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Wistar’s Balsam Cherry Rare Antique Medicine Advertising Sign


Vintage Medicine Cough Syrup Advertising Memorabilia Collectibles For Sale
Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry, 1880
 Advertsing Sign Poster Lithograph - American Patent Medicine Advertising Sign

 Circa 1880

Printer:  J.H. Bufford's Sons



Amazing Piece of HISTORY!

In our 42 years collecting vintage historic posters, this is about the most beautiful and historically significant vintage advertising lithograph sign we’ve ever acquired.    The artwork is simply stunning on this astonishing 140+ year old Original  advertising sign..

Where in your home would this NOT be the showpiece?   One of the most aesthetically stunning 19th century advertising signs you’ll ever see.

Extremely Rare original, circa 1880 Chromolithograph American Roll-Up Advertising Sign for Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry – a Patent Medicine manufactured by Dr. Henry Wistar of Philadelphia. This stunning piece of American Advertising is about 16" by 25" in its period, walnut frame.

The Sign is printed on lithographic paper and has been mounted to what appears to be a conservation art board.  

The litho has some light creases which were flattened out during the mounting.  Based on my 40 years experience with antique posters and lithographs, this mounting looks to have been done late 19th or early 20th century and has been preserved in this period walnut frame for over 100 years

* See enlargeable images above and below

Also, after removing from the frame we discovered the printers stamp on lower right,  “J.H. Bufford's Sons’ Lith. Boston, New York, Chicago”.    See their Bio below:

J.H. Bufford BIO:

John Henry Bufford (1810-1870) was a lithographer in 19th-century Boston, Massachusetts.

Bufford trained "in the Pendleton shop in Boston from 1829 to 1831."

In 1835 he moved to New York, where he "worked independently for five years while accepting commissions from George Endicott and Nathaniel Currier."  Bufford returned to Boston in 1839, and became "chief artist" in the print shop owned by Benjamin W. Thayer (who had bought the Pendleton outfit)."

By 1844, the shop's name changed to J.H. Bufford & Co. (1844–1851). By one assessment, "Bufford's firm produced lively, accomplished images in many forms, including sheet music, city views, marine views and landscapes, book illustrations, reproductions of paintings, commercial depictions of factories, and contemporary genre views; ... [and] lithographic portraits copied from daguerreotypes."   Artists who worked for Bufford included Francis D'Avignon, Winslow Homer, and Leopold Grozelier.   This may explain why the artwork on this mid 19th century lihto is so Extraordianry.   Clients included music publisher William H. Oakes.

In the 1840s-1860s Bufford lived in Roxbury and worked on Washington Street:

After Bufford's death in 1870, his sons Frank G. Bufford and John Henry Bufford, Jr. continued the business. By 1879, "J.H. Bufford's Sons, Manufacturing Publishers of Novelties in Fine Arts" worked from offices at 141-147 Franklin Street, Boston; and in 1881–1882 expanded the enterprise as far as New York and Chicago.

NOTE:   After extensive online research it appears this 19th century advertising poster has Never appeared on the market, before this one.  Hence, this may very well be the sole survivor of this stunning piece of Americana history!

Size: 16" by 25" framed (original period Walnut frame)

The Sign features an image of a charming little girl ankle deep in a stream of water. She carries a fish net in her left hand and raises the hem of her skirt with her right hand avoiding the surf that rolls toward the shore. The Sign’s advertising text reads  “Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry / Cures Coughs and All Lung Complaints”. An image of the paper wrapped Product Package of a bottle of Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry Patent Medicine is pictured at the lower right hand corner of the Sign.

This outstanding, early American Patent Medicine Company, Chromolithograph Roll-Up Advertising Sign lacks the original metal strips at the top and bottom of the print. This type of Sign would be sent by the advertiser to the retail outlet rolled up in a tube and the retailer would unroll the sign and use it to decorate his walls and advertise the product. Usually these signs were thrown away after a short time but sometimes the retailer would roll them up and save them thus preserving them for future collectors.   This likely only one in existence lithograph, has been mounted on an art board and framed in an 18th/19th century walnut frame. 

Wistar's BIO:

Dr. Henry Wistar's Balsam of Wild Cherry was a concoction of cherry extract, alcohol, and opiates. The Balsam was heavily marketed through yearly almanacs and trade cards as a cure for any throat, chest, and lung disease, including consumption. Despite criticism from fellow physicians and pharmacists, many like Dr. Wistar chose to join the highly profitable Patent Medicine industry. Demand for over-the-counter and less-invasive methods of care had increased as treatment from qualified physicians was costly, difficult to obtain, and sometimes quite painful.

The history of Wistars Balsam of Wild Cherry is complex. The first ad which can be found is from Chambersburg, PA, a newspaper ad dated 1841. The medicinal value of the resin gathered from the Balsam of trees of South and Central America was so well known in the 1500’s, that Pope Pio IV pronounced it a sacrilege to destroy or injure the trees that produce the resin. In the early 1800’s New England newspapers advertised the arrival of cargo vessels which listed Balsam among cargo items. Sometime around 1840, Henry Wister developed a nostrum, Dr. Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry, a heady mélange of cherry bark, alcohol and opiates. Sales were enormous. Dr. Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry was on the market for over 100 years. Its bottles- made long after the Wistarburgh glassblowers last fired the furnace near the dawn of the Revolutionary War- remain highly prized by glass collectors.

This rare and attractive, 1880’s American Patent Medicine Chromolithograph Advertising Sign is in very good condition - the colors are bright and vibrant, rich and warm and there is no serious physical damage of any kind. There are horizontal creases that are typical of this type of Roll-Up.. Advertising Sign as can be seen in the images above and below and there is some very minor, professional surface touch-up to the surface along the upper most crease.  It has been mounted on what appears conservation art board, probably late 19th or early 20th century. 
The surface is generally clean and crisp and the Sign Displays beautifully as framed. Please see the images for content and condition of this terrific American Patent Medicine Advertising Sign.

A very rare and very attractive, 1880’s Roll-Up, Point-of-Sale “Wistar’s Balsam of Wild Cherry” Patent Medicine Chromolithograph Advertising Sign and a fantastic addition to any collection!!!

The sign/litho even has an great 3D-like image of the actual bottle as it was sold  140 years ago, in 1880.

*Read more fascinating history on the Wistar company, HERE

NOTE: I am not sure Why but early, particularly 19th century advertising signs for Cough Syrup and other medicines produced some of the most amazing and aesthetically beautiful advertising art.  And this is indeed a prime example of that.   The recently discovered Printer for this lithograph may explain why, as J.H. Bufford employed some of the best artists of the era, including Francis D'Avignon, Winslow Homer, and Leopold Grozelier.  
And this particular stunning litho certainly exhibits the level of masterpiece artwork only artists of this caliber could produce.

** GUARNANTEED to be Authentic mid 19th century original lithograph.    

NOTE:   We Never sell Reproductions