Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Western Old Sachem?

Earlier this year an older post titled
"WHAT REALLY IS WESTERN" received several interesting comments on what collectors considered "Western". A highly regarded collector and digger from Sacramento related "If a bottle was blown in the East for a product that was exclusively marketed in the Far West, then the bottle must be considered Western".
I was thinking this statement made a lot of sense and started re-counting my newly discovered "WESTERN" bitters bottles when another highly regarded collector from Oregon commented "I thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth. I believe a bottle is "Western" if it is embossed in the glass with a Western company or town. It may be that a bottle was manufactured in the East, and distributed exclusively in the West (Catawba, Bryant's), but these are just cool Western distributed, or Western found bottles".
Well, another re-count using my amigo from Oregon's theory not only dwindled my western bitters inventory considerably but created a new sub-category for my collection: "Cool Western distributed, or found bottles."
Alright! now were talking... That Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic I found up Jim Crow Creek defiantly fits into the category "Cool Western distributed, or found bottles" And, how about the Russ's Aromatic Schnapps that my deer hunting buddy kicked out of the brush a while back... not a bitters but it sure goes on the "Cool Western distributed, or found bottle" shelf right next to the Old Sachem.
The Drakes Plantation that was dug here in Downieville doesn't fit in the "blown in the East for a product that was exclusively marketed in the Far West" but sure could be placed on the " Cool Western distributed, or found" bottle shelf.
Now things were falling into place and I was re-arraigning my shelf's when up pops another comment from someone I didn't know from their blog handle "Andy" but made a lot of sense to me "Western Huh??Any bottle embossed with a western concern (Rockie Mountains to Hawaii) Make it the middle of the Rockies west, to be fair. The best of them would be made and centered about the three coastal western states and Hawaii"
Oh my goodness! that Gun Wa's Chinese Remedy square is a Denver bottle and Denver is just a tad east of the Rocky Mountains. Darn the Gun Wa's is Eastern!
Wait a minute.... if that Denver bottle was blown in a western glass house and distributed east of the Rocky Mountains we have a whole new category if we subscribe to to our Sacramento collectors theory: If a bottle was blown in the West for a product that was exclusively marketed in the east, then the bottle must be considered Eastern.
Whoa........ get me off this Merry-Go-Round


  1. Rick, Don't get to dizzy on that merry-go-round. There certainly are differing opinions on what is western. There must be some purebreds,western manufatured,western distributed,western dug, thats a shoe=in. Then there is the pontilled sodas , made in the east prior to any western glass manufacturers, for western companies,with western town names,distributed in the west , dug in the west. definatly western bottles. What about catawba wine bitters, bryants, london jockey club, wistars club house , these are found in the west but are not purely western. How about your old sachems and drakes dug in the west,not considered western by collecters. All these are very desireable bottles and hold a mystique in our minds, the west went from gold rush wilderness to fully developed society in about 35 years. So there are degrees of western, but all bottles found here are part of this phenomenon.

  2. Yeah, I'm spinnin' on that information situation, too. What cal49er says is what most of us believe. We've dug plenty eastern made bottles out this way, especially in the bitters, gin, medicine, and soda water categories. My contention holds that if a bottle was blown for a product that was exclusively sold west of the Rockies it should be considered western. Dalys, Drakes, Hostetters, London Jockeys, Townsends, Udolphos and the like while often found here are also distributed throughout the Americas. These bottles should not be considered western, yet are very desirable as objects that relate directly to the mining and other industries of the second half of the 19th C. By my way of thinking, the same bottles dug in the urban areas don't have the "mystique" of those that we find in the remains of cabins, camp privies, or gulch dumps. I get far more excited when I find a nice bottle in a gold rush situation than I do after digging one in a "big city" privy. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy "downtown" privy digging, but there's something about those camps that really get me going. Sadly, there isn't enough time to pursue "mountain" bottles, and the situation up there is definitely "unfriendly" to us who's desire is to pry them from their 150+ year resting places.

  3. Another element that adds to the confusion is, some collectors are "purists". When they say "Western", or ask about a bottle when conversing... "is it Western"? What they are implying is was it was blown in San Francisco? These collectors only want the "Western-blown glass", specifically... glass that was blown in San Francisco at SFGW, PGW, or SF & PGW.

    However, to the majority collectors,,,, "Western" is what Cal49er and OldCutters described.
    So, I think we have 2 categories; a)Western-blown, and b)exclusively Western distributed. Some bottles can be a member of both categories. Those are usually the most desireable ie: Lacour's, IXL's, Woodburn's, Miller's.


  4. I still think that any bottle embossed with a western firm, even though blown in the east must be considered a "western bottle".....pretty much covers all the categories doesn't it...Andy

  5. I'm confused now. Is a Toyota that's built here in the States an American made car ?

  6. This will probably always be a subjective issue, unless the term "Western" is followed by further categorization. For example, in the case of a speciality educational exhibit, there is great historical importance for getting the facts straight; this is where further details beyond the broad expression of “Western” may be critical. I personally feel that when the term “Western” is used singularly, it has an expansive reference to anything remotely connected to the western states. If we are speaking of a sub classification of Western items, then we just need to simply use the proper descriptor: West coast glass; SF glass; Western found glass; etc.

  7. AP I agree that the 2 catagories for what is a western bottle is heading in the right direction. The waters become murky in catagory b exclusively distributed in the west bottles. Andys idea of blown in the east and embossed with a western firms name leaves some bottles standing outside the circle. Catawba wine bitters are mostly found in the west, but not embossed with a western firms name. Many of these brands are eastern with western sole agents. The same can be said for lediards stomach bitters, bryants stomach bitters, wistars club house gin,pontilled golden gate soda bottles, the excelsior water soda bottle, and a number of bottles that are not embossed with a western firm, or western town name. So exclusively distributed in the west becomes a gray area if any examples of the bottle are found east of Denver. The collectors can kick around the what is or isn't on the Barbiers schnapps , the patton and sampson, and the farquars california brandy till were blue in the face, the bottom line is a good bottle is a good bottle. HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR .