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 1999.048.290
Description Lyon's Powder B&P N.Y. Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c.1850-1900. This bottle is round shaped with hand-blown tooled rim for a cork closure. A .5 inch short and narrow neck flares out 1 inch shoulder to a 2.5 inch body. A banner that outlines the name "LYONS/POWDER" embossed on the front shoulder of the bottle and "B&P N.Y." on the reverse shoulder. The bottle is green and shows evidence of glass machine manufacture.
Object Name Bottle, Apothecary
Collection 3D - Merchandising Tools & Equipment
Title Lyon's Powder B&P N.Y. Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1850-1900.
Date c.1850-1900
Creator Barnes & Park Co.
Role Manufacturer
Inscription Text "LYONS/POWDER" (embossed on on the front shoulder of the bottle) "B&P N.Y" (embossed on the reverse shoulder)
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 Emanuel Lyon is reported to have started in business as early as the late 1840’s at 424 Broadway in New York City. His embossed bottle is believed to have been produced starting sometime in 1859. Embossed LYONS/POWDER on the front shoulder of the bottle and B&P N.Y. on the reverse shoulder. The B&P embossed on the reverse quite possibly stand’s for the wholesale drug firm of Barnes & Park who were also located in New York City.

Collectors believe Lyons Powder was used as a dusting powder to kill household bugs and insects. Redington & Co., San Francisco wholesale druggists, lists the Lyon’s product as a flea powder in several of their early advertisements.

This bottle comes in two sizes with the large size being the rarer of the two variants. The Lyons can be found in several different colors ranging from amber to yellow, puce, aqua and various shades of green. These bottles were made for a long period of time; the earliest variants come with an open pontil, and the later found with a smooth base.
The Lyons bottle is often found in the larger camps and towns in the California gold rush country. Here in Sierra County, in the smaller settlements and camps, we rarely find any Lyons bottles. Seems like the small camps didn't have bug problems, or if they did, Schnapps, Gin and bitters was the preferred remedy.

Lyon's Powder," was sold as a compound to eradicate cockroaches, bedbugs and a host of other pests. The invention of Emanuel Lyon, the formula was said to be a "vegetable powder" and "free of corrosive or mineral poison." Championed by "eminent chemists all over the country," Lyon's Magnetic Powder was also said to have received four national medals as well as the "endorsement of the United States President" and that of "leading citizens in every department of business, throughout the Union."

An 1858 advertisement for the product engaged the reader with this witty poem:

Good advice of sleep devoid
Are you annoyed
By bugs, athirst for blood?
Do Rats and Mice
Mock each device
You Try to Slay the brood?
A secret hear:
Your house to clear
Use Lyon's Dust and Pills
The first will slay
Bugs, right away
The second vermin kills

According to the ad, the Depot for Lyon's Magnetic Powder and Pills for the destruction of insects and vermin was located at 424 Broadway, New York City.

In an era lacking indoor plumbing and other hygienic conveniences, communities were plagued by fleas, lice, and a horde of other bothersome pests. Antidotes such as Lyon's Magnetic Powder, if indeed effective, would have been in great demand by the general public. En route to New Orleans, the city's sub-tropical, swampy environment, no doubt offered a receptive market for the cargo of Lyon's bug-eradicating formula.

As directed by the company, Lyon's Magnetic Powder bottle was advised to be thrown where you found the insects and vermin, breaking the glass, and spreading the powder around, to control the pests. The discovery of intact bottles today on various land sites, suggests that these directions were not always heeded.'s-Powder-Bottle.html
Dimensions H-4 W-1.5 D-1.5 inches
Search Terms Archaeology
City Center Plaza
Drug Stores
Redwood City
San Mateo
Subjects Bedbugs
Bottle industry
People Lyon, Emanuel