Friday, January 3, 2014

Bennet's Wild Cherry Stomach Bitters

Here is a crude square which is actually pretty rare. This is the first version of the Bennet's and was made from 1870 or so, through the late 1870s.
Joseph Souther apparently worked in the U.S. Branch Mint in San Francisco starting in 1862. He worked his way up into the treasurer's position. He partnered with Richard Chenery  who had a Naval background in San Francisco starting in the 1850s. and became a Navy agent in the 1860s. This partnership began in 1869 and the two purchased the rights to a bitters product from Henry Bennet. Bennet had been in the syrups, cordial, and medicinal bizz in San Francisco since the early 1850s Apparently Chenery and Souther did not pay very much for this brand, as Bennet died broke and his wife made a living as an artist which was not likely very lucrative. I believe even his young son had to find employment to make ends meet.
The embossed Wild Cherry Bitters is thought to have begun in 1870 or 71, and was produced until Chenery decided to go in to real estate in 1880, and the company became Joseph N. Souther & Co. At this point, the later "Celebrated Stomach Bitters" was produced in another amber square.
Wilson had the two variants of this bottle mixed up in "Western Bitters". The Wild Cherry was listed as "very scarce" while the later Celebrated version was listed as "very rare". it should have been the other way around as the earlier Wild Cherry is quite rare with maybe 20 in collections. There are likely 30-40 of the Celebrated Stomach Bitters in collections in my opinion.
The "Bennet's Wild Cherry Stomach Bitters" is beautifully embossed for a square. The arching pattern on both sides, as well as "sole agents" is extremely attractive. I have seen these in an "old" amber with some olive, through the gold tones, to a reddish amber. These do not become available very often and I cannot recall one being dug in good condition for a long time. Dale M.


  1. After posting this, I thought about the difference between this beautifully embossed bottle and the shoulder embossed whiskey cylinder this partnership produced. Can you imagine if Chenery and Souther had put as much effort in to the glop top whiskey in it's embossing design as the Wild Cherry Stomach Bitters?. It would likely propel the whiskey in to the top 10. It would possibly resemble the gorgeous Walker Bros. fifth! Dale M.

  2. The successor product put out by Joseph N. Souther embossed BENETT' S CELEBRATED STOMACH BITTERS / JOSEPH N. SOUTHER & CO SOLE PROPRIETOR SAN FRANCISCO follows the earlier variant in having the embossing read from base to shoulder on one side while the opposite reads shoulder to base, very unusual for most square bitters bottles. Also an example of the later bitters can be seen being displayed by S.F. & P.G.W. at the1879 S.F. Mechanics Exposition, which dates this bottle to mid 1879, much earlier than reported in bottle books.

  3. Beautiful example of the Benett's

  4. That would be "Beautiful example of the BENNET'S"
    I could never spell on Saturday's

    1. Just a little update on Richard Chenery of the partnership of Chenery, Souther & Co. He was a true 49er, arriving in San Francisco in August 1849. He had an amazing career in California, nearly from the beginning of his residency, including railroads and ships. Of important note was his role in representing California as part of the armed guard that escorted newly elected Abraham Lincoln to the Capitol during his inauguration. He married his second wife in 1873, who was the daughter of Governor William G. Crosby of Maine. Chenery's first wife died in 1864. He became the 16th president of the Society of California Pioneers in 1869. Chenery had three sons but, sadly, lost one by drowning in 1876 in Hawaii where he was attending boarding school. Richard Chenery died at his old family home in Belfast, Maine, in 1890.
      The partnership of Chenery and Souther ended on August 1, 1874, which was likely the last date that the first variant Wild Cherry Bitters would have been made.