N.B. Jacobs San Francisco

Provenance: Steven Hubbell Collection

Napoleon Bonaparte Jacobs arrived in San Francisco from Virginia in November 1854. Like many before him, he struck out for riches in the goldfields. With modest success, he eventually returned and started N. B. Jacobs & Co. in 1858, located at 137 Clay Street.

When we look at our museum specimen of an embossed N. B. Jacobs – San Francisco square, we see that the word ‘’Bitters” is not embossed anywhere on the crude yellow-olive bottle. The bottle is simply embossed ‘N. B. JACOBS – SAN FRANCISCO.’ We certainly believe that it contained a bitters product.

Napoleon Bonaparte Jacobs and his business concern N. B. Jacobs & Co. were initially agents for the embossed Rosenbaum’s Bitters which is represented in our museum. There are two variants of Rosenbaum’s Bitters.

When pointing out the similarities and dissimilarities between the three embossed bottles, the N. B. Jacobs and the two Rosenbaum’s Bitters, we see that the ‘Variant 1’ Rosenbaums Bitters bottle (R 73) has a smaller embossed serifed copy reading ROSENBAUM’S BITTERS – N. B. JACOBS & CO. – SAN FRANCISCO on three panels of a larger size bottle. The ‘Variant 2’ Rosenbaum’s Bitters bottle (R 74) has a larger embossed sans-serif copy reading ROSENBAUM’S BITTERS – N. B. JACOBS & CO. – SAN FRANCISCO on a smaller bottle. The subject N. B. Jacobs – San Franciso bottle has the N. B. JACOBS embossed in a serifed typestyle while SAN FRANCISCO, on the reverse panel, is in a sans serif typestyle.

The molds for the N. B. Jacobs – San Francisco bottle and the Variant 1 Rosenbaum’s Bitters bottle were both initially manufactured by an east coast glass house where the bottles were blown. This is understandable as Dr. Rosenbaum was from Philadelphia.

The early Rosenbaum glass colors are typical of eastern glass and the upper body of the bottles exhibit a typical roundness where the beveled corners meet the shoulder of the bottle. This character trait is very common among squares of eastern manufacture. Most other large squares of western origin do not have this characteristic.

Dr. Rosenbaum’s Stomach Bitters were advertised as early as 1858 in San Francisco by N. B. Jacobs & Co. as they were the west coast agents for the bitters. At some point, the Variant 1 Rosenbaums Bitters’ bottles were blown by either Pacific Glass Works or San Francisco Glass Works as several broken examples have been found that are quite crude in their making and were blown in western glass colors. These bottles also have a different style top that is typical of western bottles. There was much concern about counterfeit bottles so new runs were ordered with altered molds.

It is most likely that the N. B. Jacobs – San Francisco bottle contained Carlos O’Donnell’s California Cordial Tonic or Wild Cherry Bitters. N. B. Jacobs & Co. were the Sole Agents for these bitters that used the Trade Mark C. O. D. This bitters is noted as labeled only as O 8 in Bitters Bottles.

O 8 L … Carlos O’Donnell’s Bitters COD Trade Mark
N. B. JASCOB’S // f // SAN FRANCISCO // f //
9 3/8 x 2 1/6 (7 1/16) 7/16
Square, Green, LTC, Applied mouth

William Reynolds while working for N. B. Jacobs trade marked the Carlos O’Donnell product in February 1869. The advertisements for the C. O. D. product occurred from March to April 1869, a very short period of time. This was many months after the last Rosenbaum’s ads appeared while Jacobs was still living. N. B. Jacobs died in December 1869.

Support: Reference to Early Glassworks of California by Warren B. Friedrich

Support Image: Auction Lot #19: N.B. JACOB’S SAN FRANCISCO. Green with some yellow. 1868-81. This bottle was purchased from American Bottle Auction’s, auction number 63. Nice example with loads of tiny bubbles and crudity. Although these don’t say bitters, we know these bottles held Carol’s O’Donnells Bitters and are considered very rare. A great condition bottle with an early applied tapered top. Truly a great piece of western history. Grades an 8.5. – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions, Auction 70, Part 1 of the Don Dwyer Collection

Support: Reference to Bitters Bottles and Bitters Bottles Supplement by Carlyn Ring and Bill Ham.

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