Dr. Bell’s Pine Tar Remedy


This bottle was found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago. This picture is taken from my private bottle collection.

Collecting The Pine Tar
Pine Tar Remedies were used over the years for many ailments from treating colds to skin treatments.Pine Tar is actually extracted from pine trees. The first thing you have to do is locate a yellow heart pine tree. In the South this is sometimes called a Fat Pine. The tress are usually located in damp places and the tar is lemon colored and greasy.Cut the wood into slender straight pieces and fill a dutch oven with them so they stand upright and stay in place when the pot is inverted.

Next you will need some clay- which sometimes can be found in your yard or a field. Mix the clay with water until it is a thick paste. Set aside but keep this moist.

Take a flat board (larger than the the pot) cut grooves into it to allow the tar to flow down down the board into a pot. You might want to prop the board onto bricks so that the tar will flow down the board.

Invert the pot with the wood pieces and place it on the elevated part of the board. Cover the pot with the clay you set aside. The clay will keep the wood from getting too hot and catching fire.

On top of the clay covered pot start a fire. The tar will begin to flow down the board in about a half an hour.

Collect the tar and use it in one the following recipes.

Pine Tar Cough Syrup
Single dose:
1/2 teaspoon pine tar add 3 teaspoons honey
Blend well

Pine Tar Cough Candy
3 cups water
5 pound sugar

Boil till at the hard crack stage
Spread in a greased cake pan or on a marble slab.
As it is cooling mix these ingredients:

5 drops pine tar (dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoon pine tar in 1 tablespoon alcohol (like vodka-Not Rubbing Alcohol)

1 1/2 teaspoons oil of caspicum (Hot pepper)
1 3/4 teaspoon oil of wintergreen

Work this mixture into the candy like taffy. Work with your hands- blending it till it is mixed well. Divide into sticks and continue rolling it till hard.
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13 responses

  1. I have one of these bottles that I found in a dump site on the bank of a bayou. There was at one time a home nearby that was used as a hospital during the civil war. Would you know if this bottle could be that old, and does it have any value? Jack

  2. Thanks Jack for your comment.

    As far as how old the bottle might be is hard to tell. In 1906 the Food and Drug Act was passed that imposed laws not long after that all ingredients had to be listed on a label. This changed the way bottles were made and many of the molds that was used for specific bottles that had advertised the maker’s name and product were abandoned due to having to disclose the ingredients. Many of the “Miracle” drugs were put out of business at this time. You can read more in my recent posts about the Food and Drug Act and Dating Bottles.

    To answer your question about value I would suggest searching the secondary markets like Ebay to get an idea about the value. I have found that just because bottles are old they are not necessary valuable and that collectors are looking for specific things.

  3. Thanks for information.
    many interesting things

  4. I just found a bottle as well, here in kansas city. It looks like it is in better shape that the one featured.

  5. My husband found the same bottle with the actual cork in it with medicine still in it. anyone interested in it? contact us by email.

  6. My dogs beleave it or not dug a bottle up in our back yard. It still has some liquid and its cork lid.The cork top is now solid. We have found a couple of other bottles and never took the time to look them up.And we are way down in east Texas a small town called Rusk

  7. I found one just like picture in the woods in Bullitt county Kentucky. This site has been helpful thanks.

  8. We found the same Dr Bell’s Pine-Tar Honey bottle, along with other old bottles made for cork tops, in an old trash dump on our property in Grant County, Arkansas.

  9. I found my bottle behind a church near a creek. It was not in the water, but beside it. I like to go looking for treasures down by the creek. Bob is from Ohio. It was exciting to find the bottle. I had to walk through some water before I found the bottle.

  10. I have found that my great grandfather,who lived in Paducah,Ky in 1898 was a traveling drug salesman,who sold Dr. Bell’s Pine Tar Honey through out Lousiana.According to family lore,
    he collabriated with his best friend,a doctor in Paducah,to create this potion.

  11. i found mine outside of chicago next to some train tracks

  12. I acquired one this weekend, not sure where it was found, but I was at Fontana Dam NC at the time. It has the indented sides on the bottle as opposed to the flat glass. It’s in great condition.

  13. I was digging up a gopher hole to set a trap about a foot under the ground & found the same bottle… indented sides & in great condition… checked for age & was from 1906 – 1920… this bottle was before the food & drug mandate as it has the Dr Bell’s pine tar honey for coughs & colds in raised letters on the bottle…. nice find….

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