nd. The person digging with me kept the pieces, which glued together could possibly make a representative bottle. I have no idea if he retained these pieces, but someone might ask him. His name is B. Ruiz.

  6. The Simon's bitters is a very early and difficult bottle to acquire. An accurate story about this product will be in my upcoming book. To my knowledge there are only two intact examples with a third example repaired. Some beautiful broken examples have been unearthed over the years.