Bitters Glasses 

Implicit in the descriptions of the previous page was the notion that a pre-pro collection necessarily focuses of whiskeys.  It doesn't have to.  There are other types of glasses from the same era that are just as attractive yet but tend to attract much less interest and competition and hence can be purchased for fewer dollars.

Bitters glasses do not actually fall into one of these categories but it  would be remiss to neglect them in passing.  A glance through the advertising sections of pre-prohibition magazines and  newspapers reveals a familiar collection of clothing, furniture and cleaning products but there are also many ads for patented cures.  This was a time before antibiotics  had been discovered and medicine was still more of a belief system and art than it was science.  About 50,000 different "cures" were being  marketed by the time that the industry was exposed and defrocked in 1906, most of which consisted of a coloring agent, flavoring, and alcohol sufficient to raise the velocity of the brew to 100 proof. Although it is doubtful that any maladies were actually cured as a result of consuming such nostrums, they certainly made people feel a lot better about their illnesses.  Bitters was one such product that had its origins in pre-colonial times and gained in popularity in the latter half of the 19th century when the government began raising taxes on whiskey, gin and rum.  Although bitters and other alcoholic mixtures were also taxed, the levy of medicines was less and hence consumption rose.  Several bitters shot glasses are known to exist and some are shown here.  Prices for these glasses are typically much higher than for whiskey shots because of competition from fanatics who collect bitters ephemera.  These folks don't take prisoners.  The embossed glass (photo still missing! Ed) shown below falls in a gray zone between shot glasses and dose glasses, which is another potential area for collection.  If anyone would like to contribute a page on dose glasses, please contact the glassmaster.


'Alter Bismark Mahen Bitters'. from Berdie & Zien, Milwaukee, WI 'A Little Cuban Bitters'. from Louis Sievers Co, Chicago, IL?  


Some more ideas for shot-glass themes  can be found by clicking on the links to Souvenir, Novelty, and Fraternal glasses.

Wherever your collecting interests may eventually lead you, the best kind of advice is to stick with quality.  Glasses that are cracked, badly scratched, have extensive rim damage, or have severely  faded or scuffed labels are always going to grate on both your nerves and esthetics.  Having a few such glasses to hold a place in a city or distillery collection until you're able to  upgrade is fine, but a collection filled with such glasses is -- pardon the word when applied to a pre-pro shot glass -- just so much expensive junk.  Quality is value and you'll always be proud of your finest glasses.  More to the point, quality holds and increases its value over time, so that you'll be able to sell out and make a tidy profit when the time comes to begin that 18th century reticulated widget collection.  

last updated: October 16, 2009                  

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