NPR: Digging Up The Roots Of Modern Waste In Victorian-Era Rubbish

I wanted to share this great article from NPR that covers many of the same topics of interest as this blog.

victorian bottles

“In the landfill, the food waste has long disintegrated. What’s left is Victorian-era packaging.

“What we find in the 1880s and 1890s is that more and more packaged products are coming onto the market,” Licence explains to his volunteers. “People have got more money in their pockets to spend, and rather than making things at home, they’re buying it in small containers, bottles and tins, and those things really can’t be reused, they can’t be kept.”

With more and more disposable, packaged goods, the average household’s volume of garbage skyrocketed.”

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Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company, New York City, NY

Frederick K. Humphreys (1816 – 1900) was a physician and the founder of Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company in New York City in 1853.  While homeopathic treatments have been scientifically proven to offer no curative benefit to sick humans or animals, enormous sales of Humphreys “Homeopathic Specifics” made him a very rich man.  His bottles of veterinary specifics are probably the most common veterinary patent medicine bottle available today, according to the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.

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Sloan’s Liniment, Boston, MA

Sloan’s Liniment, much like S. B. Kitchel’s Liniment, was initially made for use on horses to ease their sore muscles after a long day. And, just as Kitchel learned, liniment can be used and sold to people for much the same reason. The trick to getting people to buy and use on themselves a product previously intended for livestock, is marketing, and Earl Sloan excelled at marketing and advertising his product.


Bottle embossed “SLOAN’S LINIMENT / MADE IN USA”

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Pond’s Extract Company, New York City, NY

Endorsed by queens and celebrities, Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream were  revolutionary products that were aggressively marketed, which contributed to the foundation of the modern cosmetics industry, making proper skin care a vital priority for women of all ages at the turn of the century.

Jar embossed "PONDS"

Jar embossed “POND’S”

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Carter’s Ink Company, Boston, MA

According to Ed & Lucy Faulkner, the Carter’s Ink Company was a manufacturer of ink and related products, in Boston and later Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was once the largest ink manufacturer in the world.

Carter's Ink bottle

Carter’s Ink bottle

bottle embossed "Carter's"

bottle embossed “Carter’s”

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Rubifoam for the Teeth, E. W. Hoyt & Co., Lowell, MA

According to Cliff & Linda Hoyt “Rubifoam for the Teeth was sold by E. W. Hoyt & Co. (The name is pronounced like Ruby Foam due to the brilliant red color of the product.) It was introduced in 1887, the same year that E.W. Hoyt died at the age of 49.  In addition to trade cards the company also published a number of pamphlets for Rubifoam. The pamphlets typically were providing information on taking care of your teeth.”  The E. W. Hoyt & Co. was also well known for producing Hoyt’s German Cologne, which the firm widely advertised with Rubifoam in many decorative and often colorful trade cards, pamphlets and magazines ads.


Bottle embossed “Rubifoam FOR THE TEETH PUT UP BY E. W. HOYT & Co LOWELL, MASS”

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Warner’s Safe Cure, Rochester, NY

Warner’s Safe Cure was a very successful patent medicine, aggressively marketed by Hulbert Harrington Warner. According to Joe Nickell “Warner (1842–1923) was a Rochester, New York, patent-medicine mogul. Having become wealthy in a previous business specializing in fire- and burglar-proof safes, he purchased a medicinal formula from a Rochester physician, Dr. Charles Craig. Warner would subsequently claim that Craig’s vegetable concoction had cured his Bright’s disease (a vague, obsolete designation for kidney disease) when he was near death. He introduced his Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure in 1879. Before long, the admired name of Craig was dropped from Warner’s advertisements—perhaps about the time Warner sued Craig for attempting to market a virtually identical ‘cure’.”

Wikipedia states that “In addition to his Kidney & Liver Cure, Warner also introduced a Safe Nervine, Safe Diabetes Cure, Safe Tonic, Safe Tonic Bitters, Safe Bitters, Safe Rheumatic Cure, Safe Pills, and later his Tippecanoe Bitters. The Warner’s patent medicine products, with the exception of the Safe Pills and Tippecanoe, appeared in a unique bottle, which featured an embossed safe on the front. This drew upon his earlier business and implied to his potential customers that his product posed no risk.”

Bottle embossed

Bottle embossed “Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, Rochester, NY”

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