Monday, December 17, 2012

Sierra County Gold Rush Bottles

Davis Vegetable Pain Killer
Perry Davis of Taunton Massachusetts started marketing his Pain Killer as early as 1839. In a court case in 1840 Davis was awarded the exclusive right to the use of the words “Pain Killer” in conjunction with all of his medicines that were to follow. This decision set a precedent and you can well imagine the implications that the Perry decision imposed on his competition.
 Davis Vegetable Pain Killer is believed to be the first nationally advertised remedy specifically for pain. Pain Killer was distributed by Christian missionaries around the world. Davis later went on to build his company into one of the most successful merchandisers of medicinal products of the 19th century.
 The earliest of the Davis Pain Killer products is in a five inch tall rectangular bottle that has an open pontil base and is usually fairly crude.
The Davis Company manufactured and sold the pain killer well into the 1890’s and produced at least twenty different variants of the bottle in three different sizes.
Davis Vegetable Pain Killer was one of the most popular and bestselling medicines from the start of the gold rush to the turn of the century and is found in all of the camps and towns in Sierra County that were occupied during that period.


  1. Nice article. Years ago I dug a pit that had several of the large size Davis bottles and several jakes. Seems like there was some sort of connection. Those large size bottles are awfully scarce.

  2. I have dug my fair share of the Davis bottles but have never even seen pieces of the large size here in Sierra County. Wonder what the jake and pain killer connection is?

  3. In 2006 I dug a deep lime green sample size. It is so crude it looks like it should be pontiled, but it is smooth based. Super deep lime...gorgeous.It came out of late 1850s-1860s context and was the only intact bottle in the little pit. Dale M.

  4. It is always a pleasure to hear what has been dug in the past. After all this rain we should start getting some digging reports. Digging news is alway welcome

  5. Started a 5 footer last weekend after Biblical rains...rushing water at one foot! I mean rushing Niagra falls water. I brought a 1200 GPM submersible pump which ran for a few minutes then clogged with the muddy water even with a screen in a 5 gallon bucket. I guess a "mud pump" is the answer this year. Any suggestions? I can feel whole bottles below the water...lots of them. Just need to get them extracted before Summer. Permissions can be a fragile deal and can evaporate with a few months of "thinking about it".