Tuesday, December 14, 2021



An interesting little tidbit came to light awhile back when I was doing some research. Sometimes when I get a lot of “hits” when doing newspaper research, I often don’t bother looking at those that appear to be way out of the time period for a particular item. This happened when searching for “Pacific Congress Springs”. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1903 and the associated bottling activity had already stopped by then. One hit showed up that was dated 1911 and I didn’t bother to check it for a long time, but my curiosity got the best of me.

It was totally not what I had expected but was so interesting that I thought I would share it, as it really relates to the very beginnings of the Pacific Congress bottles in an unusual way. The organizers of the springs were the financier, Darius Ogden Mills and the lucky miner, turned financier, Alvinza Hayward, in 1864.  The Pacific Congress Springs Company was organized in San Francisco in November 1865, with a capital stock of $100,000, divided into two hundred shares.  

As many people know, the State of California initiated a trade mark system as early as 1861 which allowed proprietors certain legal protection to help deter imitators from stealing their profits. This was the case with the Pacific Congress Springs when they decided to bottle and sell their water. Begun as early as 1864, the springs soon became quite popular and fearing the probability of unscrupulous competitors, by 1868 the company decided to trade mark its name, as well as specifically protecting their bottles.




This handwritten document is a portion of the trade mark registration for Pacific Congress water, registered with the State of California as Trade Mark No. 113, on October 21, 1868. It clearly notes that an example of the bottle to be trademarked was submitted along with the necessary paperwork. This was an unusual precedent since most trademarks were submitted by picture or drawing since an actual object could present obvious storage or filing issues for a governmental agency. Nevertheless, an actual bottle was submitted to the care of the California Secretary of State, which is even further documented by way of the Sacramento Daily Union of October 22, 1868, which noted, . . . “The trade-mark of the Pacific Congress Springs Company, and likewise a bottle of the Congress water for which the trademark is claimed, were filed in the office of the Secretary of State yesterday.” This statement makes it sound as if the bottle was even full of spring water. Perhaps it was.

As time went by trade mark registrations continued into the files of the State – in fact, thousands of files, for any number of different goods. The older documents would eventually be stored in odd ‘out-of-the-way’ places at the Capitol, to make room for more current or more relevant items. Employees would retire, or find other jobs, and files would often become forgotten, fragmented or even lost. This is an all too common issue that most of us can relate to.

Nearly fifty years passed when a new position was created at the state capitol in Sacramento.  The former editor of the Watsonville Pajaronian, George Radcliff, was given the job by the new governor. This position was titled ‘Superintendent of the Capitol and Grounds’ for the capitol building. It was his job to create a smoothly running ‘house’ within which our elected officials could operate. Apparently, one of his duties was to deal with some of the neglected papers, etc. that had accumulated in various storage rooms in the old building. I am sure he stumbled upon any number of items for which he had to make a judgment call on what to do with it. At least he would need to ask someone else their opinion as to what should be done with some of the ‘stuff’. As is often the case, no one really knows what should be done with some of the items, and usually had no interest in it. It would often be relegated to the trash.

This was the case when Radcliff happened upon an old bottle which was apparently part of a trade mark submission. Being an old newspaper man, he saw a story in his find. Whether he wrote most of the copy is not known, but the article played up the age of the bottle found among the rubble.


The meaning of Adam’s Ale has been somewhat lost in time, but it refers to the only drink available to the first man to inhabit the earth in the biblical text – water. (Sacramento Bee, July 20, 1911 Sacramento, CA, Page: 5)


It is not clear if that old bottle of Pacific Congress Water has survived to the present day, but I do wonder if one of the impressive deep blue variants was given to the Secretary of State as the trade mark example.


A rendering of the Pacific Congress Springs in 1876, while under the ownership of Lewis A. Sage.