How Inventive: The Skull Relief Poison Bottle


Patent no. 164265. M J Rivise Patent Collection/Getty
Patent no. 164265. M J Rivise Patent Collection/Getty

It's an age-old conundrum: how to safely store your poisons without accidentally drinking them? You might argue that labels, child-resistant packaging and proper storage provide the answer, but Philadelphia's Dr. William M Caterson had a different idea.

Back in 1875, Caterson filed a patent for a safety container in which the bottle itself is shaped like a skull. This way, according the patent, "it will always act as a caution, for it will be the first thing noticed by day or artificial light, and will be at once detected by the touch in the dark."

You'll actually find some beautiful antique poison bottles, some even shaped like a skull. So I suppose the design took off. Of course, then Dan Aykroyd came along in the 21st century and sold vodka-filled glass skulls to the tune of $55 million, throwing everyone for a curve.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.