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February 20, 2024

Unearthing History: Discovery of a Historic Elixir Bottle

In Port Hope, nestled among the trees and charming homes, a remarkable discovery has been made during a routine PHAI cleanup of a backyard. What began as a typical excavation quickly transformed into an extraordinary journey through time when workers unearthed a relic from the past—a historic elixir bottle dating back over a century.

The work to remove soil in the backyard took an interesting turn when workers found something beneath the earth. Among the rubble and soil, perfectly preserved , was a small glass bottle with intricate designs etched into its surface. The workers carefully extracted the artifact, recognizing it as a piece of history.

The bottle appears to be a relic from the late 19th century, likely dating back to the early 1900s (circa 1890 – 1930). The design and craftsmanship hint at a time when elixirs and tonics were commonly bottled and sold as remedies for various ailments.  The discovery sparked curiosity and fascination among CNL staff and the environmental team, prompting further investigation into its origins.

Thacher Medicine Company, of Chattanooga, Tenn., claimed the syrup would “Cure All Liver Complaints, Biliousness, Costiveness, Drowsiness, Yellow Jaundice, … Loss of Appetite, Dyspepsia, Sour Stomach, Sleeplessness, Pains in Back and Sides, Sick Headache …”.  The United States government however declared the claims misleading, false and fraudulent and ordered the products destroyed.

When a historical item is uncovered on a CNL site, an archaeologist assesses it for historic or cultural value before determining next steps. Items with value are set aside to be properly preserved in a climate-controlled facility, and may be donated upon request to relevant federal, provincial, or other organizations to be researched, stored, or displayed as appropriate.

These accidental discoveries have the power to reshape our understanding of history. They offer glimpses into the lives of people long gone and the events that formed their lives. The discovery of the elixir bottle in particular, served as a touching reminder of Port Hope’s rich heritage and its inhabitants.

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