Bromo Seltzer???

Last Sunday Morning, I had occasion to cross the bridge and drive into the Baltimore area to drop off some things to a friend. So I had to forget dresses for this trip. Shorts and one of Mom’s black tunics had to suffice!

Ever heard of Bromo Seltzer? It was patented by Emerson Drug Company in 1890, packed in cobalt blue bottles, and used bromine to remedy all those headaches and tummy aches we get from time to time. And in 1911, a building bearing the product’s name (the Emerson Tower – now Bromo Seltzer tower – picture below) was built in Baltimore, topped with a rendition of the cobalt blue bottle! The Emerson Tower was tallest building in town at that time.

This historic structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.  Captain Isaac Emerson, the inventor of the headache remedy Bromo Seltzer and builder of the Tower, had a genuine interest in the City of Baltimore as one of his contemporaries noted, “…he interests himself thoroughly in everything tending to advance our city, and is a patron of all worthy enterprises seeking to push Baltimore to the front.”  

Sadly, the bromide concoction provided some unpleasant physical characteristics – it’s a sedative that can mess you up, and normal dosage could lead to symptoms including hallucinations, confusion, and possibly a coma! Also, at the time, up to 10% of patients in psychiatric hospitals at that time were victims of bromine! Needless to say, Bromo Seltzer was discontinued in 1975, and re-introduced in the mid-90’s, after complete reformulation, and of course, without the bromine.

The empty tower has been extensively renovated. Baltimore’s Office of Promotion & The Arts officially re-opened the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, with studio spaces for visual and literary artists in 2008.

The most interesting detail of the tower is the still-functioning tower clock, the face of which displays the word BROMO-SELTZER instead of numbers. Designed by Seth Thomas in 1911, it was the largest four-dial gravity-driven non-chiming clock in the world. A full restoration of the clock was completed in 2017. (The tower had originally been topped by an impressive 51-foot revolving replica of the blue Bromo-Seltzer bottle, which was illuminated with 596 lights and could be seen 20 miles away. But that fell into disrepair and was removed in the 1930’s)

Also inside the Tower is the Emerson/Maryland Glass Museum which houses the largest collection of Bromo Seltzer and Maryland Glass bottles in existence. The Museum is on the 15th floor and is on loan from and curated by Ernest Dimler.

Fascinating stuff. Wish it had been open for tours. Darn virus!


6 thoughts on “Bromo Seltzer???

  1. Very interesting. The tower is certainly like the ones you see in Central Italy. That something could be sold as a remedy yet put you in a hospital or psychiatric institution is quite scary! Sue x


  2. Aww, your pic just brought back memories of a recent trip my hubby and I took to Baltimore. We visited my brother and family in VA, and the hubs wanted to take me to see Edgar Allen Poe’s burial place, so we took a leisurely drive over to Maryland one day. I loved walking around all the old tombstones and the overall creepy feeling, despite the cemetery being smack in the middle of a bustling city.

    Anyway I remember passing by that building while we were walking to the stadium. ☺️


    1. In your Baltimore wanderings, you may have also un-knowingly passed “the bar that Ruth bought!” See the post by that name. If you didn’t know the backstory, you would walk right past it, and there apparently is no sign! But glad you had a good time in what locals call “Bawlmer.”

      Liked by 1 person

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