Guilford Witch Hazel Label
This Witch Hazel label measures 4.75” Tall x 2.75” Wide and features an image of three witches huddled over and stirring a cauldron. The Guilford Brand was probably produced by the E. E. Dickinson Company which controlled production in Connecticut, which represented almost all of the commercial production in the U.S. The retailer stamped on the label is S. J. Castranova of Trenton, New Jersey.
Witch hazel is a shrub that resembles a cross between a gray birch and mountain laurel and grows extensively in northern forests. The name witch hazel was probably adopted by early New England settlers because the distinctive yellow blooms colored the woods around Halloween.
The practice of steeping the twigs and leaves of the witch hazel plant originated with Connecticut's Native American population and produced a mild astringent which was used as a family remedy for a variety of minor ills including bruises and insect bites. Witch Hazel, unlike some snake oil remedies, actually works. It was difficult, however, to make a commercial success of Witch hazel because of the product's short shelf life.
The first person to harness the commercial potential was Dr. Alvin F. Whittemore, in the early 1860s. The secret to the doctor's success was that by adding alcohol, he preserved the witch hazel, vastly increasing the product's shelf life. All future producers used this technique.
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