I’ve always said that some antique bottles have a story to tell. You have to initiate research in order to get them to speak.
An early 1900’s GUNN DRUG COMPANY bottle that’s been in my possession for years is a prime example. The embossed logo on front indicates this firm was in Birmingham, Alabama and located at 2017 2nd Avenue. That’s an easy start for priming the information pump.
The bottle was dug, and I’ve yet to take time to clean or tumble it. Tumbling is a process, where a bottle’s placed in a machine that uses polishing compound to remove stains and small imperfections such as scratches.
Dr. W.R. Gunn’s name is first mentioned in a Birmingham newspaper in 1894. He was elected to a seat on a Democrat political committee that year.
GUNN DRUG COMPANY began life around 1902. The gentleman would’ve been 32.
In 1905, the front of his building at 2017 2nd. Avenue collapsed. Three women standing nearby were not hurt.
In 1906, Dr. Gunn touted the virtues of a magical elixir called, Warner’s Safe Cure. He claimed that the liquid could cure most all ills. Of course, this wonder medicine was sold in his store along with other alcohol-based products.
Two additional drug stores were purchased by him in 1910.
On September 19, 1911, Dr. William Robert Gunn applied for a liquor license. This is most interesting because Gunn Drug Company was selling alcohol from day one, both through the mail and in his stores. City authorities had come down hard on him about this time, including other drug store owners, for selling booze on Sundays. Doctors were writing prescriptions for whisky, rum, and other liquors and they were being filled Sundays, contrary to blue laws in effect.
An employee of his, 14 year old Paul Bone, was run down by a car driven by a former saloon owner in 1912 and nearly killed while making deliveries. Newspaper accounts mentioned that he might not live.
In 1913, Dr. Gunn moved his original store to 4th. Street and 3rd. Avenue. This locale was in a new building considered quite upscale for the time.
Paul Bone survived his accident and had one of his own. He hit an African American woman on a motorcycle in 1914, killing her. Manslaughter charges were filed against the youngster.
The first World War was going on at this time, and somehow Paul Bone ended up serving his time over there instead of behind bars. Records show he returned home safely and was a respected citizen in Attalla, Alabama, dying there in 1976.
Reorganization paper were filed for Gunn Drug Company in 1915 and by 1916 the businesses was bankrupt. Evidently, Dr. Gunn had overextended himself.
I found no mention of Gunn Drug Company being reopened in Birmingham after the bankruptcy. W.R. Gunn tried his hand at selling real estate after that but it was short lived.
In all of my research, I never found where William Robert Gunn Sr. was an actual doctor. An obituary stated that he was a retired druggist at his death.
The medicine bottle that I own is quite rare, in that Dr. Gunn’s store was only at 2017 2nd. Avenue for a brief time. Later bottles would have the new address. Now that I know the history this specimen, it will be properly cleaned and tumbled. This never to be published story will be printed off and then attached to it before packing away for posterity’s sake.