Torbena Jar (ca. 1929-1931)

This is the "Family Size" version of the Torbena jar produced by Torbena Products Co., Inc. of Allentown, Pennsylvania (129 S. Eighth Street). The label on a similar jar, not in the ORAU collection, indicated that the company had "laboratories" in Cornwall, PA. It seems that they also had an office in Reading Pennsylvania at 220 North 5th Street.

One of the company's brochures indicated that five pounds of Torbernite ore were used in each jar, and that the ore came from the Forster-Garner radium mines in New Mexico.

Torbena Jar (ca. 1929-1931)

You can tell that this particular jar has seen better days. It was smashed during transit to Oakland, California where I was hoping to use it during a show-and-tell presentation. Opening the shipping container just before the talk and seeing nothing but fragments didn’t get things off to a good start. As I recall, I consumed more beer than usual that evening.

Torbena Jar (ca. 1929-1931)

As shown in the diagram, radioactive ore was supposed to be located in the bottom of the jar. Since our jar is missing the ore, it is no more radioactive than ordinary pottery.

Donated by Joel Lubenau

Torbena Jar (ca. 1929-1931)

The jar above represents an improved version of the jar shown above. Paper labels are not a good idea on water jars.

The raised text on the lid (the latter is held in place with a Weir seal) indicates that the jar itself was manufactured by the Western Stoneware Company of Monmouth, Illinois at their No. 5 plant.

As likely as not, the Torbena folks simply purchased the jars from Western Stoneware and added the ore at their own facility.

Interestingly, the text on this jar doesn't mention the Torbena Products Company. Instead it refers to the Crystal Chemical Company of New York City as the "exclusive distributors."

Torbena Jar (ca. 1929-1931)

The Crystal Chemical Company, located at Willis Avenue and East 134th St. in New York, supplied various chemicals and pharmaceutical products to hospitals. This connection to the medical profession is in line with information provided by Joel Lubenau that the Torbena Company was started by a small group of physicians. Another thing: all the testimonial letters in the company's literature were provided by anonymous MDs. Anonymous because "the ethics of the Medical Profession do not permit the publication of names."

The Harrisburg Surgical Company at 316 North Second Street was a major distributor and advertiser for the jar.

Quoting the brochure used by a distributor in Reading, PA:

Torbena Radio-Active Water

TORBENA is water rendered naturally Radio-Active by the simple process of immersing the Ore of Radium, TORBERNITE, in ordinary drinking or bottled water, for which purpose the TORBENA OUTFIT has been devised.


TORBENA, Radio-active Water, is created by you merely filling the TORBENA OUTFIT with ordinary drinking water. TORBENA stimulates and promotes the growth of healthy cells in the body. It eliminates TOXIC CONDITIONS. It normalizes, vitalizes and rejuvenates the system and thus tends to bring about a condition we all heartily desire- GOOD HEALTH.

Torbena is now used by many physicians and hospitals. It has proven a most valuable adjunct in the treatment of high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatism, anaemia, and asthma. It is also proving very beneficial to those who suffer from kidney, liver and bladder troubles and constipation.

To the healthy person, THE DRINKING OF TORBENA is most valuable.

Torbena, taken six to eight glassfuls a day, will keep you fit and in condition to meet your business and social problems with vim, vigour and snap.



The only dates that I can associate with the Torbena jar are 1929 to 1931. In February of 1929, the Torbena Products Company was seeking a salesmen, a "high class man of ability" to be precise.

Size: ca. 12" high, 8 1/2" in diameter


  • The Modern Hospital Year book A Buyer's reference Book of Supplies and Equipment for Hospitals and Allied Institutions. 3rd Edition, 1922.
  • Brochure. Torbena Radio-active Water Created by Torbernite. No date, but reproduces letter dated 1931.