View Full Version : Original or Repro Medicine Bottle?

Micah Trent
10-14-2006, 10:22 AM
For you men and women who do the medical side of reenacting, when it comes down to using medicine bottles, do you all use orginal bottles or the reproduction type?
The reason I ask is that in several antique stores throughout Hardin and Nelson Counties in Kentucky, original medicine bottles used during the 1860's time frame can be found around here anywhere from .50 cents to $5.00 a bottle. Several I have seen in really good shape.
If you all do use original bottles and you are out this way, you might want to check in to it. Hope it helps!

Micah Trent

10-15-2006, 09:22 AM
Thanks for the tip.

I would never, EVER, EVER use an original bottle unless it was filled for display only. Just because there are medical labels on it or it's dated to the 1860s does not mean that wass what was in it. Bottles get reused to store other contents. Some of those contents might be lethal and still present unless you have run the bottle through an autoclave. Even then, I would have residual worries in the back of my mind.

And of course, a lot of the medicines contained potentially lethal ingredients.

If you are using bottles for displays or LHs then I recommend going to Dog River Glassworks and asking them if they have anything useful. Last I checked they do not offer repro medicine bottles.

also remember some medications were not in glass. Chloroform is a good example.

Micah Trent
10-15-2006, 10:47 AM
I figured most people would use them for their own private collection or for LH presentations, but not actually use them on the field or in any other type of scenario.
Being one who might collect original medince bottles for their own private collection, you can't beat the prices, especially at .50 cents or little more.

Micah Trent

10-16-2006, 07:03 AM
Agreed, but here are a few other questions.

One - Most medical reenactors tend to select bottles based on how they look, and if they can support the size of the label, rather than researching what sort of container the substance came in. The mismatch looks terrible and poorly researched in a display. It also annoys bottle collectors, who will notice the discrepancy and point out your error for all to see.

Uniform looking bottles from a modern supplier with matching labels tend to look consistent, like they're from the "same supplier", and they are easier to pack up when you are done. Particularly when you build a crate or box which has been subdivided into compartments and filled with sawdust or old newspapers to keep the bottles from rattling or breaking.

Speaking from an ex-archaeology pespective - if an original bottle is broken, it's gone forever.

Two - you might have the bottle at an LH display, fill it with ice tea, or food-coloring tinted water, or fake pills but if you are not careful, and even the big sign that says "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH DISPLAY". What's to stop some kid from swiping the bottle and trying the contents on a dare, "to see if it's real", "just for kicks", or some other poorly-justified reason? Little kids put things in their mouths all the time. Larger kids try potentially dangerous things in defiance of authority or to play Darwinian chicken with Death. This segues back to my original response - originals might have residual leftovers inside which could contaminate anything else going in.

10-16-2006, 01:01 PM

Even at home, they are not completely safe. I had a lovely blown glass alcohol bottle with an original label from a local apothocary dated 1862, in ink, with the druggist's name. The corner was slightly damaged, but I was planning on scanning it and touching it up in paintshop pro for use on other bottles.

Leaving it alone for a few minutes, to retreive some paper from the closet, I came back to find the bottle standing firm, but with the label disintegrated into a pile of little bits at the bottle's base. Turns out my youngest daughter had thought it was an old label that looked "nasty" and scraped it off so the bottle would look "better".......

Big sigh.....