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.