Chas. H. Fletcher’s Castoria / Dr. S. Pitcher’s Castoria
These are some of the most commonly found bottles in trash dumps and privies dating from as early as the 1870s all the way up to the mid-twentieth century. Chas. H. Fletcher’s Castoria was a very popular brand of laxative compound, sold as a subsitute for castor oil.
This product started as Dr. S. Pitcher’s Castoria , the formula being patented on May 18, 1868. Several years later the rights to that product and recipe was sold to Charles H. Fletcher, and marketed through the J. B. Rose Company, and later the Centaur Company.
The 17-year patent for the original Pitcher’s Castoria product expired on May 18, 1885. Several years after the patent expired, in 1896 the firm Heinsfurter & Daggett of Fargo, North Dakota began selling their own product under the name “Pitcher’s Castoria”. Centaur brought this to court, and in January 1897 the judgment went in favor of Heinsfurter & Daggett to sell their product as “Pitcher’s Castoria”.
(Meanwhile, probably sometime during the period of 1893-1897, bottles sold by Centaur changed from being marked “Dr. S. Pitcher’s”, to “Chas. H. Fletcher’s”.)
Therefore, I am under the impression that BOTH Fletcher’s AND Pitcher’s-marked bottles were being produced simultaneously for some period of time, at least during the 1890s and possibly into the early 1900s. More research needs to be done on the exact time frame these bottles were produced, as there is conflicting information found on the web!
Typically, the later Fletcher’s bottles are embossed “Chas. H. Fletcher’s” (on one side panel, in graceful, flowing cursive script) and “CASTORIA” in standard block lettering on the other side panel. Usually the front and back panels are smooth and unlettered, the space being used for application of the paper labels.
A number of different bottle makers made the Fletcher’s (and Pitcher’s) bottles over the long span of time they were being sold, but the majority of them have only mold numbers on the base, and, unfortunately, in those cases a specific glass manufacturer cannot be identified.
The earlier bottles are hand-blown, and can be identified as such by a close examination of the vertical mold seams. If the mold seams “fade out” or appear “erased” as they near the very top of the bottle, it is handblown (mouthblown), not machine-made. If the mold seams are visible all the way to the very top of the bottle (the lip area), this indicates a machine-made example.
Some bottles are marked with the “P in a circle” makers mark indicating they were made by Pierce Glass Company. The Pierce-made units I have seen were machine-made. The term “ABM” (Automatic Bottle Machine) is frequently applied to machine-made bottles.
Most of the embossed Fletcher’s bottles are in light aqua or pale green-aqua glass, and appear to date generally from the 1900-1930 period. Currently, it is unclear (to me, anyway) when the very LAST Fletcher’s bottles were produced. If you have information that might help answer that question, please contact me!
Charles Henry Fletcher promoted his product with one of the most massive advertising campaigns known in the United States (at least, in the late 1800s and early 1900s), and the walls of buildings, especially throughout the New York metro area, were plastered with huge handpainted advertising slogans with his unique trademarked signature in cursive writing. Because of the (evidently) very high-quality paint used, some of these signs were still visible even within the last few years. A typical website with photographs of such signs: http://forgotten-ny.com/1998/05/fletchers-castoria/
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