On occasion, you will find a Warner’s Safe Cure with its label in tact along with some of its contents. In some instances, the top of that bottle may include a proprietary tax stamp similar to the one below.
I wrote about these little gems back in 2008. They were originally used to generate revenue to offset the costs of the Civil War, but later evolved into a means that patent medicine manufacturers, like Warner, used to assure the public of the genuineness of their product. Note the warning on the stamp below: “NOT GENUINE IF STAMP IS BROKEN”.
During the lifetime of the Warner’s Safe Remedies Company, it is impossible to say how many samples were distributed to the public, but over the years, it would likely to be millions of bottles. Below are three examples of labelled Safe Cure samples. Examples of labelled Safe Cure samples are fairly rare and examples of the labelled Diabetes Remedy and Nervine are almost unheard of.
These wonderful examples were part of the collection of Dan Cowman and the photograph is courtesy of Terry McMurray. Most of the Warner’s samples from Rochester that turn up today are the “Safe Cure” sample. Much rarer is the “Safe Remedy” sample for whatever reason. Prior to see this photograph from Terry, I had never seen a sample in clear glass. All of the above bottles would be considered rare by Warner’s collectors.
Blogging about H. H. Warner means blogging not only about his extensive line of cures and remedies, but also about his amazing advertising pieces that he used to make his products a household name in the late 19th Century. Unlike today, people of that era did not have access to reference material that we take for granted. Even something as simple as a dictionary was probably not something that most people had access to. Indeed, unless you lived in a large city, access to public libraries was a luxury denied to the masses.
Warner understood this unfulfilled need and tapped into it by providing advertising pieces that highlighted his product line while also providing information that people could use in their daily lives. The best examples of this nexus between advertising and resource material included his almanacs loaded with household hints and tips. He issued one or more almanacs each year that were distributed to the public by local druggists. Another excellent example was his Safe Dictionary. I featured the Safe Dictionary is a post I did back in October, 2008. At the time, I was limited to providing a picture of the cover.
Recently, however, I stumbled upon a digital version of the Safe Dictionary put online by the National Library of Medicine. The great thing about this version is that it allows you to read through the entire Safe Dictionary by clicking on the pages. Pretty cool. Now, you don’t have to settle just for the cover but ALL 5000+ words!
Over the years, I have written a number of posts celebrating the importance and value of labels on Warner’s Safe Cures. It has always been my feeling that a good label adds both value and interest to a Safe Cure. Many of my posts have featured bottles in the collection of Dan Cowman. Dan passed away in 2015 but not before he amassed one of the greatest known collections of labelled Warner’s.
Over the past year, Dan’s collection has been auctioned off to eager collectors with many of his bottles fetching record prices. The auctions have been handled by Terry McMurray, who is no stranger to labelled Warner’s and whose collection of patent medicines also includes many unique labelled Warner’s and advertising pieces. Terry has been kind enough to photograph a portion of Dan’s collection at my request. Here are a few of those photographs showing Dan’s amazing collection.
The above photograph features an array of foreign labels including Safe Cures from Frankfurt, Pressburg, London, Melbourne and Toronto (3-Cities). It is unlikely that this unique set of foreign labels will be reunited at any time in the future.
The Safe Tonic Bitters was part of Warner’s early line of products that predated the introduction of Tippecanoe in 1883. Although the Tonic Bitters appeared in both a pint and half pint size, the Tonic Bitters label was sometimes adhered to a Safe Tonic bottle. In this case, a labelled Tonic Bitters with its original box is a true rarity.
The Asthma Cure tin is a rarity in and of itself because the product required that the user burn the contents, thereby destroying the container. Take a closer look at this tin. Not only is it a full labelled tin but it’s from Melbourne! I’m not sure that I have seen another one of these.
This is a nice example of a 3-City Safe Cure with a full label and box. Although the 3-Cities bottle is fairly common, it’s rarity and value are dramatically enhanced when you throw in the label and caddy.
The Warner’s Safe Remedies Company line included both a Nervine and a Sedative. The bottles appeared in amber, clear and aqua blue and the product was identified by the label. The Sedative is a much harder example to find. Notice that both the Nervine and the Sedative promise “Soothing, Calming, Quieting,” which makes it sound as though they were perhaps intended for young children.
The Log Cabin Remedies line is not know for unusual bottles, although some of it’s varieties are truly rare. Nevertheless, the packaging and the advertising are terrific.
Another piece of spectacular Warner advertising. This is a poster for Tippecanoe, which highlights the curative properties known to native Americans.
I intended to post this back in August, but got busy with work. So, as the saying goes, better late than never.
Every once in a while, someone puts together a great Warner’s Safe Cure display. Fifteen years ago, a group of us put together a display at the Rochester Show and I have written about that display on many occasions. Although there has undoubtedly been displays since 2001, none of them really caught my attention until this month at the Federation National Antique Bottle Convention and Expo in Sacramento.
Thanks to the hard work and creativity of Mike and Kathie Craig and Michael Seeliger, visitors to the Sacramento Expo were treated to one of the great Warner displays ever assembled. This display included not only an extensive collection of Warner’s bottles, but also lots of advertising and a video presentation about H. H. Warner and his medicine business. The display garnered rave reviews and lots of awards.
While pictures alone do not do it justice, here are a few pictures to give you an idea of the scope of the display and what, by any definition, was an amazing effort to highlight the contributions of H. H. Warner to the patent medicine industry and to bottle collectors. The scope of colors and variations is amazing. Kudos to the Craigs and the Seeligers for bringing this display together.
If you collect Warner’s Safe Remedies to any serious degree, you are already familiar with the name Michael Seeliger. If you aren’t, you should be. I have collected Warner’s for nearly 40 years and I can credit or blame Michael, to some degree, for my addiction. You see, way back in 1976, I picked up my first old bottle and started what has become a lifelong hobby.
When I first started collecting, I knew that I liked cures and remedies and made that the focus of my collecting efforts. Well, pretty soon, I realized that even that area of bottle collecting was enormous and I figured that I had better narrow my focus even more. About that time I joined my local antique bottle club to try to mingle with other collectors and to learn from their expertise. The Richmond Area Bottle Collectors Association had its own lending library and one evening, I chanced upon a copy of Michael’s original H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles (1974).
Michael’s original book was paperback with hand-drawn illustrations of the “then known” universe of Warner’s Safe Remedies. I was smitten. It was exactly what I needed and pretty soon thereafter, I purchased my first Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, then a Safe Nervine, then a Safe Diabetes Cure and so on. There was something special about Warner’s Safe Remedies. Perhaps it was the embossed safe or perhaps the variety of cures and remedies that extended beyond the United States to Canada, Europe and Australia.
Over the years, I have met and become friends with many other bottle collectors and Warner’s collectors, including Michael. I have expanded my collection to include some wonderful and unique Warner’s variants. Fortunately for all of us, Michael has decided to update his original paperback book with a digital version entitled H. H. Warner: His Company & His Bottles 2.0. Gone are the hand-drawn illustrations; replaced by digital images of Safe Remedies bottles and advertising. Indeed, the entire book is on a credit card sized disk with an insert that goes into your USB drive.
Michael’s 2.0 version contains over twenty chapters on all aspects of collecting Warner’s including a history of the company, advertising, an updated catalog of bottles and even a copy of the 1974 original book. It is also loaded with pictures that help any collector appreciate the extent and variety of Safe Remedies that have come to light since 1974. In short, the 2.0 version is well worth the investment of $18.00 and $3.00 for shipping. In order to get a copy, email Michael at: MWSeeliger@gmail.com.
Also, if you are planning to attend the Federation Expo in Sacramento in August, Michael and Michael Craig will be doing a presentation on Warner’s Remedies that will provide lots of great information.