Friday, July 22, 2022


Sitting on the edge of two of the largest geological plates on our earth, California is dotted with a plethora of mineral springs often created by deep-seated geothermal activity. Whether true or not, it has been part of human culture to consider mineral water generally containing health-giving properties.

With all these water sources it was just a matter of time before entrepreneurs would market this resource for their economic gain. Some were successful and others were not, as marketing is a fickle game.  

Shown below are several labels - mostly from the late nineteenth century - used on the bottles containing California mineral water. These examples are part of the vast collection of the State of California Trade Mark Archives.

Thursday, June 2, 2022





An early view of I Street in Modesto, California, with its notoriously poor street conditions. The root of the name coming from the Spanish word for ‘modesty’, it has certainly been all that. Developed as a new railroad town, in the late 1860’s, it shifted the commercial focus for the area from the waning mining activities to agriculture. It is probably best known as the headquarters for the E & J Gallo Winery, the largest family owned winery in the United States. Another claim to fame is the childhood home of movie mogul, George Lucas, who co-created and directed the movie, “American Graffiti” (1973), which was loosely based on Lucas’ teenage years growing up in Modesto during the 1960’s


Frederick Meinecke was born in Hanover, Germany, about 1823. Like so many young men of the time he became drawn by the word of great riches in the far off land that had recently been wrested from Mexico and was known as California. Arriving in San Francisco in October 1849, he made his way to the ‘gold fields’, likely speaking no English and thrust into a melting pot of humanity from all points of the world. It is quite possible that he befriended another German, either on his arduous 150 day sea voyage from Hamburg or shortly thereafter. In 1851 Ernst Lodtmann formed a partnership with Meinecke in a venture to bring a herd of cattle from the ‘States’ to California. Over-wintering in the Salt Lake area the partners returned to California in 1852. They established a dairy ranch on the Calaveras River about four miles from Stockton. Although the partnership split up in 1857 it appears the two retained a good relationship and probably had continued business ventures for a number of years thereafter. However, at about this time Meinecke left California and returned to his homeland of Hanover, Germany. It is probable he had a specific purpose in mind for he returned to California about late 1860 or 1861 along with his new bride, Sophia, also a native of Germany.


Meinecke continued his farming activities but moved to the north bank of the Stanislaus River further south. Here he established a ferry across the river which attracted others who located there. A small settlement soon arose which was known by the name of Meinecke. A few years later Frederick Meinecke formed a partnership with Charles E. Taylor and the ferry business became known as Meinecke & Taylor’s Ferry. They also opened a grocery store at the same location. In 1867 Taylor was appointed postmaster for the little settlement of Meinecke.


One of the very few items found that document the settlement of Meinecke, which was named after Frederick Meinecke. (Stockton Independent, January 4, 1867)

 Meinecke was also involved in moving merchandise up and down the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers in 1868 when he and three others incorporated the Tuolumne City Steamboat Company, with capital stock at $70,000. ( Daily Evening Herald, Stockton, California, December 4,1868)  The success of this company has not been determined.

 In 1869 Meinecke gave up his partnership with Taylor and moved on to other ventures, which primarily included the operation of his 800 acre ranch property.


This advertisement documents the dissolution of the partnership between Meinicke and Taylor in 1869. (Stockton Independent, March 27, 1869). The ferry crossing soon became known as simply “Taylor’s Ferry”. The small settlement of Meinecke soon disappeared as well.


This portion of an 1881 map by Wallace W. Elliott & Co. locates the geographical position of Taylor’s crossing (see red dot) which was the previous location of Meinecke’s Ferry.


 As noted above, Meinecke and Lodtmann maintained an amicable business relationship over the years, which is highlighted by the Lodtmann brothers later soda water activities. Earnest (Ernst) and Justus Lodtmann had initially established their soda water factory at Knights Ferry about 1867, along with their Miners’ Brewery. With that towns decline and with Modesto emerging as a town of great promise the Lodtmann brothers moved their soda water factory to Modesto by August 1868, but kept their brewery at Knight’s Ferry.

 The planning stage of the proposed rail line through the central valley of California essentially changed the human geography of the area. Along with the proposed new town of Modesto came a wholesale movement of towns and their people to this new hub of the rail line. The nearby towns of Empire, Tuolumne and Paradise essentially moved, including their buildings, to Modesto. It even usurped the county seat of government, Knight’s Ferry, by 1871. By 1874 the Lodtmann brothers sold their brewery at Knights Ferry and sold their Modesto soda factory to Frederick Meinecke the same year.


The newspaper notice documenting the beginning of Frederick Meinecke's soda water business in Modesto, California. Stanislaus County Weekly News (Modesto, California May 22,1874, Page 2)

 It has not been determined when Meinecke gave up his soda factory in Modesto, however; the 1879 and 1880 voting register for Stanislaus County lists Meinecke as only a farmer. Even during the period he operated the soda factory Meinecke continued with his farming activities, which consisted primarily of grain crops. It must be assumed that the soda factory was a short lived venture that fit somewhere between the years of 1874 and 1879. In fact, after his initial opening, there were no more newspaper articles found that mentioned his soda works.


The Meinecke soda bottles were undoubtedly blown in San Francisco. They are marked F M / MODESTO, on one side. No other variants are known.


Frederick and Sophia Meinecke had four children – all born in San Joaquin County:

 Edward Meinecke, born about 1861, Died 15 Nov 1939, in Modesto

Katie Meinecke, born about 1863, Died 7 May 1949, in Modesto

Meta Meinecke, born about 1865, Died 20 Oct 1949, in Modesto

Sophia Meinecke, born about 1871, Died 2 April 1940, in Modesto


Frederick Meinecke died near Modesto on 19 February 1907. Meinecke’s wife, Sophia, died February 12, 1925 in Modesto. It is somewhat strange that their four children, noted above, never married and had no issue. And, for the most part, the siblings lived together until their deaths.

Friday, April 29, 2022


As an addendum to the previous write-up on Baldwin’s Liniment, it is true that additional batches of the bottle were blown at a later date. Neatly made tooled top versions were produced and, thanks to my good friend, Frank Sternad, he sent me an advertisement from the 1878 Marysville Directory for the product. Oddly, it contains the same text as the ad published ten years earlier. I am not sure what to make of that but it is now well documented that Baldwin was still selling the liniment at that point in time and probably a few years later.


This is a good lesson in how difficult it can be to research 19th century items and retrieve all the important information. The best we can do is try, and eventually, we will assemble a reasonable history of many of our collectible bottles.

The later tooled top variant of S.D. Baldwin's Liniment

Friday, April 22, 2022


Stephen Dexter Baldwin was born about 1806 in Windsor, Berkshire, Massachusetts, the youngest of six children. Shortly after his birth, Stephen and his family moved to Riga, Monroe County, New York, where his father was a farmer, and most of his family lived out their lives.

Stephen married Lois Chamberlin about 1833 and they settled in Brockport, Sweden Township, Monroe County, New York, just north of Riga. He was a farmer and fathered four children, all born between 1834 and 1848. 

Stephen is likely the same “S.D. Baldwin” who was scheduled in the 1850 U.S. census for Tuolumne County, California – listed as a miner. Little is known of his life during this early gold rush period. It appears his mining venture had some success for Baldwin went back home and arrived in San Francisco, along with his family, in 1855 on the SS Cortes. (Daily Alta California, 21 January 1855) Exactly when he opened his jewelry store in Marysville, California, is not known, but newspaper accounts show him in the business as early as 1858.

Baldwin suffered some setbacks in the beginning. His house burned in Marysville on 3 November 1859 and by 1861 he was forced into bankruptcy. (Daily National Democrat ,Marysville, Calif., 26 Apr 1861) With hard work and determination he eventually succeeded in his business, but was always looking for additional economic possibilities. He even landed a contract with the city of Marysville to maintain and wind the city clock.


By 1863 Baldwin had moved to larger quarters and began advertising. Signs of his success became obvious. (Marysville Daily Appeal, 10 June 1863)

The ‘sideline’ business that has caught the attention of bottle collectors is the manufacture of his liniment. Its earliest record is noted when he received a copyright for “S.D.Baldwin’s Neuralgia Liniment”, registered with the Northern District Court of California, on 17 December 1866. He would have had his bottles blown for his liniment at about the same time.


The bottles are about 6.25 inches in height with separately applied tops. One side is embossed S.D. BALDWIN’S / LINIMENT, in two lines. The glass has the unmistakable character of the product of one of the two functioning glass works located in San Francisco. This example has some unusual strings of glass adhered to its surface, accidentally made during the blowing process.


The opposite side is embossed, MARYSVILLE / CAL, which leaves no room for a bottle label. It is currently not possible to determine exactly when the bottles were blown, or how many batches were made. It is likely that they were first blown in late 1866 or early 1867, and judging from the relatively short marketing period, there were few if any further batches.


The only newspaper advertisement of any significance is this one, which ran from February to August 1868.

No other advertisements for Baldwin’s liniment have been located, which is an indication that it didn’t do very well in the market. Only one other reference was noted that he wholesaled some of his product to R.H. McDonald & Co. in San Francisco. (Daily Alta California, 5 August 1867)  If profits from the sales of a product don’t cover the cost of advertising it is not unusual for the proprietor to no longer support it. It is likely that Baldwin ultimately only sold his liniment through his jewelry store which would limit sales considerably. Just one, rather novel mention of the liniment was noted after 1868, which is an indication of his remaining inventory, and shown in the news article below.


This whimsical article is the last mention of Baldwin’s Liniment that was located. If there is any truth in it the strength of the concoction must have been powerful. (Marysville Daily Appeal, 29 February 1872)

 Baldwin seems to have continued his quest for profitable ventures beyond his jewelry store, and he felt assured that he discovered his ticket to wealth in the tules that were abundant in the marshy lands around his home town. News articles laid praise to his new discovery. “ Mr. B. has for some considerable time had experiments going on here and in the East, and has finally succeeded in establishing the fact that the native tule, which grows so abundant, in almost endless tracts of cheap swamp lands in California, can be economically manufactured into first-class papers. (Pacific Rural Press, 2 March 1872)

For reasons that seemingly defy logic, he even went so far as obtaining a U.S patent for the use of tules in the making of paper.


Baldwin’s new invention simply consisted of the use of the common tule found throughout much of California as a medium for making paper.

 His patent apparently died an unceremonious death as no further documentation was located regarding paper making with tules in California, Actually, other tule species had been used in making paper for centuries in other parts of the world. It was almost as if he was duped into this belief by others who saw a chance to obtain some of Baldwin’s funds during his research and development process.

 Baldwin continued with his Marysville jewelry store until about 1880 when he retired from the business which was then run for a few years by his son-in-law, Perry Corey.

 Baldwin’s obituary notes, … “He was well known in this section of the State, and was greatly esteemed and respected for his high character and his genial social qualities”. He was found slumped over in his ‘easy chair’, spectacles on his nose, and newspaper at his feet, on January 27, 1882. (Marysville Daily Appeal, 28 January 1882)  He is buried in the Baldwin crypt in the Marysville city cemetery.



Friday, March 18, 2022