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Sands's Sarsaparilla Bottle

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Artifact Description

Four rectangular, aquamarine bottles retrieved from the Jacksonville “Blue China” wreck site are embossed with the company and product name, SANDS'S SARSAPARILLA // NEW YORK. The four examples are believed to be the earliest variant of the product introduced by Abraham B. and David Sands. The Sand brothers established their retail and wholesale druggist business in New York City in 1836. Their Sarsaparilla was first introduced around 1839 and was one of the many 19th-century patent medicines to emerge on the market as a sure cure for any and all afflictions. 

The “Patent Medicine Era,” often referred to as “The Age of Quackery,” was represented by a host of products, many laced with harmful narcotics and readily available to the consumer without revealing their contents or requiring a prescription. Shrewd entrepreneurs such as A.B. & D. Sands were among the many bold 19th-century businessmen who amassed a large fortune from their wholesale drug business—including enormous earnings from the sale of their prized Sarsaparilla.

Like a number of other bottles recovered from the wreck site, these four examples feature a blowpipe pontil scar on the bottom of the bottle. Such pontil marks are commonly seen on patent medicine bottles of the era. Also called a "ring pontil,” the scar was formed when the hollow blowpipe (used to blow the glass) was also used as the pontil rod when finishing the lip of the bottle. Limiting the number of tools used by the glass blower was probably done to save costs and time.


Other Details

H. 15.3cm.