Old Bottles - Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters - One in Series

  • Posted on: 21 September 2016
  • By: Gina

Ever wondered what that old bottle you have is worth?  Or what it’s history is?  Well, I’ve been idly collecting old bottles over the years without ever giving that a thought.  Dumb, huh?  I’d pick them up at old stores on our travels, and friends would give me some when cleaning out their attics or barns.  Where did I get this one?  I have no idea, but the other day while unpacking boxes in our new home I came across this one.  It piqued my curiosity so I went to the computer,  never expecting to discover what I did.  What a fascinating history this bottle has.

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.    

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. 

Now, what is it worth?  Good question, but the answer is rather difficult.  The light green bottles seem to be the rarest fine.  I’ve seen that color on sale for as high as $1,800.  Blacks I’ve seen as high as $1,000.  Browns and ambers vary dramatically, anywhere from $20 to $500, most likely depending on condition and who wants to buy it.  As for me, my Hostetter bottle will remain sitting within my collection of other bottles….just because I find it unique and like how it looks.  So dashing and old.

Come back soon for more old bottle information!

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