Fletcher’s Castoria / Pitcher’s Castoria

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.

Chas H. Fletcher's bottles

Trio of Chas H. Fletcher’s bottles

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/

Please click here to return to the Glass Bottle Marks pages.

35 Responses to Fletcher’s Castoria / Pitcher’s Castoria

  1. Beth says:

    I have a castoria, with cha script on the other side, greenish glass. Bottom has 80 with a box, within the box a 0

    • David says:

      Hi Beth, your bottle was made by Owens Bottle Company. If you wish, please check out my webpage on the “O in a square” mark which was used by Owens Bottle. They made gobs of bottles for many companies, including many for Fletcher’s Castoria.
      ~David

  2. I have a Dr. S Pitcher’s Castoria bottle with the S 33. On the bottom. It is irridescent and doesn’t have mold markings to the top. Would I be safe in saying this was produced 1910ish? My past husband unearthed this along with some other bottles while excavating for a room addition. Thanks!

    • David says:

      Hi Connie,
      I don’t know. If the vertical mold seams do NOT go all the way to the very lip of the bottle (but fade out at some point below the lip), the bottle is a hand-made (mouth-blown) version, and likely dates SOMETIME before the 1910-1920 era. If the mold seams extend to the top, it is a machine-made version and probably dates after circa 1910-1920. There is simply no way to pinpoint an exact date for any of these bottles. I can only give a general “guesstimate”. Best regards,
      David

  3. Jenna says:

    My grandmother was telling me about this product. She was given Fletcher’s Castoria from an aqua bottle as a child (1930’s) and says, “It was a staple in our cupboard.” She says it was still available when she had her first child in 1956, and was purchased in a clear bottle at that time.

    • David says:

      Hi Jenna,
      Thank you for your post. I recently found out that a product called “Fletcher’s Laxative” is still being sold (as of 7/2016) although there may be no real connection with the company that marketed the Fletcher’s Castoria in earlier years. I understand the current product is very gentle and is sold for children’s use. It probably contains (at least some) different ingredients than the older product.
      Best regards,
      David

  4. Kerri Byrne says:

    Hi David,

    I recently found a bottle in a river, which is pale green, marked with Dr S Pitchers in block letters on one side and Catoria in block letters on the other side. Your article mentions that typically the Dr S Pitchers is done in cursive. Could the bottle I found still date back to early 1900’s? thanks

    Kerri

    • David says:

      Kerri, there are probably lots of minor variants of the Pitchers bottles out there. For more detailed background info on the history and the various known bottles, check out this webpage by Bill Lockhart: http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CastoriaHistory.pdf If the info you seek is not in that article, it may not be possible to date your variant. The bottles are common, but there are still a lot of “unknowns” about them.
      Best regards,
      David

  5. Brad Tenneson says:

    mine just has 258 on the bottom of it ??

    • David says:

      Brad, the “258” is a mold number. This just means the number 258 was used as a code number for that particular mold at the glass factory where it was made. The “258” would have likely been used in inventory sheets, catalogs, and business invoices. Without a glass factory identification mark, there is no way to be sure exactly where or by what company that bottle was made. Large numbers of bottles of the same general appearance were made and it is probable that a number of glass manufacturers helped supply those bottles. Also, please see my article about numbers on the base of glass bottles.
      Hope this helps,
      David

  6. Brad Tenneson says:

    mine just has 258 on the bottom of it ?

  7. Tess says:

    Hi, what is the significance of finding a bottle made of clear glass verses the green and aqua most of the others have mentioned?

    • David says:

      Tess, the clear bottles are more recent. The Fletcher’s bottles were made in light aqua or light greenish aqua over many years. Aqua is the “natural” color of most glass, but as time went on (I’m not sure, but perhaps by the 1940s?) most bottles were being made of decolorized glass (i.e. ingredients were added to counteract the natural aqua color that would otherwise be present and which is caused by trace quantities of iron in the sand). In other words, clear glass.
      ~David

  8. Meridith Cain says:

    Hi there,
    My sister has a hand blown bottle (seam is not to the top). It has Dr. S. Pitcher’s up one side and castoria up the other side. The bottom is stamped A 35 or A 85. It’s got a light green tint.

  9. Margaret says:

    Hi David,

    I’m currently identifying some bottles. I have a Chas. H. Fletcher Castoria aqua colored bottle. The vertical seam goes to the top. #28 is embossed on the bottom. Does that mean it is from 1928?

    Thank you!

    Margaret

    • David says:

      Hi Margaret,
      The “28” is a mold number. I’m sorry but I am of the strong opinion that there is NO way to date any of the Chas H. Fletcher Castoria bottles to any specific year. They were made over a period of many years in HUGE numbers. Bottle collectors who dig in old dumps, trash sites, and privy holes (especially sites where items discarded from the 1890s-1930s period have been found) will tell you that those bottles are one of the most common types that are seen, evidence that they were made in tremendous numbers. (Castoria was a huge seller…….constipation might have been even more prevalent years ago than it is now (!?)
      Many numbers are found embossed on the bases of those bottles, but they are almost certainly mold identifier numbers, and not date codes. Thanks for writing!
      ~David

  10. Lynda says:

    I have a bottle that has the Dr.S.Pritchard’s on one side and the CASTORIA on the other side.
    There is an A44 on the bottom. Any thoughts on this one?

    • David says:

      Hi Lynda,
      Your bottle is actually embossed “Dr. S. Pitcher’s” but the lettering is in cursive and often very hard to read, since in order to produce the raised marking on the bottle, a steel mold was hand-engraved with the “cuts” inscribed backward into the inside of the mold. Another thought…….when searching for info on old bottles, if the name is misspelled in a keyword search, this can cause someone to miss alot of pertinent information that might be out there on the web.
      Anyway, as far as the “A44” on the bottom: this is a mold identifier, merely identifying a particular mold in use at a glass factory. There was probably a number of identical molds being used at the same time, each with a letter/number to identify it.
      If there is no glass manufacturer’s mark, then there is no way to be sure what factory made the bottle. The bottles were produced by a number of different glass companies for the Castoria maker. Just making a wild guesstimate, it probably dates from sometime circa 1895 to the 1920s. (But keep in mind that it is impossible to assign an exact year date to these bottles).
      ~David

  11. brett gillet says:

    I have glass, handblown, light green tint “Chas H Fletcher’s ” cursive one side, Castoria on the other. Mold 23 on the bottom. Any thoughts?

    • David says:

      Hi Brett,
      Basically, there is no way to be sure on the date of production of your particular bottle. But probably from the 1900-1930s period. Please also see my comments in response to the query submitted by “Lynda”.
      Thanks and take care,
      David

  12. jeremy tyson says:

    I found a Castoria bottle and would like a little more info on my specimen. It has “CASTORIA” in block letters on one side and “Chas H Fletcher” on the other without an (‘s). The bottom has a “P” in a circle, USA, and 7. The bottle was machine made. Thank you, Jeremy

    • David says:

      Jeremy, The Fletcher’s Castoria bottles were made in very large numbers by Pierce Glass Company (the examples with the “P in a circle”) over a period of quite a few years. (See “P in a circle” entry on “page three” of the Bottle Marks pages). There is no way to pin down the year your bottle was made. Sorry I can’t come up with more concrete information on your bottle.
      Best regards,
      David

  13. Angel says:

    Hola. Encontré una botella Chas. H. Fletchers de un lado y del otro CASTORIA, sin embargo en la parte de abajo tiene macado un número 4, Sobre esta botella qué información e podría dar. Gracias.

    • David says:

      Querido Angel,
      Lo siento, pero realmente no puedo “afinar” una hora exacta / fecha con respecto a su botella. El número 4 en la parte inferior es un número de molde, y puede dar ninguna información sobre el año en que la botella fue fabricado. Este estilo de la botella se hizo para un período muy largo de tiempo, tal vez alrededor del año 1890 a alrededor de 1930s o 1940s, y si hay logo del fabricante de vidrio o marca comercial en la parte inferior, es aún más difícil asignar una fecha.
      Lo siento, no tengo información más precisa para usted.
      Un saludo, David

      (Translation) Dear Angel,
      I am sorry but I really cannot “narrow down” an exact time/date concerning your bottle. The number 4 on the bottom is a mold number, and can give no information on the year that the bottle was manufactured. This style of bottle was made for a very long period of time, maybe circa 1890s to around 1930s or ’40s, and if there is no glass manufacturer’s logo or trademark on the bottom, it is even more difficult to assign a date.
      Sorry I don’t have more precise information for you.
      Best regards, David

  14. Timothy says:

    I have just recovered a gorgeous specimen in a bottle dump site. It has cleaned up nicely. It is a light aqua, has the “Chas. H. Fletcher’s” in cursive on one side, and the “Castoria” in block capital letters on the opposite side. On the base is the letter “O” enclosed in a square. It is machine-made; can you determine a manufacturer and date range? Thank you very much for your help!

    • David says:

      Hi Timothy,
      Please check my entry on the “O in a square” manufacturer’s mark; it is listed on “page three”. ( Just click on the “Glass Bottle Marks – 3” link along the right side of any page on this site, which will take you to the list.) This is the best info I can give you. There is no way to pin down an exact year the bottle was made, since Owens Bottle Company used that mark for quite some period of time. Hope this helps. Best regards,
      ~David

  15. Tamara Muller says:

    Hi there! I recently just found a bottle with the writing on the one side and the block letters on the other. It even has an old cork in it. On the bottom it has the #365. Could you kindly tell me the approximate date on this?
    Thank you kindly!
    Tamara

    • David says:

      Hi Tamara,
      Assuming the bottle is a light aqua or greenish tint, I will say it was most likely made sometime in the 1895 to 1930 time period. These bottles (without a glass manufacturers’ mark) are very hard (if not impossible) to date precisely. The same general type was made for a number of years. Is it machine-made or handmade? If the mold seams fade out before reaching the top, it is handmade. If the seams extend to the very top, it is machine-made, and would date sometime after c. 1910.
      Best regards,
      David

  16. Rebecca Husman says:

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your cleaning suggestions and I’ll use the rice method. I’ll be careful, because it looks like the bottle has some air bubbles in the glass — it fun to find an intact bottle and wonder how long it had been buried. I appreciate your detailed answer.

    Rebecca

  17. Rebecca Husman says:

    Hi,

    I just found a bottle of Castoria (Chas H. Fletcher’s in a brook) and on the bottom it reads T88. Any info on that citation? It appears to be clear glass. Do you have any ideas on how to clean the inside? Thank you.

    • David says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      The “T88” on the bottom would be a code number for that particular bottle style (used for catalog/inventory purposes within the glass factory, and/or communications with purchasers of their glass containers). Without a manufacturer’s mark, it is hard to say who made it. Illinois Glass Company, Pierce Glass Company, and other glassmakers made tons of these bottles over a period of many years.

      Concerning cleaning bottles: For ordinary cleaning, try a small bottle brush (such as used for baby bottles, or for cleaning coffee makers), or you can put dry rice, very small-sized aquarium sand/gravel, or other medium, and shake gently with the bottle partially filled with water. Many older bottles, especially dug specimens, do NOT and will not “clean up” thoroughly. They often will have a whitish or brownish stain on the inside, and often on the outside as well, which is not removable with ordinary cleaning methods. This is a result of being buried for a considerable time in frequent, or nearly constant, contact with moisture. A very thin layer of the outside surface of the glass begins to corrode, leaving an etching or staining of the top layer. This can range from a light “foggy”, milky look, all the way to a very pronounced “rainbow” irridescence which occurs after very long burial. The appearance of this “glass sickness” can vary somewhat in intensity and appearance, depending on the chemical makeup of the soil in which the bottle is buried. The only way to thoroughly clean a bottle affected by “glass sickness” is the so-called “tumble cleaning” process. This is expensive to have done by a professional (usually around $20 per bottle) although many advanced bottle collectors have their own tumbling “set-up” so they don’t pay someone else to do this.
      (In general, because of cost, this type of cleaning is not done quite as often to more common antique bottles, but more frequently reserved for the “higher-end” or less-common, unusual, or more colorful bottles).
      Basically, a bottle or jar is placed securely inside a rotating plastic canister which is attached to a motor, and the canister is slowly rotated with a mixture of copper shot, water and cleaning/polishing agents. This removes a very thin layer of the surface. For a general idea of this process, check out: http://baltimorebottles.com/clean/clean.html. You can also find other online websites on bottle cleaning by a keyword search with “sick glass” “glass sickness” “tumble cleaning bottles”, “professional bottle cleaning”, “privy diggers” and other terms.

      I hope this information will be helpful. Best regards,
      ~David

  18. Wanda Kaminski says:

    While digging in my backyard to build a new pond, I came across a a bottle of Fletchers. It is pale green, and appears to be machine made as the seam goes right to the mouth of the bottle.
    I am interested in the bottle marks however. On the bottom are 2 stamps, one is the letter D inside a diamond shape and the number 7. Do you have any information ? I would be most interested. Thank you

    • David says:

      Hi Wanda,
      Your bottle was made by Dominion Glass Company, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. They had a number of plants around Canada. The number “7” is likely a mold number. I’m guessing you are located somewhere in Canada? Most “D in a diamond” bottles are found in Canada, and occasionally in the US, mostly along the northern border near Canada.
      Since Fletcher’s was so widely distributed, your info shows that they (Fletcher’s) had bottles made for them within Canada, besides various glassmakers here in the United States. As far as nailing down a specific date, that’s very hard to say. Probably made sometime in the 1920s-1950s.
      Thanks for writing,
      David

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