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Tapered Medicine Bottle

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Artifact Description

The Jacksonville “Blue China” glassware assemblage includes seven tapered vial-like bottles, aquamarine in color. Each exhibit a “rolled” lip finish and a “blowpipe” pontil scar. When a blowpipe was used as a pontil it left behind a distinctive ring-shaped scar on the bottom of the bottle. The scar is usually sharp edged, hollow in the middle, and round to slightly oval with a diameter that is roughly the size of the bottle’s upper neck – circumstantial proof that the same blowpipe used for both blowing and empontilling the bottle. 

The bottles were originally sealed with cork stoppers, some of which were found nestled inside. The quantity recovered suggests these vials were a part of the cargo shipment.

The distinctive bottle shape, its narrow neck and mouth ideal for the pouring of liquid contents, is likely a knock-off of once soothing syrups: Godfrey’s Cordial and Dalby’s Carminative. Of English origins, these products were among the many remedies touted for various ailments afflicting infants and young children. By the mid-19th century, both Dalby’s and Godfrey’s and their many imitators, including the “Blue China” examples, were readily available in the United States and were listed among the countless patent medicines containing harmful opiates.

The children’s market was especially profitable at a time when limited health care and high infant mortality were pervasive, and hope for a suffering child was frequently purchased in a small bottle containing “syrup of poppies.” Such products proved fatal as they were typically offered without prescription, common practice of the era. In one documented case, “forty drops of Dalby’s Carminative destroyed an infant.” Yet, even doses as small as half a teaspoon could also be lethal. Nonetheless, production of such dangerous preparations did not cease. A survey of 10,000 prescriptions filled by thirty-five Boston drugstores in 1888 revealed that 1,481 of them contained opiates.

By at least the turn of the century and even later, glass factories were advertising in their company catalog generic patent medicine vials sold under the label “Godfrey’s Cordial,” so-named for this particular bottle style. These distinctively shaped, tapered cylindrical bottles had in fact become a common medicine-bottle style long associated with the original product.


Other Details

H. 13.5cm