Red Raven Co., Harmerville, PA

Although the Red Raven Splits bottle is similar in size and shape to beer or soda, Marianne Dow, states “Not an alcoholic beverage, it was sold as a hang-over cure, so it was sold in bars as well as restaurants, hotels, and stores.  Not a sweet soft drink, it was an aperient water, somewhat bitter, sold in a small bottle.”  Red Raven might be one of the rare cases in which the advertising was as successful as the product itself, if not more. Marianne Dow, states “Billy Baxter was the alter ego, if you will, of William J. Kountz, Jr., the man who started the Red Raven Corp. and the Duquesne Distributing Co of Harmerville, Alleghany County, PA. It’s difficult to tell which came first: the concept of selling Red Raven Splits or Kountz’s writings about Billy Baxter’s wild revelries. It appears that Kountz wrote a humorous booklet called One Night In New York Society, which was well received in gentleman’s clubs, bars, etc. with patrons reading the stories out loud, and clamoring for more.  Kountz quickly penned several more booklets, and now they included advertising for his product, Red Raven Splits. Orders started coming in for more books, and, ‘oh, what the heck, some of the bottled water too’.”

Bottle embossed

DSCN2588

Bottle embossed “RED RAVEN”


According to archaeologist Mary Petrich-Guy, whose excellent poster Papa Has a Headache”: Red Raven Apperient Water, I saw at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference, 2012, in Baltimore, Maryland, “Red Raven aperient water, was distributed in the United States by Duquesne Distribution Company of Pennsylvania from about 1899 to 1913, and then by the Red Raven Corporation until the 1930ʼs. A liquid laxative, Red Raven bottled in splits was sold by the case or individually primarily through liquor wholesalers and retailers. Duquesne claimed that they were the first producers of the “split” bottle form – basically a size that would hold enough purgative for one personal dose, about 1/5th of a quart. Supposedly, one dose of Red Raven cured headache, indigestion, gout, gall-stones, and any number of uncomfortable maladies caused by over-indulgence. It was marketed as a cure-all, but was basically a common saline laxative, with some sodium bicarbonate to settle the stomach. Additional sodium compounds may have acted as electrolytes, possibly helping the drinker remain hydrated, but abuse of saline laxatives could lead to serious dehydration and other maladies.”

The chemical formula was listed by George Howard Hoxie in 1910

From Symptomatic and regional therapeutics, by George Howard Hoxie, 1910

From Symptomatic and Regional Therapeutics, by George Howard Hoxie, 1910

Duquesne Distribution Company printed and distributed humorous booklets that accompanied and promoted Red Raven splits called Billy Baxterʼs Letters.  According to archaeologist Mary Petrich-Guy, “Billy Baxterʼs Letters were a series of humorous booklets by William Kountz, Jr. His first booklet, “One Night,” was originally distributed by the Duquesne Corporation in 1899 and redistributed by the Red Raven Corporation in 1913. Kountz, perhaps a “high liver” himself, prefaces the story “One Night” by explaining, “The Baxter Letters are written in the up-to-date slang of the day, by one who has seen several of the sides of life, and who has also come into contact with a few of the corners.” One advertising review lauds Kountzʼs humorous short stories as a greater draw than the Red Raven cases that the cheap booklets accompanied.”

Cover, Billy Baxter's Letters, by William J. Kountz, Duquesne Distributing Company, 1899

Cover, Billy Baxter’s Letters, by William J. Kountz, Duquesne Distributing Company, 1899

From The Indiana Weekly, Volume 11, Issue 21, Indiana Weekly Co., 1901

From The Indiana Weekly, Volume 11, Issue 21, Indiana Weekly Co., 1901

From Billy Baxter's Letters by William J. Kountz, Duquesne Distributing Company, 1899

From Billy Baxter’s Letters by William J. Kountz, Duquesne Distributing Company, 1899

From The Law of Advertising and Sales and Related General Business Law, with which is Combined Advertising and Sales that Develop Good-will. By Clowry Chapman, Volume 2, 1908

From The Law of Advertising and Sales and Related General Business Law, with which is Combined Advertising and Sales that Develop Good-will. By Clowry Chapman, Volume 2, 1908

Effective Magazine Advertising: 508 Essays about 111 Advertisements, by Francis Bellamy, 1909

Effective Magazine Advertising: 508 Essays about 111 Advertisements, by Francis Bellamy, 1909

From Effective Magazine Advertising: 508 Essays about 111 Advertisements, by Francis Bellamy, 1909

From Effective Magazine Advertising: 508 Essays about 111 Advertisements, by Francis Bellamy, 1909

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits advertising tray, from 1904 St. Louis World's Fair

Red Raven Splits advertising tray, from 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Red Raven Splits ad, date unknown.

Ad for Billy Baxter Club Soda, 1936

Ad for Billy Baxter Club Soda, 1936

From LIFE Magazine, May 10, 1937

From LIFE Magazine, May 10, 1937

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About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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