Cruikshank’s The Bottle


George Cruikshank (after).  The Bottle.  Philadelphia, 1871.  Titlepage and one print lacking (print replaced in facsimile).  Seven of eight tinted lithographs by George Gebbie, each with text page and page with “Memoir.”  Lithographs by George Gebbie.  8 x 11 1/2.  Prints with very faint waterstain and some chips and short tears at edges, but overall very good condition.  Housed in archival folder.  Peters, America on Stone, p. 193.


In 1847, George Cruikshank issued a powerful series of prints depicting the downward spiral of a middle class family afflicted by alcoholism.  The scenes show the life of the family descending from simple enjoyment of spirits and wine, to desolation and poverty, and finally to murder!  This is a poignant story told through Cruikshank’s wonderful artistic style.  Besides the moral tale, the viewer of these prints sees a wealth of information on decorative arts, costumes and customs of the time.

Cruikshank’s original prints were issued in London and within a year or so, Francis Michelin of New York issued an American edition.  Twenty years later, Gebbie reissued his own series of prints of The Bottle, which he explained thusly: “In submitting a republication of this great work, ‘The Bottle,’ to the American public, the publisher has no apology to make, because none is required.  The necessity of works to cause men to think on the greatest curse to humanity are more needed than ever, and the present work, which had an immense circulation throughout Europe, is hardly known here to the present generation.”

  1. “A happy home in danger from the Bottle.”
  2. “The first result of the introduction of the Bottle.  Laziness and craving for more Liquor, to relieve the feeling of despondency produced by indulgence in drunkenness.
  3. “Result of laziness and indulgence in drinking.  The sheriff levies on the household furniture—Consolation:—The Bottle.”
  4. “The father and mother are become habitual drunkards, and their once happy children beggars, through their devotion to the Bottle.”
  5. “In their now miserable home, death from starvation and neglect has taken their infant, and left them in their despair.—Comfort:—The Bottle.”
  6. “Crime.—The hand and arm that should have shielded, kills the wife, the mother of his children.—The Bottle works bravely.”
  7. “Madness.—The drunkard becomes a lunatic over the body of his murdered wife.—The Bottle has done its work.”
  8. [Plate and text missing, plate replaced in facimile] “The Bottle has done its work, it has destroyed the infant and the mother, it has brought the son and daughter to vice and to the streets, and has left the father a hopeless manic.”