Bowman’s Beautiful Snow For the Complexion
Bowman’s Beautiful Snow
For the Complexion
Bowman Drug Co., Oakland, California
Rectangular Cobalt Blue Medicine
Provenance: Eric McGuire Collection
Henry Bowman, the founder of the Bowman Drug Co. of Oakland, California, was a respected chemist and pioneer druggist who developed a face cream he said was as “pure and soft as the falling snowflake.” He called it “Bowman’s Beautiful Snow” and targeted sales to Victorian women living in the West. The competition was tough in the cosmetic field, with local rivals Wakelee’s Camelline and Dickey’s Crème de Lis being top competitors using similar bottles and advertising.
Bowman decided to copy the idea of using traditional cobalt blue glass bottles for his cream with paper labels depicting a young lady writing “Bowman’s” in script with a stick in the new-fallen snow. Paper labels added, “This elegant preparation is a rare combination of harmless ingredients, pure and soft as the falling snowflake, fragrant and refreshing as the breath from June roses, and as wonderful in its effects as the touch of a magician’s wand” and “This unrivaled cosmetic will remove all roughness and discoloration of the skin, giving it the freshness of youth, the purity of the Lily, and the glow of health. It is entirely free from the objectionable mineral substances which are used in many other preparations.”
Bowman applied for and received a trademark with the California Secretary of State for the “Beautiful Snow” name on November 16, 1883, as Trademark No. 1047. Examples of the bottle are fairly scarce, and advertising for the product is not found in newspapers any later than 1884. This is somewhat of a puzzle as Bowman was an ardent advertiser who understood the value of getting his product and message out to the public. Perhaps sales were not up to his expectation, and he pulled his product from the market in the mid-1880s. As an aside, an advertisement of his business appeared in the very first issue of the Oakland Tribune when he was then doing business at 913 Broadway.
Henry Bowman was born in Montreal in 1823 and went to Chicago in 1841, where he afterward engaged in the drug business. He moved to California in 1852 and established a drug store in Sacramento the same year. There is an older, pre-1873, medicinal-style bottle produced by Bowman during his tenure in Sacramento. The Sacramento Daily Bee on February 14, 1870, described Henry Bowman as a druggist, short and slender, with keen blue eyes, a long face with a full forehead, covered by two deep perpendicular wrinkles; a large straight nose, the lower part of his face concealed by whiskers and mustache, quite grey. His hair is also silvered. His mode of speaking is rapid and decided but distinct.
In 1873 Bowman came to Oakland and engaged in the drug business. He is probably best known for his cobalt blue “Bowman’s Drug Stores Poison” bottles that he produced while in Oakland. Bowman retired in 1895 and his son William J. Bowman succeeded him.
When Henry Bowman died in Oakland on September 20, 1905, all five Bowman drug stores were closed from 10:30 in the morning to 1:00 early afternoon in honor of the memory of the respected founder. Bowman was an ardent theosophist, and the members of that society carried out his Funeral services. Bowman was married in Chicago in 1853 to Georgina S. Hoisinton, who passed away in 1892. With Bowman’s death, he left four children; a daughter, Ida C., wife of William C. Savage, who lived in New York, and three sons residing in California, William J., Henry H., and Charles A. Bowman.
Primary Image: Bowman’s Beautiful Snow bottle imaged by Eric McGuire, FOHBC Virtual Museum West Coast Studio. Eric also provided initial research.
Support Image: Auction Lot 213: H. BOWMAN DRUGGIST OAKLAND Tooled top cobalt blue. Here is one of four examples blown with a flat base. Another very rare citrate from Oakland. Bowman was known to have a pharmacy at 262 J St in Sacramento. A wonderful group of citrates that virtually never come along. Grades a 7 – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions, Auction #73
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