This month from the Replacements, Ltd. museum, we’re showcasing a beautifully etched bitters bottle in the #2401 pattern by Heisey. This bottle is decorated with a “Tally Ho” etching (#467), which was produced from 1933 to 1952. Other Heisey barware items adorned with the “Tally Ho” etching include shot glasses, martini mixers, old fashioned glasses, decanters, ice buckets, and more. A bitters bottle like this one was once a common component of any bar set, and although the use of bitters fell out of favor throughout much of the twentieth century, the use of cocktail bitters has been making a comeback in recent years.
The term “bitters” as used today can refer to two different types of bitters: cocktail bitters, which are used in small quantities as a “spice” for cocktails; and digestifs, which can be consumed by the glassful, either neat or with ice (although these too can be used as a cocktail ingredient). Typical bitters ingredients include barks, herbs, roots, fruits, seeds, botanicals, and flowers, all steeped in some form of alcohol. Bitters were originally produced to be taken in small quantities, medicinally, but in the early 1700s the English began adding bitters to Canary wine and brandy (the wine or brandy being the “spoon full of sugar” to help the medicine go down). The popularity of bitters grew in colonial America, where the medicinal concoctions were also commonly used to flavor alcoholic drinks – essentially making a cocktail. (Indeed, one of the first appearances of the word “cocktail” in print defines it to the uninitiated as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”)
In the late 1800s, the popularity of bitters reached its apex, with hundreds of different bitters brands on the market. The use of bitters as a cocktail ingredient waned with the onset of Prohibition in 1920, although bitters continued to be consumed during the Prohibition era (“medicinally” of course). Even after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, bitters failed to regain their former status, and throughout the rest of the twentieth century bitters remained an uncommon cocktail ingredient. Bitters began receiving more attention in the 2000s, gaining favor among bartenders looking for creative additions to their drink recipes. Today, the bitters surge in popularity continues.
The bitters bottle in our museum was produced by Heisey Glass, whose story begins in 1842, when Augustus H. Heisey and his parents immigrated to the United States from Germany. As an adult, Heisey worked as a glass blower for the Cascade Glass Co. in Pittsburgh. In August of 1862, Heisey left his job at Cascade Glass to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War. At the end of the war, Heisey returned to Pennsylvania, where he was hired by the glass firm Ripley Company as a salesman. While working for the Ripley Company, Heisey met his future wife, Susan Duncan, who was the daughter of the company’s controlling partner, George Duncan. In 1874, George bought the Ripley Company outright and renamed the firm Duncan & Sons. Over the next several years, Heisey worked closely with his father-in-law, learning much about the glass industry.
In 1895, Heisey, with years of experience both in the manufacturing and sales sides of the glass-making business, decided to build his own glass factory in Newark, OH. The factory produced its first line of glassware in April of 1896. By 1900, the company was using its famous trademark: an “H” placed in the center of a diamond. The diamond “H” logo was designed by Heisey’s son, George, who based the design on his college fraternity pin. This diamond “H” logo would adorn Heisey products for the next fifty-seven years.
When Augustus Heisey died in 1922, his second son, Wilson, inherited control of the company. Wilson had graduated college with a degree in chemistry; he would later use this chemistry background to develop vibrant colors for the company’s products during the 1920s and 30s. After the Prohibition Act was repealed in 1930, Heisey released an extensive line of barware (like the bitters bottle featured here) – these barware items would later help the company survive the Great Depression. In addition to their barware and stemware patterns, Heisey began producing a popular line of glass figurines. In 1949, the company produced the immensely successful Heisey Rose pattern.
Despite these successes, Heisey began to struggle. Faced with increasing costs, lower sales, and foreign competition, Heisey closed its doors permanently in 1957, selling all of its assets and molds to Imperial Glass of Bellaire, OH. When Imperial Glass filed for bankruptcy in 1984, Heisey’s original molds were acquired by the Heisey Collectors of America, an association of collectors who are located in Newark, OH.
While the Heisey “Tally Ho” bitters bottle in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Heisey and Tally Ho items available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 425,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!