Saturday, October 31, 2009

Walkers Whiskey Tops

Seems like I'm always a week or more behind on the blog .My computer time is eaten up by the FOHBC.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Brief History of Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters

Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters was first introduced to the California public on August 31st 1867. The very first advertisement shows the bitters to be marketed from 222 J Street in Sacramento California by Dr. C.M. Renz and his son John.
John Renz had a paints, oils and glass business when he began marketing his fathers bitters. The bitters sold well in the Sacramento area so John tried to expand his bitters product to the competitive San Francisco market. San Francisco based competitors included Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root Bitters, Lacour's Bitters and Cassin,s Grape Brandy Bitters, very stiff competition indeed.

Several different newspaper advertisements show different San Francisco agents handling Renz's product without much success. He continued in Sacramento promoting his bitters and eventually Langley & Co. began distributing Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters in the San Francisco bay area. Renz's bitters won a silver medal at the 1869 State Agricultural Fair after narrowly losing to Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root Bitters in 1868.

John sold his Sacramento paint business sometime in 1870 and later moved to San Francisco to pursue the sale of his award winning bitters full time.

There are three variants of the Renz bottle. The small letter variant is considered by most western collectors as the earliest example of the Renz bottle. It is not known if this bottle was manufactured at the San Francisco or Pacific Glass Works. These early examples of the Renz's bitters bottle are seen in several different colors with three different style tops and most likely date from 1868 - 1869.

The second variant of the Renz bottle has large letters and "straight legged" R's. This bottle exhibits the same exact lettering style and apostrophe font as the Dr. Wonser's Indian Root Bitters; The Wonser's started being marketed in December of 1870, and is attributed to the San Francisco Glass Works. An original label found on an example of the second variant shows that John Renz was still marketing the product fron the Sacramento location and probably dates from 1870.

The third and last variant of this bottle has large letters and the distinctive western "curved" R's associated with the San Francisco glass houses. This variant uses an apostrophe that is seen on several different whiskies of the early and mid 1870's and has the same font style as the E. Martin crown shoulder and mid crown whiskey fifths. This last variant has been found with an original label confirming that John Renz was marketing the "curved" R bottle from the San Francisco location during 1871 and until he discontinued the embossed bottle.

Western collectors consider the Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters a highly collectible bottle and the small letter variant is the most coveted of the three variants. Any western bitters collector worth his salt has completed the Renz hat trick, all three variants of the bottle in his collection.

From left to right: the "curved legged" R variant, small letter variant & the "straight legged" R variant.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wanted Ad Pays Off ?

If you noticed the Chalmer's Catawba Wine Bitters wanted ad was missing from the Bottles Wanted - For Sale section its because our Oregon Western Glass Addict just scored his Chalmer's.

As Miller's Extra related to me " After lengthy negotiations, and a little pain, a mint Chalmer’s resides in Oregon. Please remove my “wanted” listing when you get a chance.
Now, I am seriously going after an M. Keller, a Dr. Miller’s Ratafia, and amber Henley’s IXL (cylinder)".

Wow! A Chalmer's on the shelf and on the trail of an amber IXL, Miller's Ratafia and a California Wine Bitters - That's what I'd call bottle collecting.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Origin of the E.G. LYONS & CO MANUFACTURERS SAN Fco bottle

I've been researching this particular bottle as I was fascinated with what type of product was being marketed in it. The only story we collectors/diggers were really ever told was printed in the Western Bitters book by Bill Wilson. After my extensive research into early western bitters quite a few inconsistencies began showing up on many of the different bitters written about.
The above information along with other research tells of an interesting story. The ad immediately above the text is the earliest found for the E. G. LYONS & CO, which began by being the successors to the Crevolin & Co, with this advertisement being placed in the S. F. Alta California paper on January 7th, 1865, and ran for 1 month in duration, the firm was located at 510 Jackson St, S.F. Could these square embossed bottles have been made this early? Most likely not by the SFGW, but it quite possibly could have been by PGW, however there is no evidence to be able to prove this.
The middle ad was placed on October 14th, 1865 and ran until January 20th, 1866 in the Sonora Union Democrat paper. This advertisement is very interesting as it shows they were carrying quite a few well known brand bitters. The California Wine Bitters referred to I believe is not Sainsevain's brand but I believe M. Kellers brand. Mercado & Seully who first marketed the Sainsevain's California Wine Bitters with the aid of G. A. Simon began marketing this product around 1860. When Simon left in 1863 from their employ, and marketed his own California Wine Bitters in 1864, Mercado & Seully gave the manufacturing rights of their bitters to D. Ghirardelli.
The Sainsevain Bros began to market their own version of Wine Bitters with their name on it, and gave exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Sainsevain's Wine Bitters to E. G. LYONS & CO. on January 28th, 1874, see the top advertisement. By now Lyons had expanded to 506 & 508 Jackson St.
The known example of this square Lyons bottle with a partial Sainsevain's label would seem to put the bottle's age a little newer than had been previously stated. I have seen and examined several examples of the Lyons bottle and they range from being quite crude in appearance to being quite neatly made. How long in production was this bottle is uncertain. When did it begin is also unknown, but one piece of evidence we seem to have, is a photo of a bottle that very much seems to resemble this E. G. LYONS square in an exhibit of the PGW display at the 1869 S. F. Mechanics Institute Fair. My belief is that this bottle was indeed made at this glassworks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Recent Acquisition

Even though this recent acquisition is not a western bitters, it sure is a beautiful bottle with a wonderful story.

A friend of mine was out deer hunting last week here in Northern California, when he stopped to take a quick breather, and spotted a piece of amber colored glass sticking out of the duff near an old pine tree. Upon closer inspection (he kicked the piece of glass and it didn't move) he noticed that it was more than a piece of glass. Bending down and scratching away the pine needles, laying on the original ground, was the bottle pictured at left.

Embossed on three panels are: RUSS'S AROMATIC / SCHNAPPS / NEW-YORK. The base has an iron pontil

He put the bottle in his pack and after finishing his hunt brought it home. Later in the week he stopped by where I was working and told me the story and offered the bottle to me.

The pictures show the bottle exactly as I received it, un-washed and in original as found condition. Hundred's of seed bubbles, a crudely applied top and a smokin' shade of amber make this a magnificent piece of gold rush era glass!

I guess its about time I started "deer hunting" again !!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Another W.V.B.

Here is a strong green V. Bitters, got this at the old Reno Show years ago from Ralph. Can't find my blue one, yet, former ME bottle. These are a Great Bottle to collect, they remind me of the Jakes, everyone is different and crude, some serious good color in em too. DB

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beautifully Colored Western Bitters...Walkers

There are some superb examples of Western bitters that have been posted on this site. I know of collections that are simply stunning to look at, with great early glass. Lately it has become even more difficult that ever to acquire a nice colored Western bitters. Everyone seems to want them, and almost no amount of money will pry one loose it seems. As I unpacked some great glass which I picked up at the Canyonville show, I realized that there are still a few bargains to be had if one looks hard enough, and does not follow the herd. I was able to add a couple colored Walkers Vinegar Bitters to my collection, and placing them in the case with some others made me aware of just how absolutely gorgeous these bottles are. Here are four in various colors. The off colors from regular aqua are as rare as some five figure bitters, and have crudity, and overall appeal that is under appreciated in my opinion. The early 1870s examples blown in San Francisco are spectacular, and can be a bit of a challenge to locate. Maybe some of you could post some crazy Walkers. Does anyone have a whiskey top version? They are the earliest I believe, and are rare. I guess one does not have to spend a fortune to have a collection of Walkers, but the prices do keep rising. Better start grabbing them while you can, or I will.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What are the Differences?

Pictured are three different variants of the Lacour's Bitters. The bottle on the far left is a variant 3. The bottle on the far right is a variant 2. The bottle in the center is a variant 1.

I'll pose some questions about these variations of the Lacour's bottles; and let's see if any of our followers can name the answers!

1) What 3 features does the variant 1 & 2 share in common? Same style of top, same style of lettering & small dot in base center.

2) What 2 features does variant 2 & 3 have in common? Same shoulder design of mould & same bottom brad design of base.

3) Variant 1 & 3 each have 1 unique feature not found on any other variant; what is it? Variant one has a period after the word BITTERS & variant three has a unique design top.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This article appeared in the S. F. Daily Alta California newspaper on May 15th, 1889, the glassworks in reference is the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works located at 7th & Townsend Sts. Carlton Newman died a little over 2 mos previously and now his works were run by Sara Newman and probably his son George. Both previous glassworks locations were abandoned and dismantled a few years back when these works were completed in 1886.


Here is another interesting tid bit that came from the May 2nd, 1885 edition of the S. F. Daily Alta California newspaper. This would be at the location of Iowa and Mariposa Sts. in the Potrero district. The two glassworks would soon be merged into the new location of the S.F. & PGW works at 7th and Townsend Sts. the following year.


In my research for writing on the early California glassworks, I came across some interesting little tid bits that the readers might find somewhat amusing. This was found in the August 20th, 1884 edition of the S. F. Daily Alta California newspaper. This would be at the King St., foot of Fourth St. location.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fuzzy Bennet's Tops $400

Last week on ebay this Bennet's Celebrated Stomach Bitters sold for $416.77.
Although the description left a bit to be desired "Nice western bitters in a medium amber color. Clean glass with no damage. Has nice applied top." and the pictures of the bottle were somewhat fuzzy, this Bennet's sold for what I thought was a reasonable price. Maybe the reason for the bargain price was the fact that only 6 bidders placed 16 bids during the 5 day auction.
That being said, it would be hard for this old collector to place a bid on a bottle that had a sketchy description, fuzzy photos and absolutely no picture of the top. But then, I guess I'm from the old school.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More on the Turner Brothers concoctions.

Here is a more comprehensivc advertisement for the Turner Brothers medicinal beverages that were marketed in California during the latter 1850's and early '60's. It's not surprising that diggers/collectors have unearthed at least four different mould variations of the bottle. Those bottles most likely had a myriad of different labels attached to cover their wide array of offerings as seen in the above ad.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Turner Brothers

The five Turner Brothers, James, Malcolm, Archibald, Thomas and Robert, were manufacturing soda water in Buffalo New York as early as 1850.By 1853 they have opened a branch depot in San Francisco and are listed as syrup and cordial manufacturers. The Turner Brothers are advertising in the October 1858 Nevada Journal newspaper that they are manufacturers of Turner’s Ginger Wine, Forest Wine Bitters, syrups, cordials and an unrivalled Vegetable Bitters, all manufactured at their San Francisco depot. Sometime in 1865 the Turner Brothers sellout to the firm of McMillan and Kester and thereafter McMillan & Kester start advertising that they are the proprietors of the Turner brands. I do not have any information on how long McMillan & Kester used the Turner Brothers brand or if they bottled their bitters or cordials in Turner embossed bottles.

The Turner bottles come in four different variants with the earliest and rarest variant having a pontil base. Although these bottles are considered scarce the California gold rush country seems to be where most of the known examples have been found in the west.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Early Western Glass

A lot of advanced western bottle collectors admire and talk about the sparkling, beautiful fire aqua coloration of western manufactured glass, but that wasn't always the case. When the two most successful glassworks were starting out in San Francisco, the raw ingredients that were being used came mostly from various parts of California, with some experimenting being done along the way to come up with good working formulas of ingredients that could be had locally without incurring substantial expense of having to import them. Eventually it was found necessary to import some of the ingredients to get the quality of glass desired.

In the earlier years for the commoner glass, the glassworks would use sands from the North Beach area of S.F. as well as the surrounding hills, along with sand from the Oakland side of the bay. This sand was coarse and not free of iron oxides. Along with glass blowers of limited experience and various skill levels bottles were often made with what I call "in manufacturing flaws", these are often referred to as bruises, crazing, flashes, fractures, etc. They are in reality the result of poor manufacturing process and or annealing process.

Another effect that occurs on early western glass is devitrification, this is caused by the glassblower reheating the glass too often to finish it, causing the crystalization of the surface of the glass, both inside and or outside. This condition is sometimes mistook for haziness or staining in the glass. Examples of this are seen on variant 1 & 2 Lacour's, variant 1 Cassin's and variant 1 Dr. Henley's bitters.

Here is an example of a early western blown variant 1 Rosenbaums Bitters bottle, when placed in a window sill with light, it is easily seen with several in making flaws. Most likely these large western examples were blown during the 1866-67 time frame.