Friday, 7 July 2017

Two weeks in and what have I learned?

Well I've been working on the documentation project for a couple of  weeks now, so I thought I'd take stock of what I've learned so far

  • Quite a lot of the supplied were bought from Rocke Tompsitt & co, who were a large wholesale druggist in Melbourne. Not surprising in itself, they probably supplied most of the country pharmacies in Victoria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 
  • There's also some outliers - a bottle from Merck when it was still E Mercke of Darmstadt, a bottle of rhubarb extract from Joseph Terry in York 
which is probably newer than 1895 as Terry's didn't legally incorporate under that name until then, but stylistically I suspect that the top doesn't date to much later than 1895. The rhubarb extract may not have been its original contents - there's some evidence of bottles, especially the older ones, of being reused and relabelled.
  • There's also a little bit of social history, with a few bottles from Burgoyne, Burbidges and co, who were once a chemical supplier in the east end of London, but who are now a major Indian chemical supplier headquartered in Mumbai. Interestingly, the old London factory is still there if you want to take a look.
  • and of course there's what I consider to be the best find so far
    a little octagonal cobalt blue glass bottle embossed with 
    Jacob Hulle
    Not to be taken
    Bottles like this turn out to be quite rare.
    There's an example in the Powerhouse museum in Sydney, which has its original label.
    Doing an image search in google for Jacob Hulle turns up examples for sale to collectors in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
    The name Jacob Hulle is a bit of a gift, eminently searchable for.
    Hulle was associated with a company that later became Whiffen and co. Given that Hulle retired in 1868 I suspect that the bottle probably dates from the 1860's, as while it's a geometric shape and has a warning embossed on the bottle, it lacks the vertical ridges that were commonly embossed on poison bottles later in Victorian times to make them easier to identify in candlelight.
So, all in all a productive two weeks, and one that convinces me that using bottles to track early trade patterns in the South Pacific was not completely mad ...

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