Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


J.P. Preston bottle

c. 1835-1850
Recovered from Edwards Place privy
Collection of the Illinois State Museum

J. P. Preston was a Boston druggist. It is unknown which of his formulas was sold in this bottle.

Most citizens of antebellum Springfield regularly turned to “patent” medicines to relieve their occasional maladies. These were proprietary formulas manufactured on the East Coast and marketed nationally through newspaper and magazine ads. Although they made grandiose claims about their restorative properties, these “medicines” were largely ineffectual and occasionally dangerous. Ingredients could include anything from alcohol to opium to cocaine to mercury.