Monday, June 22, 2020

Rose Cream

Some bottles are much harder to document than others, which has been proven many times over. I have been looking for the origins of an obviously western blown bottle marked with the words ROSE CREAM for many years with no luck. As more data is added to Internet newspaper sites, it becomes easier for research opportunities. Such is the case for the elusive Rose Cream bottle. A recent search finally connected with a ‘hit’, however small, but a huge lead anyway.

San Jose Mercury-news, 14 July 1872. This ad ran only until 3 Sep 1872, and was the critical link in determining the origins of the Rose Cream bottle.

Not much to go on but at least I was given a name. Fortunately, Knickerbocker is not a common name in California, and it led me on a research journey that unfolded to a point that makes some sense to how Rose Cream came to be. I had originally thought that it was a product that followed on the heels of the well known Camelline. It turns out that Rose Cream was six years senior to the better known face cream. Why Rose Cream failed so quickly and Camelline was such a huge success is not entirely clear, however, marketing may have played a big part. It has been proven that marketing is significant in the success of most products. It is a double edge sword that the initial advertising budget for a product is often not available but so critical, which may have been the issue with Rose Cream. Of course, other issues may have caused the cessation of advertising for this product and for those we may never know.

The elusive Rose Cream bottle

The person involved with Rose Cream was Elizabeth “Eliza” D. Knickerbocker. She was New York born about 1818, and married Jacob Eli Knickerbocker about 1844. His untimely death occurred on April 20, 1861, in Valatie, Columbia County, New York. Jacob was part of the famous Knickerbocker clan who can trace their roots in New York back to the 1600’s. He and Eliza had seven children, all born in Dutchess County, New York. Eugene, 1845-1925, Charles, 1849-1852,  Calvin, 1851-1932, William, 1853-1937, Caroline E., 1858-1937, George, 1859-? and Louisa, 1860-?. But how, or why, did Eliza end up in San Jose, California?  She was the sister of Caleb Martin, a California gold rush pioneer who settled in San Jose in 1852, and became one of the city’s most well known citizens in its early days. Caleb fathered 18 children, of whom, 13 survived him.

 After the death of Eliza Knickerbockers husband she made the trek to San Jose in 1867 to join her brother. Her children, Eugene, Calvin and Caroline (Carrie) went with her.

Caleb Martin was born in the same region of New York, and certainly was close to his sister and her husband, Jacob Knickerbocker. Caleb probably gave his sister glowing reports about how wonderful it is in San Jose and she left New York. Caleb sold her a house for $1,000 and probably gave her a solid financial footing since he was one of the wealthiest men in town at the time. He may even have helped her with the Rose Cream product, but that is pure speculation.  Our proprietress eventually moved to San Francisco with her son for awhile but died in San Jose on December 30, 1892.

In a confusing twist that often happens, Eliza actually has two gravestones. What is probably her first marks the spot of her husbands burial place in Gallatinville, Columbia County, New York (Findagrave Memorial No. 66242246). While Eliza’s death date is not included, her name and birth date are. This was certainly added when she initially ordered the stone, fully expecting to join her husband some day.

 Eliza Knickerbocker’s name is also carved on this gravestone located in Oak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose, California. (Findagrave Memorial No. 204976818). This will certainly give pause to genealogists trying to figure out what is going on here. Especially because her name is inscribed with a different birth year. Eliza’s name was probably added well after her death on this stone, which includes memorials for the family of her son, Eugene Knickerbocker.

We can now give a ‘home’ to this elusive little bottle whose origins have dogged me for many years.


Perhaps every bit as mysterious but probably with traceable origins is this little bottle from the same mold as the Rose Cream. All the lettering has been removed and it could now join the ranks of a generic item that could hold a great variety of liquids. At least we now know a little about its history as well.

The obituary notice for Calvin Martin. To further secure the relationship between him and Eliza D. Knickerbocker, the text notes that the information was provided by Calvin's nephew. That would be either Eugene or Calvin Knickerbocker, Eliza's sons. (San Jose Herald, 7 April 1881)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020



I can't help thinking about the brainless cartoons I watched as a kid back in the late 50's and early 60's when I hear that name. The name conjures up remembrances of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha, and of course Dudley Do-Right, the dim whittled Canadian Mounty. Dudley had a real circle of friends. They included his faithful horse, named "Horse", and his equally faithful dog, ironically named "Faithful Dog". Cornball kids humor by any stretch these days.

Imagine my surprise when a good (I almost typed faithful) friend and fellow whiskey collector called from Northern Cal. the other day and asked if I'd ever heard of a Dudley. I bit my tongue at first and then replied, "only on cartoons". He said, "No really, a Dudley Brandy". "It's got the guys name on it, is a Ginger Brandy, and is embossed San Francisco too". Realizing that he was serious, my response was no; but send me a picture just the same.

He did. And I'll be darned if the photo wasn't of a bottle I've never heard of, or seen even a busted fragment of, in all the years I've been a western whiskey guy. Amber, applied top, heavy play dough type embossing, and shaped like your basic Abernathy or other SF Ginger Brandy with a short neck and a long body. He wasn't yanking my chain after all~ Wow!  A newly discovered western whiskey. I couldn't wait to start my research on this piece.

It took a couple of days but the fruits of my labor were rewarded. At first blush, the bottle had an ever so  slight resemblance to the German Connection late applied tops of the ca. 1890 era. Closer examination though, dispelled that hunch as the embossing style and the top were wrong. Embossed "Dr. Worth's / White / Ginger Brandy / A.A. Dudley & Co. /  San Francisco", it was loaded with seed bubbles, displayed with notable overall glass character, and just had to date ca. 1895 or earlier.

My first stab was in the 1895 SF Directory for a Dr. Worth. Strike one. Working back ward for ten years saw one swing and a miss after another. Numerous Worth's appeared in the listings, ranging from tailors to brick masons (and everything in between), but no Dr's or anything related to patent medicines or liquor.

Flustered, I took a breather. And then the light came on... What if there was no Dr. Worth? What if the brand was simply another of the brandings of a wholesale liquor dealer trying to cash in on the current fad of pushing a combination of liquor and "good for you" stuff endorsed by a "Dr. So and So"  !?

Falling back on a target search dating of 1890, I entered his last name and struck it rich. A.A. Dudley appeared in the Crocker Directory as a dealer in patent Medicines. 

Access to another website revealed that Dudley was exactly as suspected; a hustler. The 1889 listing provides a tidbit of info as it lists his name, in addition to just the initials AA. His full name was Arey A. Dudley.

On October 2, 1889, he'd patented Electro Germicide; hoping to cash in on the, at that time, new aged "science" of  electricity and its impact on health. The product was registered as being sold in two tone handled stoneware gallon jugs. No embossed, or debossed, examples of this product have been found so one can only assume that it was sold in paper label form only. And probably not successfully at that~

Working backward, it was determined that Dudley first appeared in SF in 1889 as a patent medicine peddler. Although his business address was San Francisco, his residence is listed as Oakland. It was not uncommon for those of money to reside in the east bay, and commute to their businesses in "The City" via ferry. Thus, we can conclude that Dudley was at least "comfortable".

An even more significant find about A. A. Dudley also popped up during the search of 1889. He was also in the bitters business! Not just some paper label, flash in the pan product, but in reality, one of the rarest of the rare. He was the wholesale agent for "Dr. Harvey's Blood Bitters"; (and not the Cassin Bros. as has previously been taken as gospel).

1891 was status quo.

The 1892 directory shows a move, and his residence is now shown as 1217 Fell in SF. 

And then, nothing. No personal, no business and no obituary listings. A. A. Dudley was a four year splash in the western cure, bitters and whiskey markets; hawking an electric "cure", a next to one of a kind bitters, and a one of a kind western whiskey. 

What a splash he made!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

OGW Demijohns

A quartet of " Oakland Glass Works " , Oakland , California demijohns. Base embossed faintly " OGW " . A short lived Glass Works, seems to have been in existence for approximately a year or so , 1884 - 1885. What I personally consider the holy grail of California made demijohns.