In 1872, A. M. Bickford & Sons exhibited their Bickford’s Lime Juice Cordial at the Adelaide Wine Show. Bickford’s originally manufactured medicines including their well-advertised “stomach bitters” but began to produce a range of cordials in 1871. In family hands until 1930, Bickford’s subsequently went through several changes of ownership and is now owned by the South Australian Kotses family. The National Trust of South Australia pronounced Bickford’s Lime Juice Cordial a Heritage Icon in 2006.
William Bickford was a wholesale pharmacist who arrived in Adelaide in 1839 and began his own business the following year. On his death in 1850 his wife, Ann Margaret, continued the wholesale pharmacy business, employing qualified pharmacists as managers. She formed A.M. Bickford & Son in 1864 with her son Harry, who had qualified as a chemist in England.
A second son, William, joined the business in 1871. At that year’s Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society August Show, it was reported that “a varied assortment of bitters and liqueurs by Mrs. A. M. Bickford & Sons is also deserving of mention, the style of getting up, as well as the contents of the bottles, being first class.”
In 1871 the company began manufacturing cordials, but the first mention of Bickford’s Lime Juice Cordial is in 1872, the year that Bickford’s opened a new factory. Products exhibited at the Adelaide Wine Show in that year included lime juice cordial, along with peppermint, raspberry vinegar, stomach bitters and cloves, “the last three highly commended” according to the judges.
Bickford’s Lime Juice Cordial was advertised from 1872 as “The most wholesome summer drink yet manufactured for the Australian climate.” At this time, the medicinal qualities of cordials were still highly touted. The advertisements continued:
In bringing this Preparation before the public, Messrs. A. M. Bickford & Sons have been careful in producing an article that is agreeable to the palate, invigorating to the system, and can be used by the greatest invalid. For Scurvy – A course of vegetable diet is the great remedy, and vegetable principles are usually prescribed for it by physicians. But there is no remedy so agreeable for this malady as Limejuice Cordial. The juice of the Lime is prescribed and used by the Armies and Navies of the world as the only specific against diseases in general, and to this day nothing has been found that can equal it. Those who are placed in life so that they cannot get a regular vegetable diet are frequently attacked by disease of various forms, such as Scrofula, Scurvy, &c., &c., and should take this vegetable drink, which is the cheapest and safest article that can be used…
Bickford’s Lime Juice Cordial, along with other brands, went on to become an ingredient in the uniquely Australian drink Lemon Lime & Bitters. Bickford’s now make their own Lemon Lime & Bitters cordial.