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.

History of Listerine

Most people when they hear the name Listerine they associate it with one of the most popular mouthwashes we have today. But it wasn’t always used as a mouthwash and at one time it was only available with a prescription.

Dr. Joseph Lister, an English physician, in 1865 performed the first ever surgery using antiseptic. The antiseptic he used was what is now known as Listerine. Most of the patients didn’t die due to the surgery in the 1800’s but of the infections that set up later when they were recovering. Dr. Lister used Listerine to sterilize instruments before he operated on a patient. To everyone’s surprise the patient lived and made a full recovery. This was a major breakthrough in how to prevent infection after surgery.

In 1879 two other doctors- Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Wheat Lambert formulated the familiar amber color of the solution that we know today. At this time it was still being used as a disinfectant for surgery.

In 1881 Listerine was licensed by Jordan Wheat Lambert under the trademark of Lambert and Co.

In 1895 Listerine was marketed as a mouthwash because of it’s ability to kill germs especially those in the mouth. In 1914 it became so popular it became one of the first prescription products to be available over the counter and lead the way for many other mouthwash products.

In the picture above you can see this is a small bottle. It is estimated this bottle was made around the early 1900s and it was probably used for antiseptic instead of mouthwash at that time.

  • Over one billion people have tried LISTERINE.
  • LISTERINE pioneered the word ‘halitosis’ meaning bad breath. It is now part of the English dictionary.
  • LISTERINE was invented in 1879 by Dr Joseph Lawrence & Jordan Wheat Lambert as an antiseptic for surgery. It was named after Sir Joseph Lister who was the first person to perform antiseptic surgery in 1865.
  • Before LISTERINE was invented, carbolic acid which can burn human tissue was used to kill germs during surgery.
  • From 1921 through to 1929, LISTERINE was used for dandruff and dry scalp. It was also used as a beauty treatment for skin, antiseptic for cuts, deodorant and after-shave lotion.
  • During World War 1, LISTERINE was even used as a wound irrigate. Registered & Protected

12 responses

  1. We were curious how old this bottle could be. I also found this bottle today in Hazen, NV, which is between Fernley and Fallon, NV. Hazen was a old railroad town. It consisted of homes and businesses in the late 1800’s during railroad construction. It has come down to just one old store as of today. The bottle was found while excavating for a new highway.
    Any information on the age of this bottle would be appreciated.
    Thank You

  2. 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.

    As far as I know the small bottles like this was used for antiseptic instead of mouthwash so it would put it around the late 1880s. I was wondering if there was any dentist/doctor office that may have existed and with it being a railroad town it makes sense that people would stop there to see a doctor or dentist?

    This bottle was about a block from the Marine Hospital in Louisville KY. We are guessing that it was used there and discarded in the city dump. (The Marine Hospital was one of seven hospitals over the country that was created for men who worked on the rivers- the one in Louisville is the only one still standing- will be putting up information and pictures of it soon.)

  3. I found a clear listerine bottle at a garage sale. It has a cork top with a metal ring. It also has Listerine on top of the bottle and Lambert pharmacal Company on the lower part of the bottle.On the bottom is the no 3 and a square with a letter in it. It also has the label on it. Is this bottle worth any thing? Where can I find out. The label has St.Louis MO. usa on it.

  4. Joseph lister is my grandfather from wayyy back. Does anyone know how to do genealogy checks?

    1. ASHLEE Go to You can search there and do your whole family tree. I’ve been able to trace my family back to early 1600’s

      I also have a bottle mine has a 12 on the bottom. You can tell it was corked closed. No seams.

  5. My friend who works for the city of Douglass, Ks. (Butler Co.) just brought me the same bottle as shown in the picture. She was doing backhoe work behind the city library in town and as she looked down she saw this bottle. Sept. 19th, 2009

  6. Hello Sheila,
    I also have a bottle exactly like the onw shown that I dug out of the ground in the woods of Pennsylvania about 35 years ago. I would love to know the value and possible selling the bottle . It is in perfect shape no cracks or discoloration. I was very excited to see the bottle may be from the 1880’s.WOW

  7. These articles are very interesting. I am a 29 year old male- self employed. I do Property Maintenance, and come across different bottles of different kinds from time to time. Recently I found a Listerine bottle like the one above buried just beneath the ground surface after about a foot or two of dirt had been removed by a bulldozer. the only difference in my bottle, is it looks like it had a screw on cap. Can anyone out there tell me the possible age difference between the corked ones and the screw on bottles? I just collect them for fun.

    Thanks. James in Panama City Beach, FL.

  8. I have the same listerine bottle that you have,Shiela. I found it in the cellar of my home that belonged to my grandmother along with some other old bottles.I lived here 42 yrs.and my grandmother lived here years before me. This bottle has been here along time and must be pretty old. Ann

  9. we bought a piece of property in Loda, illinois. While skimming up an area for a mud volleyball tournament we found a clear bottle with Listerine toward the top of the bottle and Lambert Pharmacal Co. toward the bottom of the bottle. It has a screw on lid with the letters LPCo in fancy script on the top of the lid. on the bottom is has a symbol with number 5 on one side and number 7 on the other side of it. Any details, value anyone can share would help

  10. Hola! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  11. Wow, this article is nice, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, so I am going to convey her.

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