If you were starting up a patent medicine company in the late 19th Century, you might consider emulating the business model of H. H. Warner (at least before he began investing gobs of money in worthless mining ventures). While you would be hard pressed to be as successful as Warner on such a large scale, perhaps you could imitate one of Warner’s more visible marketing devices…his bottles. Now, you could not just copy his bottles. Indeed, Dr. Charles Craig, who sold his Kidney and Liver Cure to Warner in 1879, was on the receiving end of a lawsuit when he tried to reenter the patent medicine business. But, if it happened that your product’s bottle bore a resemblence to Warner’s Safe Cure, well, that might be the way to go.
Having said all that, there is no evidence (that I’m aware of) that any of Warner’s competitors set out to imitate the appearance of his bottles as a means to tapping into his customer base. And yet, for some of the Warner’s Safe Cure look-a-likes, one cannot help but wonder if their similar appearance was just coincidental.
With help from Jack Stecher, I picked out a few good examples of Warner’s Safe Cure look-a-likes. In my mind, perhaps the best candidate is Baker’s Vegetable Blood & Liver Cure of the Lookout Mountain Medicine Co. of Greeneville, Tennessee. Baker’s has both the Warner’s shape, the amber color and “Blood & Liver Cure,” which is not dramatically different from “Kidney & Liver Cure.” The other look-a-like candidates have to include Craig’s Kidney Cure and Long’s Standard Malaria Cure, both from the center of the Warner universe, Rochester. Both Craig’s and Long’s have the Warner shape and color as well as the geography. One final example is Spark’s Kidney & Liver Cure – Perfect Health of Camden, New Jersey. Again, Spark’s has the Warner shape and color that begs comparison. The benign explanation is that the Warner’s Safe Cure bottle was just a standard shape and size among glassmakers that appealed to other patent medicine proprietors. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting question to ponder.
Thanks to Jack Stecher and Glass Works Auctions for the photographs.