Museum Homepage

The San Mateo County Historical Association
Online Collections Database

The mission of the San Mateo County Historical Association is to inspire wonder and discovery
of the cultural and natural history of San Mateo County.

Object Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Catalog Number 1999.048.283
Description Pond's Extract Medicine Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1846-1985. This bottle is oval shaped with a rounded front and back with 1.75 flat-sided that extended over the shoulder and all the way to the base. The rim has prescription finish which is narrow (vertically) and the outside surface distinctly tapers in from the top surface of the finish to bottom. The front side of bottle is embossed vertically (in a plate) with "POND'S EXTRACT". The year "1846" is embossed on the bottom. A .75 inch short and narrow neck flares out .1 inch shoulder to a 3.75 inch body. The bottle is in light aqua color .
Object Name Bottle, Medicine
Collection 3D - Medical & Psychological Tools & Equip.
Title Pond's Extract Medicine Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1846-1985.
Date c. 1846-1985
Creator Pond’s Co.
Role Manufacturer
Inscription Text "POND'S EXTRACT" (embossed on front); "1846" (bottom).
Provenance 20 boxes of archaeological material excavated from the City Centre Plaza site at 950 Main at Middlefield in Redwood City. Excavation for development, done by Basin Research Associates.
Notes Probably the most popular "type" of druggist/prescription bottle styles were the "oval" type bottles. These bottles vary in actual cross-section shape but are always rounded on one or more sides and/or the corners. Beyond that, the shapes vary widely with some being rounded or flattened on both the front and back or even all sides, but with rounded corners as the binding feature if the cross-section shape is somewhat rectangular. (The rectangular shape discussed above has both flattened sides and corners.) The most common oval style druggist bottles with a flattened front panel (for a plate) with the sides and back being rounded together with no obvious break between them (base pictured below) were known by most bottle makers as the "Philadelphia Oval".
[ Druggists]

Pond’s started out in 1846 as a patent medicine company when Theron T. Pond [1880-1852], a pharmacist from Utica, New York, began selling ‘Golden Treasure’, a homeopathic remedy he had developed from witch hazel. In 1849, Theron Pond, Alexander Hart, and Edmund Munson formed the T. T. Pond Company to make and sell Golden Treasure which was renamed as Pond’s Extract. After the American Civil War [1861-1865] soap and toiletries were added to the product list. Changes of ownership, Theron Pond’s death, and legal disputes over who owned the manufacturing rights to the extract, created problems for the early Pond’s, but by the 1880s things had settled down and the Pond’s Extract Company emerged.
Pond’s Extract
Pond’s Extract was a mixture of witch hazel distillate, alcohol and water. It was promoted as a general cure-all for burns, colds, catarrh, wounds, chilblains, hoarseness, sore throats, piles, scalds, bruises, sunburn, rheumatism, chapped hands, bites, boils, chafing, lameness, nosebleed, frost bite, inflamed eyes and female complaints.
By the twentieth century most of the patent medicine claims for Pond’s Extract had been dropped and the product was promoted as a general antiseptic for bites, wounds, sunburn or after shaving. Advertising was often aimed at families, presumably because children were expected to have a larger number of scrapes.
Pond’s Extract, first produced in 1846. Most of us remember how tenderly our mothers touched our childish wounds with this healing soothing lotion. Today any physician will tell you it is still the best of household remedies. Get a bottle today, you will be surprised at how frequently you use it.
(Pond’s advertisement, 1916)
Witch hazel’s effectiveness as an antiseptic was disputed. In 1886, a laboratory investigation suggested that the virtues of the witch hazel were due more to the alcohol in the product than anything else. This view was endorsed by the National Dispensatory in 1916 which stated that “The good that it exerts in the treatment of sprains, bruises, wounds, chilblains, sore eyes, headache, and a host of other conditions, resides more in the activity of a cleansing and evaporating lotion and in the mind of its user, than in any decided curative properties that the preparation may possess.” (Lloyd & Lloyd, 1935).
In the 1880s, several new witch hazel based preparations were added to the company’s product line including an ointment, a dentifrice, plasters, a toilet cream, a soap, a lip salve, a catarrh cure, and medicated papers, all of which contained witch hazel. Unfortunately, other companies were also producing witch hazel products which increased competition and lowered the company’s margins.
An 1891 marketing survey identified an increased demand for skin care products (Peiss, 2007, p. 99) and this gave the company a possible way out of its declining margins, leading to it eventually concentrating on cosmetics. It began this process with the addition of some new skin creams.
Two creams
In 1904, Pond’s began selling Pond’s Extract Cold Cream and Pond’s Extract Vanishing Cream that had been developed by William Wallbridge, a chemist who worked in the Pond’s factory. Both creams were characteristic of their class – the cold cream was a beeswax-borax emulsion made with mineral oil, and the vanishing cream was a stearate emulsion using glycerine as the humectant. Both cosmetics were sold in opal jars for the home and in tubes for the handbag.
See also: Cold Creams and Vanishing Creams.
The introduction of these two creams was not without its problems as J. K. L. Wenham, Managing Director of Pond’s Extract described in 1950.
To introduce our creams we used demonstration jars of cream. These were sent to all our clients for counter use. And to be hygienic we supplied a small silver spoon, to prevent dirty fingers from being pushed into the cream. But you eat with spoons and so the cream soon vanished from the jars. The only complaints we received were not about texture—but about taste. It never occurred to the public to try it on the skin. That was our first mistake, and the second was supplying a silver spoon. The chemist was frequently asking for more.
The education of the public to use creams was a slow process, with only press advertising as the instructor.
(Manufacturing Perfumer, 1950)
At first the creams were given very little publicity and they were only mentioned in small print at the bottom of larger advertisements for Pond’s Extract but by the beginning of the First World War the situation was reversed.
Sales really took off when the products were promoted together. A campaign based around the idea that ‘Every skin needs two creams’, developed by the J. Walter Thompson advertising company in 1916, resulted in a threefold increase in sales by 1920 (Peiss, 1998, p. 121).
Every normal skin requires two creams. A cold or grease cream for cleansing, for massages, and a non-oily, greaseless cream before going out—to protect the skin from chapping, to keep it from becoming dry and tough.
No matter what creams you are using now, send for the free samples of these two creams. Rub the cold cream on one hand, the vanishing cream on the other. See how different each cream is—how each cream, in its own way, benefits your skin.
(Pond’s advertisement, 1917)
The campaign promoted the use of each of the creams as part of a skin-care ‘system’ – the cold cream as a cleanser and for massaging the skin at night, the vanishing cream as a skin protectant during the day. Advertising stressed the need for both creams and gave detailed instructions on how they were to be used. For many women this was the first time they had a simple skin care routine they could follow. To further distinguish between the two creams the company added prominent capitals to the packaging in 1923 with a large ‘C’ for cold cream and a ‘V’ for vanishing cream.
Dimensions H-5.375 W-2.5 D-1.75 inches
Search Terms Archaeology
City Center Plaza
Drug Stores
Subjects Bottle industry
Cosmetics industry
People Pond, Theron T.