Monday, June 27, 2011

Fell Spice Bottle

Prompted by the recent comment on the Fell Spice Mill post by a descendant of several workers at the mill, blog reader and occasional information-provider Donna Peters decided to do a little electronic digging, and she came up with a few things that I thought were rather interesting. I don't think I have too much to say about them, but I'll share them with everyone here.

The first, and to me, the most interesting, is the bottle shown on the right. It is a full, unopened bottle of "Borneo Ginger" from CJ Fell and Bros. I've seen empty Fell's bottles online a few times, but I had never seen a full one before. I'm not sure if there's any way to be certain that the contents of this bottle were ground at the mill at Faulkland, but I assume that that's the likely scenario. If so, there's even a chance that they were processed by Leonard, George, or James Woodward, the ancestors of the commenter. For what it's worth, according to "The Grocer's Encyclopedia" from 1911, "Borneo Ginger" was just a trade name for some white ginger, none of which was actually from Borneo. Below are a few other views of the Fell ginger bottle.

In addition to this, Donna also came across a few newspaper articles mentioning the company, including the advertisements below. The first is from 1840, the second from 1855.

Although it's interesting to see a lot of their products listed, I personally find the chocolate the most interesting. First, there's the fact that one of the brands is named "Courtland", after Courtland J. Fell, the "C.J." in "C.J. Fell and Brother". (One of the eight different brands, if I'm reading it correctly.) Second, another brand is called "Homeopathic". Apparently, chocolate was used to cure all sorts of things in the 19th Century. Honestly, it probably didn't work any worse than the other "medicines" of the day. Of course, now they say dark chocolate is supposed to be good for you. And there's always chocolate's timeless use for self-medicating depression...


  1. Scott,
    I have looked a number of times for stuff from Fell's Spice Mill, but never had much luck. This ginger bottle is really neat. Does Donna own the bottle? Just curious.

  2. No, Denis, Donna doesn't own it (at least, I don't think she does). The pictures were taken from an EBay auction from April. I was very excited at first, until I realized that it was long over. As I wrote, I've seen empty Fell bottles a few times, but never a full one with the label. But to be honest, I'm not looking all the time, so maybe they do come up once in a while. Either way, I just thought it was too cool not to share (as did Donna).

  3. This bottle is fascinating to me since one of my ancestors may have touched it in some way. Leonard Woodward is listed in the 1850 census as Miller and George, his son and my 2xgreat grandfather is listed as spice grinder. They also likely lived within the Fells Lane Historic District since they are listed on the same census page as Jonathon Fell. I hope to identify which building(s) one day.

    Ken Shelin

  4. I thought you'd appreciate it, Ken. It's definitely possible that one of your anscestors helped grind the contents of that bottle.

  5. I just purchased one of these bottles but empty with a partial label. Unfortunately I can't read what it contained.

    1. That's really cool!! It's also cool to think that these little bottles filled in this little corner of MCH more than a century ago are still out there floating around.