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July 19, 2024
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History: 19th-Century History Unearthed

A painkiller ad shows 19th-cent. life
A painkiller ad shows 19th-cent. life
Steve Rice & Charlie Quinn examine bottles
Steve Rice & Charlie Quinn examine bottles
The painkiller bottle is iridescent
The painkiller bottle is iridescent
June 15, 2007

A remnant of 19th-century Cornwall-on-Hudson life was dug up recently in the backyard of a Duncan Avenue residence. Excavators digging for a pool pulled up old glass bottles behind the 1850s house.

One of those bottles was clearly embossed Davis Vegetable Painkiller, a popular remedy in the 1800s for a wide variety of aches and pains. Key to the painkiller’s apparent effectiveness was the opiate and alcohol laced throughout the liquid.

The famous writer Mark Twain is said to have drunk the potion, as did his cat. A bottle collector on the internet today says the painkiller was advertised to “cure cholera, rheumatism, coughs, colds, cramps, burns bruises, cuts, sprains, cramps and said to be a medicine chest in itself.

No doubt the homeowner of this stately house on Duncan Avenue could have found relief from the popular tonic.

Along with the Davis Vegetable Painkiller bottle, homeowners Charlie and Margaret Quinn found a glass eyewash, a tiny bottle that had been neatly split in two, and a bottle with a round bottom that ends up oval at the top. Several pieces of blue-and-white pottery were also churned up in the excavation.

(Click on photos for a larger view)


I used to collect antique bottles. The iridescent look is from coal ash that was thrown out with other trash. I couldn't make out the smaller bottles in the other photo, but if you found any ink wells they are a very special find. Keep digging !! :)

posted by Jim Rice on 11/12/10 at 6:47 PM

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