Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dr. J. Hostetter's Stomach Bitters

Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters was first marketed in an embossed bottle, on the Pacific Coast, as early as 1858 by the firm of Park & White of San Francisco. David Hostetter, with his father’s recipe for bitters, and George Smith with the capital to produce and market the product, in 1853, formed the firm of Hostetter & Smith. The first containers produced for the western market were the large 31 ounce size black glass or amber bottles that were manufactured for the Pacific Coast. A 27 ounce bottle was also produced for the western market. The large blacks or ambers are rarely unearthed east of the Rocky Mountains and almost all examples have been discovered on the west coast. The large size Hostetter’s were distributed until sometime around February 1865 when in an advertisement run by Hostetter, Smith & Dean they claim to be discontinuing “the old size large bottle used exclusively in the west” and replacing it with the small size 20 ounce bottle. This information leads me to believe that if you are digging the large size Hostetter’s here in the west you are digging a bottle made before 1865 and possibly as early as 1858.
Although several western collectors believe some variants of the Hostetter’s were blown out west I cannot find any evidence that Hostetter had any of his bitters bottles manufactured on the west coast.
Hostetter’s Bitters was one of the best selling bottled products of the 19th century and the amount of these bottles available to collectors is staggering. It is believed that after 1865 Hostetter was selling over six thousand bottles of bitters a day, an unbelievable amount of bottled goods for that time period. The Hostetter’s come in dozens of variants and a myriad of colors ranging from the lightest of yellows to a dark black-amber. Although the majority of the Hostetter’s are considered common, unusual colors and different mold variants are highly desirable and sought after by collectors.

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.  Charles 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.
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 at the second glass works to begin operation in San Francisco.  The glass works was built in May of 1860 and manufactured several different medicine bottles, to include the Dr. Bowen's Blood Purifier and the Adolphus Anti Rheumatic Cordial bottles as well. All examples, that I know of, were dug in the west. These bottles are pretty scarce and I know of one intact example that was unearthed in the Nevada City area in the early 1990's. The late Mike Dolcini dug two Rowler's in Sacramento, one pontiled and one smooth base.

Although scarce, the "Rowler's" are not exactly rare. Several were unearthed in Old Sac back in the late '60s and early '70s. One pit we dug under what is now Fanny Anne's Saloon produced 2 mint and several damaged OP Rowler's. At the time, they brought relatively high prices, $125 to $150 in the considerably higher dollar value of those years. I recall one darker green example bringing the princely sum of $225 at an early Sacramento Bottle Show. In the years since, only a couple have been dug in Sac'to. One on D St, between 13th and 14th, in Alkali Flat, and another on 12th and Q after the old Pepsi Cola bottling plant was removed to make way for another state office building. Specimens may have been dug by others that I am not aware of, including the rumor of one dug in Marysville.
Mike Dolcini


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 - rs -
Thanks to Warren Friedrich, Dale Mlasko and the late Mike Dolcini

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Quite a while back I acquired a bottle that I knew absolutely nothing about and had never seen before. What intrigued me about the bottle was the name CAL. VOLCANIC MINERAL WATER CO. embossed on the side panels of the bottle. Even though the name Cal. Volcanic was enough to spark my interest the "R's" in MINERAL and WATER were of the curved variety. Those curved "R's" are associated with the bottles blown in San Francisco and that was the clincher for the purchase.

The first mention of the Cal. Volcanic Water Co. product, that I could find, was in the 1880 Sacramento Daily Union newspaper. As you can see in the ad the mineral water was discovered in Southern California and was known as Fahrenkrug's Eradicator.

1880 Sacramento Daily Union mention of the Volcanic Water
The Sacramento Daily Union of March 1883 lists "California Volcanic Mineral Water, San Francisco, Cal" under the heading "Business Announcements". I am not sure if this is the beginning of the mineral water business or just a mention of an established business. It seems like the above ad from the 1880 Sacramento Daily Union would be the beginning time frame for the business and the advertisement below a mention of the established "up and running" mineral water business in San Francisco
March 1883 Sacramento Daily Union

Notice the curved "R's on the indented panel embossing
Flat western style medicine base
Early tooled type top
Embossed indented panel
1883 Pacific Rural Press advertisement for the California Volcanic Mineral Water.
A remedy for blood diseases, rheumatism and liver complaint. A cure for kidney disease, dyspepsia and female complaints. The bottle is shaped like a medicine, the contents are from southern California. Heck, this is a western medicine in Fahrenkrug's disguise of some sort of a mineral water eradicator hallucination  If its shaped like a medicine, claims to cure ailments such as blood diseases etc. and has the word California embossed on the bottles with the western R's, in my book, that's a western medicine.

Cal. Volcanic Mineral Water



Saturday, December 8, 2018

John F. Snow's Victory


John Francis Snow was born in Burlington, Middlesex, MA, about 1820, he married Charlotte Lucretia Reed there on 19 Sep 1839.  His whereabouts are unknown to me until the middle 1840’s when he opened a book stand in nearby Boston for a few years.  By 1849 Snow landed a job as a policeman in Boston, even though he is listed in the 1850 census as a “trader”.
In 1852 he gave notice that he was leaving his job, and Boston, for California. The Boston Daily Atlas of 14 January 1852 reported, "On Monday evening, Mr. John F. Snow, an officer of the Washington Associates, Ex-3's, and also a police officer, who is about leaving with his family for California, was presented with a splendid revolver by the Associates, through Capt. A. F. Bressey".  Snow apparently headed straight for Marysville, CA, for he and Charlotte are listed there in the 1852 census, which was scheduled 12 June 1852.  He soon got a job as the jailer for Yuba County.  A rather startling jailbreak in 1853,  that even involved Charlotte, probably gave him pause about the safety of his job. Charlotte was reportedly seriously injured and awarded the sum of $100 for her heroism in attempting to stop the break.  John and Charlotte left California perhaps by 1857, but certainly by 1860 he and his wife were back in their home town of Burlington, MA, where he was listed as a farmer.
Nevertheless, he again left for California, this time heading for San Francisco, arriving there on 19 October 1864.   He was advertising his dyeing works there in early 1865. The 1865 San Francisco directory listed Snow as, "coloring and cleansing gloves, silks, feathers, and agent patent medicines".  While his ads list all the dye services he offered there is no mention of hair dye of his own manufacture at that time.

Snow did function as an agent for Ring’s Vegetable Ambrosia as early as 1865, which was an Eastern made hair restorative, and in the early 1870’s he was agent for Connell’s East India Remedies (The Moon Plant bottle with the feet embossed).

He continued in the dyeing and cleaning trade for a number of years, apparently quite successfully.  Snow also dabbled in real estate and investment mining.  By 1880 he sold his business to his partner, Charles J. Holmes.  In the sale of the business Holmes also purchased the right to use his old partner’s name, “John F. Holmes & Co.”. But within two years Snow constructed a building directly in front of, and on the same lot as his old business.  Needless to say, Holmes was steaming mad and took him to court.  This began legal squabbling that lasted for years.  Snow was able to gain his old business name back and continued in the dyeing trade until he died, in San Francisco, on  10 June 1897. Charlotte continued the business until she died there in 1904. They had no children.

The only time that John F. Snow advertised his hair dye, VICTORY,  was in 1874.  I am not sure why the product appears to be so short lived, but I’ll bet it didn’t perform very well.  Snow also

 The 1874 business directory advertisement for John F. Snow’s VICTORY.

became involved with the Centennial Exhibition as he was chosen as a delegate to judge San Francisco companies who wished to participate in that grand showing of this country’s wealth and ingenuity.
After the termination of the Fair, John and Charlotte also took a long vacation back to  Burlington, MA, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1879.

The Snow's has been found in privy's dating from the mid 1860's and also from privy's dating to the 1870-71 era. 
Warren Friedrich has pointed out that if you look at the Snow's bottle, and the Dr. Wonser's cylinder, the letter font is identical even including the apostrophe on both bottles. 

 Thanks to Eric McQuire, Dale Mlasko & Warren Friedrich - rs -

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Coming This Weekend !

Sold out show with 105 tables and 9 new dealers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Grandpa's Medicine

Every now and then I "stray to the dark side", as friend Rick puts it. Today I'm taking a break from the normal fare of bourbon and rye and am instead delving into the history of an interesting druggist bottle.


Grampa's Medicine

Years ago a digging partner had some, shall we say, "unusual" drinking habits. Most of my pals and I are what could be termed maintenance drinkers. You know, a few beers every night along with a glass of wine or two at supper.

This friend, on the other hand, would go for a couple of days and never touch a drop. And then he'd climb up on the diving board and take the plunge.

He didn't care for hard liquor either. Wine and beer were his refreshments of choice. He called it "Grandpas medicine".
Many years ago, when my wife's folks were in their 80's, they decided to move into a retirement complex here in J'ville. Although originally from the south S. F. Bay Area, they'd lived in Mt. Shasta since Dicks retirement, several years prior. Their home in San Jose was a modest single story tract home. It had a two car garage, without room inside for even one. When they relocated to No. Cal., they brought everything (and I mean everything) with them. In the ensuing years, they continued to hoard. 

The place in Mt. Shasta had a 3,000 square foot two story home, a two car garage, a 1,000 square foot shop, two large outbuildings and a horse trailer. All packed to the rafters with... "stuff".

Since the move to the retirement center, we'd been tasked with the job of sorting through 65 years worth of; you name it~. Sadly, most of the "stuff" was fodder for the dumpster. There were a couple of exceptions though (thank God). We found a few boxes full of fairly early beer openers, many from S. F. We also dug out an album stuffed full of pre 1900 San Francisco business and trade cards. Neat "stuff"!

One afternoon, while pawing through cases of empty "no - deposit / no - return" 1970's Pepsi bottles and pull tab Schlitz beer cans, I stumbled across an amber tooled quart blob beer. At first glance I thought it was a John Rapp or something equally unexciting. Instead, it turned out to be embossed "Franks Bros. / San Francisco". Turns out, it was a half way decent bottle.

A little while later, while tossing bundles of ten year old newspapers in the recycling, a small pharmacy bottle rolled out of the stack. My seven year old (at the time) grand daughter, Ali, made a diving save just before it hit the pavement. As she held up the prize, I said "neat medicine". Ali joked, "look, it's Grampa's medicine". She then commented about the color; a rich sun colored amethyst. (I recall my first bottle find - it too was purple).

This bottle was embossed. A mortar and pestle on one side with "Pure Drugs" embossed on it. To the right was embossed "Dr. A. A. Gilmour / San Francisco / 500 G. G. Ave.". 


I said "let's see what we can find out about this Dr. Gilmour" as I fired up the laptop. I explained to her that I might be able to find out who he was through the use of old city directories and newspaper articles. My inclination, based on the look of the bottle was to start in 1900, and then work both backwards and forwards. This would tell us how long he was in business and maybe a little more about him. She seemed genuinely interested. A budding young collector in the making?

Hmm... nothing in 1900. 1895? Bingo; but the address was wrong~

Here's a chronology of his appearance in the San Francisco / Crocker directories, starting in 1889.
500 Golden Gate Ave. matched the bottles embossing.




Looks like Angus Jr. (Angus D.) decided to join the family business in 1892, right after the big move over to McAllister.


A little more digging was rewarded with a brief history of his career through the year 1892. It rounds out a lot of the questions about his earlier years.


"The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 1, page 491-492, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

 Angus A. Gilmour, M.D.
Angus A. Gilmour, M.D., proprietor of Gilmour's Golden Gate Pharmacy, at No. 410 McAllister street, San Francisco, has been a resident of California since 1868, and has been engaged in the practice of medicine for the past eighteen years. He was born in Three Rivers, Province of Quebec, Canada, in 1848, and received his early education in the public school of that place.
At the age of twelve years he was sent to Nicolet College, where he remained for five years. He then entered the medical department of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he graduated in 1868, receiving his degree of Doctor of Medicine and Surgery. He at once engaged in the practice of his profession, and was appointed surgeon of the Canada Active Militia, and in 1872, to the medical charge of the Shefford Field Battery or Artillery, Col. T. Amyreault commanding. After ten years he retired from active service, with the rank of Surgeon-Major. Meanwhile Dr. Gilmour had been engaged in private practice at Montreal and later at Waterloo, Province of Quebec, where his battery was stationed.
He came to California in 1878, on a leave of absence, and remained six months. He returned to Canada, leaving his wife, whose health required a milder climate, and after nine months spent in Canada he again came to California, where he has since remained, and engaged in the practice of medicine. The first ten years were spent in Modesto, Stanislaus county, where he practiced medicine ten years and owned a drug-store for five years.
In 1888 he sold out, and came to San Francisco, where he purchased a drug-store, which he now owns, in addition to his medical practice. Considering the time he has been in San Francisco he has done well. He is a member of several Scotch societies. He has been fortunate enough to receive the appointment of surgeon of Clan Fraser, numbering nearly 200 and growing very fast. The order was instituted in 1890 by Hugh Fraser and Rev. Mr. Easton, of Calvary church: John Elder as chief; Maxwell L. Crowe as Tanist; L. Drerer as treasurer; Wm. McCormack, secretary, F. L. Gilchrist as financial treasurer (some of the best Scotch blood in San Francisco). The Doctor is also medical examiner for the order of Knights of Honor, and physician of the Thistle Club, making some 500 or 600.
His parents were Dr. W. A. R. Gilmour, born in Glasgow, Scotland, and Helen Cresse, the latter the youngest daughter of Seigneur Cresse, of Nicolet. Her ancestors were born in France, and were prominent among the early French settlers in that part of Canada, Seigneur Cresse being the representative of the French government until the British occupation.
His father graduated in medicine and surgery at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and obtained the degree of F. R. H. S., Glasgow. Emigrating to Canada, he became a prominent physician at Three Rivers, Quebec, and was one of the medical examiners for the Province of Quebec. He is now eighty-three years old and still practicing in Waterloo, Province of Quebec.
Dr. Gilmour's eldest brother, Colonel A. H. Gilmour, is the colonel of the Sixtieth Regiment of Active Canadian Militia, and private banker at Stanbridge East, Quebec, Canada; another brother, James Gilmour, is a wholesale dry-goods merchant in Montreal, of the firm of Lindsey, Gilmour & Co.; two other brothers, George and Alfred, are prosperous merchants in Canada; George and Alfred are in Waterloo. Dr. Gilmour's wife was a daughter of Duke Roberts, a capitalist of Waterloo, Canada. They have one boy, Angus Gilmour, who is now attending school in San Francisco.

Back to the directories;
1893 (phone directory)
 Another move, this time to 404 Golden Gate Ave, just down the block from the old place at 500 G.G.
Angus Jr. is still at it.
Oops, looks like Angus Jr. decided that the family business wasn't to his liking after all.
Angus Jr., back at the store again.
Or maybe not... And now a quick hop, skip and a jump to 408 Van Ness. Ave.
Looks like Jr. finally decided that being a machinest was "the ticket" after all. 

And yet another move. This time to 1236 Market.
The "ol doc" hit a bump in the road this year. Seems that his wife headed for greener pastures as this article from the San Francisco Call will attest to.
Once again, a move. This time back to McAllister.

The year 1899 was obviously the capstone of Dr. Angus A. Gilmour's career. He was now a well respected surgeon, catering his skills to the elite gentil of San Francisco. Unfortunately, the year of 1899 was also his last.
Now that I had all the pieces of the puzzle neatly in place, I pulled Ali aside and asked what she could deduce from what we'd found. She's a smart cookie. "Well Grampa",  she said, "He moved a lot!".  "And the address on the bottle only matches the address in the books for three years, 1889, 1890 and 1891. That means that the bottle must be pretty rare. And it's pretty too." 
With that, I handed her the bottle. And Grampa's medicine, became Ali's medicine. Her first antique bottle.
(Here's hoping that the fire stays lit~)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Help support fellow bottle collectors Clint and Kathy Powell who lost their home and belongings in the tragic Camp Fire in Paradise, CA.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sacramento Brewery

Very interesting information Charles. H.W. "Colonel Byington was also an interesting fellow, mayor of Santa Rosa among other things...Thanks Charles - rs -


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Sacramento Eagle Revisited

Here's a bottle that has always intrigued me. It has been, as long as I can remember, referred to as "The Sacramento Eagle."
I think the reason it was dubbed the "Sacramento Eagle" is because a lot of the known examples have been recovered from the Sacramento area. Way to early to have been manufactured in the west it is believed the Eagle dates from around circa 1852. An earlier post on this bottle received the following comment from Matt L. "There has been some discussion on facebook about these recently and quite a few eastern diggers have found them in New York and New Jersey. A good number, (10-20), were privy dug and obviously used. There is some conjecture that it is possible the mold was generic and used by a few bottlers or the bottler who used them in Sacramento either bought some old stock or change the bottle design and then old stock was sold out east or the mold continued to be used."
This brings us to some new information discovered by researcher extraordinaire Eric McGuire
You may want to add this to your post of a couple of years ago regarding the “Sacramento Eagle” soda water bottle. I think we can all agree that this bottle is not specific to California as too many have been found in other parts of the country. Regardless, we also know it was used by one or more soda works, likely in either San Francisco or Sacramento. The attached advertisement from the Daily Alta California January 25, 1853 by J.R. Rollinson & Co., of San Francisco, advertises the sale of 7,344 bottles of “Eagle mineral water bottles”, most likely the bottle in question. I have found no other advertisements to date for this bottle and it may be the only shipment made to the West. That is a good number of bottles and should have kept our unknown soda water dealer in ample stock for a number of years. Even though they have been dug in San Francisco, it does appear that most have been found in Sacramento

The quality of the ad is poor but is all readable.

image Eric McGuire
Eagle without slug plate
image American Bottle Auctions

All of the examples I have encountered  have a graphite pontil and come with either the eagle in a slug plate or, as in the example above, with the embossed eagle without slug plate. Examples recovered from Nevada County California and the Sacramento Valley area have the arrows in the eagles left claw and have been recovered from privy's in 186o's context.

Eagle in slug plate
According to the Markota book on western blob top soda's the Sacramento Eagle is believed to be the predecessor to the C&K soda. Personally I have never found any information that can confirm or deny the contention that the eagle has any connection to the C&K soda.

  Eagle in a beautiful teal blue
I have seen the Sacramento Eagle in shades of green and blue both with and without the eagle in a slug plate.
The Sacramento Eagle is considered scarce by western collectors and is a nice addition to a collection of early pontiled western distributed soda's
Thanks to Eric McGuire for the new information on the Eagle Soda - rs -

Monday, October 15, 2018

Better Check Your Bottoms

A while back I wrote a post titled “The Blue Soda Hole”. Basically a couple of hombres and I dug a small gold rush pit late one afternoon and recovered several blue sodas with iron pontil bases. When we finished the pit it was getting dark and I snapped a couple of pictures to possibly use in a post for this blog. When I posted the pictures on the blog I referred to the blue sodas as having “red iron pontils” – That was before I really examined one of the bottles.

After giving one of the Mineral Waters a nice warm bath I noticed that it didn’t have a red iron pontil after all. What it had was red paint over the iron pontil..... Very interesting I thought and left it at that.

A few days, or weeks, or it could have been longer or sooner (I have a time space thing happening as I get older) I mentioned the painted bottom sodas to Warren in a casual conversation. Of course Warren had seen sodas with painted bottoms, and in fact, knew why the bottoms were painted (which didn’t surprise me one little bit).

It seems that while doing research for his Early Glass Works book Warren ran across an ad for Phil Caduc telling the public to take notice that his genuine Napa Soda had the bottoms of the bottles “painted white”. What I thought, Caduc was really saying, was that all those white painted soda bottles belonged to him and he sure as heck wanted them back after you had polished off the contents. And this got me to thinking.......


.............Oh boy another mystery to try and unravel, might as well add it to the date and time of the western curved “R”, the Fish’s Infallible western or eastern brain twister, the Mlasko T*M western star and Dale’s maybe it just might be possible that the Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters is a 25th anniversary of the discovery of gold in California bottle theory. Wow..... Its no wonder I have this time – space thing happening.

Warren also mentioned that he had seen other bottles with different colors painted on the bottoms and possibly the reason for the different colors were the bottles belonged to different merchants.
Image Max Bell

Image Rick Simi

Image Rick Simi