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)

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