Sunday, April 1, 2018

Charles Langley

Alfred, James, and Charles Langley were born in Staffordshire, England in the first quarter of the 19th Century and in 1849 followed the world to California in search of gold. Unlike most adventurers, they were unprepared for gold fever, but - being two chemists and an accountant - they were well equipped to treat fevers of another kind.
                                                                   Image Brent Henningsen

 By the time the gold rush slowed to a ramble, the two eldest Langley brothers were ready to move on. Leaving Charles in San Francisco, Alfred and James travelled north with the new wave of gold seekers and wasted no time in opening the first wholesale and retail drugstore in the rapidly growing town of Victoria, British Columbia. Charles remained in San Francisco and was married to Helena who birthed one child, Charles Jr, born in 1857.

Following is what I believe to be the timeline of Charles Langley's doings in the wholesale drug business of San Francsico.

1854-1855: Hogg & Langley
1855-1861: C & AJ Langley
1861-1865: C Langley
1865-1869: Langley Crowell & Co
1869-1879: C Langley & Co
1880-Post 1900: Langley & Michaels

Charles Langley died on July 26, 1875 at the age of 51.

Based on the above timeline and Warren's research, we can safely deduce that the clear "C Langley" variant was blown in 1865 only while the aqua variant was blown after 1869 (but no newer than early 1870s based on empirical analysis).


  1. A little more about Langley. My observation relates only to the Langley sarsaparilla, which I believe was produced up to about 1880. Charles Langley, the Langley brother who stayed in California, may have actually had the sarsaparilla bottles produced but I am not completely convinced. My thinking is based on the relatively few examples found and the fact that the majority of the examples I have seen have a tooled top, generally a feature that came into practice a few years on either side of 1880 in San Francisco (although there are certainly exceptions).
    Charles Langley died in St. Helena, Napa County, on July 25, 1875. His widow, Melanie Langley, became administrator of his estate and continued the operation of the wholesale drug firm under her husband's name. She relied heavily on the expertise of Henry Michaels who probably actually ran the operation. By May 1880 the firm of Charles Langley & Co. had become Langley & Michaels, reflecting the rising importance of Henry Michaels in the company. The Langley sarsaparilla bottles were probably not made after this date, but the year of its inception is a little more difficult to pin down.

  2. Nice info. Thanks for doing the research. Do you know anything on R R Hay?

  3. My records indicate R.R. Hay either owned or had partial ownership in a San Francisco drug store at the SW corner of 22nd & Mission from 1876 to 1879, and again at 1019 Market St. from 1884 to 1886. I have seen a few of his prescription bottles over the years. Randolph Ramsey Hay was born about 1845 in Illinois, to Henry Hay and Augusta F. Wade. His father, Henry, is somewhat of an absent figure, as he was not living with the family as early as the 1850 census. Randolph shows up in directory listings as early as 1863, working for various druggists in both Oakland and San Francisco. I think he, his mother, and his younger brother moved to California where Augusta's sister, Mary Wade Jones, had moved in the 1850's. There is some evidence that the family may have initially settled in Nevada County.

    The last record I could find for Randolph Wade was in San Francisco in 1892. I could not find him after that date and also could not find his death record. Although unlikely, he may have left California for somewhere else.

  4. Correction. I should have proofed the last paragraph in my previous post. His name, Randolph Wade, should read Randolph Hay.