Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dickey Pioneer Chemist - Redux-

A while back I wrote a post on the prolific San Francisco druggist Geo. S. Dickey. Even though I tried to gather all the information that I could on Dickey and his forty plus years of manufacturing one of  our favorite western distributed bottles, by the replies from diggers and collectors to the post, I feel the post was not comprehensive.

Geo. S. Dickey started, according to his advertisements,  his apothecary business in San Francisco early in 1850. The following advertisement placed by Dickey in October of 1864 claims he started his business fourteen years earlier in 1850. This is the earliest ad I could find for Dickey while he was operating at Howard and Third Street in a frame building.

According to what information I could gather The first bottle produced by Dickey was the example pictured below.

This medium blue colored bottle is embossed with a mortar and pestle and the words "PIONEER 1850". The base on this early bottle is flat, the top is tooled and savvy western collectors have named it "THE STOVEPIPE". The holy grail of Dickey's

 Flat base of the first embossed Dickey bottle.
I dug two blue stove pipes and an aqua one in a hole in Santa Rosa. In the hole were several broken pontiled pickles including an amber Baker and Cutting. Multi sided pontiled meds and three large Hostetter's in amber were also in the same hole..... R.T. Siri


The above pictured bottles are believed to be the second variant of the Dickey bottle. They come in shades of blue, have a tooled top and a square indented base. I have no idea about the timeline of when this bottle was blown but shared knowledge points to this variant as being the second of the Dickey bottles. This variant has larger and (kind of) flat embossing and the S.F. is higher on the base of the bottle then the last variant.

The above picture shows the square intended bases of the second variant of the Dickey bottle

I believe the oldest of the blue Dickey's (not including the mold with only the Pioneer 1850....we call these the Dickey without the Dickey) to be the mold that has the deep recessed rectangle on the base. the tops on these are a flared tool-top, similar to early Eastern meds. The examples I've dug, have come from late 60's - early 70's holes,,,,A.P. Hotaling

Aqua examples of the Dickey bottle. The bottle on the left has an applied top and the example on the right a tooled top
Flat bases on the aqua variants of the Dickey bottle

Amber Dickey bottles with applied tops. Pestle is on the right side of mortar
The bases of the amber Dickey bottle with applied tops. Note the circle base with the dot in the center. This is the same variant as the blue applied top bottle with the circle and dot on base. Just in amber coloration.

Blue colored Dickeys with applied tops. These are the most common of the Dickey bottle and have a base with a circle with a dot in the center. The embossing is larger then the latter examples. (Fourth bottle from left has a full label)
The bases of the blue Dickey with a applied top. Circle and dot on base.
Two examples of the last variant of the Dickey bottle in a chocolate coloration. This variant has the "thin" embossing and the S.F. is embossed lower on the bottle then the earlier variant. These bottles can be very crude and easily mistaken for the earlier blown Dickey variant
The flat bases of the last variant of the Dickey bottle
That's about all I have on the different variants of the Dickey bottle. - rs -
Ops! almost forgot about the variant of the Dickey with the pestle on the left side of the mortar. The variant with the pestle on the left has only been observed on the last variant of the Dickey to my knowledge
Four examples of the last variant of the Dickey bottle with the pestle on the left.
Click on the pictures to enlarge the Dickey of your choice
Happy Dickey collecting! - rs -


  1. Very informative, Rick! Just scored two with labels today from a good friend, one in the original box. The earlier example states on the label that it is for the complexion and teeth (as does the early advertisements). The later one with the label and box is tooled and has the California Food and Drug Act date of 1907 on it (I wonder how late they were made?) The box and label no longer mentions its use for the teeth...probably due to the Food and Drug act restrictions? Another interesting aspect found on the later boxed bottle is the following: "Originated by Geo. S. Dickey" -- "Manufactured by E.B. Harrington & Co Los Angeles, Cal". It's probably already been does anyone know when the Los Angeles establishment of Harrington & Co took over the Dickey Company?

    They are a fun bottle to collect, but the rarer variants and colors are truly tough to come by. Still looking for an aqua and blue stovepipe and any other odd colors...I know, so is everyone else!

  2. i have a amber with pestle to the left...