Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Unicorns and Rainbows

Unicorns and Rainbows

Historical research was somewhat elusive for most until the advent of the internet. Research generally required hours of travel to State Archives or libraries, which held vaults full of often mis-categorized paperwork, and then more countless hours literally digging through file drawers of this and that, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, much like trying to connect random dots.

Hence, early books often contained a myriad of false information. As a relative of Bill Wilson (co-author of Spirits Bottles of the Old West) once told me; he'd spend hours at the archives in Sacramento going through the files and looking at old labels in an attempt to document a certain brand, agency, or proprietor. But, if he couldn't find "it", he'd just pull something out of his ### and figure it was up to someone else to disprove it. Innocent enough, but detrimental to the hobby just the same. Same goes for Dr. Julian Toulouses "Bottle Makers and Their Marks". Among other glaring errors, he "documented" the now infamous H base mark, which he attributed to a non-existent Holt Glass Works. Again, innocent enough, but still a problem.

Recently, there has been much discussion about what constitutes a "western bottle". The general consensus arrived at is that a bottle is truly "western" if; it was blown in the west and intended for distribution solely by a western concern. An exception would be if a bottle was blown in the east for a western concern, and intended for distribution solely in the west, by a western concern. The same basic criteria applies to a "Nevada" bottle.


An article appeared in the current issue of the FOHBC's magazine, "Bottles and Extras ". The article, starting on page 33, was entitled "Nevada Backbar Bottle Bonanza", by Jennifer "Nevada" Jacobitz, James D. Jacobitz M.D., and Jon Aurich Jr.

I read the article in awe, thinking that this was more a treatise on "Unicorns and Rainbows" than it was a well researched, factual presentation on western whiskeyana.

As I delved deeper into the article, I thought to myself "what were these people smoking"? And then it dawned on me, the timing of the article was strangely coincidental (or not) to the offering of the Nevada collection of the legendary "Smilin' " Bob Ferraro. Was this a merchandising ploy? Then again, maybe this was simply a tongue in cheek attempt to bamboozle collectors. After all, they couldn't possibly be serious...

The article contained references a total of fourteen supposedly "new and unknown Nevada back bar bottles". A total of six were "enameled" with the balance being copper wheel cut. After a few days of research, I've assembled the following hard facts about the bottles listed. They are as follows;

1) Old National - allegedly National Nevada. Fact; Old National was registered to BERNHEIM BROS. of Louisville, KY. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

2) Middletown Golden Rye - allegedly Divide, Nevada. According to the article, a generalized reference to the area located between VC and Gold Hill. The town of Divide was actually located in the southern part of Nevada, just south of Tonopah. Talk about a stretch here... Unable to locate a MiddletoWn link to any particular distiller or wholesaler, although CHARLES L. RICHARDSON & SON of Boston, MA. had Middleton registered to them ca. 1900. Another reference suggested that Wire-Welsh & Co. in New Middletown Ohio also owned rights to the brand, although I was unable to verify this. Regardless, it is NOT a Nevada bottle.

3) Middletown Golden Rye (#2) - see #2 above. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

4) Columbia Rye / C. Thomas - allegedly Pioneer, Nevada. Columbia Rye was registered to two separate firms at different times; COLUMBIA WINE & LIQUOR CO. of Albany, NY. and MORRIS LASKY Baltimore, MD. The small camp named Pioneer Nevada, located in the Bullfrog District, dated ca. 1908 (burned 1909 & rebuilt) - ca. 1916. I found no reference to the presence of a saloon (although it undoubtedly had one) and or a C. Thomas in the camp. Jury is still out but most probably, NOT a Nevada bottle.

5) Bon Ton - allegedly Tuscarora, Nevada. The "Bon Ton" brand was registered to Strauss - Pritz & Co. of Cincinnati, OH. The faceted bulbous style back bar decanter is in keeping with east coast back bar decanters. Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

6) International Hotel - allegedly Virginia City (VC), Nevada. The International Hotel, originally located at C Street and Union, was built ca. 1860. Later a larger International Hotel was erected at B Street and Union. It burned and was rebuilt on the same sight, with the final building going to the ground for good thanks to a fire on December 12, 1914. There is a possibility that this bottle dates to the third and final incarnation of the International Hotel in VC. (however, a quick internet search reveals that just about every large city from east coast to west, had an "International Hotel" prior to 1900).

7) Hermitage - allegedly Gold Hill, Nevada. The brand was registered to W. A. Gaines & Co. of Frankfort, KY. The nearest reseller of the brand that I could locate was John Sroufe of San Francisco, who had rights to it ca. turn f the century. Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

8) Hermitage (#2)- see #7 above. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

9) Tahoe Whiskey / Old Globe - allegedly Carson City, Nevada. Unable to locate a pre-prohibition "Tahoe Whiskey" or "Old Globe" (in any context) link to any particular distiller, reseller or wholesaler. An "Old Globe Saloon" is located at 407 No. Curry in Carson City. According to the E. Clampus Vitus plaque, the original was built in 1870 on Carson St., at a different location than the current bar. It was closed down by prohibition ca. 1918. The current location was built in 1971. A Tahoe Rye Whiskey is currently being made, but I was unable to find anything remotely linking it to turn of the century western whiskeyana. A Tahoe Soda Springs existed at Lake Tahoe ca. 1900 - but no relationship found between the two. My gut feeling is that it has the "right look" to be western. If so, it's a hitter. Jury is still out - may, or may not, be a Nevada bottle.

10) A. Fischer / Wells, Nev. - Allegedly from Wells, Nevada. Well, it does say "Wells, Nev." Kinda takes the guess work out of this one. A rare and desirable amber cylinder with white enameled lettering. This is a top shelf back bar that any advanced collector would welcome into a collection!

11) Belmont - Allegedly from Belmont, Nevada. The Belmont brand was registered to Belmont Distillery of Louisville, KY. The reseller of the brand nearest Nevada, that I could locate, was James Gibb of San Francisco. Gibb had rights to it ca. turn of the century. Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

12) Miller - Allegedly from Miller, Nevada. There are two brands of whiskey spelled "Miller", without being plural (Millers). "Miller" Rye was sold by Adler, Furst & Co. of St. Louis, MO. "Miller" Pure Rye was sold by Miller Dist of Ryeland , PA. A Miller / Stewart brand was sold by Miller - Stewart of Louisville, KY. Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

13) A. Livingston Whiskey - Allegedly from Genoa Nevada. "Livingston" was registered to National Distilling Co. of Milwaukee, WI. The style of the decanter strongly suggests east coast origin as well. I found no reference to an "A." Livingston brand. "M. A." Livingston was listed as a retailer of liquors in San Francisco ca. 1914 - 1915. Livingston & Co. did business as liquor wholesalers, also in San Francisco, ca. 1867 - 1917, but did not offer a "Livingston" brand, instead they pushed Pride of Ky. and A. A. Occidental. Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

14) Manhattan XXXX - Allegedly from Manhattan, Nevada. A "Manhattan X X X X Rye" was sold by Meyer - Pitts Co. of Baltimore, MD. A "Manhattan X X X X Whiskey" was sold by Griffin & West of Lynn, MA. These are the only two documented brands that include both "Manhattan" and "XXXX". Nothing found to indicate that this was a Nevada brand. It is NOT a Nevada bottle.

In closing, I'd like to go on record as saying that the internet has opened many doors for us in terms of solving mysteries. It has also provided an avenue for some to publish mis-information which sadly, is taken as gospel by others. I'd like to strongly encourage readers to do their due diligence before assuming that everything they see in print, or on the internet, is the truth. In the case of this article, only one bottle can be definitively attributed to Nevada; the A. Fischer / Wells, Nev. Other bottles conceivably may have lined the back bar of a Silver State saloon. The operative word is "may".

A bottle is truly "Nevada" if; it was blown in the west and intended for distribution solely by a Nevada concern Or if a bottle was blown in the east for a Nevada concern, and intended for distribution by a Nevada concern. If not, it can be considered about as much a Nevada bottle as a Paine's Celery Compound found lying under the sage brush on the outskirts of VC.

Bruce Silva



PS: Many thanks to Robin Preston for providing access to his database. It proved, once again, invaluable especially in assisting with the research for this article!


Good friend, David Bethman, had the following to say on this subject;

"I read with interest the article in the Sept-Oct 2016 issue of "Bottles and Extras" that attributed 14 new NEVADA back bar bottles, and that each one was "rare and one of a kind" to quote the article.

I am kind of a stickler on accurate research, and that quote and the idea that these are NEVADA bottles, not NATIONAL bottles, seemed incorrect. Also, it seemed incorrect to assume the name on some of these bottles represented the names of Nevada towns!

I checked out some of the bottles using online information, and found out the following...

1. Old National is a national brand sold by Bernheim Bros of Louisville Kentucky, their back bar bottles were issued to other bars and saloons. Not from the town of National Nevada.

2 & 3 . Middletown Golden Rye was also a National Brand, sold from New Middletown Ohio. Other examples exist. Not from Divide.

4. Columbia Rye was a national brand sold out of Baltimore, but the "C. THOMAS" could make it a local Nevada bottle if proved thru research.

5. Bon Ton was a very popular name for thousands of saloons and restaurants in this time period. I find W. J. Jones of Boston used this name as a brand of whiskey they sold. Not a Nevada bottle

6. International Hotel - the author attributes this bottle to Virginia City, when a 2006 article in Bottles and Extras by Ralph Van Brocklin attributes this bottle as to be known from AUSTIN, Nevada.

7 & 8. Hermitage was a national brand put out by W. A. Gaines & Co of Frankfurt Kentucky. Not a Nevada brand.

9. Tahoe Whiskey Old Globe IS a Nevada back bar bottle.

10. A Fisher / Wells IS a Nevada back bar bottle.

11. Belmont was a brand controlled by the Belmont Distillery Company of Louisville Kentucky, NOT a Nevada bottle. I find it a real stretch to assume Belmont was from Belmont Nevada. That is like assuming #13 Livingston Whiskey to be from Livingston, Montana.

12. Miller - not sure, could represent Miller's Extra Old Bourbon a brand sold in the west, but attributed by the name on the bottle to Millers Nevada?

13. Livingston Whiskey was a brand used by the National Distilling Company of Milwaukee Wisconsin, again a national brand.

14. Manhattan XXXX - was a national brand advertised all over the East Coast, I've found many ads in North Carolina, Delaware etc offering this product, probably from Baltimore, MD. Yet attributed in the article from Manhattan, Nevada?

Would you call a Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound medicine bottle, found in the basement of an old Nevada drug store, a NEVADA medicine bottle, no you would not.

In summary, I find that 3 of the bottles are Nevada bottles, with possibly the Columbia Rye IF "C. Thomas" proves to be a local Nevada saloon owner. About 45 minutes of research online gave me this information. Your thoughts appreciated and should I send my concerns to Martin Van Zant? Thank you!

David Bethman"

It looks like we are in agreement.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Annual Tulare Show Info

48th Annual Tulare Collectibles Show & Sale
November 4th ( Friday )
November 5th ( Saturday )

Collectibles include but not excluded to Bottles, Insulators and Antiques
Hosted by the Golden State Insulator Club

Show Held at the Tulare Veteran's Memorial Building
1771 E Tulare Avenue
Tulare, Calif. 93274

Public Hours: (Friday) 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
                      (Saturday) 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

                      Dealer Set-Up at 7:00 am on Friday

CONTACT: Dave Brown (559) 936-7790
                    Bob Merzoian (559) 781-6319

Thursday, September 8, 2016

From Charles Festersen

Can anyone provide information concerning a relationship between the Wormser and Mist of the Morning Barrels? 


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sauce Base X's

Picked up this JPS Sauce bottle, or what I believe is a sauce? Anyways it has a Double Small X on the base and the color looks like I want to be Western Glass. Any Ideas?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Its Millers Time

From Numa G.
Here is a rare western flask from a recent West Coast dig. While the large design Millers are considered common by most, the small design variants are much rarer is any color, especially amber. Less than 4 examples known in straight amber ?

"Great bottle I know some people don't like to clean their bottles BUT REALLY????" LOL MAX
Beautiful as found condition - rs

Monday, August 29, 2016

H.H. Judson Apothecary

Here is the reverse of the Dr. VanDyke's Trade card. It was printed by J.B.Bufford's & Sons 1876.

Early Variant Dr. Renz

Here is a great example of the rare cone top Renz's. How many of these variants with this early looking top are known ? I can think of three examples (all green), but there must be more. Has anyone seen an example in amber ? More than likely these variants are the earliest examples of this bottle.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Who The heck is Dr. Van Dyke?

One of my favorite western medicines is the "Star Remedy # 1, Dr. Van Dyke's Anti- Billious Cure". This crude western med is extremely rare with maybe three known in collections. To my knowledge most if not all were found in Nevada. I have posted on this bottle before but at the recent Sacramento National Show, a good friend provided me with another piece of the puzzle in regards to this medicine. The trade card goes in to more detail on the Anti-Billious Cure as well as the "Trout Oil Liniment" which is "Remedy #2". Unfortunately there is no actual address for the brand...California or Nevada? Being that the Remedy #2 is made from Lake Tahoe trout, one could assume the brand was from the Tahoe area but until more information is found, this is a mystery and one of the rarest western cures. By the way, the reverse of the trade card has flowers and "H.H. Judson Apothecary, Butte and Kentucky Sts". I think this is Vallejo but I am not certain. Of course the druggist selling a brand has little to do with the actual manufacturer in most cases but I would like to know more. DM

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More Western Blown Jakes, Dr. Collis Brown

Western Blown Dr. Collis Browns Jamaica Ginger, No 55 Hay Market, London. The Jake on the Far Right......That Green Streak in the Middle is Actually a Nail Stuck in the Glass.

Western Blown Turner Jakes

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Turner's/Ess. Of/Jamaica Ginger/S.F.

I sought these out back in the day when everything was more affordable. I haven't seen an S.F. Turner's in quite a few years. I also wanted to mention I cannot post comments here using Mozilla Firefox browser.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sacramento Show Finds

Here's a few nice ones I picked up at the show. I think I got a couple of them from you Rick.
Kelly P. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where did Jake Go ?

Anyone notice it's been getting pretty hard to find a green Jake these days ? They can't be that rare.......or are they ? Maybe a few collectors are holding 95% of them. It happens.

Here are a few dates:

McMillan & Kester - 1865-1880
E. Freese - 1866-1874
Dr. Barnes - 1858-1866

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Worst Picture of the Week Award

Is this what happened to a lot of the bottles we collect?
Thanks for the picture Randy

Sunday, July 31, 2016

There's Squares In Those Hills !

Here is a fresh find from the hills. No Rosenbaums or Lacours, but a nice Lediards.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Get Ready for Downieville!

I know you're all getting ready for the really BIG FOHBC show in Sacramento.  Don't forget about the BIG little show following Sacramento on Sept. 10 in Downieville!
   Need help with lodging?  Need a contract?  We'll be at the Sacramento Show and will have extra copies of the sales table contract and show flyers.  Questions? - email or call me!

R.L. Higgins Virginia City

 For many years I have been attracted to anything Virginia City. The history of the Comstock and surrounding area has a mystique all it's own and any tangible piece from there gets my blood pumping. I have been fortunate to dig for bottles in VC over the years, and have been blessed with some great glass. In recent years, digging in Virginia City has shut down and the glory days of finding historic bottles appear to have ended. Some of the finest bottles ever dug were found there and many grace collectors shelves today.

 One of the bottles ( well...three) that I had always wanted to dig was an R.L. Higgins, Virginia City ink. Any of the three versions of this incredible bottle would do... but alas, not a shard of a Higgins ink crossed my shovel, Actually some of the most hard core diggers from the past, had not found so much as a shard...they are THAT rare.

 These inks date from the early to mid 1870s although R.L. Higgins had been in Nevada since the early 1860s. After several business ventures, Higgins opened a stationary, book, and music store in Virginia City in 1873. It is about this time or shortly thereafter I believe, that Higgins ordered custom made ink bottles from the Pacific Glass Works. While it is not known exactly when the bottles were produced, it must have been just before the fire of October 1875. There had to be one order or at least very few bottles produced as a town of 25,000 in 1875 should have had these inks in every home had there been sufficient time to distribute the ink bottles. Higgins' business went under after the fire and he split the VC scene, ending the possibility of any more inks from being distributed.

 There is a tiny little cone ink from R.L. Higgins, an aqua master and an amber master of a smaller size. Why would this be?

The cone is so small, it would not hold enough ink to fill three pens, and the amber master is smaller than a typical master ink. The aqua examples are of more typical size and make sense...the amber master and miniature cone make little sense. Surely it was expensive to make these odd, non generic size bottles, but I am sure glad he did!

 The Higgins inks are rare with two amber masters known, and two or three aqua masters in collections. The cone is also very rare with maybe six known in any condition. All three proudly read " R.L. Higgins, Virginia City". They are fabulous reminders of the history of the west. Good luck digging one of these! DM.

( click on the photo to enlarge)




Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Crude Alex Von Humboldt's

Check out this crude and bubbly square...

Some Summer digging inspiration!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Here's a bottle that has me puzzled. Anyone have any info you want to share on this.

The following ads were provided by Andrew K.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Vintage West Coast Dig Photos

Looking for any 1960s or 1970s Calfornia or Nevada bottle digging photos for an upcoming exhibit at the National Show in August. Photos of the Benicia mudflats, Embarcadero, and Old Sac would be great. If you have any you'd be willing to share, please try to scan them at the highest possible resolution and email them to


Sunday, June 19, 2016

From Ferdinand Meyer

Rick: Would you please post on your site ASAP. Thanks!
From Fred Holabird: Hi thanks for the calls and all the help over time getting the word out on the FOHBC auction. I forgot to mention something important and need your help. I would greatly like to add some bottles from western states that help define bottle collecting in the West. Here’s what I’d like to see: Some western bottles that help define the state: Arizone: something like one of the Rattlesnake oil bottles. And a bottle marked “A.T.” or mining camps – Bisbee, etc. I will put in my own tombstone soda. Colorado: bottles from the mining camps that aren’t dirt common. I have a good selection from New Mexico now. Looking for Montana and Oregon pieces! We probably have California covered, unless I can find a Manzanita Cure, which would be great. Nevada – as I mentioned, I’ll pull from my collection. Washington – I’ll call a major collector I know. I need stuff within a week or so, if at all possible. MORE INFO

Ferdinand Meyer V, SEGD, AIGA

Thursday, June 9, 2016

California Trade Marks

From  Eric McGuire

The California State Archives has finally put its early California Trade Mark files on line for everyone to use. This significant collection of trade marks is truly amazing, and if you have an interest in the history of California bottled products you may just completely miss dinner once you begin browsing the collection. There are a few errors but they are insignificant relative to the importance of this site to bottle collectors and historians of California commercial history.

You will find thousands of bottle related labels from 1861 to the turn of the century, and some will knock your socks off. I implore all bottle collectors to visit this site and invite them to dig a little deeper with what they find, with their results being published articles and vignettes of their research. Such productivity will only contribute to the perpetuation of the hobby which we currently enjoy.

Eric McGuire
A couple of examples of the trade marks to be found in the collection - rs -

Examples of paper labeled whiskies from the Bruce Silva collection can be seen here

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More Good Old Days

Glob top McKenna's
McKenna's lower center
The late Tommy Walker, Dan Bell and a open pontil Old Sachem
Log jam saloon hole
Gold rush hole - Max Bell, Aaron Hill and the sole agent
Another gold rush hole
The late great Mike Dolcini
Thanks to Max Bell for the pictures - rs -

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Good Old Days

Here is a vintage photo of a 1970 bottle dig in downtown Sacramento. Anyone have any other photos of the glory days ?