Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Great Dr. Gun Wa and His Remedy

  When I was about 15, a member of the Central Oregon Bottle and Relic Club brought is a medicine bottle for "show and tell". It was a crude amber square pint with tremendous crudity and bubbles. It was a Gun Wa's Chinese Remedy, Warranted Entirely Vegetable and Harmless. He stated that this was a female remedy from Denver, Colorado and that it was very rare. I have always liked the name and the character of these medicines, and years later, I was able to add one to my collection.
  In the decades since, I have always read or been told that the Gun Wa was indeed a female remedy and I have seen some beautiful examples ranging from amber to yellow with strong green tone. They always have applied tops and are very crudely made. I have also seen two larger variants which resemble a typical bitters square. The 8" size is more prevalent but are still considered to be rare with about 25-30 examples known, many with some form of damage.
  Recently I acquired a collection of mostly gold rush California bottles with the occasional odd ball piece from the rest of the US. Included with the collection was a large envelope of notes, ads, labels, and patents. I was surprised to find this ad for the Gun Wa, and even more surprised to see it was not a female remedy, but a cure for lost manhood! The ad also claims that Gun Wa was a physician in China who came to the US but was banned from practicing  medicine. He was however, permitted to provide his remedy to the public for a small sum of money. His remedy cured the results of youthful folly...whatever that means, and made weak men strong. I guess this was an early version of Viagra.
 The bottles are quite crude and appear early, but this brand was sold in the late 1880s, I believe in Denver. I assume the bottles were blown locally and not in San Francisco, and it would appear that the glass house was not up on the latest technology for the day. I also believe that the vast majority of these have been dug in the Denver area but I would be very interested to know if any have been found elsewhere.
 So there

you have it...a men's cure to restore manhood, and not a female remedy...unless it was a dual purpose miracle. DM
( as usual, click on the pics to enlarge)


  1. Dale,
    You say the bottle is late 1880's and likely locally made. There were two glass works that operated from 1886 through 1888. Golden Glass Works and Colorado Glass Works, both located in Golden, Co. One superseded the other and they made bottles for businesses in the Denver area.

  2. I have also been interested in the Gun Wa bottle for quite awhile. Interesting and informative post and another myth busted
    Thanks Dale
    - rs -

  3. I have been informed that 5 of the smaller Gun Wa, and two of the large size have been dug on the Comstock over the years. Interesting! DM

  4. Correction...three of the smaller size and two of the larger size were dug on the Comstock...must have been an agent there? DM

  5. Received some additional info on this bottle...It seems there may not have actually been a "Dr. Gun Wa" after least in this Country. Apparently a William Hale emigrated from Ireland to Denver, and opened the "Gun Wa Herb and Remedy Co." in 1888. The address was 1629 Lorimer St. Interestingly, he was later indicted for mail fraud, and mailing pornographic materials. He fled to England to avoid prosecution. Wow! Quite a character! DM

  6. Dug a Green one like this and an Amber one in a brick lined 2 seater in an alley in Denver some years ago. Sold the green one to one of the heavy Colorado collector's, He passed away shortly there after, have no idea what happened to the bottle, I sure miss that one.

  7. My husband just dug an amber variant 2 days ago. I have pictures but I can't add them to the comments. His friend dug one as well in the same hole right underneath the one he dug.