Every so often, a really rare Warner’s Safe Cure surfaces for sale or auction and, if your timing is right and your wallet is well-endowed, it’s yours for the right price. You are looking at one such bottle. The Safe Nervine Half Pint from London in aqua or ice blue is on my “‘A’ List” of top shelf Warner’s. This particular gem was in the recently completed Glassworks auction. I wish I could say that I was the successful bidder, but, alas, I was not. I hope it ended up in a nice Safe Cure collection. Thanks to Glassworks for the use of this photograph.
In June of 2008, I did a post featuring some of the varieties of wooden shipping crates or boxes used by the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company to transport its Safe Cure and Safe Yeast to market. At the time of that post, the only wooden box I had seen from one of the foreign offices was a box from the Melbourne Office that I included in the post. Most of the Warner’s wooden boxes are scarce and those from foreign offices are downright rare. It is reasonable to assume that other foreign offices used wooden boxes to ship the Safe Cure products, but, for whatever reason, those boxes rarely surface. Until recently, I had not seen a wooden box from the London Office.
The London Safe Cure box pictured here is courtesy of Jeff Warner in England. It seems that the box was given to Jeff as a practical joke given his last name, but instead he ended up being the beneficiary of a nice Warner’s Safe Cure go-with. Jeff has also done some research into the history of the London Office and I will pass that along in a future post. Please note that this box is embossed “H. H. Warner & Co.”
The box also includes the London Office address as 86 Clerkenwell Road, E.C., London. The London Office operated at that address from approximately 1889 until roughly 1902 when it moved to Laystall Street. Amazingly, the London Office survived until the late 1930’s or early 1940’s.
If you follow this blog with any regularity, you have heard me say more than once that my favorite Safe Cures come from the London Office. That is not a slight against the cures from Frankfurt, Pressburg or Melbourne, but rather an acknowledgement that London offers, perhaps, the widest variety of types and colors, second only to Rochester. For example, the London Office offers us the remarkable sample in amber and green or the Safe Compound in 6″ or 5 1/2″ strap sided varieties. Also, the colors run from amber to ice blue aqua.
Although I have never had the opportunity to dig in Great Britain, I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance (virtually) of Frank Romanowski. Frank lives in the north of England and is an avid bottle digger. More to the point, he has had occasion to dig some nice Warner’s Safe Cures over the years. One such dig yielded some nice Safe Compounds pictured above. I asked him to share the story of that dig and he graciously agreed to do so. Here is his unedited account of that dig:
The ‘Compound’ Dig
It was February 28th 2010. A day in my digging career I will never forget! This is how the story began. My sister Helena is what we call here in the UK a ‘rambler’. That doesn’t mean she talks endlessly! It actually means that she is a member of The Ramblers Association, a national group which organises group walks through the countryside and takes pride in protecting rights of way. The previous weekend, my sister had been on one such ‘ramble’ and had spotted broken glass and stoneware at the bottom of a stream bank. I had asked her to look out for such tell-tale signs of possible old dumping grounds whenever she was out walking and had several leads which turned out to be false starts in the past. So I didn’t hold out much hope when she offered to take me to the spot.
It was quite a long drive and then a hike on foot, so it was mid-morning when we finally arrived at the site. It was just as she had said, broken stoneware jam pots and fragments of codd bottles could be seen in the stream and it was clear that they had come from the eroded edges of an ashy bank above it. I cut into the banking with my shovel and after removing about a foot of hard clay ash and bottle fragments began to appear. It looked promising! A few minutes later my heart sank a little as clear glass machine-made sauce bottles and jam jars began to surface. ”Another horrible late 20s site” I thought to myself. My sister took her dogs off for a long walk and left me to get on with the dig. Three hours and a ton of fruitlessly shifted ash later my mobile phone rang. It was my partner Catherine calling to enquire how I was getting on. ”I’ve got nothing” I told her ”I doubt I’ll be hurrying back to dig this place again”. A few minutes after ending our conversation I decided to fork in the sides of the trench. A small amber bottle fell face down on to the ash. ”Another Jeye’s Fluid” I thought to myself, picked the bottle up and turned it around. A Warner’s Compound!! I couldn’t believe it! A moment later the base of another appeared, alas it was only the base. An amber hair restorer had my heart racing again for a moment as i pulled it from the ash thinking it might be yet another Compound! I dug with renewed vigour for a few minutes untill suddenly the top of another small amber bottle appeared, sticking out of the wall of the trench. I gently eased it out….Warner’s Compound number two!! My sister returned shortly afterwards to find me one excited and happy digger! Upon returning home, Catherine couldn’t believe my good fortune. ”I want to dig one” she said, ”Shall we go back there tomorrow?” I didn’t need a second invitation to return.
March 1st, we set off good and early and upon arrival set about starting to dig each side of the trench I had dug the day before. Hopeful of yet more success, I quickly hit the bottom of the site in my trench…for little reward. Meanwhile, Catherine had been struggling a little with the hard clay that capped the site. ”Here, let me have a go” I said, quickly cutting off the clay in her trench to get down into the ash. As I lifted my shovel, a small amber lip appeared. ”Can I dig it out?” she said and then carefully lifted the bottle from the ash. Another sparkling Warner’s Compound! Elated we dug on, but unfortunately no more Compounds surfaced that day. I have since returned to the site on several occasions and have dug a further five broken Compounds. There is very little left of the site to dig now, but I live in hope!
Thanks for sharing Frank! I hope to have the opportunity to dig with Frank some day. Cheers.
About three years ago, I did a post on what I referred to as the “Big Print Safe Cure.” My selection of that term was because of the rather unusual size of the words “Safe Cure” in comparison to other half pint London Safe Cures. There is also a certain crudity that is not evident in the garden variety London Safe Cure. This particular specimen just sold on eBay for the tidy sum of $1,175, which may be contrasted with a normal amber London Safe Cure half pint that would fetch less than $100.
This is only the third example of this particular bottle that I have seen in over 30 years of collecting Warner’s. I saw the first one about five years ago and wrote it off as a “freak.” A desirable freak, but a freak nevertheless. The size and crudity of the words “Safe Cure” made me think it had been made by an unsupervised apprentice. Because I have now seen two more examples, I must conclude that this particular bottle was produced briefly (how briefly we don’t know) for use by the London Office, but discovered and pulled as unsatisfactory. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems plausible and is similar in that regard to the “No Safe” Safe Remedies bottle, which must have met a similar fate.
This particular example came to the seller from London and originally sold on eBay for $25. Not a bad investment with a nice 4600% profit. Thanks to bean5024 on eBay for use of his pics and the background on this unique Safe Cure.
Well, the nice Warner’s just keep coming. Among the Frankfurts, one of my favorites is the emerald green Safe Cure. These seem to be a more recent phenomenon. We have become accustomed to the Frankfurt Safe Cures in both amber and olive green, but the color in some of these emerald bottles is really spectacular. Generally speaking, I have always held the opinion that the amber Frankfurts were more difficult to acquire than the olive. Having said that, I am starting to believe that the emerald Safe Cures may trump the amber.
I wish I could shed more light on the bottle manufacturer that produced the Frankfurt cures, but that seems lost to history. It is entirely possible that they were produced by the same manufacturer that produced the London bottles. The best evidence of that is seen when comparing the London and Frankfurt half pints. It seems clear that either “London” or “Frankfurt” were slugged in. In any event, this emerald color variation is a real treat.
This Safe Cure is made even more special by the pristine label. This is, perhaps, one of the best Frankfurt labels I have seen over the years and it clearly pushed this bid price on this bottle up to $2275 by the end of the auction. Even more interesting is that, upon close inspection, the label appears to be hand drawn to some extent. A very nice example that came out of Hungary. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
It stands to reason that if you are going to market a product in a foreign county, doing so in the native language increases the appeal of that product. That is true, not only today, but in the late 19th Century as well. Many of Warner’s foreign markets were countries where English was the predominant language (Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand). That is not to say that other languages were not spoken in those countries, but rather that the use of English did not handicap sales of Safe Cure.
Other foreign markets did not use English as their primary language (Germany, Austria-Hungary and France) and the labels on those products were translated into the native language. It is interesting to note that, while the labels were modified to reflect the native language, the embossing was not. This suggests that there were limits on what Warner was willing to do to appeal to his customers outside the United States. It also suggests that the embossing was an important part of his “brand” and his trademark that he was unwilling to modify. The same can be said of “Warner’s Safe Cure” on the label. It remains in English notwithstanding the fact that the remainder of the label is translated. Again, brand and trademark. Above, is a detail of the Frankfurt Safe Cure label. Below is another version, this time it is the rare Darmstadt label.
The Pressburg labels offer a slight variation from Frankfurt, although they are very similar.
Finally, there is the French label Safe Cure. As I have said in earlier posts, this bottle is embossed “London,” but bears a French label, which suggests that sales to France were London-based. This notion is strengthened by the fact that the base of the French label does not list Paris or another French city as an office, but instead lists London, Franfurt and Rochester.
The labels included in this post are the examples that I am aware of, however, I still believe that Warner likely marketed his product south of the United States border to Mexico, Central and South America. Any yet, I am not aware of any examples of a Spanish label. If such a thing exists or if you have examples of other foreign Warner’s labels, please let me know and I will supplement this post.
Perhaps the hottest Warner’s Safe Cures these days are the London Half Pints. The appeal of these wonderful little bottles stems from something I have observed before, which is that they turn up in some wonderful color variations. These bottles in there more common colors of amber and olive are nice bottles in there own right, but some of the recent color varieties really elevate them. London Half Pint Safe Cures typically sell in the $100 range and Nervines in the $200 range, but when they appear in unusual colors, they sell for a premium. A recent Half Pint Nervine in emerald sold in the $500 range.
If you have been watching eBay lately, you may have seen a few of these unusual London Halfs show up in colors ranging from emerald to light olive. My collection includes a citron London Nervine Half Pint. You can really appreciate these great colors when they are displayed with other Warners. I have included a few a these color variations above and I’m sure that there are more out there, so keep your eyes open.
One of the pleasures of putting together the Warner’s Safe Blog is that I have had a chance to meet (virtually) many Warner’s collectors from around the world. In the future, I hope to feature some of their collections to show the incredible variety of Warner’s Safe Cures out there.
Recently, I got an email from Wayne Wood from Essex, England. Wayne sent me some photos of his Warner’s collection that includes some nice Londons. Thanks Wayne.