Friday, December 13, 2019


It can often be challenging to determine the initial date and longevity of a bottled product used by a company that was in business for a long time. Such is the case with the Cutting & Co. Worcestershire Sauce bottle.

The partners Lea and Perrins of Worcestershire, England, were so successful with their world famous sauce that they were forced to employ a team of lawyers to defend their product from unscrupulous imitators. Wikipedia  notes that John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins first marketed their Worcestershire Sauce about 1838. Its popularity was indisputable as born out by the literally hundreds of imitators around the globe.  Protecting their trade name was a constant battle.

Pictorial advertisements began showing up all over the world as noted in this 1858 example.

Perhaps one of the most contentious battles to preserve their proprietary stake in a product, they were challenged throughout the world, mostly in English speaking countries. The resolve of different legal entities made the issue even more confusing with regard to the prevailing rights of the trade mark. Other subtle differences of the brand were also tread upon, with one of the most obvious being the shape of the bottle. Not being necessarily unique, most imitators used the same style and the same configuration of lettering placement on the bottles, all in an attempt to bend the mind of the consumer into thinking their product was at least the same as the original. English made imitations were being advertised in San Francisco as early as 1859. This was certainly a very flattering situation for Lea & Perrins but also costly at the same time.

Apparently there was a judicial decision some time in 1874. Cross & Co. of San Francisco, established in October of 1850, had been the authorized agent for Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce in California since 1860. Lea & Perrins trademarked its label for Worcestershire sauce in California on April 21, 1874, but it was not specific to the use of the word ‘Worcestershire’. This issue was followed upon with a federal trademark that focused on the words “Worcestershire Sauce”, on July 28, 1874.

The famous label for Lea & Perrins' Worcestershire Sauce was given full trade mark protection in the United States with registration of the words 'WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE" on July 28, 1874, with the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office.

 Pursuant to a legal finding Cross & Co. pressured three of the San Francisco imitators to desist in using the name Worcestershire or, Worcester, in the sale of their own recipe of the sauce. This action is memorialized in an advertisement that appeared in the Daily Alta California of November 16, 1874.

Cutting & Co. is the only firm of the three that used bottles blown with the word ‘Worcestershire’ impressed in the glass. It must be assumed that this particular bottle was no longer made after 1874.

Embossed vertically, CUTTING & CO., and embossed horizontally around the shoulder, WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE, in the same style as the Lea & Perrins bottle, it was determined to be an infringement of trade mark rights and had to be discontinued.

Of course, imitators continued to cash in on the famous sauce. Fisher Packing Co., of San Francisco tried bending the word ‘Worcestershire’ to ‘Wargestershire’ and trade marked the same in 1884. It took a few years for Lea & Perrins to catch up with the ruse but in 1890 the U.S. Circuit Court finally decided in favor of Lea & Perrins when their lawsuit enjoined Fisher from using the word Wargestershire. 

Another obvious deception was the sauce sold by the Fisher Packing Co. of San Francisco that slightly tweaked the word WORCESTERSHIRE, but it failed the legal test and was ordered removed from the market place.

While we can pin down the final date for the Cutting & Co. Worcestershire Sauce bottle, that still leaves its beginning date to be determined. No advertisements were uncovered that could establish Cutting actually selling Worcestershire Sauce except one in May 1872.

The only ad located for the Cutting & Co. Worcestershire sauce was this one dated 1872 which listed the product under "Sauces".

For the moment, the inception of Cutting’s attempt to capitalize on someone else’s extremely popular product will remain a mystery.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating history. One of the first bottles that I dug was a L&P Worcestershire sauce with a base mark of JDS 92. That was back in the late sixties. Fond memories of my early diggin' days. Not sure which box it's in, in the storage unit, but I've still got it. Back when I was heavy into western foods I looked long and hard trying to add a Cutting to my collection. Never had a chance at one. Great piece of western food history. Thanks Eric!