Anyone who collects bottles is familiar with the term “bitters.” Bitters refers generically to a group of bottles that packaged a concoction of roots and herbs with a distinct bitter flavor compounded with alcohol. Understandably there are bottle collectors that confine their collections strictly to bitters bottles, including figural bitters. Without a doubt, bitters bottles occupy a significant place in the hearts and minds of collectors. Although Warner did not have collectors in mind when he introduced his bitters, he was, no doubt, aware of the market for such a product.
Warner produced a bitters product from the time that he introduced his first line of products in 1879-1880 until about 1883. The half pint of the Tonic Bitters continued after 1883 for whatever reason. Warner produced three bottles that contained bitters: Safe Bitters (pint and half pint), Safe Tonic (pint and half pint) and Safe Tonic Bitters (pint and half pint). I have also seen a Safe Tonic bottle with a Safe Tonic Bitters label (pictured above), so there was some interchangability among the products. In the 1879 Almanac, Warner described the Safe Tonic as follows:
Warner’s Safe Tonic does not differ from the Safe Bitters in effect, except that the Tonic contains less stimulant properties and is therefore preferable for use where in order to obtain the alternative and blood purifying effect of the medicine it is necessary to use it at short intervals and for a longer period.
All of these bottles in both the pint and half pint sizes are valued by Warner collectors ranging from the Safe Tonic as Scare to the Safe Bitters and Safe Tonic Bitters as Rare. As a rule, the half pints are much more difficult to acquire than the pints and the half pint Tonic may be considered Rare. Not many collectors can say they have all six varieties and those that do are not likely to part with them easily.
Warner is not known for figural bottles. The notable exception is his Tippecanoe Bitters that was introduced in 1883. Stay tuned for more on that wonderful bottle.