Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The "Drakes Clone"

Pictured above between the Cassin's Grape Brandy Bitters and the Lacour's Bitters is an example of an un-embossed Drakes style cabin bitters. I realize that this "Drakes Clone" is not a western manufactured bottle but the fact that this example was recovered from the Sierra County ghost town of Chaparral Hill back in the late 1990's, I believe, makes it worth mentioning.

Chaparral Hill was located on the west side of Goodyears Creek, north of the town of Goodyears Bar, and was settled as early as the early 1850's. This small gold rush era camp, consisting of some roughly constructed cabins, mine buildings and a blacksmith shop, was entirely dependent on the drift and hydraulic mines of the area. The area was mined from the early 1850’s to sometime around the early 1870’s when the ancient river channel they were mining played out. This area was again mined during the depression years by the Thompson family without too much success. It is generally believed that Chaparral Hill was mined exclusively by the drift tunnel method of mining, but on one of several field trips to the area I found evidence to the contrary. The discovery of pieces of a hydraulic monitor, large cast iron diversion valves, remains of hand riveted iron pipe and a water ditch running from Goodyears Creek to the area indicate that hydraulic mining played a major role in the recovery of gold at Chaparral Hill.
The heavy winter snow, seasonal availability of water and rugged remote location, I believe, forced this camp or settlement into being a seasonal mining community.

The example above, discovered at Chaparral Hill, is a six log variant with a smooth base and came out of the ground without any stain in near mint condition. This bottle shows the same characteristics as the 1862 patent drawing for the Drakes Plantation Bitters that is shown in the Ring - Ham Bitters Book.

There are conflicting theories on the origin of this bottle and even a report of an example of this un-embossed cabin style bottle with an open pontil on the base. Some collectors believe that this bottle was an attempt to counterfeit the Drakes Plantation Bitters. Other collectors believe that this cabin bottle was the prototype of the embossed Drakes Plantation Bitters and was first sold in bottles with paper labels. There have been other examples of this "Drakes Clone" un-earthed in Northern California, but to my knowledge, the Chaparral Hill example is the only one recovered from Sierra County.

The above post was taken from the forthcoming book "Gold Rush Camps & Bottles of Sierra County" by Rick Simi. This book will be available starting in September of 2009 at the Downieville Bottle Show.


  1. The Cassin's and Lacour's Bitters were both dug at the infamous San Francisco Dig of '98.

  2. G.O.

    I dug one of the Drake's clones in a pit with a large size Rosenbaums about 10 yrs ago here in the SF Bay Area

  3. Thanks AP,
    I will include that in the book. That also helps put a date on when these bottles were in use.