Radium Institute of Philadelphia Bottle (ca. 1914-1915)

Radium Institute of Philadelphia Bottle (ca. 1914-1915)

Size: 4.75" tall and 1.5" wide.

This embossed glass bottle was produced for the Radium Institute of Philadelphia.

Radium Institute of Philadelphia Bottle (ca. 1914-1915)

There are no traces of residual radioactivity in the bottle. If the original contents did contain radium, the amount was relatively low. The other possibility is that the bottle never contained radium. In other words, it was a fraud (the same thing might have been true regarding the Radium Institute itself). In any event, if the contents were never said to be radioactive, we wouldn't be able to include the bottle in the collection's Quack Cures section.

According to the February 21,1914 issue of New York Medical Journal:

"The Radium Institute of Philadelphia was incorporated on Tuesday, February 10th under the laws of the State of Delaware to "build, maintain, and operate hospitals and institutions for the treatment of cancer and other diseases."

It is no coincidence that this incorporation took place shortly after Standard Chemical Company began operations in Pittsburgh.

The Medical Journal notice went on to say:

"The capital stock is $250,000. It is said that those who are interested have laid plans to procure all the radium that will be needed when the institute is opened. The site has been selected and work on the structure will be started in a few weeks."

Unfortunately, the names of "those who are interested" were not given in the notice. However, four months later, various newspapers (e.g., the June 30, 1914 issue of the Bourbon News) reported that the Institute's manager, identified as Giles M. Mainwaring, had lost 100 milligrams of radium valued at $12,000. Apparently it happened while he was carrying the radium from the Bellvue-Stratford Hotel to the Institute which was located on Spring Garden Street. The radium had been stored at the hotel while Institute's safe was being renovated.

You would expect such a well-funded operation (the Institute was said to possess $60,000 worth of radium) to be listed in the Philadelphia City Directory. But it wasn't. Giles M. Mainwaring, wasn't in the Directory either. Nor was he, a 47 year old accountant, listed under his real name, Giles E. Manwaring. If the spelling of his last name was a typo in the newspaper accounts, it seems to have been a common mistake - he had been identified the previous year (1913) on the passenger list of the Morro Castle, as Giles E. Mainwaring. Something else that is odd, the 1920 census indicated that his middle initial was M, just as it was given in the newspaper articles.

The following year, December of 1915 to be precise, Dr. Albert J. Winebrake, a Philadelphia obstetrician, wrote a letter (kindly provided by Joel Lubenau) in which he stated that he had:

"taken over The Radium Institute of Philadelphia and it is now known as The Radium Hospital."

The letter went on to stay that the Radium Hospital had:

"sufficient Radium element in tubes and applicators to treat any case."

More to the point, the letter indicates what might have been in our Radium Institute of Philadelphia bottle:

"Radio-Active Water. There is no question that in certain forms of gout, rheumatism, chronic arthritis, anemia, and in cases of high blood pressure, a return to the normal with complete disappearance of subjective symptoms are frequently obtainable by the use of three bottles daily... The price of the water is twenty-five cents a bottle."

The Radium Hospital's days (ca. 1915-1916) were as short as those of the Radium Institute of Philadelphia (ca. 1914-1915). The Hospital was listed in the 1917 Philadelphia City Directory, but that listing was probably arranged in 1916. My understanding is that toward the end of 1916, the Radium Hospital had gone out of business and its old address at 1725 Spring Garden Street had been taken over by the Osteopathic Hospital of Philadelphia.

Winebrake was certainly experiencing a run of bad luck. About the same time that his Radium Hospital collapsed, another startup of his fizzled—the Twilight Sleep Maternity Hospital in the Pocono Mountains (Scranton Republican. Mar. 6, 1915 and June 8, 1916). At least his trouble with the law was behind him—in 1914 he had been arrested and charged with failing to report births (Scranton Republican. Aug. 28, 1914).