Last week we were planting some shrubs and ornamental grasses on our back hill. A turn of a shovel unearthed an intact brown bottle about 5 ½” tall and 2” wide. On the sides of the bottle were the words “The Piso Company” and “Hazeltine & Co.”
We’ve found lots of blue and white pottery shards while digging in our yard, but nothing large enough to identify or to trace to any particular time period. This bottle was different.
A search on the Internet revealed some interesting history. According to the January 2007 edition of “The Potomac Pontil,” a newsletter published by the Potomac Bottle Collectors, Ezra T. Hazeltine arrived in the northwest Pennsylvania town of Warren, on the Allegheny River, in 1860. He began selling homemade medications and in 1864, with the help of a local doctor, created “Piso’s Cure for Consumption” (tuberculosis). In 1869, he founded the Piso Company to market his concoction on a national level.
Piso’s Cure contained at various times opium, morphine, hashish, marijuana, chloroform and alcohol. The medical profession considered its claim as a “cure” to be fraudulent, but not surprisingly, it became one of America’s best-selling patent drugs.
When the Pure Food and Drug Act became law in 1906, the company changed its label to claim that it was “A Medicine for Coughs and Colds.” By this time, the Piso Company had removed some of the more popular ingredients in its medication.
In the early 1900's, the Piso Company advertised its product on postcards showing George Washington's Mount Vernon. Were they trying to suggest that our nation's first president used an earlier version of "Piso's Cure?" Who knows.
So it turns out the bottle we found in our back yard has an interesting story behind it. By the way, we’re still looking for an artifact that confirms that Thomas Jefferson slept here.