How Bird Food was Sold More than a Century Ago

How Bird Food was Sold More than a Century Ago

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

This catalog from the Max Geisler Bird Co. is clearly pre-1900. The picture is interesting on the cover the little girl offering a parrot of no discernible species would appear to be a cookie or a cracker with the term “Human Talker” above the couple.

How can you argue with the power of magic when it comes to feeding your bird? This food claims to work for any bird well or sick and improve its feathers and voice. It was appropriate for all seed-eating birds – according to the label.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were not a lot of ways to get entertainment at home thus canaries were very popular as pets because of their singing abilities. If you put a male canary in a cage on either side of the room, you have a stereo!

This food for the Philadelphia bird food company claims to impart beautiful colors varying from orange lemon, deep orange to reddish-orange.

The mixture is a combination of Canary seed, sweet rape, yellow millet, and India Maw seed. Surprisingly they do recommend to avoid hanging the cage where current of air will flow upon the bird.

Max Geisler bird food catalog form the 19th century

Back in the day for only $.20 you could rid your bird mites, feather lice, and body lice. You are somehow supposed to get this stuff under the feathers. It required one application. They also recommended Hartz Mountain bird wash in your birdbath a few days following the treatment. You were to repeat this about 10 days later and not put it on too thickly.

Ad from the Philadelphia bird food company and from what we can tell, this was around 1899. Apparently, all you needed back then was a few drops of “bird bitters” to restore new life and vitality into your pet bird. 

This promises to restore the song cage birds it will prevent their ailments and bring them back to good health. If given during the season of shedding feathers it will carry the little musician through this critical area without the loss of song. It is sold by both druggists and bird dealers or could be mailed to you for $.15. 

Caperns is another turn-of-the-century vendor of bird care products. It’s probably the broadest selection that we found so far and from what you can see in the labels you were able to buy parrot food for as little as two cents. they offered species specific food for parakeets and even larks.Caperns was started in England by F. Capern around 1880. Mr. Capern was basically a chemist who also was involved in aviculture which motivated him to found his company.

Advice on the proper care of canaries from the end of the 19th century. The box reads that nearly all of the diseases incidental to cage birds originate from various seed or pond mixtures containing “fatal poisons”. You could get this product from a druggist for fifteen cents. You could also send the company twenty five cents and get a book on the care of birds with over 100 illustrated engravings of birds & parrots.

Catherine Tobsing

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