Sands’ Sarsaparilla – New York








06 October 2013 (R•032514) (R•042219)

Apple-Touch-IconAWhile working on the Masury’s Compound Extract of Sarsaparilla and Wau-A-Hoo post, I came across another brand of sarsaparilla that was a direct competitor of Masury.

The Sands brothers (Abraham, David & William) established their business at 100 Futon Street in the prominent Granite Buildings (pictured above) in New York City around 1835. Their Sands’ Sarsaparilla was first introduced at this time and was one of the many 19th-century patent medicines to emerge on the market as a sure cure for any and all afflictions.

Also constantly for sale, fresh Imported Swedish and German Leeches, received direct from Europe, and of our importation. They will be re-packed in the safe manner in which they are imported, so as to be sent to any part of the United States or Canada with perfect safety.

Listed then as Chemists and Apothecaries, they soon would become one of New York’s largest drug wholesalers. They were selling everything under the sun including medicines, perfumes, brushes, fancy articles, medicine chests, syrups for soda water, imported leeches and Saratoga waters from the springs of Congress, Union, Iodine and Pavilion.

Physicians’ Prescriptions, Family Medicines, Medicine Chests for Ships, Families, and Plantations, put up with the greatest care, accuracy, and neatness. Medicines put up at any hour of the night, by a competent person.

Abraham opened his first retail drug store sometime around 1840. In 1842 he expanded his horizons and opened a wholesale store at another location installing his brother David in the original retail store. By 1843, Sands has published a pamphlet (see further below) on the curative properties of their sarsaparilla product.

By 1851, David retired and was replaced by his brother William and the firm was listed as A. B. Sands & Co. They were advertising regularly in national newspapers (see further below).

After 1851, Sands & Co. became primarily a wholesale drug operation. Sands produced other products (Sand’s’ Remedy of Salt Rheum., Dr. McMunn’s Elixir of Opium, Roman Eye Balsam, Clove Anodyne Toothache Drops, Horehound Cough Syrup and Liquid Opeldoc) but his sarsaparilla was by far his best seller. Now A. B. & D. Sands & Co., they continued in business until 1875 when the company was dissolved and sold to Schieffelin & Co.


A. B. & D. Sands Wholesale Druggists, advertisement – W.W. Reilly & Co.’s Ohio State Business Directory … for 1854-5

You might think that sarsaparilla would be made from extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily, but you’d be wrong. It was originally made (artificial flavors have taken over now, of course) from a blend of birch oil and sassafras, the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the nineteenth century — taken in sufficient doses, it induces sweating, which some people thought was a good thing. Sarsaparilla apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers and headaches. – Cecil Adams


Sands’ Sarsaparilla advertisement – 1852 New York City Directory


B.A. Fahnestock & Co., New York advertisement for A. B. & D. Sands & Co. Wholesale Druggists an an advertisement for Sands’ Sarsaparilla – New York, 1857

Using possibly the largest newspaper advertisement bottle image, Sands’ Sarsaparilla in Quart Bottles for Purifying the Blood – The Summit County Beacon, Wednesday, February 12, 1851


Advertisement for Sands’ Sarsaparilla New York – Utica NY Oneida Morning Herald1850


Pictured at left is a copy of a Sand’s Sarsaparilla advertisement. The second variant of the Sand’s bottle, on the right side of the ad, is being filled with the sarsaparilla product. Sand’s sarsaparilla was “The Very Best Remedy for Purifying the Blood” – Western Bitters News


Abraham B. Sands’s Sarsaparilla, Patent Medicine certificate – December 18, 1843

[Read Pamphlet Below]

Facts in relation to important cures effected by the use of Sand

Cover – Facts in relation to important cures effected by the use of Sands’ Sarsaparilla (1843)


Inside page – Facts in relation to important cures effected by the use of Sands’ Sarsaparilla (1843)


Back cover – Facts in relation to important cures effected by the use of Sands’ Sarsaparilla (1843)


Truly amazing that Sands’ Sarsaparilla cured the deformity of this mans nose! – Facts in relation to important cures effected by the use of Sands’ Sarsaparilla (1843)


Sands’ Sarsaparilla advertisement – The Gleaner – December 15, 1846


Sands’ Sarsaparilla advertisement – The Hunter (San Francisco) – Saturday, July 15 1860


Pictured at left is the earliest example of the Sands Sarsaparilla. It has widely beveled corners and is embossed on three panels SANDS SARSAPARILLA NEW YORK. The Sand’s Sarsaparilla was distributed throughout the Sierra County gold rush country. Open pontil examples of the Sand’s have been found in the settlements of Chaparral Hill, Excelsior and Monte Cristo. These bottles are considered very scarce but as with all gold rush era bottles are highly collectable. The Sand’s that I have examined, that were recovered from Sierra County, are usually pretty crude, highly whittled and usually come out of the ground without mineral staining. Pictured at right is the later variant of the Sands bottle that was produced sometime after 1858. It still has a pontil base, but is a larger size, different shape, and has “GENUINE” embossed on one panel. One whole example of the second variant of the Sands was recovered from the gold rush settlement of Excelsior in the early 1990’s. Two examples were recovered from Plum Valley and another mint example was un-earthed at Brandy City by a Nevada City digger. Numerous broken examples have been found at Monte Cristo, Poker Flat, Chaparral Hill and Rattlesnake. This variant of the Sands is considered more common than the earlier example with the widely beveled corners but is still a scarce and collectable gold rush bottle. – Western Bitters News


Four rectangular, aquamarine bottles retrieved from the Jacksonville “Blue China” wreck site are embossed with the company and product name, SANDS’S SARSAPARILLA // NEW YORK. The four examples are believed to be the earliest variant of the product introduced by Abraham B. and David Sands. – Odyssey’s Virtual Museum


Pontiled, Aqua SANDS // SARSAPARILLA // NEW YORK, 6 1/8” – Vermont Medicines


Blueish aqua, iron pontiled Sands’ Sarsaparilla – ebay


Blueish aqua, iron pontiled Sands’ Sarsaparilla – ebay


Aqua, open pontil Sands’ Sarsaparilla – ebay


A “SANDS SARSAPARILLA/GENUINE/NEW YORK” with an iron pontil. This came from an archaeological excavation in Visalia, California. This site dated to 1850s to 1860s. Our crew removed the wooden floor of the existing structure and exposed a number of intact refuse deposits. The property had been used historically as a beer garden, music shop and saddle maker, etc. Found this bottle in about 30 pieces. – DSMc

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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