Monday, January 18, 2021




At times certain individuals are encountered who determined to market a bottled product but have little known history for such a venture. Eberhard William Park was just such an individual. When he arrived in California is somewhat of a mystery, however, he is likely the same Park noted in the 1858 San Francisco Directory as Edward W. Park, a newspaper carrier. A native of Mecklenburg, Prussia, he was born December 3, 1828. The 1860 U.S. census for San Francisco, also lists him as a newspaper carrier but notes his real estate holdings are worth $15,000, and a personal estate valued at $3000. This is a significant amount for a newspaper carrier.  The 1863 and1864 IRS tax list notes his yearly income was $1867, which was also considerable for a newspaper carrier.

 Park’s occupation, as noted in the city directories was a newspaper carrier until 1872 and 1873, when none was given. In the 1874 directory he is noted as president of the California Hyde (sic) and Leather Co., but in 1875 no occupation is given. This business was incorporated in 1872 with Park being one of three trustees. (Daily Alta California, November 5, 1872).  The company can no longer be documented after 1875.

 In 1876, what was likely the source of his primary income all along, his occupation is noted as “real estate” in the San Francisco directory. By 1879 his real estate earnings were significant enough for him to be listed as a “capitalist”, which is an apex for a directory listing.  Again, it is not clear how Park acquired his property, however, he owned a total of four blocks in the Mission District. ( Real Estate Reporter of the Pacific Coast, San Francisco, Calif., April 25, 1874)

 His directory listing for 1880 probably reflects the occupation he chose to fill his time, which was the proprietor of the Park House at the Northeast corner of 24th and Mission Streets in San Francisco. This would be essentially across the street from his residence.


A necessary feature of the Park House was a good cook, especially one who could bake bread.  This ad exemplifies one of the issues of running a hostelry. (Daily Alta California, June 25, 1882)

Parks demise was noted in newspapers just a year later. “E. W. Park, aged 55, died suddenly last night from the effects of excitement produced by a quarrel with a customer at his bar.  He had been suffering from paralysis of the heart.” (Morning Tribune, San Luis Obispo, July 13, 1883)  He died July 12, 1883.  Another version noted, . . . “His place was visited about nine o’clock by a drunken man, who created a disturbance, and in the process of ejecting him, Park became unnerved.  He lay down in bed and died within a few moments.” (San Francisco Bulletin, July 13, 1883)

 Park’s wife, Mary Doherty Park, died December 15, 1888. There were four surviving children remaining to deal with the estate, and with their daughter, Hildegard Park, being the administrix. The estate was estimated at $100,000, a fairly hefty sum at the time. However, the real estate, which was the majority of the value, was heavily mortgaged.




The Park House property was sold by Eberhard’s widow, Mary Park.  This description gives an idea of its extent. (Daily Alta California, November 5, 1883)


What motivated Park to develop and produce a medicinal product that he claimed, “will make you young again”, is a mystery. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on his part, however, one can only assume that his goal was to make at least some profit gain on his medicine. No newspaper advertisements were located even though they should have been an essential business practice for medicinal sales at that time. He registered the name of his medicine, ESSENTIA NOBILIS, with the California Secretary of State, under the trade mark laws of California, on January 15, 1879, as Trademark No. 471. Its meaning from the Latin would be “noble essence”. Park also ordered bottles for his medicine from the San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works, with the name embossed in the glass. Examples are extremely rare with perhaps only three or four known to collectors.


An example of E.W. PARK’S ESSENTIA NOBILIS bottle. It is large, being about 9.75 inches in height, and holding approximately one quart. One can’t help but wonder if he also served his medicine in the bar at his Park House.




The label for PARK’S ESSENTIA NOBILIS was deposited with his trademark registration, and shown here. It may be the only extant copy of this rare piece of San Francisco history.


Also note that a carte de visite photograph of E.W. Park is currently located at as part of his gravesite memorial.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021


There is a story behind every bottle, which even includes the rather large classification of what is commonly called prescription, or drug store, bottles. It seems that just like the local saloon, many corner drug stores also created identifiable bottles associated with their business. The pictured item is just one example. I chose to put it on this blog because of where the story led me, which is somewhat unusual.

 Documenting the history of the people who had certain bottles created is the essence of discovering the meaning of the objects within the greater web of history. But it is not unusual to find little or nothing on the lives of some individuals. Such is the case with William Mansfield, the originator of the pictured drug store bottle. His bottle was made to compound, bottle, and sell at least some of his liquid prescriptions to the public.



The Mansfield bottle is round, 6.5 inches in height, with a tooled flared out lip, and composed of clear glass, with smooth base. All embossing is located within what appears to be a circular slug plate on the side of the bottle, embossed, M. MANSFIELD / CHEMIST & DRUGGIST / 320 SANTA CLARA ST / SAN JOSE CAL.

 Based on newspaper ads, it is well established that Mansfield had previously been living in Petaluma, California, and it is highly likely that he was plying the trade of a pharmacist in that town. Unfortunately, he could not be located in the 1870 decennial  U.S. census, which could have given us significant clues about his age, location of birth and possible family connections. It appears, therefore, that he was not living in Petaluma in 1870.

 John R.Williams and Henry H. Moore formed a partnership in the pharmacy trade at Stockton, CA, in May1865, purchasing the existing drug store of Robert Porterfield, who died just a month later on June 28, 1865, in Sonora, CA. Williams & Moore also traded heavily in the patent medicine business, which appeared to be quite lucrative for them. In 1872 they struck a deal with David Dodge Tomlinson, of San Jose, whereby they purchased the rights to manufacture and sell Tomlinson’s HHH Horse Medicine in the Western states, which soon became highly successful.  At the same time Williams & Moore had established a branch drug store in San Jose by at least April 1872, at 320 Santa Clara St.

 Williams & Moore decided to focus more of their time on the sale of the highly successful HHH Horse Medicine and put their San Jose store up for sale. William Mansfield purchased the drug store of Williams & Moore, in San Jose, in December 1872. He likely had his bottles blown shortly thereafter. His business appears to have been run successfully during 1873, and he even purchased a coveted, and expensive, front cover advertising spot for the upcoming 1874 San Jose business directory.

 William Mansfield's residence in Petaluma has yet to be documented, however, it does appear that he worked there before coming to San Jose. (San Jose Mercury-News, 21 December 1872)

 Then something bizarre occurred when Mansfield disappeared about the first week of April 1874, failing to return from a trip to San Francisco. To this day, no further information has been uncovered that would explain his absence.

Mansfield's disappearance was noted in newspapers only once, then the story went cold. 
San Jose Mercury-News, 11 April 1874)


As is the case for many businesses, Mansfield carried at least some debt, especially to the wholesale San Francisco drug firm of Abrams & Carroll – for the amount of  $4,000. They immediately filed foreclosure on Mansfield’s store and hired the well known San Jose druggist John B. Hewson to temporarily manage the store, which was also renamed the Garden City Drug Store. By September of that year the store was purchased by Henry Piessnecker, who had moved his drug business from Inyo County. Piessnecker operated the store until he died on 24 April 1880.

 Because of the unusual disappearance of Wm. Mansfield, it is possible to very tightly establish the manufacturing date of his drugstore bottle from about December 1872 to April 1874, a period of about 16 months. While it is an accomplishment to document the age of a bottle there is a lingering sense of angst in not being able to uncover more about the man who created it.