Tippecanoe: Unique By Design

When you’re talking uniqueness of shape in the realm of antique bottle collecting, it is hard to imagine that the discussion would not turn to figural bitters. Now, before everyone who doesn’t collect figural bitters jumps on me for my gross overgeneralization, I’m not saying that figural bitters are best bottles or the most valuable, although some examples can lay claim to those titles. What I am saying is that figural bitters represent some of the most unique shapes among bottles. A quick stroll through any major show will reveal indian queens, ears of corn, log cabins, pineapples, and the list goes on. Among proprietors of bitters in the 19th Century, shape was seemingly as important as name to consumers.  And a good thing too, because it has given bottle collectors an amazing array of shape to collect.

Although H. H. Warner was, perhaps, one of the top marketers of patent medicines, including bitters. He staked his brand to the image of the safe and reinforced that claim through constant advertising and promotions bearing that trademark.  Within the Warner empire, there were several notable exceptions to this branding. Among them were his Tippecanoe and the Log Cabin Remedies line. Putting aside Log Cabin Remedies, his Tippecanoe bitters replaced his Warner’s Safe Bitter, Tonic and Tonic Bitters. He clearly wanted to make a clean break and decided to use unique packaging. So unique, in fact, that he registered it with the U.S. Patent Office.

Fortunately, we are the beneficiaries of his efforts.  While his Tippecanoe bottles are not considered rare among collectors (unless they have full labels or an olive color),  they are an excellent addition to a figural bitters collection. Warner was out of business by 1893, although the company continued to exist and the Tippecanoe remained part of the inventory of products until 1895 or so. It is unclear why it was retired, but retired it was and Warner’s experiment in figural bitters faded into history.

Special thanks to Glass Works Auctions for the photograph of the labelled Tippecanoe.

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