Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral is another eastern manufactured product that found it’s way to the California gold fields. The California gold rush created an instant market for any product that could be freighted to the remote early camps and towns that were springing up in the gold country. Although most collectors consider the Cherry Pectoral a fairly common bottle, in my book, it’s a very desirable piece of gold rush history.

James Cook Ayer first started producing a line of home remedies as early as 1841. He bought the Robbins' Drug Store sometime in 1841 and began to concoct and sell his home grown remedies out of this newly acquired business. His Cherry Pectoral was, according to Ayer, a medicine aimed at relieving disorders of the chest or respiratory tract. His home grown family remedies were very popular and successful enough for Ayer to pay off the loan for the Robbins’ store in 3 years.

James Ayer manufactured and sold many different medicinal remedies and eventually became a very rich man. After he died in 1878, the business was run by family member Frederick Ayer for a while. The business stayed in the family until 1888, when it was finally bought out by Sterling Products Inc.

The Cherry Pectoral bottles that I have encountered here in the Northern part of California’s gold fields comes in two sizes, the small size is about 6 ¼ inch tall and the large about 7 ¼ inch tall. The earliest examples of the Cherry Pectoral sports an open pontil base, later examples have a smooth base.

Having spent most of my life here in these Sierra Nevada Canyons I can understand the need for something to cut through the damp winter chill that penetrates you to the bone. If three fingers of good old redeye didn’t open up that congested chest I guess it was time to reach for James Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral. Thousands of 49ers did!


  1. No kiddin'. I can't begin to tell you how many of these things I've dug; the last one was less than a month ago.

  2. I found this bottle today. Unfortunately, like so many, it had been broken by shots from a rifle. I found this bottle near the site where my grandmother's grandmother lived in the 1850's here in what is now Croft State Natural Area in Spartanburg County in South Carolina. Whitestone Springs was famous for its mineral water of lithium sulfate and bicarbonate. The once famous Whitestone Springs Hotel burned down in 1906. These minerals are used in the treatment of bi-polar disorder. No wonder it was so popular.