Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wm. Pfunder- Portland, Or.

As an Oregonian, I have always had an interest in Oregon bottles...especially the whiskeys, and bitters. Oregon also has some very rare and desirable medicines such as the Unkweed, and Henley's Indian Queen.

One of the most interesting categories in Oregon is the colorful line of medicine and bitters put out by the William Pfunder Drug Company which operated in Portland from the late 1870s through the turn of the last century. Pfunder was the founder of one of the oldest , and most successful drug companies in Oregon history. He was born in Germany in 1840, and emigrated to America in 1864. He found employment in New York City in various lines of work, but not successful by any means. In 1869 he moved to the Pacific Northwest because of rheumatic troubles, and moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco before permanently settling in Portland in 1873. In October of 1873 Mr. Pfunder opened a drug store on the corner of First, and Oak sts. As his business grew, he eventually purchased the stock of the well known Smith Davis Drug Company in Portland, which had been in operation since the 1850s. In 1879 he succeeded in compounding his own medicines including the well known Oregon Blood Purifier. His trademark was the embossed baby's face which makes these bottles so popular with collectors today.

He also sold his brand of Cough Balsam, Asthma Cure, IRON BITTERS(!), and Ague Mixture.

Pfunder was a real tycoon, and owned property all over the West, including timber lands, and orchards. His business closed down shortly after the turn of the century, and he died shortly thereafter.

Pictured are some of the rarest Oregon medicines known. The blue sample is the only example I have ever seen, the amber medicine dates to tha 1880s and is very rare. The citrate is unique to my knowlege, and of course the very rare "palmer green" medicine is pictured in one of two sizes. They also come in cobalt blue. The baby face medicines are extremely desirable, and rarely come up for sale. These were all found by the same bottle digger who shall remain nameless, and who's privacy shall be respected.


  1. M.E,
    Very interesting and informative post. I guess the secret is out; western meds are a very collectable and affordable category to collect. When I can't find or afford a bitters - western meds are my "go to" bottles. Beautiful western glass, local history and the unique products that the bottles contained all contribute to their collectability.

  2. I dug a mint emerald green pfunder babyface med in tall size a couple of years ago in eureka ca. , I think it was 6 & 3/4 , luckily I had the sense to ask Dale the value and I got a very nice trade out of it .Eureka and Portland were on the same steamship line with S.F . and I wonder if it got here on a passenger steamship ?

  3. Is there documentation that the Henley's Indian Queen is an Oregon bottle? Has anyone dug one in Ca ??

  4. I have several of each of these that I dug in the portland vancouver area over the last 30 years. They are hard to come but not has rare as you imply.

  5. Yes, I am aware of one blue Indian Queen dug from the San Jose Corporation Yard Dig back in the late 1960's and Ken Salazar dur one in the Oakland Cal Trans Project after they tore the freeway down to make Mandella Parkway.