Monday, March 30, 2020

Urgent Notice Regarding Canyonville 2020!

Urgent Notice



Dear Fellow Collectors and Dealers;

Oregon is behind the nationwide curve of the spread of COVID 19 pandemic. Current projections are that Oregon will get hit, and hit hard, well into late spring or early summer.

Seven Feathers Casino Resort is now closed. A reopening date has not been announced.

Out of concern for the well being of our fellow collectors and dealers, it is with great regret that I must notify you that the 2020 JSABC Show and Sale, scheduled to be held at Seven Feathers in Canyonville, Oregon on June 6th, has been cancelled.

With that said, please accept my sincere apologies. Refunds to all dealers that have pre-paid are being mailed today.  

Best of luck to all. Please stay safe and healthy.



Bruce Silva

Show Chairman

Urgent Notice


Urgent Notice


Monday, March 16, 2020

Urgent Notice from Gary Antone, re the Golden Gate Show - Followup


Howdy Bruce,
In conversation with the Contra Costa Event Park ( Antioch ) today, the GGHBS club's show has been canceled until next year. Can you post this information on your website ? The club and I would appreciate it. Not good, but it's understandable. Also FYI, Morro Bay show has been canceled also.

Take Care & Thanks My Friend,



Hello GGHBS Club Members

I hope this note finds you all doing well – keeping safe and sane during this crazy and uncertain time we are in due to the Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, I need to advise that our 2020 GGHBS Show on 4/10 and 11 has been cancelled.   

Decision made based on:
  • The fairgrounds reached out yesterday and advised they are prohibited from having events until at least 4/5 and it could be extended
  • The government issued self-quarantine until at least 4/7, and who knows what will happen between now and then
  • People need to make plans, and not realistic to do if we don’t know what will happen until the day or 2 prior
  • Even if all the restrictions were lifted in time for the event - the club would lose $ that we cannot afford to do. We could not make up for it in time.    
    • Lost table sales, early birds, raffle and food
As hard as it is, its best just to make the decision now, cut our losses, ensure everyone is healthy and just look forward to next year

Next steps:
  • I have initiated contact with the online sites that promote our show and advised of the cancellation.  You will start to see those shortly (along with Morro Bay that was also cancelled)
  • We are working with the fairgrounds to see what happens with our $1000 deposit. 
    • The additional funds for the event were due this week and we had not paid yet, so no worries on that part.

Let me know if any issues or questions.
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and will look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Gary PFL

Sunday, March 15, 2020


There is no shortage of bottles that refuse to offer up their lineage in the historical record. One example is the blob top soda water bottle simply embossed GOLDEN GATE. Found on the west coast it surely has its roots in that region, even though it has all the characteristics of being manufactured on the east coast. Beginning some thirty-five years ago, Peck Markota and I would periodically discuss the possible pedigree of this bottle based on research uncovered at that time. Admittedly, very little has changed since then.

The seed for this article was planted when Peck shared with me an article he had found in an old newspaper that described the attributes of the floating palace that regularly plied the route between San Francisco and Panama, bringing gold seekers, their families, and other adventurers to California during the gold rush. The glowing description of the Steamship Golden Gate included a mention of a soda water machine installed on board. Not enough information to conclude that soda water was actually bottled there but certainly something that warranted further investigation. Peck was not convinced, nor was I, and his death left the search to me, which I have been aware of all these years. I had originally possessed a copy of that news article but it has apparently been lost in a sea of paper related to bottles and bottle research that resides in my office. Even with the new onset of digital newspaper research, it has not yet surfaced on-line.

A recent article authored by well known western bottle collector, Max Bell, offered a potential origin of the Golden Gate soda bottle based on his experience and research. (See the March 2020 ‘49er Historical Bottle Assoc. newsletter for his interesting article.) He reported that as many as fifty broken and whole specimens have been excavated in the gold rush town of Yankee Jim’s, in Placer County, California, and may have been associated with a saloon there called the Golden Gate. While there is no documentation of a soda works in the town, this may be a case of a concerted effort to collect and re-use the bottles in association with the saloon.
There is no dispute that the name was initially attached to the strait that connects the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean as early as 1846 by the famous "pathfinder", John C. Fremont, two years before the famed discovery of gold in California. ( see Daily Alta California [San Francisco, Calif.] September 8, 1850, for a description of the term as used in California) Fremont posited that the strait located near the little village of Yerba Buena, soon to become San Francisco, was a "golden gate to trade with the Orient". The term stuck and by 1849, one newspaper reporter noted:
" Company organizations, composed of the flower of each state's population are daily pouring through this golden gate of California, and we have already as large a share of intelligence and capability, truly American, as many of the states of the Atlantic side". (Weekly Alta California [San Francisco, Calif.] November 1, 1849)
Later, the term was used to define any number of physical places in the west, from saloons to markets to bridges. It would have been so easy to have established a soda works with that name in any town in California, but  no such documented evidence has surfaced. Certainly, the origin of the bottle could be any of the breweries and saloons that populated central California with that name, but nothing has turned up in all these years that could help in determining the bottle's true owner.

The only shred of evidence is what Peck uncovered related to a rather famous steamer that plied the west coast from San Francisco to Panama and back for nearly a decade. The information was so tenuous that Peck preferred not to publicly speculate on the idea that the S.S. Golden Gate could actually be the origin of the soda bottles that carried the same name. We discussed the issue at length with the hope that a little more evidence would spring forth in the hope that, at the least, even a weak case could be made for the steamer being the origin of the bottles. With Peck's passing I have continued to pursue this avenue but with no conclusive clues being unearthed, except for one more that may provide some circumstantial evidence.

The Steam Ship Golden Gate is one of the most documented vessels to have serviced our west coast. (not to be confused with the clipper ship Golden Gate) Built in 1851 for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in New York, she was considered the finest ship of her kind when built. She was a double engined side-wheel steamer once described as a "floating palace". The 270 foot wooden hull could accommodate 800 passengers. It was literally a floating city.

The ‘floating palace’ was fitted with any number of amenities to entice gold seekers to book a ticket from Panama to San Francisco. It was upgraded several times in order to maintain its luxury status. If the on-board soda water machinery was part of its initial construction or added later is not known.

Tickets were not cheap. In 1854 a one way ticket from Panama to San Francisco was about $200 for upper deck staterooms and decreased to $45 for a steerage bed. She continued this route until July 27, 1862, when she traveled from San Francisco to Panama and burned at sea where the captain immediately turned her shore-ward and beached in rough surf north of Manzanillo, Mexico. There are many eye-witness accounts on the Internet of the horrors that unfolded on that tragic day. When the burned out hulk met the shallow surf she was broken apart and strewn along the beach, along with the passengers, in all manner of physical condition. Of the 338 passengers and crew aboard, as many as 223 souls lost their lives. (Refer to:, for perhaps the best compilation of knowledge on the sinking of the S.S. Golden Gate)

Part of the scenario that caused such a tragic loss of life on the Golden Gate was the wind. Initially many of the crew and passengers ran for the bow of the ship since the wind driven flames were blowing aft. The ship then turned around causing the flames to blow toward the bow, thus stranding many with no option but to jump overboard or be burned to death. Unfortunately many suffered debilitating heat exposure before they jumped, causing them to be in a weakened state before swimming the quarter mile to dry land.

Aside from the great loss of life at the time of her destruction, the ship was most famous for the treasure she carried during that fateful trip.  As well as considerable specie, she was transporting $1.4 million in gold bullion. Today's value of just the bullion would be closer to $51.5 million. Over the next few years considerable effort was expended in recovering the gold with most of it found, however, no one is sure how much may still lay on or under the sea floor.

The survivors were stranded on a beach with no food, water or shelter. One account notes that, "A group of men was sent to scour the debris scattered along the beach and to retrieve any items that they thought would be useful. Among the most valuable finds were crates of unopened soda bottles that were packed in sawdust and must have floated up from the hold." (Legend of the Golden Gate. Roman Rivera Torres. 2003, pg. 140) A natural question would be; why would the Golden Gate be carrying soda water in bottles from San Francisco toward Panama? Since there were no glass works in California at that date soda bottles would need to be shipped to California, not from it. And full bottles make even less sense. Unless, of course, they were to be used by the passengers, which would be especially in high demand on the return trip from Panama.

It has been a subject of confusion that there has been no locus for where the Golden Gate soda bottles have been found. While numerous western population centers are the most common locations they are also found in less densely populated areas as well. Could it be that the bottles were taken from the steamer by travelers as a memento of the trip to California and eventually discarded throughout the West, wherever the new immigrants may have settled? This seems very plausible and could explain a lack of concentration around a land-based use point. The Golden Gate bottles have been found as far north as Portland, Oregon, and to the south in San Diego, California.

With an idea that the Golden Gate bottles may still be associated with the wreck of the steamer, I contacted Terry Scovil who is a recreational diver and part owner of Aquatic Sports and Adventures in Manzanillo, Mexico. (Terry Scovil, Aquatic Sports and Adventures, Santiago, Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico.) He is familiar with the wreck as well as many of the diving community in that part of Mexico. Terry made contact through his communication network and social media to determine if the Golden Gate bottles have been found in the vicinity of the wreck site. It was, of course, a long shot, but worth a try. No one responded positively to his query.

Of course, this conjecture could easily spill over to yet another soda water type bottle, simply embossed EL DORADO, yet another bottle carrying the same name as a ship, and with no known land based proprietor.

Two distinct molds were used for the manufacture of the Golden Gate soda water bottles.  Of greatest interest are the bottles from the earliest mold, which appear to have all been blown with the use of a bare iron punty rod. What are likely the earliest specimens appear to be produced with a clean and readable embossing.

 Later specimens begin to show a more degraded embossing as the mold began to ‘wear out’.  Could this be because the mold was stored aboard the ship and exposed to the salt-water environment that would be expected in the hold? We simply don’t know but it is possible.

What is assumed to be the later mold has slightly different embossing and all the bottles examined have well formed words with no degradation. These specimens all have a basal hyphen between the two words.  Since the Golden Gate sank in 1862 the later mold may not have been used long enough to show any signs of pitting. This variant has no pontil.

Further comments on this subject are always invited.

The loss of the S.S. Golden Gate had such an impact on the people of California that a song was even prepared about the tragedy

Monday, March 9, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

"Hamburger Tropfen Bitters" Mystery no more

The Hamburger Tropfen Bitters and John Carl Mitau. We know that Wm. Hoelscher & Co. from San Francisco, was the agent for the brand. The embossing on the bottle reads "Hamburger Lebens Tropfen", which in german means "Hamburg Life Drops"  But, where was it from and who was John Carl Mitau? Well, I just discovered this article in the "Independent Calistogian" March 19, 1884, newspaper from Calistoga, California.
There you have it. A Calistoga, California Bitters and John Carl Mitau is from Germany. He manufactured the popular "Hamburger Tropfen Bitters" and brought it to California. Also, Could it be possible that Wm. Hoelscher was the relative they refer to, that assisted J.C. Mitau in bottling, marketing and selling his stomach bitters here in California. I believe so.
This western bitters lasted from 1884 - 1906. Wm. Hoelscher & Co. trade marked the brand in 1900. The first bottles were label only followed by the embossed bottle by the late 1890's. Making the embossed bottle extremely rare with only a hand full known, in either aqua or amethyst seen here. 


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Miracle Dig and Beginners Luck

Getting permission to dig is no easy task these days. So is the case with this project. It took a lot of hard work and 3 1/2 weeks to finally get permission on a major project. Now that is not the miracle here. The miracle is that the bottles you see have been saved or rescued from not only the ground but from an excavator, a dump truck and a D6 Cat on a construction site. The mere fact that they exists is the miracle.
     Now, the story gets better. Yeah I may have found some good sodas. But, one of the young guys that was running a bobcat with a sifting bucket for getting the junk out of the dirt, along with bottles in the process, didn't know anything about bottles. But, he and his dad do collect Native American items and metal detect for gold. So he has the collecting bug already. At the beginning he started pointing out bottles for me and picking them up himself. Then he wanted to know more about bottles and had some great enthusiasm. His excitement for the hobby was fun to see and he is a young guy. So, I started teaching him the ropes and wanted him to keep what he found. I told him the history of every bottle he found. He got more into it. He even told me his dad really liked the bottles and history also. They went as far as to build a shelf to display his new bottles. Everything from blue bromo's to the whiskey you see here. Yes, he rescued this piece of history from destruction. I was next to him while he was operating the Bobcat with the sifting bucket. He runs the Bobcat into the pile of dirt super fast and picks up a load and shakes it. This time he stopped and kept the bucket up, crawled underneath and grabbed it. He turned to me and asked, Mike what is this. I about shit my pants. I could not believe what I saw. A beautiful Jockey Club Whiskey. The look on his face when I told him what he had found was priceless. The fact that this bottle exist is a true miracle. I told him to keep it for as long as he can, don't part with it. He was over the moon with excitement and I was excited for him. The best part for me is that the young guy Seth who found the whiskey along with his dad are now new bottle collectors and are looking to learn more. He is also looking forward to going to his first local bottle show. Now, isn't that what the hobby is about. The most fun I had digging in a long time. Many thanks guys.


Friday, February 7, 2020


Note:  This is research by a joint effort between Bruce Silva and Eric McGuire. We both realized we were doing concurrent research and decided to collaborate in a single article. Great fun, and we welcome any comments or further information on this subject.

"El  fantasma". Translated into English, means "the ghost".

And that's exactly what the Mexican Tonic fifth has been. One example was dug down in
Southern California years ago. Since then, no more have surfaced. The bottle is a
beautiful example of a clear picture "whiskey". Embossed MEXICAN TONIC / large
picture of an eagle but with no serpent in its beak, and talons holding a branch with a flower / JOSE GARCIA, MEX.

Bob Barnett first documented it's existence in 1997, in Western Whiskey Bottles 4th
edition as #549, with a footnote that only one damaged example existed. He'd guessed
that it dated ca. 1895 - 1905. At the time Bob saw the bottle it was in a collection in
Carson City Nevada. Since then, the bottle had disappeared from the radar. Oh well, it's
Mexican anyway so of no real interest to collectors of western American pre-pro whiskies; or so we thought...

This rather rare bottle is not known to many collectors. The name implies some connection to Mexico even though the words MEXICAN TONIC are decidedly English. The proprietor appears to be Jose Garcia from, or in, Mexico. I couldn’t imagine the difficulty in attempting to document this man in Mexico. It would be even more difficult than finding a certain John Smith in the United States. Fortunately, the implied proprietor of this MEXICAN TONIC  is only fictitious. The bottle was actually a product of two California men who are not impossible to document but still a challenge – Alphonso Moncton Peache and Myndert LaRue Starin.

A search of available online digital newspapers turned up this small advertisement. It ran from January 6, 1890 through June 1890. Lowenthal & Myers, wholesale liquor dealers of Albuquerque, New Mexico, secured the wholesale agency for that state in January 1890 and ran a few ads in the Albuquerque Morning Democrat  until April 1890. The only wholesale agent located who advertised the product in California was Brassy & Co. in San Jose, who continued a similar ad from July 1890 to September 1890. Brassy & Co. was primarily a wholesale liquor agent, which lends credence to the conjecture that the Mexican Tonic was an alcoholic beverage.

The partners, Starin and Peache, residents of Los Angeles, created a medicinal product, as phony as the ‘best’ of them, claiming it was good for dyspepsia, constipation and loss of appetite. Packaged in a whiskey style bottle it probably carried a healthy dose of alcohol. Understanding the basics of marketing, the bottles were nicely embossed with a Mexican eagle and the artwork of the labels were first class. The name and graphics were trademarked with the California Secretary of State to help deter imposters who were expected to copy the product if it were to become wildly successful, as they hoped. It received trademark No. 1665 on October 24, 1888, which was undoubtedly about the time that Mexican Tonic was first marketed.

The beautiful front label for Mexican Tonic

The secondary bottle labels for Mexican Tonic

The son of  England born William E. and Mary J. Thompson Peache, Alphonso Moncton Peache was born in Michigan in 1868. His father was a boiler maker in Port Huron, but Alphonso apparently had no interest in that trade. He first appears in the registration record of the Seventh Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard (Los Angeles) as a Hospital Steward on October 10, 1888.

Of course, there was no bona fide Major George LaRue. Starin had created a fictional person using his middle name for this Major who so loved the Mexican Tonic. This was the earliest ‘advertisement’ located, running on January 1,2 and 3 of 1890.

The 1890 Los Angles Business Directory lists both Peache and Starin as being associated with the Mexican Tonic Co., and both residing at 210 Boyd St. In 1891 Peache is listed as a druggist at the same address, along with Starin, but the latter is listed as a salesman with the Germain Fruit Co.

One may begin to wonder if the Mexican Tonic Co. had reached the end of the line by 1890. To even bolster this thought the Mexican Tonic advertisement that can be found nearly every day in the Los Angeles and San Jose, California, newspapers abruptly ended in September 1890. The only other continuing advertisements for Mexican Tonic were from retailers who were offering sale of the tonic at a reduced price. All indications conclude that the tonic was a defunct product by the end of 1890.

 By 1892 Peache is listed as a salesman at 124 Spring St., and residing at 500 Buena Vista, in Los Angeles. Starin is missing from the listings but is noted as a salesman at 210 Boyd in the 1893 listing. Also of interest is a listing for Helen Starin at 224 Boyd. She was Starin’s mother. Starin is listed at the same address in 1894 as a “business manager Trade”, and in 1895 as a salesman and in partnership with Abe Hart as proprietors of the St. Louis Lunch Room at 109 W. Second. (In 1897and 1898, Starin is a clerk and residing at 210 Boyd, and as a salesman in 1899)

In fact, Peache was acting as a salesman for the Cudahy Packing Company of Omaha at least by January 1892. He continued in the employ of Cudahy as a traveling salesman and is documented traveling throughout the west as far as Helena, Montana, in the north and Dallas, Texas, to the south. He eventually became a manager for Cudahy in 1902 and Peache was quickly ensnared in matrimony when he married Clara Fotheringham on May 14, 1903, in her home town of Sutter Creek, California. He and Clara had two children in San Francisco, Dorothy on March 2, 1904, Kathryn on  March 25, 1907. They then moved to Oakland about 1911 and had Alphonso, jr. on February 19, 1912.

Tragedy struck quickly to the Peache family when Clara died December 1, 1913, and Alphonso died a week later on December 7, 1913. Their three children were suddenly orphans which was quickly remedied when Clara’s parents, Fred and Emma Fotheringham, took them in and raised them in San Francisco.

The obituary notice for Alphonso Peache (Oakland Tribune, December 8, 1913)

Myndert LaRue Starin was born April 5, 1857, in Watertown, Wisconsin. He moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the Spring of 1880. (Los Angeles Herald, 15 Nov 1896)) Starin is first documented in California as a member of the Eagle Corps of the California National Guard in Los Angeles in 1882, and working for Hellman, Haas & Co., wholesale grocers.  He was elected a third sergeant of the California Eagle Corps National Guard, under the supervision of then Major George S. Patton, in 1884. (He was the father of General George S. Patton, Sr.) (Los Angeles Herald, January 17, 1884) By 1886 Starin was instrumental in organizing Company C of the Seventh Regiment, Los Angeles and elected its captain. (San Diego Union and Daily Bee, August 4, 1889)

It is highly likely that Starin and Peache became friends through their National Guard activities, both committed salesmen; probably saw the potential benefits of creating and selling a medicinal product of their own making. Both apparently loved the world of sales and felt they could succeed handsomely with their talents. Starin’s father, Erastus Charles Starin, died June 30, 1891, leaving his estate equally divided to Myndert Starin and to Helen, who was Myndert’s mother. Myndert’s father had worked in the insurance industry and owned a hotel in Los Angeles. It is probable that Myndert received a considerable estate from his father.

Acting as a traveling salesman, Starin sojourned to Manila in the latter part of 1899. Assessing the business conditions he was pessimistic about opportunities. However, he noted,,. . . “that there are good openings in Manila at present for a manufacturing chemist, lawyers, a photo supply house and a manufacturing confectioner”. (Los Angeles Herald, 12 February 1900) . He may have tipped his hand a bit as a reason for traveling there when he further stated, . . . “The coldest weather there is warmer than in Los Angeles at this time and you can see the ‘miasma’ rise out of the ground every morning.  It is like breathing a poisonous gas, and then there are no sewers.  The moist tropical climate produces all kinds of malarial and tropical fevers and I hear the plague is there now.  If that is so, the question of living there is settled.”

Back in Los Angeles, in 1900 Starin invested in the Oak Oil company, becoming a director, and secretary,  at a time when the Los Angeles fields were booming. (Los Angeles Herald, 4 Mar 1900).  He also became a director of the newly incorporated Kismet Oil company a month later (Los Angeles Herald, 5 April 1900)  He then became a director of the newly incorporated Trophy Oil company in May of 1900.  (Los Angeles Herald, 9 May 1900)  With continued trust in the oil business he then subscribed $7,000 to the incorporation of the Arfena Oil company. (Los Angeles Herald, 19 Jul 1900) It appears that he got a little carried away with investments for in 1903 Starin, still defined as a commercial traveler, filed bankruptcy alleging his liabilities to be $2390 and assets, $350.  (Los Angeles Herald, 22 Jul 1903) And, this was at the time when California was the largest oil producing state in the U.S.

 As he had done several years earlier, Starin purchased a liquor license, this time from A. T. Carter for use at 115 Wilmington Street, Los Angeles. ( Los Angeles Herald, 4 May 1904).  In 1907 he then purchased the liquor license of wholesale liquor dealer, C.R. Grand of 422 North Main Street. (Los Angeles Herald, 11 December 1907). The 1910 U.S. census lists Starin as a wholesale liquor salesman.

Starin was active in politics and attended many of the city, county and State Republican conventions for years, as a delegate. His first bid for the Los Angeles City Council came in 1896, but he lost. In 1909 Starin again threw in his hat for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. (Los Angeles Herald, 14 Sep 1909) He wasn’t elected but tried again in 1913.  Chances were slim, as the San Pedro Daily News exclaimed the “Aspirants for Mayor and Council (are) thick as dots in a telegraph office”. (San Pedro Daily News, 27 Mar 1913). Not gaining a council seat Starin eventually settled into the accounting business. He died February 25, 1945, in Los Angeles County.

Another company by the name of Goldschmidt Bros. also advertised a Mexican Tonic in the Spanish newspaper, Las Dos Republicas, from 1896 until July 1898. Goldschmidt was a large wholesale liquor company in Los Angeles, and it is my guess that it had acquired the remaining stock of Mexican Tonic, and was attempting to sell it to the Mexican population of Los Angeles.

The elusive Mexican Tonic bottle

A close-up view of the embossing