After a few days of research we’ve been able to learn many interesting facts about the bottles recovered from the Brody Complex. Other than our Vicks Vatronol and Wilkens Whiskey bottles, we also found some other bottles that we were able to identify. Not only were these interesting because many of them are still available today or have intriguing histories, but it tells us more about what people were using in the past.
The bottle to the left is embossed with Vitalis at top and bottom, and the screw top says Bristol-Myers corp. 1887. This bottle type is only associated with hair tonics. The bottles are round or oval shaped with a skinny neck. The mouth of the bottle is quite small to allow for the liquid to be shaken out in small amounts. Hair tonic is primarily an oil-based liquid meant to style hair. It was used primarily from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries to aid in keeping hair shiny, prevent hair loss and control dandruff. It was applied directly to the scalp and massaged in. Hair tonic was primarily used by barbers, and it was only in the 1930’s that it became marketed to the masses. It has been replaced now by the use of gels, shampoos and conditioners.
From the company website: “Our company has a strong legacy of innovation that began in New York in 1858 when Edward R. Squibb, M.D., founded a pharmaceutical company in Brooklyn, and in 1887 when two friends, William McLaren Bristol and John Ripley Myers purchased a struggling drug manufacturing firm in Clinton. Together, they laid the foundation for our company today — a global BioPharma leader that continues this legacy of innovation.” In 1938 they began producing Vitalis for individual home use instead of just for barbershops. It was touted as the first greaseless hair product to give your locks a nice shine. It didn’t hold hair in place or smell good. Vitalis must be massaged into the hair for 50 seconds and combed through for 10 second. The result is less dryness, control of dandruff and prevention of hair loss.
This bottle is small clear glass with the words: “LISTERINE” embossed above where the label would have been located and “LAMBERT PHARMACAL COMPANY” at the bottom. The bottle type is similar to many patent medicines. Listerine was invented in 1879 by Dr. Joseph Lawrence from St. Louis, MO. It was initially marketed as a surgical antiseptic with many uses. Its name comes from Sir Joseph Lister, an English surgeon who pioneered antiseptic surgery by applying Louis Pasteur’s germ theory to surgical practice. In 1881, Lambert licensed the formula from Lawrence to create the Lambert Pharmacal Company. Bottles were corked until the 1920’s when screw top became popular, and glass was used until the 1990’s.
In 1895, Listerine began being marketed as an oral antiseptic. It was only available to medical professionals until 1914, and it’s reception with the public was underwhelming. To market it so that it sold better, the Lambert Company made appeals to consumers’ insecurity by using advertising campaigns that discussed “halitosis”, or bad breath. The ads often warned of the severe social injury that having bad breath could cause, such as one’s friends talking behind one’s back or inability to find a husband. Bad breath was presented as a medical condition with a quick fix, thus the more scientific sounding, Latin-derived term of “halitosis”. These techniques of advertising caused Listerine sales to boom.
We also have some bottles that we are struggling to identify. If you know anything about Oriental Show-You brown soy sauce bottles or Jumbo Peanut Butter jars let us know!