Experienced collectors recognize this bottle as Canada’s most common antique patent medicine. It was mass produced.
There are millions of these empty vessels all over Canada and the United States. Consequently, I can assure you, this particular proprietary medicine bottle is absolutely worthless. Oh you don’t believe me? Here’s a recent listing on eBay. And here it is again on e-pier – proof positive that this piece isn’t worth postage.
Originally formulated by Dr. S.N. Thomas of Phelps, New York in the late 1840s, Eclectric / Eclectic Oil contained “Spirits of Turpentine, Camphor, Oil of Tar, Red Thyme and Fish Oil specially processed.” This from Joe Nickell, an expert that’s published a lot of research on the subject of snake oil.
Dr. Thomas first introduced his homemade Eclectric Oil in the town of Phelps, in NY state in the early 1850’s. It was a smashing success and he grew his business on the product. The good doctor sold the name and formula to the Excelsior Botanical Company in the 1880s, and for a while the product appears in some Farmer’s Almanacs as Excelsior Eclectric Oil, but when Foster, Milburn & Co., Buffalo acquired the property a few years later, the substance was again marketed as Dr. S.N. Thomas’ Eclectic Oil. And it was very successful, with a huge domestic and international market.
Northrop & Lyman was a very successful Canadian pharmaceutical firm established in 1854 in Newcastle, Ontario which moved to Toronto in the mid 1870’s. They licensed the rights in Canada from the Foster, Milburn & Co., Buffalo, NY.
Northrop & Lyman of Toronto, Ontario sold literally millions of bottles of Eclectric Oil until the Proprietary or Patent Medicine Act was passed in Canada in 1908. But that law didn’t stop the sale of Eclectric Oil as it did so many other patent medicines! This mixture was sold right up until the end of World War II in screw top bottles with paper labels.
Unlike the many million clear glass cork top bottles bottles, the Dr. Thomas Eclectric Oil trade cards are actually worth something – here is a trade card currently at auction and it will be interesting to see how much it fetches…
Last but not least there are many collectors and experts with amazing knowledge to share on the subject of Dr Thomas Eclectric Oil on this antique bottles forum.
And here’s a comprehensive list of all the Farmer’s Almanacs in the National Library of Medicine.