Sunday, January 10, 2010


I love a mystery.. well, let me qualify that statement. I love to solve a mystery. At any one time I have several mystery's running around inside this old noggin.

Some of these mystery's are major, some minor. Take for instance the "Western R". Now here's a major mystery. When did the Western curved "R" first appear on western bottles? Is this "R"unique to one particular glass house or did both the SFGW and PGW use the curved "R"? Is this "R" from just one mold maker or was it used by several different craftsmen over a span of years? And just when did they quit using this "Western R"? This, for sure, is a mystery that I have tried to solve for a long time. Every time I think I am getting close to a conclusion another piece of information sends me off in another direction and brings more questions than answers. Ever have that happen?

One of the minor mystery's that seems to be spinning around in perpetual motion is the N. Mills/ Fish's Infallible Hair Restorative. Here's a bottle that has collectors, and myself, debating if this bottle was blown in the west or is just another eastern made piece of glass used to market a western product. Take a look at that unique apostrophe shaped like a 7 and the funky R that seems to be curved in instead of out like the western "R". The only bottles that I can recall that share these qualities are all, I believe, eastern. The Fish's N. Mills, Fish's B.F. Fish, Risley's Buchu, and the Ghirardelli's Branch soda. Having said that, and now have scores of western collectors on the war path, lets move on to the reason for this post: THE WESTERN STAR.

Just when I was happy concentrating on one major, and the minor...small potato's Fish's mystery, Oregon collector Dale Mlasko throws down the gauntlet on "THE WESTERN STAR" Rat's !!!, another darn mystery. If I had any gumption I could let it go, but no, the seed has been planted and its already started to grow into a low rent, although interesting, mystery.

Dale claims that the square bottle with a star and TM embossed on it could quite possibly be a western blown bottle. ( see earlier post titled "Western Bitters Square Star of the Union" ) Dale's contention is that several western merchants have a star prominently displayed or embossed in the glass of their product.

Hmm... TM with star, J.F. Cutter Extra has a star in a shield, good ol' Jesse Moore has two stars in its logo and one is canted like the advertisement for the Star of the Union Bitters. The Bay City soda has a star, but its not pudgy like the J.F. or Jesse Moore star. If we are talking stars we had better look at the shape for clues as to whether its an eastern, military, shining, Carl's Jr. or western star, shouldn't we? Having dealt with a few mystery's over the years standard operating procedure dictates that, first off, you get as close to a subject as you can. If that doesn't help, then you get as far away as possible to get a different view of the whole situation. so.......

After a quick trip to Marysville (Hi Lou, finding anything?) for a Carls Jr. burger I noticed the star on the burger wrapper didn't look anything like our (so-called) western star, its points were rounded and it had a smiley face on it. We can eliminate Carl's Jr.'s star as being modeled after the Star of the Union Bitters star.

Military stars mean business, not bitters!

The Jesse Moore stars are a little more rounded in the web than the Star of the Union Star. The lower star in the Jesse logo is canted like the star in the advertisement for the (so-called western) bitters, but the similarity ends there. The J.F. Cutter star is way fatter and the web is a lot more rounded than the star embossed on the TM bottle.

What does all this information add up to? Basically, with the small amount of detective work that I have done, there doesn't seem to be any connection between the Star of the Union star and any of the stars embossed on known western bottles. Now if any of you have any theories or other evidence to link the TM star to a western product..........


  1. Rick, I have spent a LOT of time at both the CA State Archives and the State Library doing trademark research. To date, I have found no references to the Star/ T.M. bottle being a California product container. Had the original claim of trademark not been stolen it's quite possible that the question would have been answered long ago. The search continues.

  2. Just to throw another comment in here, but there was a dirt common ayers bottle on here not too long ago that had "western" curved Rs on it. but i dont think that bottle was ever blown in either of the S.F. glassshouses or the Berkeley one either. So, what gives with all this western r stuff. I see bottlea all the time with western curved style Rs on them, doesn't make em western bottles???.....Andy

  3. Your right Andy,
    Just because a bottle has a curved "R" embossed on it doesn't mean its western. For instance, there are several really early eastern bottles (late 1850's early 1860's) that have an unusual style curved R. These bottles were produced before there were any western glass houses. Warren and I have been collecting information on the western curved "R's" for a future post. Hopefully we will have some information posted on the blog soon.

  4. The so-called "western" curved Rs didn't appear until 1872-3, which leads me to believe that a single mold maker made the move to CA about that time. There are earlier eastern blown bottles that have the same R, in particular private mold liquor flasks from the New England area.

    I'm heading out to investigate a privy, so can possibly take photos later in the day.

  5. Speaking of the western R, has anyone ever seen a Mason's Improved with the western R. We dug an example two years ago and so far nobody has claimed to see another example. I have seen examples with a curved R, but they have the Eastern looking R like that Ayers that was posted months ago. I’ll see if Rick can add a photo of it to the post.