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 -