Thursday, April 18, 2024




Born in St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota,  on September 1, 1860, his father was James Nolan, and mother, Mary McCormack. He is first noted in the 1880 U.S. Census for San Francisco, where he was living with his widowed mother. His first job was with Heuter Brothers, Pioneer Varnish Works, and he quickly assumed a role as a salesman.

 He apparently acquired a sense of the utility of paint as a method of preservation of the underlying surface and became fascinated with the concept of keeping iron and steel from rusting, without impacting the usebility and appearance of the treated item. Nolan decided to take a big step in his career and develop a product that could be a little better than those already on the market. Brands such as Cosmoline and similar ‘jelled” petroleum products were quite messy if one wanted full protection. His product would protect with less mess, and he decided to become an entrepreneur and start his own company.

 What is with the name Bessemer Compound? It was Nolan’s way of marketing his product by tagging it onto the name of a state-of-the-art process for producing steel from ‘pig-iron’, which was introduced by Henry Bessemer, beginning in the mid 1850’s. Simply described, it was a method by which oxygen was introduced to molten pig-iron, thus removing impurities from the iron, and producing a much improved product. The impurities would rise to the surface of the molten iron in the form of slag, which could then be discarded. Nolan’s product had no connection with the Bessemer process, but Bessemer steel was nearly always the product used in firearms, which would have been a primary use for his “Bessemer Compound”.

 Nolan received a utility patent for his product from the U.S. Patent Office on January 5, 1886. The main ingredients were bi-sulphide of carbon, beeswax, and sperm oil, combined per his specifications. The bi-sulphide of carbon has a disagreeable ‘rotten-egg’ odor, so his patent also included the addition of some sort of perfumed substance as well, in order to sweeten the aromatics. Each bottle is small, just 4 5/8 inches tall and holding slightly less than two ounces of liquid. Marketed as a rust preventer, the small amount could only be used for small iron or steel products, as in pistols and rifles.


A copy of Nolan’s patent document, describing the details of his new product.


As any responsible entrepreneur would do, Nolan also requested trademark rights for his Bessemer Compound, and received it from the U.S. Patent Office on April 12, 1887 as number 14281. Beginning with his arrival in San Francisco about 1880, Nolan was a traveling salesman for several paint and varnish companies, and continued with that line of work nearly throughout his stay in San Francisco, except for the few years from 1886 to 1888, when he focused on the sale of his compound. In 1889 he went to work for the Pacific Varnish Co. until he left San Francisco in 1892.There is no record of his Bessemer Compound after that date, and it is likely that he moved to Ohio, where he is scheduled in the U.S. Census there in 1900. In that year he was listed as a boarder in the home of the Barron family with the occupation of traveling salesman.


The box wrapper for Nolan's Bessemer Compound accompanied his trademark application.

Nolan’s partner in the Bessemer business was Horace Van Arsdale Scott, described as a general commission merchant. In June 1888 he was forced to file bankruptcy, and probably no longer became associated with Nolan. (San Jose Mercury-news, June 2, 1888). Scott later became a traveling salesman for W.P. Fuller & Co., a large paint and glass establishment in San Francisco. Scott later filed his own patent for a “refilled bottle detector”. (San Francisco Call, July 2, 1903) Patent No. 732,592. It is doubtful the patent was a success as it appears somewhat useless.




A nearly complete label connected to the Bessemer Compound.

At age 39, Nolan married Louise C. Siehl, age 21, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 20, 1900, and had three children there, Ruth May Nolan, born March 20, 1901, John Francis Nolan, born Dec 16, 1902 and Louise Christine Nolan, born September 3, 1905. By 1920 the U.S. census notes his residence as Ardmore, Oklahoma, with the occupation of paint manufacturer. By 1925, his son, John F. Nolan, jr., had established a paint manufacturing business in Houston, Texas. It was there, at the William Penn Hotel, on June 8, 1931, in downtown Houston, that Henry Francis Nolan, took his last breath. His body was transported to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was buried with his wife, who joined him there upon her death on February 25, 1955, in West Palm Beach, Florida.


An interesting look at the business of J.F. Nolan and his mastic paint company. (The Daily Ardmoreite, Ardmore, Oklahoma • Jun 3, 1920)

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Monday, March 4, 2024


    Bondy Brother's Belt ManufRS  Cast Clasps                        
                        By Nicholas Kane

   Recently, a unique clasp drew my attention that was discovered by a gentleman by the name of Bill Cochrun in 2023. The disc on this clasp is a variant of the Bondy Brothers Belt Manufrs  New York but does not exhibit the embossed "Belt Manufrs". Most interesting of all it is hard soldered to the "High Noon Eagle" tongue or male portion of the clasp . As soon as I noticed this I realized the same foundry most likely produced both of these clasps and the hybrid that I had unearthed in 2017.  The first image is of the standard cast Bondy followed by a standard High Noon Eagle & the hybrid clasps.


                                                                                                             Standard Cast Bondy 

                                                                                                Daguerreotype with a fine Cast Bondy 

  Back of a standard cast Bondy

High Noon Eagle and correct cast slide 
        Bills complete High Noon Eagle clasp  with variant Bondy Disc rather than the High Noon Eagle


    Bills Bondy tongue without " Manufrs "

Next will be another important variant from the same maker of these clasps which consists of a Bondy variant tongue that has a similar bar to the above with the standard Bondy center disc . This example was located by Harrison Cole and sold in 2020 to Mark D. and recently changed hands to Rick P. in 2024.
                                                                                          The back showing the same course file marks.
                                                                                       The solder outlines match & not a later marriage.
 The image above shows the standard Bondy center disc on a flat hybrid  tongue bar.
 Finally another hybrid like Bills , Ricks & the High Noon Eagle with a twist .
                                                                                 Hybrid I recovered within approximately a 4-5' area 
            Dug by Nicholas Kane in 2017 with guest Larry Soper who enjoyed the guess of which part was next as much as I with a shovel in hand . 

     Side view above showing the arc on this thicker down tapering T Bar than the previous example with the standard Bondy Center disc. This variant is slightly thicker than the standard Bondy all around . I am quite certain the High Noon Eagle disc was on this hybrid originally since there is almost no sign of solder and would only be on the two edges like the High Noon but with the slight arc a bit more surface area that if it was flat . I placed the High Noon Disc and it was a beautiful fit all around and dropped right in . 
To support this initial theory even more we must go back to when I dug this clasp . I ended up digging the matching parts pictured above with a Five Tailed Soldered On Eagle disc . I strongly believe the disc broke off in the diggings below this camp and the belt came back and some how this other eagle disc was tried and shortly realizing that the disc was larger  the parts were all discarded and possibly the entire belt . 


Bondy variant above and incorrect center disc recovered together in a tight group.

Below you will find two different types of High Noon Eagle tongues and wreaths I felt should be noted .

      Above Daguerreotype of a California Gold Seeker wearing the Bondy clasp.This image is flipped therefore the wreath is on our left .

                                                                                      Above tapered leading edge and flat belt loops 

                                                                                                   The High Noon Eagle center disc
                                                                                                Original tinned High Noon Eagle back 

Rick ,
I want our work to stay together here so I will finally try and make time to wrap up what we started.


I am not certain who owns the two Daguerreotypes at this time I am using as visual educational aids so there is nobody to credit at this time.

The second image was removed from its case at a later date and revealed a wonderful Bondy clasp.

The eagle center disc had quite a few names over the last 20 years and Harrson Cole came up with "High Noon Eagle"  after he dug his first recently & it seams to have stuck.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

                                            UDOLPHO  WOLFE


There are times when unexpected information pops up that is encountered when least expected. About 15 years ago I found the following pages in a book that most collectors of antique bottles may find interesting.

I published it in our local bottle club newsletter, which was read by only a handful of people.  I believe that there are enough collectors who are familiar with the bottled product of this man that it would have a general interest.

The name of our subject is Udolpho Wolfe, a Virginia born businessman who moved to New York and made a huge fortune selling gin.  His secret was two-fold.  Udolpho gave his gin a new name, “schnapps”, which was apparently a colloquial word for gin that was commonly used in Holland.  His other secret was advertising.  Udolpho’s advertisements appeared virtually all over the world, which was a huge expense but paid off handsomely.

Udolpho’s will left his substantial company to David H. Burke, his brother-in-law, and partner in the firm at the time of Udolpho’s death on September 14, 1869.  Burke, and others, acted as executors of Udolpho’s estate for two years until Udolpho’s only son, Joel Wolfe, reached a majority age, who then took charge of the company.

There is really no need to include pictures of his bottle here, since most collectors have seen many examples.  The earliest specimens are pontiled and the latest are machine made. While the story of the man and his bottles deserves an expanded treatise, the following recollections of him, by a fellow businessman, and New Yorker, printed in 1885, gives some fascinating insight into his life.

The following biographical sketch explains the reason for the subtle difference in the appearance of the Australian Udolpho Wolfe bottles compared with those of the U.S.  Wolfe’s manufacturing and bottling house in Hamburg, Germany, serviced all parts of the world except the United States.  The schnapps destined for the American market was distilled in Schiedam, Holland, and shipped in bulk to be bottled only for the U.S. market.  On the subject of litigation it should be noted that Wolfe’s schnapps was possibly the most imitated bottled product known.  As a result a great amount of information on his schnapps and his imitators reside in numerous legal and court documents scattered around the U.S. and the world.  One day it would make a great research project for someone.

*Note:  In several places a unit of measurement called a “pipe” is referred to below.  One pipe equals approximately 126 gallons.

 Just one of the many lawsuits presented to the Wolfe company is presented in the article below. Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), October 28, 1884

Friday, December 29, 2023


                                              By Eric McGuire

It has been nearly 52 years since I first wrote about this bottle in THE CORKER, the November 1972 issue of the newsletter of the Golden Gate Historical Bottle Club.  Back then the bottle was a curious rarity with virtually no information available regarding its provenance.  The Cassin brothers were already famous in bottle collecting circles for their Grape Brandy Bitters, Old Plantation Whiskey in glass and stoneware, and for a rare variant of the Mills Bitters.  The soda water bottle was so rare and elusive that no one was sure if it was even a product of the San Francisco Cassins, especially since it had a decided British style, with its typical round bottom “torpedo” shape.

By a stroke of luck I located an advertisement for the product in the April 1872 issue of the Wine Dealers’ Gazette, a relatively obscure monthly trade newspaper published in San Francisco.  That find brought me to publish my original short article in The Corker.



The first, and last, advertisement found for the Cassin’s English Aerated Waters ( Wine Dealers’ Gazette, San Francisco, Calif., April 1872).

There is one benefit to growing up, and growing old with an interest such as antique bottles.  One can track, over time, the relative numbers of a particular bottle through digging, bottle sales, auctions and networking with other collectors.  Remarkably, this bottle is nearly as rare now as it was fifty years ago.  I have seen probably a handful in all that time.  The relatively simple advertisement that appeared in the Wine Dealers’ Gazette definitely documented the origin of the product but little else.  In the same issue of the Gazette the editors inserted a short article about the introduction of the product that I did not publish previously.  I quote from the Gazette:

English Aerated Soda Water - What is it?

   In our advertising columns will be found a notice of the introduction into this market, of the above named spring and summer beverage.  Samples are sent to us, which to the taste, are pleasant and agreeable.  We could not give them editorial indorsement, in a sanitary sense, (being somewhat of a chemist  ourself) until we were assured of the materials from which they were manufactured.
     We are a little sensitive on the subject of “Soda Water”, as we have suffered from its effects.  We inquired of Messrs. Cassin Brothers, the manufacturers, from what material they made their Sodas.  They appeared to be reticent, thinking as we supposed, we were prying into their secrets.  We then reminded them that as editor of the GAZETTE, we conceived it to be our duty to inform the public as to the healthfulness of all new beverages, such as they were offering to the people.  From further conversation, we are satisfied they have imported the machinery for the new English process in manufacturing Sodas, wherein the base is Carbonate of Potass.  The new process consists, in part of passing carbonic acid gas through a solution of the Sub Carbonate, and evaporating at a temperature of 212 (degrees) to crystallization.  This new process is indorsed by English and German chemists and European Pharmacologists, as a “wholesome effervescing draught”.  The base of the old style Soda was Sulphate of Potass or Salt of Tartar.
     We have long known the deleterious effects of many of our, so called, Soda Waters.  Some are made in the old style, even out of Bisulphate of Potass, which is nothing more than a high character of Nitric Acid!
     This article is written by the editor of the GAZETTE, not for pay, nor for the two dollar advertisement, we believe there is in another column of this paper; but for the benefit of Soda drinkers.  We do not say, because we do not know positively, that Messrs. Cassin & Co. have the machinery and process above alluded to, for the manufacture of pure Soda Water; but from the reputation they bear, as Front Street merchants, and the fact positively known to us, of the enlargement of area of operations, and having sent to England and engaged a man to manufacture Soda Water, it is fair, at least, to presume they are entitled to the confidence of the public, and we believe they have the improved process, and we believe they mean business.

After all these years, I have seen no new information come to light regarding this product.  Production must have been very short-lived, as no further advertisements were printed in the Gazette or any other newspapers of general circulation.  There were no directory listings for the Cassins regarding the manufacture of soda water.  It must be assumed that the venture ceased operations shortly after inception.  Most of the bottles were likely returned to the Pacific Glass Works for sale as frit, thereby making the few “escapees” rare artifacts.  A huge question remains as to why their soda water was such an immediate failure.

Frances and Patrick J. Cassin were born in Dublin, Ireland and became caught up in the lure of California gold. Francis was the first to arrive, in 1849, and Patrick followed a few years later.  They both operated separately until late 1866 when they formed their partnership. They are most famous for production of their Wild Grape Root Bitters from 1867 to about 1872, and for the introduction of their embossed bottle for OK Plantation Whiskey in 1874. The Cassin brothers separated their partnership on October 8, 1880 when Frances retired. He never married but maintained a residence with his sister, Mary Cassin, in San Francisco.  After retirement he seemed to slip into oblivion as no record of his death could be found.  Patrick remained in San Francisco and continued to operate a wholesale liquor company for a few years.  He later moved into real estate and maintained a saloon for awhile.  In 1878 the 45 year old Patrick married 18 year old Frances Titus Cole in San Francisco.  Patrick died August 5, 1889, aged 56 years.

This soda water bottle was not the last time the Cassin name appeared on products of a decided English style. In 1883, Patrick Cassin imported tan and white stoneware jugs from England for his O.K. Plantation Whiskey.  He sold the whiskey, in the one gallon, half-gallon and quart sized jugs at $5.00 for the gallon. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 1883)  The gallon size is stamped with the name of P.J. Cassin & Co., 433 Battery St., San Francisco and the name of the contents, O.K. Golden Plantation Whiskey.  This marketing move was probably a final attempt to sell his remaining stock of Plantation whiskey.

The Cassin English style soda water bottles are found in shades of very dark to light aqua.  They are 9.5 inches in length and look very much like their British counterparts, such as Ross’s, Webb’s and Cantrell & Cochrane. It is plainly embossed CASSIN'S / ENGLISH / AERATED / WATERS





The rounded base has a small “dot” at the bottom, which very likely was the location of a mold vent for escaping air as the molten glass was blown against the mold

Saturday, November 25, 2023




Firsthand newspaper descriptions to the activities at various glass works are available but not common. They are all different in how the observer describes the event. This account, taken directly from the Russian River Flag newspaper of Healdsburg, California,  printed on November 26, 1874, is one of the best I have seen and I show it in its entirety. It is nicely detailed and offers some new information about the San Francisco Glass Works as well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023



 Santo Carlo Ceribelli was born in Italy, probably in Lombardia, about 1828, and likely departed Italy from the port city of Genoa with his wife, Antonetta.  The couple was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1870, when their first child, Joseph (Giuseppe) Ceribelli, was born.

 His earliest documentation in California was in April 1873, when he was appointed Postmaster for Burnett, in Santa Clara County.

The first notation of his presence in San Luis Obispo was in June 1875, when he advertised the opening of his soda works.

Ceribelli's first advertisement for his soda works
 San Luis Obispo Tribune (Weekly),  June 5, 1875


In June 1878, Ceribelli advertised his new store in San Luis Obispo, now located on Higuera Street, adjoining the store of W.E. Stewart (San Luis Obispo Tribune, June 8, 1878). The 1880 U.S. Census for San Luis Obispo documents Santo as a liquor merchant. Although he was still producing soda water he probably found that selling wine and whiskey was a much less demanding occupation.

He purchased property in San Luis Obispo in 1877 and 1881.  Markota notes that L. Martin purchased the San Luis Obispo Soda Works in 1883, presumably from Ceribelli. He did, in fact, sell his business to Luther Martin in October 1881.


San Luis Obispo Tribune (Weekly), October 29,1881

 On the subject of his soda water venture, Ceribelli posted this unusual statement in a Los Angeles newspaper.

To My Friends and the Public

Having come here from San Francisco with the intention of opening a Soda Water Factory in Los Angeles, I regret to be obliged to announce that failing health has forced me to give up the enterprise.  I am glad to be able to say that I have effected a sale of my machine and outfit to Mr. Stoll, who, by the way, I see sells his goods as cheap as such things are sold in San Francisco.

                                                                                   S. Cerebelli”

(Los Angeles Herald, June 30, 1883)


Ceribelli had his soda water bottles produced in San Francisco. Only one variant has been found, indicating that he likely placed only one order with the glassworks due to short business activity.

Ceribelli continued his residence in San Luis Obispo for several more years while he sold the remainder of his wine and liquor stock. His final advertisements, in 1885, gave notice of liquidation of his business, with the note that, “Mr CEREBELLI is compelled to visit Europe to attend to important family matters, and therefore offers this opportunity to buyers.” Nothing more was located about Santo Cerribelli, the soda water manufacturer of San Luis Obispo. California.

It is assumed that Ceribelli and his wife and children, returned to Italy, as no further information could be located.

Not until 1902 does the youngest son, Santo Cerribelli, jr., return to the United States. Santo, jr. was born in San Luis Obispo on May 7, 1878, which made him a U.S. citizen. After his return to the United States  he stated that his plan was to go back to San Luis Obispo. He may have, but Santo quickly returned to New York City.  He spent most of his life there as an importer, initially working for an Italian relative, Giacomo Ceribelli, who probably resided in Milan, Italy. The company was styled G. Ceribelli & Co., with Santo jr. heading up the New York branch. The company was a major supplier of Ferro China Bisleri, a popular aperitif, until the onset of prohibition in the U.S.  Santo jr. also maintained a summer house in Darien, CT.  The 1930 U.S. census documents Santo as a chemist in the drug business.  He lived a life in the world of high society, residing at 895  Park Avenue in Manhattan.  By 1942 (per his draft registration card) he was still working for G. Ceribelli & Co., at 121 Varick Street in New York City, which was acting as an agent for A. Brioschi & Co. He eventually became president of A. Brioschi & Co., pharmaceutical manufacturers.   Santo, Jr. died in New York in April 1953.