Monday, February 8, 2010

Rowler's (Roller's) Infallible Rheumatism Medicine and Klink's Counterfeit

It seems like every successful bitters or medicine product that I research has some sort of skeleton in its closet. Take for instance the Rowler’s Rheumatism Medicine Prepared by Dr. J.R. Boyce of Sacramento City. J.R. Boyce, located at the corner of K and Second Street, claimed to have bought the recipe for the rheumatism medicine from Charles Roller sometime in the late 1850’s. Roller claims that “the recipe was given to me by a friend in this country” Charles F. Klink, a druggist also from Sacramento, approached Charles Roller with a proposition to manufacturer Roller’s rheumatism medicine and split the profits from the sale of the product with Roller. Roller declined the proposition and Klink began informing the public that he (Klink) had the original recipe that Roller had bought or brought from New Orleans.

At about the same time as the Klink allegations (during the summer of 1861) Boyce comes out with the embossed Rowler’s bottle and states in a Sacramento Daily Union advertisement “to guard against spurious and counterfeit medicine, you will please observe that the written signature of Jas. R. Boyce, M.D, appears on each label, and that the name of the medicine is blown in the bottle".
Dr. Boyce was a larger than life character, well respected and besides pushing the Rowler's product practiced medicine in Sacramento. While walking on the corner of Sixth & K Street one day with John Cassidy a man named William Tierney discharged a revolver at Cassidy. The ball struck Boyce in the back and passed entirely through his body. Cassidy immediately ran down K Street and Tierney followed behind still firing at him. In all, three shots were fired and after the second shot Cassidy cried out, I'm shot! I'm shot!. The ball passed through his clothing, grazing his skin. but did no injury. Boyce, on the other hand, was considered in critical condition by his attending physicians. As it turns out Cassidy was accused of improper intimacy with Tierney's wife and Tierney had been "gunning" for Cassidy. (They don't call it the wild west for no reason)
Dr. Boyce, although seriously injured, steadily improved and finally overcame his injury's.

The Rowler's comes with a pontil and also a smooth base variant. These bottles were manufactured starting in 1861 are are way to early to be made in the West. Because of Dr. Boyce and Sacramento being embossed in the glass and all examples, that I know of, were dug in the west, most collectors consider them western. These bottles are pretty rare and I have a report of one intact example unearthed in the Nevada City area in the early 1990's.

I much as I hate counterfeiters, bogus products and imitations you have to thank the perpetrators of these frauds......... without them we probably wouldn't have any embossed bottles!


  1. OH Boy!! That's a rare puppy, and one that I have not seen in a good long time. I did have the pleasure of unearthing two of those Rowler's in Sacramento, one pontilled and one smooth. Sadly, the "zone" where they were found is long unavailable for "cultivation", so the only hope of turning another one up would be the outlying area towns and cities, or the "lucky poke" of an elusive early 1860s Sacramento privy. Out of the half dozen 1850-60s privy digs that I participated in last year, not a shard of a Rowler's appeared.

  2. OC, At least you've dug two. I've never even found nary a sherd of one !

  3. Actually the Rowler's Rheumatism Medicine bottles are a product of the second glass works to begin operations in San Francisco. They were built in May 1860 and manufactured several different medicine bottles, to include the Dr Bowen' s Blood Purifier and the Adolphus Anti Rheumatic Cordial bottles as well.