This "Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles" page is divided somewhat arbitrarily into the categories and subcategories listed below, with the "Patent/Proprietary Medicinal Bottles" easily being the most diverse group of shapes.Some bottle groupings naturally fall out as separate - milk bottles, fruit jars, liquor flasks, Hutchinson sodas, and many others.The added strength inherent in a round (cross section) body was rarely an issue with medicinals so the limitations on overall shape were much reduced and the possible variety multiplied many fold.The history of the patent and proprietary medicine industry is an exceptionally interesting subject though beyond the scope of this website, which covers primarily just the bottles - like the cabin shaped "bitters" bottle to the left which dates from the 1860s or 1870s.The bottle pictured to the left is a mid-19th century medicine with a general shape (rectangular with indented panels) that was used for tens of thousands of different medicinal products from the mid-19th century until at least the Depression in the 20th century.Though intimidating in its immense diversity there are some useful trends in shapes that mark a bottle as very likely to have been used primarily or originally as a container for some type of medicinal product.
(Note: Various medicines were made in ointment form for external use so these type bottles had wide mouths for accessing the contents.) Beyond the glass thickness and neck attributes - which are of course not medicinal group unique characteristics - there is little else that physically differentiates the extremely diverse medicinal bottle group from other groups.
If interested, users are directed to consult some of the various publications noted below or check some of the references mentioned throughout this page.
However, a few notable early 20th century historical events have some relevance to the dating and typing of medicinal bottles, as follows: Not all medicine products came in glass bottles, of course.
The use of the word "cure" was largely curtailed and this is for all intents and purposes the end date for patent medicine bottles for human use that are embossed (or labeled) with "cure." However, enforcement was still not complete and some use of the term most likely did occur after 1912-1913, although not likely embossed on bottles after this point.
One of the first patent medicine producers to be prosecuted in 1913 was William Radam's Microbe Killer (pictured and discussed later on this page) whose bottles claimed boldly to "Cure All Diseases." The company lost their case and the Microbe Killer - and most other "cures" - faded quickly from the market (Young 1967).