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16 Oct 2021, last revised 07 Jun 2024

The one known pharmacy bottle from Thos Serek is more so a curiosity because it turns out Serek was a barber.

Thomas Serek was born in Prussia (22) in 1843 (16). It is unclear when he immigrated to the U.S. or when he settled in the Copper Country, but he was listed as a miner in Quincy Township on the 1880 U.S. Federal Census (22). By 1886, he had a barber shop in Houghton (19). The 1889 Polk directory then listed him as a barber in Red Jacket (17).

Serek was struck with family tragedy early in his career. In Mar 1891, he lost two of his children to scarlet fever (23). Death records showed that his daughters were 1 and 3 years old and died on the same day (24). His wife also fell ill (23), and two months later she died, leaving Thomas with a baby of a few months old (25).

One of the interesting features of Serek is that he repeatedly moved his business/residence. The 1895 Polk directory placed him at 233 N 5th St., Calumet (2). In 1897, he was listed at 303 N 5th St., Calumet (3), and the 1897 Sanborn map placed this address near the northwest corner with Oak St. In 1899 and 1901, his address was 321 5th St., Calumet (4,5), which the 1900 Sanborn map showed to be four buildings north of his previous location.

Sanborn map, 5th St., Calumet - Dec 1897
Sanborn map - Dec 1897
Sanborn map, 5th St., Calumet - Sept 1900
Sanborn map - Sept 1900

In Jan 1902, he moved from the Fromholtz block, where he was located for four years, to Osceola St, Laurium, where he paid much lower rent (26). By Aug 1902, his residence/business was at 108 Kearsarge St., Laurium (27), which is where he was listed on the 1903 directory (6). By 1905, he had moved to 417 6th St., Calumet (7). In Jul 1907, he opened a rheumatism curing parlor in the Sarazin block on Center St. in Lake Linden, where he expected to remain permanently (28,29), and then in Aug, he opened a barber shop in the Belheumer block (30). The 1907 directory listed Serek as a barber on the east side of Calumet St. in Lake Linden (8). In Mar 1908, he "decided to look for greener fields" and moved back to Laurium (31). The 1909 directory listed him as a barber in Laurium (9), and the 1910 directory specified the address as 322 Lake Linden Ave. (10). He was not listed in the 1912 directory (11), but then he was listed in Calumet as a barber at 506 Portland St. in the 1916 directory (18). He was not listed in the 1921 directory (12), so it seems that he retired by that point since he died in 1923 at the age of 80 and was buried in Lake View Cemetery, Calumet (16).

In addition to being a barber, Serek also sold medicinal products. In Jan 1896, he was the sole Copper Country agent for the celebrated medicated balsam pillow (13). In Jun 1897, he hosted Joseph Blanchard from Marinette, WI, who was selling his cure for eczema, salt rheum, pimples, and sores (14). In 1900, he secured the agency for the Hot Spring Mineral remedies and vapor bath (20), and offered Cream of Panama for clearing up one's complexion (21). In Aug 1902, he was the agent for a book, Story of the World's Worship, and would present a copy of recipes for the "sure cure" of a number of skin diseases to each purchaser of the book (27). The most likely connection to the bottle, however, comes from the 1905 directory, which listed him as a barber and manufacturer's agent, and included a full-page ad for blood and skin purifiers (7). His hair restoring sea foam, in particular, was advertised from 1899. He likely bottled one of these medicines in his embossed pharmacy bottle.

Newspaper ad - <i>The Daily Mining Gazette</i>, 02 Dec 1899
Newspaper ad - Dec 1899
Newspaper ad - <i>The Daily Mining Gazette</i>, 26 Jan 1900
Newspaper ad - Jan 1900
Polk directory ad - <i>Houghton County Directory 1905-06</i>
Polk directory ad - 1905

Serek's bottle bears the maker's mark of W. B. M. CO. for Westen Bottle Manufacturing Co. and BREED, which signifies a proprietary bottle shape that was probably named after its creator, R. E. Breed (15). The BREED mark dates to 1901-c.1908. Overlapping Serek's history, his bottle probably dates to c.1905.

References

  1. U.S. Census Bureau. 1920 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  2. R. L. Polk & Co. 1895. Houghton County Directory 1895-96. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  3. R. L. Polk & Co. 1897. Houghton County Directory 1897-98. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  4. R. L. Polk & Co. 1899. Houghton County Directory 1899-1900. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  5. R. L. Polk & Co. 1901. Houghton County Directory 1901-02. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  6. R. L. Polk & Co. 1903. Houghton County Directory 1903-04. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  7. R. L. Polk & Co. 1905. Houghton County Directory 1905-06. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  8. R. L. Polk & Co. 1907. Houghton County Directory 1907-08. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  9. R. L. Polk & Co. 1909. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1909. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  10. R. L. Polk & Co. 1910. 1910 Calumet, Houghton, Hancock and Laurium Directory. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  11. R. L. Polk & Co. 1912. 1912 Calumet, Hancock, Houghton and Laurium Directory. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  12. R. L. Polk & Co. 1921. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1921-1922. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  13. anonymous. (1896, Jan 10). There can be none better. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 2.
  14. anonymous. (1897, Jun 26). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 5.
  15. Lockhart, B., B. Schriever, B. Lindsey, C. Serr, and B. Brown. 2020. Western Bottle Manufacturing Co. In: Encyclopedia of Manufacturer's Marks on Historic Bottles. posted on Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/WesternBottle.pdf
  16. Find a Grave. accessed Oct 2021. Thomas Serek. findagrave.com/memorial/190776673/thomas-serek
  17. R. L. Polk & Co. 1889. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1889-90. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  18. R. L. Polk & Co. 1916. Houghton County Directory 1916-17. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  19. anonymous. (1886, Jul 01). Around town. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  20. anonymous. (1900, Feb 23). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 5.
  21. anonymous. (1900. Dec 12). Serek's cream of Panama. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  22. U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  23. anonymous. (1891, Mar 13). untitled. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 3
  24. Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995 database, FamilySearch.org
  25. anonymous. (1891, May 15). untitled. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  26. anonymous. (1902, Jan 30). untitled. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 5.
  27. anonymous. (1902, Aug 20). The Serek remedies. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  28. anonymous. (1907, Jul 28). Lake Linden brevities. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 7.
  29. anonymous. (1907, Jul 29). Lake Linden brevities. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 7.
  30. anonymous. (1907, Aug 07). Lake Linden brevities. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 7.
  31. anonymous. (1908, May 19). Lake Linden brevities. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 12.

15
Thos Serek bottle
12 oz
color: colorless
top: cork top - tooled
base outline: base shape Q
date: 1905-1907
capacity - base mark - rarity:
12 oz - BREED / W. B. M. CO. - extremely rare
  • the books states "no makers mark" but this example has one
  • capacity marked above plate