American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


 Home page  |   Feedback & Contact Dr. Echols  |  SEARCH this site   |  Article Indexes   |   Medical Faculty & Authors

 Civil War Medical Books  |  Medicine Containers   |   1800's & Civil War Surgery Set Displays

Medical College Index - Lecture Cards  |  Civil War Medical Book Author-Title Index


American Civil War Surgical Antiques

Research and Identification

Civil War Era Surgical Sets, Surgeon's Images

Civil War Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

Established 1995    .     Dr. Michael Echols Collection


As seen in:  Warman's Civil War Collectibles, Antique Week, Northeast Antiques, Antiques & Collecting publications, and various TV programs

U. S. Army Hospital Department Bottle Colors

Color Examples

From an article by Mike Russell, in Antique Bottle & Glass Collector Magazine,  May, 2005

Shape variations of U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. embossed bottles

Hosp Dept Bottles & Tins collection:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6



Left: an aqua (clear) wide mouth

Middle left: cobalt with flat applied mouth

Middle right: green with double applied mouth

Right: cobalt, oval base wide mouth


Color variations of U.S.A. Hosp. Dept. embossed quart bottles

1. Medium emerald green

2. Bright yellow with faint amber tone

3. Reddish amber shading to yellowish amber

4. Medium copper with deeper puce striations

5. Golden yellow or apricot

1.          2.         3.          4.           5.

6. Yellowish green (citron)

7. Cobalt blue

8. Medium olive green with slight amber tone

9. Medium golden amber with swirled puce in lower

10. Lime green

    6.           7.          8.           9.        10.

One of the more intriguing areas of Civil War medical antiquities involves the collecting of U.S. Army Hospital Department bottles.  These bottles, simple in shape, and often unappealing in color, have been popular with collectors for decades.  Their popularity springs from the fact that these bottles were produced during a very narrow period of time (circa 1862-1865).  Additionally, they remained in use well into the post war years causing their survival rate to be quite low.  Much of the history of bottles marked simply “U.S.A. Hosp Dept” is clouded in time. However, we do know something of their origin.  Following the Federal defeat at First Manassas and the grim realization that the war may last years and not months, the Army Medical Department, under the auspices of the Quartermaster Department, (the agency responsible for procuring supplies) began purchasing standard medicines for the army. 

These medicines were normally packaged in several ways: in bottles, tins, papers, and boxes.  Army officers seemed to prefer packaging in tins and bottles as these were more robust, holding up to the rigors of the field better than packaging in fragile papers or boxes. For example, E.R. Squibb, a New York contractor, provided a medical pannier for field use to the Army with 52 standard medicines all packaged in Japanned Tin containers at a cost of $100.00 per pannier.  This item allowed the field surgeon access to necessary medicines protected in a bound chest and packaged in unbreakable tins. 

Large numbers of surviving tins clearly illustrate the popularity of this form of packaging.  Bottles, however, remained a popular form of container for medicines throughout the war.  The Army used both plain civilian bottles and the rarer Hospital Department bottle.  According to Civil War bottle authority Mike Russell, research indicates that Hospital Department bottles were manufactured at factories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland, although archaeological evidence may point to a third manufacturing plant at St. Louis, Missouri.  Clearly, the principal manufacturer was at Pittsburgh with the secondary manufacturer at the Baltimore Glass Works.  Examples blown at the Pittsburgh factory exhibit concave, slightly recessed, bases with a star design, initials, or a simple dot. Occasionally, some bottles from this firm are seen with an iron pontil scar (a result of an older glassmaking technique that used a rod dipped in iron oxide to hold the bottle base during the manufacturing process).  Baltimore Glassworks examples are flat based and exhibit weak embossing. Civil War period bottle embossing styles fall into several major types: (1) Two Straight Lines; the top line is “U.S.A.” printed in raised letters.  The second line reads, “Hosp. Dept.” (2) “U.S.A Hosp. Dept.” embossed in an oval.  In this pattern, the “U.S.A” curves along the top of the oval and “Hosp. Dept.” curves below (3) “United States Army Hospital Department” spelled out in a straight line (4) “U.S.A” arching over “Med’l Dept.” (This is the only style incorporating the abbreviation for USA Medical Department dating from the Civil War era.

Numerous bottle colors exist.  The most common color is clear followed by aqua.  Rarer colors include cobalt (the most popular color with collectors), emerald green, apricot and dense purple or puce. Hospital Department Bottles range in size from a 2 inch high oval shaped vial to a quart size 9 inch tall cylinder.  Neck styles vary from narrow openings to a wide mouth.  Whether the coloring or shape had any relation to contents is a matter of conjecture, although bottles have surfaced with paper labels indicating their original contents. Wide mouth bottles were probably used for pills. 

Regardless of color, all original bottles contain flaws in the glass, resultant of mid-nineteenth century manufacturing processes.  Bottles often contain numerous bubbles, sand and some examples even show a primitive whittled look.  Lips are often crude and appear hand tooled. Archaeological finds confirm that Hospital Department bottles were commonly used in the field after 1863 and that they remained in use on the frontier until the 1870’s.  The Hospital Department bottle was slowly replaced by one of similar design in the post-Civil War years. 

The more modern bottle employs various abbreviations of U.S. Army Medical Department.  Medical Department bottles remained in issue until WWII and are easily distinguished from their Civil War cousins by the quality of the glass, more refined lip and a base often designating the bottle capacity.  The colors of post-war bottles are more standard with dark brown/amber being the most frequently seen on the market.

(This article was written by Mike Russell with information he collected over a number of years and is published in various books and articles.  The color information and photos were first published in the ''Antique Bottle & Glass Collector Magazine, in June 1989 and reprinted in May, 2005.  All photos and content are copyrighted by Mike Russell.)

Hosp Dept Bottles & Tins collection:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols



Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Please request permission before commercial use or publication of any content or photos on this site and credit any use with:  "American Civil War Surgical Antiques"   All content and all original photography on this Web Site is copyrighted 1995 - 2015 and may not be used on any other web site or in commercial print without the expressed e-mail permission from Dr. Arbittier:  Contact   All rights reserved. 


Students doing reports or projects are welcome to use the content of this site without permission, but credits would be appreciated.


Please note: information on this site may not be normally referenced as this is an active and long-term educational research project.  Personal notes may not be properly cited for publication.  Various articles are digitally reproduced under the 'fair-use act' of the copyright laws and are intended for educational purposes only.  Many citations are from Google digital 'books' and can be traced backwards via a search of a unique string in the citation.


 Arbittier Museum of Medical History Tour:   1 | 2 | 3


Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016