February 22, 2011

Drink a Drink to Lily the Pink

Alex and I did a little more antique shopping on Sunday, this time with our buddy Skennedy, who was looking for an old ham radio microphone.  No luck on the mic, unfortunately, but I did pick up a couple of things while we were there.  For some reason, I found the bottle above quite charming.  It has a nice shape and feels good in the hands, it was clearly old which I could tell by the way the glass was cloudy and had that type color changing that looks rainbow like (does anyone know what this effect is called?) which happens to old glass.  I also liked the wording that was stamped into the glass: "Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound".  It sounds so old fashioned and curious!  The bottle was only $12 and I thought it would look nice in my house somewhere or as a display, so I picked it up.
When I came home, a quick internet search showed me that this Vegetable Compound was a very popular herbal concoction.  There is quite a bit of info about it on Wikipedia.  Here are some of my favorite facts:
"Lydia Estes Pinkham (February 9, 1819 – May 17, 1883) was an iconic concocter and shrewd marketer of a commercially successful herbal-alcoholic "women's tonic" meant to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains.

Lydia initially made the remedy on her stove before its success enabled production to be transferred to a factory, she answered letters from customers and probably wrote most of the advertising copy.[10] Mass marketed from 1876 on, Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound became one of the best known patent medicines of the 19th century. Descendants of this product are still available today. Lydia's skill was in marketing her product directly to women and her company continued her shrewd marketing tactics after her death. Her own face was on the label and her company was particularly keen on the use of testimonials from grateful women.

Advertising copy urged women to write to Mrs. Pinkham. They did, and they received answers. They continued to write and receive answers for decades after Lydia Pinkham's death. These staff-written answers combined forthright talk about women's medical issues, advice, and, of course, recommendations for her product. In 1905 the Ladies' Home Journal published a photograph of Lydia Pinkham's tombstone and exposed the ruse. The Pinkham company insisted that it had never meant to imply that the letters were being answered by Lydia Pinkham, but by her daughter-in-law, Jennie Pinkham.

Although Pinkham's motives were partly self-serving, many modern-day feminists admire her for distributing information on menstruation and the "facts of life" and consider her to be a crusader for women's health issues in a day when women were poorly served by the medical establishment.

In a day when the mainstream treatment of these conditions was sometimes surgical removal of ovaries—with a mortality rate of 40%—it can be argued that at the very least Pinkham's remedy followed the sound medical principle of "first, do no harm." "

So popular was this compound, a folk drinking song called Lily the Pink was made with it as inspiration.  While the origin of the song is much older, the UK comedy troup The Scaffolds had a hit with their version in 1968.  What a bunch of goofballs!  And of course, I have been walking around the house singing along to this song.  I might even be marching around, singing along, with the old bottle in hand...  I am snowed in and stir crazy... LOL... don't judge me!

In the same booth, I found this simple copper drinking cup for $2.50.  Not really usable the way it is, but it would look great with a steampunk costume.

I am really pleased with these treasures that I found!

Melanie is an artist, blogger, writer, and ceramic beadmaker at Earthenwood Studio. Her beads and components can be found at her Etsy shop and her jewelry can be found in her Etsy Galleria. To comment on this post, visit the original post at the Earthenwood Studio Chronicles Blog.


  1. Hahaha Oh I'm judging! That's like a bad version of a take off on Monty Python! LOL

  2. This is great! I love learning about the origin of things- Thanks for sharing Melanie. I have a serious craving to go antiquing now!

  3. That is so cool that you were able to find that information out. I will have to watch this later when I get home!
    Enjoy the day!

  4. What a hoot! That's a great find and a great post. English humor is crazy! Made me laugh this morning!

  5. what fun finds! Not sure of the term either. This is one of my fave bottle sites - maybe something useful there: http://www.antiquebottles.co.za/Glossary.htm

    Wonder if all this will inspire you for the steamteam quackery contest?

  6. You start out with a simple Google search and you never know where it may take you.

  7. That's awesome! I've been singing "Lilly the Pink" for years because the Irish Rovers did it on their album Years May Come, Years May Go. I grew up with that album, and always kinda wondered what it was about!

  8. Thanks for your comments everyone!

    Tawneypup, that's so funny! We learned what the song was about in such different ways! I think it would be fun to do some antiquing together out by you... I hear there are some great stores. I think the Alexes would enjoy some of the same things!

  9. That is so funny (the video)… I'm cracking up over here!

  10. Lois Comfort Tiffany was so enamored of this effect on ancient Roman glass, it's a big part of why he created stained glass. They call this many things including patination, sick glass, iridescence and opalescence. I collect old bottles, we used to get them from my Mother in Law's yard, they had a very old house on the property and folks used to just bury their trash. This is a great story and it's why I've been collecting old things since I was young, they have history, resonance and wonder.

  11. Margot, thanks for sharing! I really love this stuff! And I love this bottle even more now that I know some story behind it!