Friday, September 21, 2012


Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters was first marketed in an embossed bottle on the Pacific Coast as early as 1858 by the firm of Park & White of San Francisco. David Hostetter, with his father’s recipe for bitters, and George Smith with the capital to produce and market the product, in 1853, formed the firm of Hostetter & Smith. The first containers produced for the western market were the large 31 ounce size “black glass” bottles that were manufactured and shipped to the Pacific Coast. A 27 ounce bottle was also produced for the western market. These large blacks are rarely unearthed east of the Rocky Mountains and almost all examples have been discovered on the west coast.  The large size Hostetter’s were distributed until sometime around February 1865 when in an advertisement run by Hostetter, Smith & Dean they claim to be discontinuining “the old size large bottle used exclusively in the west” and replacing it with the small size 20 ounce bottle. This information leads me to believe that if you are digging the large size Hostetter’s here in the west you are digging a bottle made before 1865 and possibly as early as 1858.

Although several western collectors believe some variants of the Hostetter’s were blown out west I cannot find any evidence that Hostetter had any of his bitters bottles manufactured on the west coast.

Hostetter’s Bitters was one of the best selling bottled products of the 19th century and the amount of these bottles available to collectors is staggering. It is believed that after 1865 Hostetter was selling over six thousand bottles of bitters a day, an unbelievable amount of bottled goods for that time period. The Hostetter’s come in dozens of variants and a myriad of colors ranging from the lightest of yellows to a dark black-amber. Although the majority of the Hostetter’s are considered common unusual colors and different mold variants are highly desirable and sought after by collectors.
Relation to Sierra County

The Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters are found in all the gold rush camps, settlements and towns of Sierra County.
Two of the large size blacks were recovered from the settlement of City of Six. One whole black example was discovered at Excelsior along with at least a half a dozen broken examples. I can account for over a dozen of the large size bottles that have been excavated from the ghost town of Monte Cristo. This bottle was as common to the gold rush country of California as the Udolpho Wolfe’s Schnapps. Any gold rush collection worth its salt has a large size 31 oz. Hostetter’s in it.





  1. My good buddy Mike McCoy dug one of these large black Hostetters from under his house in Coloma while doing some plumbing repair, many years ago!

  2. Mrs. Scala February 02, 2014
    I have one of the amber bottles almost 9". It is the only one I have seen with the embossed number 52 on the back (opposite the name side of the bottle) nearly at the bottom. What was the significance of that number? It is a Dr. Hostetter bitters bottle

  3. My son found one of these and wants to know if it's a valuable artifact. On the side opposite the "Dr. J. Hostetter's Stomach Bitters" (just under the arched top) is written: "18 Fluid Oz." On the bottom there is a circle and rhombus figure flanked by the numbers 9 and 2. Directly underneath that is the number 43.
    Thanks for any information about this bottle!