Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dr. Walker's Bitters Almanac on Ebay

I sure have been enjoying the posts on Dr. Walker's Vinegar Bitters and noticed the 1879 almanac pictured at left recently listed on ebay. The listed almanac got me to thinking........ Dr. Walker, or maybe its R.H. McDonald, sure wanted to let the consumer know that his product didn't contain any alcohol. Is that why the whiskey topped vinegar bitters bottles are so rare? Maybe McDonald wouldn't use bottles blown with a whiskey top, he sure lets the public know his product is devoted to temperance. All just conjecture on my part.
I do know that in 1849 R.H. McDonald opened a drug store on J Street in Sacramento California. This drug store was operated out of a wood and tent structure. Anything that could be thrown together to keep the weather out during the gold rush was used to conduct business.
In 1852 McDonald went into partnership with a Mr. Levy. By 1853 the two partners started a traveling drug store to supply remote mining camps with medicinal supplies. McDonald and Levy's idea of a traveling medicine show was not revolutionary but their timing was perfect, few if any, early mining camps at that time had a drug store. The traveling drug store, or medicine show, was a huge success and by the end of 1853 Drs. McDonald & Levy's
( back in 1853 if you called yourself a Doctor you were one!) Miners Drug Store of Sacramento was firmly established. And yep.... McDonald & Levy were responsible for the pontiled medicine embossed - Compound / Fluid Extract / of Manzanita / Drs. McDonald & Levy / Sacramento City / California. - It is believed that Dr. Levy left the partnership in 1854.
By early 1860 the R.H. McDonald Co. was primarily a wholesale drug business with a branch office in San Francisco and an agent for William T. Cutter whiskey. I do not know when McDonald expanded his offices to New York City. One of McDonald's best selling products was the Dr. J. Walker's California Vinegar Bitters.
R. H. McDonald died a wealthy man in Montreal Canada in 1903


  1. I wonder if this good Dr. McDonald was the same McDonald that produce the very Scarce Jake embossed only McDonald. I believe this was a SF based Jamaica Ginger, usually sick glass and a tooled top. I think I saw the broken base of one of the whiskey top Walker's years ago, I believe they have embossed only W.V.B. on the base. Nice Pics.

  2. I'm doing some research on William Tenny Cutter. What is the source for R.H. McDonald being an agent for William T. Cutter whiskey? This Cutter is listed in 1864-65 at 111 California Street. But I'm interested before and after. Can't find him in the directories before or after. Did find someplace (can't find it now, that he was assigned a tax evaluation on stored whiskey in maybe 1868. And a William Cutter was killed in a S.F. accident in in 1868. Maybe not the same Cutter. any ino appreciated.