Copyright 2000 Digger Odell Publications

Bottle collectors are a little like fisherman when it comes to telling stories. At any get together of bottle collectors you’ll hear fish tales about the ones that got away, whether it be the broken $1000 bottle found in the last privy dig or the $500 missed opportunity at a recent auction or on Ebay. This story is a real fish tale. It is about fish bottles. Fish bottles or flasks are ancient in conception with specimens of glass figurals of fish being found as early as 1500 BC. Given the importance of fish in many cultures it is not surprising that they would be represent in glass as well as other arts.  

Here is the United States, the first person to make wide-spread use of a fish shaped bottle was one W. H. Ware who patented a fish shaped bottle in 1866. He used the container for his Doctor Fischs Bitters. These much sought after bitters bottles are known in various shades of amber and clear. A second variant of the bottle embossed The Fish Bitters comes in amber, aqua, clear, yellow, shades of green, reddish puce and rarely cobalt blue. Supposedly the recipe for the fish bitters was obtained from a Dr. Gottlieb of Berlin, Prussia. The bitters was advertised throughout the 1870s and 1880s for dyspepsia, general debility, loss of appetite and as an antidote to alcoholic drink (which is strange since most bitters contained liberal amounts of alcohol.)

Fish Bitters in yellow like the one at the left are extremely rare and desireable.  The bottle shown is valued between $2500-$3500.  Amber examples are fairly common and bring between $150-200. 


The Doctor Fisch’s Bitters bottle was later used from 1922-1933 by the Eli Lilly and Company as a container for cod liver oil. These bottles were blown by the Fairmount Glass Company of Indiana in four sizes: pint (10"), half pint (8 ½"), 4 ounce (6 ¼") and salesman sample (3"). The company went to a screw cap closure in the 1930s. The screwcap one is marked "233,4,F on the base. It measures: 10 1/4"Hx3 3/4"Wx2"D. ) The 6 ¼" size has been reproduced by the Imperial Glass Co. of Bellaire, OH and is marked "1970" on the base. Pictures of the various sizes can be seen in the group shots toward the end of this article.


Small bottle at the left has Taiwan on the base.  The larger one says Wheaton

The fish bitters was also reproduced by the Wheaton Company. One side is marked DOCTOR FISCH'S BITTERS. The other is marked MILLVILLE NEW JERSEY. The bottom is marked WHEATON N. J. The larger size bottle stands 7 3/8 inches and comes in green, light blue, milkglass, ruby, and purple and possibly other colors The miniature bottle comes in (red, amber, blue, green miniature and stands about about 3".  A green one in the large size is shown below.

Still another reproduction of the fish bitter is a tiny blue glass bottle is shaped like a fish, and measuring about 2" tall. It says "Made in Taiwan" on the bottom, and has "Fischs" on one side, and "Bitters" on the other.



Here's a green glass figural fish bottle with cork stopper. Nicely detailed on both sides. Bottle measures 13" tall. Bottom marking: "77 A, CE VIN, 75 cl 3". This bottle is probably a very new wine container made within the last twenty years.


This new wine is very similar to the darker green one shown below.


Green fish figural 13" with diamond  scales and another very similar  shaped with rounded scales, both probably held some kind of wine and are new.


A new wine (left) same as above next to a green Wheaton reproduction of the Fisch Bitters (right).


This hot pink fish bottle is approximately 11 inches tall and unquestionably modern The maker and contents are unknown but it was possibly made as a gift shop item and never was filled with anything.




The bottom of this 12 1/2 inch fish wine bottle is marked with a large "F".  The label reads:  "ANTINORI 1973". "BIANCO DELLA COSTA TOSCANA ITALY..." These are fairly common.


The above fish was probably made this century,  but blown in the old method.  The mouth is hand tooled.  The bottle might be European.  The quality of this fish is much better than the new wine bottles.  Some care was taken in its design and manufacture.

Crackle glass fish bottle made in the 1960-1970 period in Europe.


 Two Lilly cod liver oils the pint and 4 oz. size shown above at left.  Wheaton Fish in milk glass at the far right.  


Another interesting bottle has a fish on one side and the design of fish scales over the rest of the bottle. The bottle was sold with a paper label that read: MCKESSON COD LIVER OIL, MCKESSON LABORATORIES, BRIDGEPORT, CONN. U.S.A.  The bottle is  9 inches tall and made of amber glass.



The above clear glass fish bottle is circa 1890-1910 and is covered with white and blue-gray paint.  The 8 3/4" bottle has a ground lip and its original threaded cap .

Well, I hope you enjoyed this reel good fish tale and I'll catch ya later.  Digger