In working with any kind of collection, one usually develops a few favorite items. Though I can’t name just one favorite item from the museum’s collection, the medicine bottle for peppermint oil in the photo is definitely one of my favorites. Let's see what this bottle can tell us.
The bottle was made for Alfred Hale and Hendee Parshall of Lyons, New York. In 1862 they started purifying and bottling peppermint oil and selling it under the name Hale & Parshall. Their business continued through the early 1900s.
|A close-up of the seal shows the Hale & Parshall name.|
|If you look carefully, you can also see that the base is embossed “Hale& Parshall.”|
They made and sold other essential oils as well, and entered their products in many contests. The bottle label lists several of the awards they won for their peppermint oil. The dates of the awards range from 1860 to 1863, so this bottle probably dates from just after 1863.
|Here’s a close-up from the label which indicates that Mr. Hale was marketing and winning awards for his peppermint oil in 1860, before he teamed up with Mr. Parshall.|
Peppermint, Mentha piperita, was used during the Civil War as a flavoring for candies, drinks, and medicines. Peppermint was also steeped into a tea which was used for nausea, headaches, cramps, indigestion, and colds.
|Here's an interesting detail - the bottle also has a pour spout to make dispensing the contents easier.|
This bottle is about to go out on loan to the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum in Gettysburg, PA for their upcoming exhibit, Voices of Duty and Devotion. The exhibit deals with the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg and the care of the wounded in the Seminary hospital. I may have to go visit my favorite bottle when it’s on display there!
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, except where otherwise noted.