Naughty History of Valentine's Meat Juice in the Little Amber Bottle - Happy St. Valentine's Day, Antique Bottle Collectors

You don't need teeth to enjoy Valentine's Meat Juice!

Aah, love.

By Marianne Dow

Valentine's Meat Juice has true love as it's raison d'ĂȘtreMann S. Valentine Jr. was desperate to save his dying wife, Maria.

For weeks she had been unable to retain any nourishment, and Mann was distraught while watching his wife starve to death. Physicians could do no more. Valentine became persuaded that she needed juice extracted from meat, with its “strength-giving properties.”

He went down to his basement with a chemistry set, and with sheer determination and rudimentary knowledge from college courses, he worked to concoct a mixture to revive his wife. He worked night after night in the cellar, and on New Year’s Eve 1870, he administered to Maria the first batch of meat juice.

Mann’s elixir worked, and Maria recovered.

[Info from this article by Harry Kolatz Jr.]

The juice reached its greatest success and acknowledgment in 1881 when President Garfield said, after wounded from a bullet in an assassination attempt, that he breakfasted on Valentine’s Meat Juice along with toast and poached egg to get better.

In Mann's own words:

Read the full text of the advertising booklet pictured above, here. It is mostly testimonials. No photos.

A Valentine's Meat Juice bottle sits on a shelf at Boston's new Massachusetts General Hospital medical history museum (link). [Photo source]

The Valentine Meat Juice Company used 15 to 20 THOUSAND pounds of flesh from beef cattle a day to make the juice. 

Bottle collector Ed Faulkner shared this memory:
"One of the Richmond club members once talked to someone whose father had worked at the plant that produced the meat juice. It appears that there was always plenty of "squeezed" beef after the juice was removed & it was available to employees for free. Although they were dirt poor, the man said, they always had beef on the table!"

LOVE Potion -- It's The Oldest Profession

Valentine's Meat Juice came in this neat little amber bottle. It is pretty common,  and of little interest to bottle collectors, but it has another interesting and rather sordid history, as it turns out. It's connected with "The Oldest Profession", if you know what I mean. No, not butcher.

What bottle collectors will find interesting is that archaelogical digs around brothels found a great many VMJ bottles.
Prostitutes ate better and dressed better than their working class contemporaries. Some of their purchasing power, however, was spent on proprietary medicines such as Valentine's Meat Juice, promoted as a cure for sexually transmitted diseases, aka social diseases. "

But wait, there's more...

There's even more sordidness associated with this little bottle...
Valentine's Meat Juice figured prominently in a famous murder case. ''The Case of Mrs. Maybrick'' was written about in The Elements of Murder By John Emsley.

Apparently the Mrs. killed her husband by poisoning his Valentine's Meat Juice with arsenic!

And I used to think it was such a cute little bottle -- who knew? Well...Happy Valentine's Day, anyway!

It's about 3" tall, and embossed VALENTINE'S MEAT JUICE. Much harder to find with the paper labels:

Some other Valentine's Meat Juice collectibles:

Magazine ad

Dose glass

Chemist's invoice (source)

Mann S. Valentine

The Valentine Museum

According to the Valentine Museum, now known as the Valentine Richmond History Center (Virginia), Mann S. Valentine, Jr. (1824-1893), the museum's founder, made his fortune with the creation and production of Valentine's Meat Juice, a health tonic made from pure beef juice.

Mann shared his love of history with his brother, renowned sculptor Edward V. Valentine. Mann laid the foundation for the museum in 1892; when he died in 1893, he provided the original bequest for the Valentine Museum, leaving his personal collection of art and artifacts and the 1812 Wickham House.

The Valentine Museum, the first private museum in the City of Richmond, opened in 1898; Edward Valentine served as its first president from its opening until his death in 1930. In his own will, he left an incredible collection of his sculpture, papers, furniture and memorabilia to the museum that still bears his family name.

While alive, The Valentine's Meat Juice success provided Mann S. Valentine with more than enough money to do what he wanted. He collected art, and his home was a gathering place for artists.

Here are some photos from the museums collection that show Mann S. Valentine posing as different emotions. I end with these as I think it shows he was an interesting and emotional man, and it's easy to see how his love for his wife would have sent him down into his basement to create the magic potion that would keep her alive.

See more from this series of photos on the Richmond Museum's website here.

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  1. We did an Archeological dig in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday 23rd February 2012. and found an unbroken bottle of Valentine's Meat Juice. We were keen to know more and were delighted to find your website describing it's contents and uses, which greatly amused us! The site where the bottle was found, we think was a "midden" for the old house which was once in that area. We think the general findings are dated between 1880's through to 1930's.
    Kindest Regards The Castlemilk History Group....

    1. Hi, Anonymous! So glad you shared your dig find with us. And that my article educated and entertained.

      Here's the link to your Castlemilk History site --

  2. I am currently a graduate student at a university in Georgia, US. We have a bottle of VMJ in our type collection. It was unearthed in Atlanta during an excavation in the late 1970's. The label is missing, but the embossed name caught my eye. Your sight was an interesting supplement to our research. Great stories on Valentine's here, love the site. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Wonder what other cool bottles they dug up?!

  3. My uncle had found an empty bottle of vmj in a horse field in the north east of England around the 1960's and it has the number 13 on the bottom. does anyone have any idea of its price and relevence to the number thirteen.

    1. Unless you've got a bottle with some well-preserved paper labels, your bottles worth $5-10. I know the #13 adds a little value to old jars, but I doubt it would influence the price of a VMJ bottle. The number is likely a date code or mold number from the glass maker. Thanks for sharing!

  4. i dug a vmj today it has a wonkey neck obviously when made as the mold seam stops at the shoulder and the neck applied after it has no mark or number on the base, but 2 others i have have a square with a circle inside it and a number either side of it 1 is 8 0 the other 8 2 ? , todays find was alongside a bovril 2 oz with a reg no of 100848 embossed on it ( 1888 ) and i have kept both.. good site n very interesting .. :)

    1. Thanks for sharing. I'm always amazed at what you diggers find!

  5. just dug up a vmj bottle on an old victorian tip in oldham.

  6. Found quite a clean Valentines Meat Juice bottle yesterday in a tiny creek in West Chester Pa, very cute bottle very interesting history, my last great find was Dr D Janes cold remedy, Life is like a box of chocolates mama used to say , you close your eyes and reach in and you never know what your going to get, Forest Gump


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