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Sunday, May 05, 1996

Benicia a vibrant business hub in 1800s

Kristin Delaplane

Second in a series
D.N. Hastings at First and D operated the Benicia Market and dealt in beef, pork, lard, hams, hides, tallow, game and vegetables.
Vender John Dalton ran the Benicia Fruit Store and kept a stock of fruits, nuts, confectionery, cigars and tobacco.

The Brick Store was operated by Hatch & Co. The department store of its era, there wasn’t much it didn’t supply. The stock included groceries, provisions, liquors, cigars, clothing, hardware, cutlery, tin ware, wooden ware, furniture, bedding and dry goods. They also supplied business cards.

Eagan & O’Flaherty were dealers in groceries, liquors, provisions, clothing and crockery. They were located on First Street opposite the Solano County Herald’s office

L.D. Sanborn took up a shop formally occupied by Houghton & Harkelbrodes on First Street. The business dealt in stoves and tin ware and he did all kinds of job work in copper, tin and sheet iron.

The pioneer establishment of Samuel C. Gray at the southeast corner of First and D was also a major dry goods store. He carried a line of boots, shoes, hats, crockery, hardware and stoves.

Gray carried a large assortment of stoves, including the Black Diamond and other patterns. Cooking stoves included Franklin, Parlor and office stoves. He also sold farmers’ boilers, cauldron kettles and flat-iron heaters. In clothing items he had frock coats, black and fancy cassimere pants, velvet, satin and cloth vests, white and fancy shirts, underwear, cover shirts, check shirts and overalls. He also proudly advertised Beebe & Co.‘s latest style black moleskin hats, which had just arrived on the ex-clipper Radiant from New York.

Gray also operated Langton’s Pioneer Express, which supplied messengers to get goods to and from San Francisco, Sacramento, Marysville, Grass Valley, Nevada, Downieville and all parts of the Northern Mines. Messengers carried gold dust, coin, bullion, packages and letters. Also bills, notes, drafts were collected.

Books and stationery were being sold at the “old stand” at First and C. The stock included school, miscellaneous and blank books, paper, envelops, pens, ink and pocket cutlery. New books were received from the East in every mail. J.W. Jones was the proprietor. Jones also operated the Pacific Express Co., which operated the same business as Gray’s Langton’s Pioneer Express.

The Benicia Book and Drug Store started advertising around Christmas that it was carrying a large stock of toys and children’s books for the holidays.

As the New Year approached, John McKenna of the United States Bakery at First & D advertised a variety of cakes and confectionery, including fruit, pound, sponge and New Year’s cakes of every variety and size. It also carried an assortment of confectionery, fruits and nuts. It made fresh breads, cakes, pies, and carried Boston, water and soda crackers. Haxall, Gallego and California flours were always on hand.

James Scott’s was located on First opposite the post office. He carried a potpourri of items including a fresh stock of green fruits, stationery, cigars, dried fruits, cutlery, tobacco, perfumery, pipes, nuts, toys, matches, confectionery, novels and fancy goods.

Toward the end of the year, a J.V. Sanborn was offering an official city map for sale said to be useful as well as decorative. Whether this gentleman had an actual storefront is not clear.

In November 1855, a new store opened and was located at First and G opposite the State House. Moore, Allen & Co. carried dry goods, groceries, provisions, crockery, boots shoes, clothing, hats, hardware, cigars, wines and liquors. It also paid local producers for eggs and butter.

Charles French headed up the Benicia Iron Works, which did jobs for plain or ornamental storefronts, gas and water pipes, lampposts and ornamental columns for buildings. It also did work on turning and wrecking pumps, mill gearing for steam and water power, and steam engines with and without boilers. Its work included cast and wrought iron work. It advertised bells of all sizes, and spikes, composition spikes, nails and sheathing nails, plus brass and iron castings made to order. The company also sold a line of agriculture implements.

The Benicia bottling establishment, Butler, Kelly and Co., was an importer and dealer in wine and liquor store. It carried wines, brandies and gin. Among the brands it carried were Old Otarch, Dupuy & Co. Brandy; Old Martell brandy; Sazerac, dark and pale; Swan & Star gin; Duff Gordon sherry; Irish and Scotch malt whiskeys; Monongahela whiskey; Superior Old Port; Old English ale and porter. A notice was made when the horse pulling the company’s soda wagon down the main street became frightened and started off at full speed.

McDonell & Bridgeman, located on E Street, was a manufacturer and importer of carriages, wagons and carriage materials and wagon stock. It made carriages and also repaired them. It also carried a line of horse harnesses, saddles and bridles.

Clocks, watches and jewelry were sold by William B. Nurse. He also had a selection of cutlery, spectacles, accordions and other fancy articles. He cleaned and repaired watches and jewelry as well.

William J. Tustin had wood for sale. Long or short, or cut to order.

A dancing school opened with the instructor, M. Lichtenberg, teaching the various branches of dancing. The musician was A. Myer. Tuition per quarter was $10.

The editors made quite a to-do about a broom that was being manufactured by Sydney Maupin of Suisun Valley. It would seem the broom was made from the corn plant, which he raised, and it was reported that he could manufacture 200 of these fine brooms in a day.

Located at First and D was attorney William S. Wells. Pendleton Colston offered to practice in all the courts of Solano and adjoining counties, but would not attend to criminal cases. Lyman Leslie was the other lawyer in town.

E.A. D’Hemecourt was the deputy county surveyor and a civil engineer. He offered his professional expertise to make surveys, plans and generally anything to do with surveying and engineering. His office was on D between First and Second.

Town photographer Peter Wright, with rooms behind the Benicia Iron Works, had equipment for taking daguerreotype portraits. The smallest size was $1; other sizes and finer cases were priced in proportion. He received his stock of cases and frames from New York.

William Frey offered his services as an auctioneer.

Dr. R.N. Nurse was the surgeon dentist in town. This Dr. Nurse is not to be confused with S.K. Nurse, who was also a dentist and founded Denverton. However, was there a relationship between the two? Dr. R.N. Nurse advertised that teeth were set on find gold plate from one to a full set. His office was over the jewelry store on First Street operated by Wm. B. Nurse, presumably a relative.

Monochromatic painting and drawing and penmanship classes were offered by a Mr. Henning. Specimens of his work were on view at the American Hotel and perspective scholars signed up for classes there.