Sunday, November 29, 2009

More on Cundurango !

In this October 11th, 1871 advertisement Drs. Bliss & Keene claim that an article is being advertised and sold as Cundurango, and I assume, that according to the doctors is not the genuine article. Could they be refering to ol' George Chesley as the scoundrel that was pushing that spurious article?

Geo. Chesley & Co. started running advertisements for the Cundurango Bitters on November 18th, 1871 in the Sacramento Daily Union. (pictured below) The ad states "None genuine without the word CUNDURANGO blown in the bottle" and documents that the Cundurango bottles were manufactured as early, if not earlier, than the November date.
Oldcutters previous post on the trademarks of the Cundurango bitters document that they were manufacturing the product possibly as early as April of 1863. The trademarking of the Dr. Place's Cundurango Bitters in December of 1871 was defiantly after Chesley was selling the product in embossed bottles.

None Genuine #2, Two, Too

Great Med, I know of 2 others of these, both on the border in Dago, mine and the lighter colored one in the Lance W. collection, all have Great Embossing, Thanks for the background info Richard, I was told when I got mine it was a Western Med., but, I have had no clue as to where it might come from or the background? I guess its time to go on line and check out the Los Angeles Directories. DB

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mystery bottle

OK, it's most likely NOT a Bitters, but does anyone have any information about what this bottle might have contained? The embossed scene on the bottle is reminiscent of the Hostetter's label, showing St George slaying the dragon. In this case it appears to be a snake. It is trade marked, but not in the CA State Archives book of applications. To the best of my knowledge, they are only dug in the West. I have dug amber examples, here locally, and found a aqua specimen at a show.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turner Bros.

I have my Turners Bros .bottles in a box in the truck this time .Won't forget to bring them to Auburn . for a show and tell . RTS

More Cundurango

It may not be common knowledge among collectors that George Chesley actually trademarked his bitters twice. The first was in April of 1863, at which time he used the name "Dr Bliss' Cundurango Bitters. Dr Bliss was the co-discoverer of this medicinal plant, native to the Amazon River drainage, claiming that it possessed "wonderful virtues", touting it as a cure for cancer and other malicious diseases. Chesley got wind of this miracle plant and decided to take full advantage of it's perceived healing abilities.

It is doubtful that an embossed bottle for the product appeared at such an early date. Most likely, it was put up in generic containers with a paper label.

Severl years later, in December of 1871, Chesley again applied for a trademark for his product. This time the name was changed to "Dr Place's Cundurango Bitters". This is when the familiar bottle, embossed Cundurango on two panels, was introduced. Maybe someone with more knowledge of this "Dr Place", and his relationship with the Cundurango herb, and Mr Chesley, will put this information forward.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Don't Call Me Cunder!

After all these years of collecting bottles it still fascinates me how bottle collectors "nickname" different bottles and their variants. Whiskey collectors seem to be the most flamboyant with their pet names. "Fatboy" refers to the earliest J.F. Cutter Star in Shield fifth. "Stovepipe" describes a type of top on western fifths and early western bitters. If you are holding a "Fatboy" with a "stovepipe" top.... look out.. western whiskey collectors will be pestering you for that bad boy..... er, I mean "Fatboy"
The tall tapering sided Bryant's Stomach Bitters have been referred to as the "megaphone", "cone" and my favorite the "dillywacker"! The Bryant's sided ladies leg shaped bottle is just called "THE LEG".
Whiskey collectors fondly refer to the "One Name Bear" and the ultra rare "Two Name Bear" while bitters collectors have their "Two Name Hibernia" and "Small Letter Renz".
The rare Thomas Taylor Virginia N. whiskey fifth is called the "Tommy T" the "Virginia N." and lately the "Smiling Bob" and if it happens to be green its called "expensive".
The Lacour's Sarsapariphere Bitters is simply called "Lacour's" because hardly anyone can pronounce sars - a - pear - a - fear!
When your discussing the Turner Bros. square you had better make sure its either a "three line" or "four line" Turner's before you open the discussion on this bottle.
If you are talking Wonser's (DR. WONSER'S U.S.A. INDIAN ROOT BITTERS) are you talking about the "aqua" Wonser's or the "amber" Wonser's and does it have a "kick up" base or the rare "whiskey" base. And for sure don't get these bottles mixed up with the "Wonser's square".
How about all of the millions of Dr. J. Hostetter's Stomach Bitters that are just called "HOSS".
Out of all the the pet names for our western bottles the one that baffles me the most is the CUNDURANGO. The poor Cundurango is called "Cunder", "Cunderango" and sometimes "Conderango" and has even been printed in bottle books as "CUNDERANGO". What the heck is up with this? If you more than casually glance at the bottle you can see it is boldly embossed "CUNDURANGO" - not on just one side - but BOLDLY EMBOSSED on two sides so that it doesn't matter which way you hold the bottle you can see the word "CUNDURANGO".
Don't get me wrong...... I'm not harping on this Cundurango thing..... I just think a bottle as rare and desirable as the Cundurango should get some respect and be called by its correct name (Thanks Mike) "El Cundurango Magnifico".... Nuff said?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dr Henley's other product

We are all familiar with Henley's IXL Bitters, but he also produced other products, including Celery, Beef, and Iron Tonic. The round, wine shaped cylinder is fairly common, but not the rectangular, applied top one. The tonic was also advertised nicely, with the famous actress Lillian Russell, and the claim that she used the product, being the subject of one such piece. Others are more mundane, with bucolic scenes as subject matter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bloggers Pix

A nice grouping of western bottles

Hostetter's Rule!

A rare Alex Von Humboldt's Stomach Bitters

A beautiful bottle window of western & eastern glass

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slick Western Bitters

Hey, we've seen Slick Fifths on the Whiskey Site, How about some Slick Western Bitters Pics (The more the better) Dr.Barnes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mid November Update

Here it is the middle of November and the holiday season is just around the corner. Thought it might be time to update what's going on in the western bottle community;
Dale Mlasko has started a new western bottle related web site. His new site, Oregon Trail Antique Bottles and Glass, features western bottles for sale, historical information and bottle related news. Take a look at Dale's site, there is a link to it here under Our Favorite Links.

December 4th & 5th is the 32nd annual 49er Historical Bottle Association Show & Sale. Located at the Auburn Fairgrounds this is one show you shouldn't miss. Year after year I have always found something "good" to add to my collection at the Auburn show. Early lookers and dealer setup starts at noon on Friday the 4th. Stop in and pick up that early Christmas present.

And speaking of Christmas presents American Bottle Auctions is holding its auction #49 in December. Jeff has posted some early information on his site and it sounds like there will be something for every one's collecting interests in the upcoming auction. Bitters, flasks, soda's and whiskies are just some of the categories represented in this December's upcoming auction.

Ebay's selection of western bitters has been pretty sketchy the last couple of months but the bottle that garnered the most bids and interest was the Bach Meese Botanic Stomach Bitters. Final selling price for the Botanic was $305. A bargain in my opinion. Other bottles auctioned on ebay included a Peruvian Bitters for $34, a plain aqua Henley's for $110 and a Star Kidney & Liver Bitters reached $95. I, for one will be looking forward to American Bottle Auctions auction #49 this December, with hopes of adding something to my bitters shelf.

I have not heard of anything really killer being dug this season. A Roseville digger reports a least 2 broken amber Lacour's variant 3's coming out of a recently dug pit. A couple of us "high country" boys dug a gold rush era basement last weekend. Boy were the possibilities there for an early square, but the only thing un-earthed were 2 freeblown wines, a squatty black and an english chutney that my digging partner worked over with his shovel.
Have a great Thanksgiving, see you all at Auburn and "keep diggin' em up"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

F. Chevalier - Spirit, Bitters & Wine Merchant

Whiskey, wine and bitters merchant Fortune Chevalier was born in 1815 in Belle Isle, France. As a young man Chevalier apprenticed as a stained glass craftsman and together with a group of similar craftsmen, he worked all over France repairing the stained glass windows at various castles and churches.
In 1850 Fortune sailed to San Francisco with the intent of establishing a window construction and repair business but by 1857 was running a small unrelated business in bustling Placerville.
Chevalier later moved to Sacramento and went to work learning the wine and liquor business at the wholesale house of A.H. Powers & Co. Sometime after leaving Powers & Co. Chevalier started his own wholesale liquor concern at 42 K Street in Sacramento.
Chevalier became the sole agent for Old Castle Bourbon Whiskey and in 1872 he moved the business to San Francisco.

Three years later he took Augustus Comte into partnership. Comte had years of experience in the wine business and was possibly brought in as a partner to expand Chevalier's business into the wine market.
Meanwhile the F. Chevalier & Company was producing some of the most desirable and coveted glass containers ever blown on the west coast. The spiral neck Chevaliers Old Castle Whiskey, F. Chevalier red whittled Whiskey merchants fifth and the Chevalier Castle flask are all considered extremely collectable and high dollar additions to a western bottle collectors shelf.
Not as rare but just as collectable are the Chevalier bitters and cordial or tonic containers. The Celebrated Crown Bitters was produced from sometime in 1880 to around 1886. This bottle comes in both an applied top and tool top example. The applied top bottles are a little cruder and a lot more desirable than the tool top examples.
Chevalier also produced a "generic" product bottle after 1886 embossed The F. Chevalier Co. San Francisco. Western collectors generally believe that this container contained the Celebrated Crown Bitters also. In my opinion this bottle could have been used for the bitters, but also could have contained a cordial or tonic product.
Even though the two Chevalier bottles are a little later than the highly desirable late 1860's and early 1870 bitters bottles, they are still very collectable "western squares". The applied top and tool top Celebrated Crown Bitters along with the tool top Chevalier product bottle sure make a nice grouping of western bitters to have sitting on your shelf

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gold Rush Camps & Bottles of Sierra County


A review By Jeff Wichmann

An interesting new book written by Rick Simi of Downieville, CA brings to light the many treasures hidden away in the peaks and valleys of the rugged Sierra County portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Simi documents the many towns and businesses that became a part of this great western past. He includes a timeline from when gold was discovered in Coloma all the way through the events that occurred over the many years the search for gold became a passion for citizens from every corner of the world. But the book is more than that; it is also a collectors guide of everything old and born of the great California Gold Rush.

As Simi tells the story of his love for the small town of Downieville, his town now, he unfolds the past by sharing with the reader the incredible number of camps, settlements and towns which yielded treasures left behind by those in search of their own. Things like smoking pipes, pot lids, belt buckles and bottles were just a few of the discarded items that would become today’s new treasure. He unveils the various types of bottles found in Sierra County and goes into detail regarding the age and rarity of each bottle, accompanied by a beautiful color photograph of each one. His chapter on belt buckles alone is worth the price of the book and he ends with a glossary of terms used by the early settlers and words still used today.

This richly detailed and illustrated book is a perfect warm-up for planning trips into these mighty mountains often called the most beautiful in the world. You’ll learn the many different places gold was sought after and the amazing camps and towns that emerged from nowhere. Towns like Goodyear’s Bar and McDonald Flat, Jim Crow and the Secret Ravine. Some easily accessible by car such as Downieville, others tucked away into the nooks and crannies of the breathtaking landscape. As Simi points out, where there was gold there were men and women who feverishly spent their days working and their nights dreaming of better things to come.

If you’re interested in buying a copy of Gold Rush Camps and Bottles of Sierra County, you can contact the author or his wife, Rick or Cherry Simi P.O. Box 115 Downieville, CA 95936 or at
and for $39.99 they will be happy to get one off right away. Gold Rush Camps is a wonderful book for anyone and everyone who has any interest in the California Gold Rush. As a reference and collector’s guide, you’ll be amazed at the history of this great Sierra County.
The second printing of the first edition is now available for purchase and will be available at the Auburn Bottle Show. See you in Auburn - rs

Sunday, November 8, 2009

African Stomach Bitters

One Western bitters that does not seem to garner much respect is the African Stomach Bitters. This Spruance Stanley product has great heritage though and it related to (although later) the Chalmer's Catawba Wine Bitters, and also to the Mott's Wild Cherry Tonic, and the Spruance Stanley Whiskey. The African Stomach Bitters comes in at least four different versions, and it is my belief that the version showed here is the earliest with the red whittled variant being a little later (late 1880s) followed by the tooled top examples in the 1890s. These bottles come in a wide array of colors, and crude examples in a good color are especially attractive. These can still be purchased for $100- $400 depending on the obvious factors. I have always liked the name, and for some reason these are one of the most prevalent bitters found in Oregon. The example shown has a nice gold coloration with strong olive tone. The Mott's shown is the A.H. Powers variant, and shows the color in comparison to the African. For as available as the African Bitters are, you really do not see them for sale in quantities related to their numbers. Maybe others like them as well. Let's see some of your Af-reekin bitters!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dr. Walker's Bitters Almanac on Ebay

I sure have been enjoying the posts on Dr. Walker's Vinegar Bitters and noticed the 1879 almanac pictured at left recently listed on ebay. The listed almanac got me to thinking........ Dr. Walker, or maybe its R.H. McDonald, sure wanted to let the consumer know that his product didn't contain any alcohol. Is that why the whiskey topped vinegar bitters bottles are so rare? Maybe McDonald wouldn't use bottles blown with a whiskey top, he sure lets the public know his product is devoted to temperance. All just conjecture on my part.
I do know that in 1849 R.H. McDonald opened a drug store on J Street in Sacramento California. This drug store was operated out of a wood and tent structure. Anything that could be thrown together to keep the weather out during the gold rush was used to conduct business.
In 1852 McDonald went into partnership with a Mr. Levy. By 1853 the two partners started a traveling drug store to supply remote mining camps with medicinal supplies. McDonald and Levy's idea of a traveling medicine show was not revolutionary but their timing was perfect, few if any, early mining camps at that time had a drug store. The traveling drug store, or medicine show, was a huge success and by the end of 1853 Drs. McDonald & Levy's
( back in 1853 if you called yourself a Doctor you were one!) Miners Drug Store of Sacramento was firmly established. And yep.... McDonald & Levy were responsible for the pontiled medicine embossed - Compound / Fluid Extract / of Manzanita / Drs. McDonald & Levy / Sacramento City / California. - It is believed that Dr. Levy left the partnership in 1854.
By early 1860 the R.H. McDonald Co. was primarily a wholesale drug business with a branch office in San Francisco and an agent for William T. Cutter whiskey. I do not know when McDonald expanded his offices to New York City. One of McDonald's best selling products was the Dr. J. Walker's California Vinegar Bitters.
R. H. McDonald died a wealthy man in Montreal Canada in 1903

California Glass Works

Another glassworks that little is known about is the California Glass Works, a concern that began in 1881 and seems to have slipped into oblivion some time after 1882. I've only found three sources of information for this firm, the first coming from a book published in 1882; in it is written "The California Co-Operative Glass Works were established at San Francisco in 1881 by John L. Kelly & Co., with a capital of $7,000. The industry furnishes employment to 40 men and boys, who are turning out green, amber and white vials, bottles, and demijohns, to the value of $4,000 monthly. The works are located at the foot of Ninth Street."

This article came from the November 19th, 1882 issue of the San Francisco Alta California newspaper, which wrote; "at a recent meeting of the Bottle Beer Protective Association, J. F. G. Eggers, President, a contract for 200,000 beer bottles was awarded to the California Glass Works. The bottles formerly need by this Association were made in France. It is now found that as good if not better bottles for beer can be made in this city as in a foreign country. We stated in our issue of yesterday that it was the San Francisco Glass Works that had been awarded the contract. It should have been the California Glass Works, as above. The California Glass Works is a new and enterprising company, in which some of our most prominent citizens are largely interested."

In the book Bottle Makers and their Marks, Julian Toulouse states this glassworks had started in 1881 but was sold by sheriff's sale in 1882, the new owners made bottles in green and amber glass but again failed after a year. S.F. & PGW bought and closed it in 1883, but the workmen started the Oakland Glass Works in 1884.

It would be nice to know if any identifiable markings are known on any bottles from this firm.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oakland Glass Works

I noticed an ebay listing of a collection of a dozen OGW based embossed bottles for sale. This is certainly a nice grouping of western glass from a glass works that did not last long. Here is some relevant, information about this company.

On April 18th, 1884 a small article appeared in the S.F. Alta California paper "Patents were issued Wednesday to the following California inventors: Isaac B. Woilard, San Francisco, assigns to the Oakland Glass Works at Oakland, a demijohn or bottle-safe."

On Thursday September 18th, 1884 this article appeared; "Regular work at the Oakland glass works will begin on Monday on glass bottles. The glass pots are now being heated and several successful experiments in glassmaking were made yesterday. W. D. Loos is Superintendent and the works will employ sixty men and boys."

On September 24th, 1884, this article was written; "The Oakland Glass Works began regular work on Monday, and are now turning out demijohns, fruit-jars, claret and other bottles. Previously, no glass house in the United States has succeded in making claret bottles after the French pattern, but by a new process they are made with complete success at the Oakland works. The company is fortunate in the possession of a large tract of pure white sand at Monterey, which Eastern manufacturers admit is the best material for making glass in the United States. At the same time, Eastern experts doubted that white glass could be made here, even after washing the sand, which is always done in the East. Experiments made yesterday, however, show that so clean and pure is this sand that clear white glass can be made without washing the sand, and as a natural consequence, the factory will proceed to manufacture window-glass of the best quality. The demand for claret bottles alone is very large on this coast, exceeding fifty gross a day. The works employ a large number of men and boys. The latter are now employed in weaving the wicker covers for demijohns, and although they only began the work a few days ago, some of them are earning $1 a day, by the piece."

On September 4th, 1885, this article appeared in the S.F. Alta California paper; "Fifteen suits have been begun in the Justice's Court by John L. Howard, assignee, against the stockholders of the Oakland Glass Works, for sums ranging from $20 to 200. The works are at present shut down."

This article appeared in the September 19th, 1887 S. F. Alta California paper. "Oakland Glass Works to F. Dilger, 3.86 acres cor First and Linden sts."

Apparently by this time the property of the glassworks had been sold. Precisely how long its operations lasted I do not know. It appears to have been in operation for at least a year, maybe longer. Was it a casualty of SF & PGW is not certain, although SF & PGW has been credited with either buying or forcing out of business no less than 7 glassworks since their incorporation in 1876.