Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's the story behind this ad?

This bitters advertisement appeared in the San Francisco Alta California newspaper on November 21st, 1868. It is a relatively scarce labeled only western bitters product, that doesn't really give very much information, however the story that unfolds behind how this product came about is interesting.
In 1860 the Sainsevain Bros had a depot for their wines at 195 Montgomery St, S.F. Two individuals name Felix Mercado and Firmin Seully approached Pierre Sainsevain with a proposal to help sell more of his wines, if they were allowed to market a wine bitters made from his wines. In March of 1861 they marketed a California Wine Bitters under the name Sainsevain's which they received exclusive rights to the use of the name. They also employed G.A. Simon who had 17 years of wine & wine bitters experience to concoct this product. Under a dispute as to who was the inventor of Sainsevain's California Wine Bitters, Simon left their employ in 1863 and marketed his own California Wine Bitters under his name. Mercado & Seully continued to market their wine bitters until Pierre Sainsevain began to market his own California Wine Bitters in San Jose, Ca. Mercado & Seully then placed their own name upon this California Wine Bitters and got Dominico (D.) Ghiradelli to manufacture their product. In February 1868 Mercado & Seully dissolved their partnership and Mercado & Co was formed in October and continued at the same address. Now with Dr. Henley's IXL Bitters becoming a strong competitor in the growing bitters market, Felix Mercado tried to capitalize on L. Gross's marketing success by offering the bitters product above.


  1. Warren,
    That's interesting. So where does M Keller and his California Wine Bitters fit into all this?

  2. aphotaling,

    I haven't had much success in uncovering information about Keller and his bitters bottle. I've found Keller's advertisements in the Los Angeles Star newspaper which was published weekly and I've found some ads of his in the S.F. papers published daily, but they are for his brands of wines including a wine bitters, but nothing specific about his California Wine Bitters product. I've found where he re-located in S.F. and that he was still advertising a wine bitters as late as 1867 or so. I have no idea where anyone got their information that this product was in an embossed bottle in 1863 only. I cannot pinpoint with any evidence as to when Keller first marketed this bitters and when or who may have made the bottle. It certainly needs to be researched more thoroughly with at least some evidence to back up what has been written about it in books.

  3. Warren,
    Do you have any idea why the bitters manufacturers or agents used the letters IXL, IXXL, XXX etc. on their products? Seems like there should be something on why these letters were popular and often used.

  4. G.O. Years ago, I once read in an old newspaper what the IXL stood for, but now cant remember or find it. If Warren doesnt have it, hopefully I'll come across it again...

  5. I remember now... It means "I excel" and was a pretty common abbreviation for that motto back in the day. I guess the idea was if you drank Henley's Bitters you would "excel" at whatever??

  6. My great-great-great-grandfather was swindled by Felix Mercado when he was his partner in Marsh & Mercado.