Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Green pharmacy bottles (again)

 It's all a bit of a puzzle.

I chanced across the following on Etsy (I did contact the guy selling the items and he's happy for me to copy and use the images)

which shows two rather battered green bottles dug from a bottle dump somewhere in the UK. Both look at first sight to be nineteenth century and still have their labels attached

Looking more closely, one label is illegible, but the other clearly lists Henry Sawyer, Chemist, Green market Carlisle. Trying to get a date I contacted Cumbria archives and the truly wonderful Helen Cunningham replied

Thank you for your enquiry.

Kelly's Directory 1873 James Sawyer Chemist 37 Fisher Street Carlisle
Kelly's Directory 1880 Henry Sawyer Chemist 35 & 37 Fisher Street (37 is on the corner of the Green Market)
Various Directories 1884, 1894, 1901, 1921 & 1925 similar entries
Kelly's Directory 1928 & 1938 Henry Sawyer Chemist 4 Green Market Carlisle
1952 Directory Henry Sawyer no longer listed

I hope this is of assistance.

which gives us quite a wide date range. However if you look closely at the bottle on the left you can see that not only does the label use a sans serif type font, which tends to be a post world war one thing, it lists a telephone number

which is certainly not nineteenth century.

Now I've been here before, bottles get reused, or else old stock is used, and label styles sometimes don't reflect the actual age of the contents. It's different with patent medicines where you can usually anchor the product a bit more firmly on the basis of newspaper advertising. 

However, if you search for 'green victorian medicine bottles' on Ebay or Etsy, almost all the items for sale are from the UK suggesting that the use of green bottles was a British thing

So, I think that all we can say is that green bottles were used as late as the 1920's and perhaps even later, and that sometimes older designs of bottles remained in use for decades.

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