Thursday, January 5, 2023

 Art.Ology: Apothecary and Druggist Bottles

     A lot of the bottles I’ve found are tiny. Some are perfume, but others have a most curious ambiance.

   Prior to family doctors, health care or the DEA was the apothecary. These holistic Pharmacy's were generally the only option for those in pain. It’s wild to realize that historically speaking, our contemporary health care system is relatively new. But back in the day, the pharmacist was the only one in town to address medical needs from dentistry and eye care to surgeries and sickness.

   Old time prescriptions mixed up some curious concoctions. A blend of tradition, innovation and inebriation. Maybe you would like a swig of old Dr. Goulds Pin Worm Syrup? Stomach out of wack - try some 33% Alcohol “Homestead Tonic”.

Natural ingredients such as Sarsaparilla’s would be mixed with alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, alpha or beta eucaine, chloroform, Cannabis indica, chloral hydrate, and/or acetanilide.

All these tripping patients needed to know which “medicine” they were taking, so each container had a different shape, color and form. Labels included

“These medicinal compounds would have been distributed solely based on a doctor or pharmacist’s diagnosis and prescription. While the heyday of such proprietary druggist bottles existed between the 1870s and the 1920s, earlier examples certainly existed, and typically bore embossing featuring some combination of the name of the druggist, store, and location. Such bottles have also been termed pharmacy, drugstore, or prescription bottles.”
- Digging I-95

   One of the largest collections of old apothecary bottles is in Tucson, AZ at the Coit Museum of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. It’s a hidden local curiosity that might just alter your. Interpretation of history.

   It made me wonder if there was a neighborhood apothecary nearby. During the early history of our neighborhood, called Dunbar Spring, many worked in the mines, walking a few blocks to the railroad where trains would pick up workers. Some elders recalled the vendors selling lunch foods, fresh tortillas and drinks. I can imagine some tonics were available to ease a working person’s pains. Following World War 2 my house was inhabited by a vet, who perhaps used the various tonics to ease battle wounds. Who knows. The earth hides many clues, and mysteries.

   So as you're out there digging up treasures, beware those tiny tonic bottles and objects surrounding them. If you do find some cool bottles the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes blog may be able to help you.

   Another great source are the The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) who put together a cool site called Digging I-95 which documents many of the artifacts they are finding, including druggist bottles, their uses and history. This site is great and helped me identify a Methanol Inhaler Tube and syringe. 

   Happy Digging!

White metal syringe and Cushman’s Menthol Inhaler tube. Source Digging I-95

White metal syringe and Cushman’s Menthol Inhaler tube. Source: Digging I-95

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Archiving the Pre Digital Alternative Press

 I’ve always loved small press zines. Mailing parties, bulk mail permits, getting everything off to the printer on time. The smell of freshly printed newsprint strapped together neatly in bundles.

As technology developed the job was made much easier, but we lost that hands on look, the opportunity to work face to face in the same room for hours. The art of hand making a magazine, the collaborations between editors, writers, artists and audience is dynamic and exciting.

(1979-1985) The Delaware Alternative Press
was my introduction to the world of alternative publications. This collective put everything together by hand, typewritten, cut and pasted. The office was cozy and professional. Picking up the freshly printed offset web press, driving them back and having a distribution party was all the reward we wanted. DAP articles were well written, edited and facts checked.



(1980-1994) Cultural Democracy Magazine
The Alliance for Cultural Democracy (ACD) recently reconvened on-line to organize archives of the organization. ACD was an important organization, a vast national network of artists and cultural workers dedicated to cultural democracy and equity. 

(1989-90) The Campus Slant  had two issues printed on newsprint. It was the newspaper of the Students for Creative Action Now (SCAN). We were a phenomenon of sorts, a student activist group famous for challenging The University of Arizona  to stop the Mt. Graham telescope monuments to Columbus on Sacred Apache Land. We organized one of the only student referendums in the history of the university. While we lost 48-52% we succeeded in shining a spotlight on the issue, and among our many cultural rights victories, forced the UA to formally recognize the existence of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

(1991-2) Student Artist Call was a collective chap book containing materials submitted by participants and distributed through the mail. As a working group of SEAC (the national Student Environmental Action Coalition) pulled off three issues and succeeded to inject radical artistry, puberty, theater and prop making into an emerging social justice movement.

(1992) The Postal Art Broadside was a publication documenting the Postal Art project. The project featured walk up art stations, exhibits of all work submitted, and emailing of hundreds of works worldwide - feeding etc works back into the postal art movement. The project included a series of newspaper boxes converted to distribute Postal Art Kit’s and works of art for a quarter. 

(1997 - 2001) A/Rise was the newsletter of the Tucson Arts Brigade. There were (8) issues published before switching to an online version. TAB was a community arts collective, that established a city wide Mural Movement that hired artists to work in schools, neighborhoods and community centers. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

 Signs of Change: Pop Up Arts

Tucson, AZ: Signs of change are everywhere. The proliferation of the digital town square, several billion voices roaring on soapboxes. Everyone wanting just a few seconds of your time. Occasionally interrupted by a work of art, a beautiful song, a smiling face. The digital sphere has become essential in engaging the world. Piercing the digital fog has become a radical act.

This fall a few of us got together to paint some simple signs that said “Vote”. We installed them throughout the city amidst the other political signs, with the intention of reminding everyone to participate.

So many people don’t vote, it takes too much time, they forget, they aren’t registered or had their right to vote rescinded. So we made the signs whimsical, colorful. It wasn’t a demand, rather joyfully encouraging people to do something that might make them feel better, maybe even give them agency.

When we went to take the signs down many were missing. We discussed the space in our cultural environment these signs had temporarily occupied. Did they change the landscape? Were they noticed? Did they have an impact? 

We did this as individuals, without any group or institutional support, a tiny voice in an ocean of roaring thunder.

A pop up dissident moment. A sign of change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Exhibit: Judaica inspired Drawings and Paintings


Beth Shalom Temple Center Art Gallery
“Judaica inspired Drawings and Paintings ”

Michael B Schwartz

Aug. 30 - Oct 27, 2022

I put together a combination of drawings and paintings created over the past few years that somehow incorporated Jewish ritual objects. These are observational and narrative works in charcoal, pen and ink and acrylics.

Some of the works are like talismans or wall amulets, good luck charms for houses. The more abstract works are influenced by Torah breast plates. The decorative elements in Judaica have symbolic and mystical meanings in some cases, other pieces are more formal.

I created these from a cultural perspective, with consideration of the stories and history of these objects. Who owned them, what were their daily lives like? Who made them? 

A special thank you to Marcia Wiener and Beverly Lake.

To purchase works:
Works are for sale and available as prints or cards. To have a price list emailed to you drop me a line on my website. 

To Visit the Exhibit:
Call (520) 648-6690
Monday & Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wednesday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
1751 N Rio Mayo, Green Valley, AZ 85614


Shabbat Light



Torah Scroll Covers

Spice Container
Shield of David

Eternal Light

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Art.Ology Investigates: Hires Root Beer

Art.Ology Investigates: Hires Root Beer


Hire’s Household Extract - The Honest Root Beer
Charles Hires Co., Philadelphia


One of the discoveries in the Art-Ology project was a 1930’s Hires Root Beer Syrup bottle. This was among various materials indicating a possible barber shop at this site.

This little bottle sold for .25 cents and made five gallons of delicious root beer. It came in a catchy package, and one could go further by collecting various types of bling associated with the product. Most popular among these were the finely printed lithographic Victorian  Trade  Cards which circulated from 1883-1910.

The company founder Charles Elmer Hires (August 19, 1851 – July 31, 1937) was a brilliant and well organized businessman. He eventually became the first to broadly distribute sodas. This guy understood systems.

In addition to storage and production areas, his factory on Arch Street in Philadelphia included large mail order and printing areas. There is a ton written about the company, its marketing and advertising approach still having a significant impact.

The term “beer” was not popular among the more conservative members of the  Philadelphia Temperance movement. It’s reported that the founder of Temple University, Rev.  Dr.  Russell Conwell, had asked Mr. Hires to “create a beverage that might be sold among hard drinking Pennsylvania miners, in  the interest of the (Temperance) Movement.” 

Perhaps Mr. Hires knew how to appease those who might otherwise come bearing axes. He certainly had something much more grand in mind. His root beer formula was said to have healing qualities. He desired to create “a home-made root beer, such as our forefathers used in “ye olden time.” This mixture of of wild roots, berries, including, pipsissewa, spikenard, juniper, wintergreen, sarsaparilla, and hops was almost certainly a First Nations recipe, passed on through the generations as “root tea”. He managed to adapt this formula into a mass produced GMO free 100% organic syrup.

What stands out was the system of organization that seems to mirror an artistic practice. He had areas in his factory for; Communication, Storage, Production, Distribution, Packaging and Planning.

Hires Root beer evolved into Crush soda and eventually was renamed as Dr Pepper.

The root beer syrup bottles discovered here, in Southern Arizona, were mixed into five gallons of something nutritious and delicious. We can practically hear the ice cubes being added to cups and the drink slowly poured for guests while waiting in the Arizona room for their hair to be cut, listening to the latest news and gossip. These were the days before air conditioning, when electric fans and chunks of ice, delivered by rail a few blocks away, had to do the trick.

Each artifact discovered has a similar story, giving form to history. As we invent pathways out of our carbon past, the systems employed by Mr. Hires can prove a source of inspiration.

Hires Victorian Trading Cards


Schmidt, David
Hires and the root of root beer

Sourapas, Steve and Fowler, Ron
Hires to You, The Illustrated History of Hires Root Beer

Yates, Don
“Charles E Hires company, 1870 - present, Philadelphia Pennsylvania”
Summer 2005, Bottle and Extras Magazine pp. 50-57

Temperance Movement


1. Rev.  Dr.  Russell Conwell,  the  founder  of  the Temple University, asked Charles Hires  to  help  him  develop  a beverage that might be sold among hard   drinking   Pennsylvania miners,  in  the  interest  of  the Temperance Movement.”

2. The Prohibition Party, 1888
Prohibition, as the extreme wing of the temperance movement, is one of the hallowed reforms from the 1840s. As the wave of state prohibition laws passed in the 1850s began to be repealed, prohibition agitators began to organize formally; the Prohibition Party founded in 1869 and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of 1874 represented the two strategic approaches. When a second wave of state prohibition in the 1880s receded, both were superseded by the Anti-Saloon League, founded in 1893. Carry Nation yielding an axe comes to symbolize the smashing of alcohol, emergence of prohibition moment.


3. Much  of  Hires  early  advertising  was done  with  Victorian  Trade  Cards. These were artistic masterpieces, created by some of  the  most  talented  lithographers  and artists  of  the  time. The main period for Hires trade cards was from 1883 to 1910.

Friday, February 4, 2022

An introduction the concept of “Artology”

An introduction the concept of “Artology”
Art.Ology Communique 1: 2.4.2022

art (n) : something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

ology/ol· o· gy : a branch of knowledge 

art/ol· o· gy:  the study and documentation of something created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings


An Artologist seek to draw connections and gather data that can be applied across practices. An artist and scientist find great joy in observing the artifact. In this practice data is accessible, participatory and traditionally suggestive.

This emerging field of Art.ology we find people engaged in ecological arts, community cultural development, theory, entertainment and education. Practices born of necessity to confront the impacts of the climate emergency. For decades eco and social practice artists have collaborated with scientists, seeking to establish a common language. This field is one of the many organic roots, branches, natural outgrowths.

For example researchers indicated that there is a measurable connection between the energy of eurythmic dancing and plants.

A New Journey

Art.ology: Story Vessels is an experimental project that illustrates the relationships between specific paintings, artifacts recovered in an archeological pit, and the viewer. The artifacts become batteries, the paintings morph into portals. 

This project began by accident over the pandemic. Blessed with a yard, it was time to build my backyard back better. One day I unearthed a root beer syrup bottle from the 1930’s. As I dug I found more curious objects.

(to be continued)


ArtOlogy: Unearthed Bottle

Click Here to Support this project.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

misTaken Identities: Stories of Jewish Invisibility in the Southwest

misTaken Identities

an online exhibition of paintings and drawings 

inspired by stories of Jewish invisibility in the Southwest

The southwestern United States has a mesmerizing ambiance. A tapestry of cultures that includes a special story, that of the hidden Jewish peoples of the Southwest. Cloaked in mystery and intrigue the stories, songs and legends that permeate dinner tables and camp fires, names of streets and organizations all have clues to this history. As I listened carefully I realized clues were being dropped, bread crumbs for me to quietly follow.

 “My people got lost on their long journey from León” one friend told me with a wink. A student quietly wishes me “Shanoa Tova Mr.” and rushes off with a smile. “The way my grandmother wove dough for bread on Fridays was different, she braided it” a Barrio elder once told me. “You are my people?” I asked. “Yes”, he responded gently.

These fascinating clues, puzzle pieces, were starting to take form. I began visually researching the forced expulsion of Jewish and Muslim peoples from Spain in 1492.  I was blessed to befriend Arizona Daily Star sports writer Abe Chanin (1921-2014) who founded the Southwest Jewish Archives at the University of Arizona.  Abe guided my initial learning on this subject. He operated an anonymous hotline that people could call in and share their stories. The response was mind boggling. His challenge to me was to tell this story through the arts.

The Jewish “Sepharad” came to be known as "Conversos" or "Moranos". The Sephardic diaspora spread people throughout the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, and the Americas. Here in the US Jews wandered north from places such as the recently colonized “New Kingdom of León” (Mexico) to escape deadly inquisitional courts. Today evidence of this Anusim is evidenced throughout the Southwest. In bakeries, gatherings, on signs, landmarks, graveyards and street names.

Prior to the development of the sextant, astrolabes were instruments, produced by craftspeople, used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodies, and in navigation for calculating latitude. There were Jewish craftspeople who created astrolabes, which were inscribed in Hebrew.

This work in this exhibit revolves around the general theme of the Hidden Jewish Communities, specifically the Sephardic and references to the Mashhadi experiences. Enjoy, and I look forward to your feedback.

 - Michael B Schwartz

4. "Shhhhh"
Ink on Paper
5” x 14”


"The Mashhadi Jewish peoples, The Hidden Jewish of Iran, were forced to pretend to convert to Islam from 1839 to 1925. For 200 years they hid their identity."

8. "Torah Hug"
Pastel on paper
18” x 24”

10. "journey"
Acrylic on Canvas Board
12” x 16”


"Do you remember, do you forget, did we remember to close the door? wandering, sailing - through these centuries we are."

12. "relocating"
Mixed Media on Paper
24” x 36”

"Had we been without our stories and navigational equipment all would have been lost, somehow we had to find a ship to stow away on, to reunite with our community, oh if only we could find a way home."


17. "Sevilla, Spain 1371"
Acrylic on Wood
24” x 36”

"We should have known, in 1369 physician and astrologer Abraham ibn Zarzal was called into doubt for no reason at all, what was it with these accusations!"

20. "An Astrolabe"
Acrylic on Canvas
30” x 48”

“People frequently associate astrolabes with navigation. Although the instrument used in navigation was a simplified version of the more complex planispheric astrolabe and its use did not start until the 15th century, I would like to keep this image of seas and new lands associated to our research; for the astrolabe is bringing us  a new insight into many aspects of the life and interests of medieval Jews, and some discoveries.”

Dr. Josefina Rodriguez Arribas

23."The Order"
Ink, Acrylic on Paper
24” x 36”

“1492, the order came, banishment, death, conversion or some such combination. we gathered what we could, we knew this day was coming, it was in the air.”


24. “Run”
Pastel on Paper
24” x 36”

"We did not want to give up our wonderful lives in Spain, a place for generations we had called home. But it was this, forced conversion or death. How many perished in those days we still do not know. BDE”

Additional Reading:

Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
Beit Hatfutsot - Museum of the Jewish People
Southwest Jewish Archives