Friday, January 1, 2010

The London Jockey Clubhouse Gin

Lately there seems to be a lot of interest in the early gold rush era squares found out here in the west. Although not a bitters, one of these squares, the London Jockey Clubhouse Gin, is certainly capturing the limelight as one of the most desirable of these early western distributed squares.

The value of these bottles has escalated dramatically in the last two years. Several "western" collectors are aggressively seeking the Jockey Clubhouse and consequently have driven the price of these bottles literally "through the roof" In American Bottle Auctions auction # 47 a dark green example fetched a mid 4 figure price and in auction #48 a grass green Jockey ended at just under the mid 4 figures.

The earliest mention of the London Jockey Clubhouse, that I have found, comes from the April 1859 edition of the Sacramento Daily Union and was placed by the James Patrick Company, sole agents for California. According to the information I have gathered from early advertisements for the product the Jockey Clubhouse Gin was imported by A.C. and C.E. Tilton of New York City.

Wilson, in his book Spirit Bottles of the Old West eludes to this bottle being manufactured into the 1870's. I cannot find any reference to the Jockey Clubhouse after approximately 1866 when the Patrick Company had 1000 cases of the London Jockey Clubhouse Gin languishing in its San Francisco warehouse. A previous advertisement in the October 1862 edition of the Sacramento Daily Union lists 100 cases of the Clubhouse Gin being auctioned at 'agents rates"

Even though I don't have conclusive proof of the longevity of the London Jockey Clubhouse, auction price results and the scarcity of available examples of this bottle make it a very rare, desirable and pricey piece of early western gold rush history.


  1. London Jockeys, or pieces thereof, have been found in many CA camps, towns and cities. Sacramento has been a great source for these bottles over the years. I recall one dig from the dim past where five mint examples were pulled from a privy. I was sitting on a shelf of dirt excavating one side of the pit, and when I turned to work on the shelf where I had been sitting, lo and behold, A London Jockey lay there, polished by the seat of my pants. Four more were below in the fluff. Old Sac is long done with diggers; to attempt a dig there is guaranteed to get you a "vacation" in the iron bar hotel.

    Numerous others have been found since, but none rests here today. The last bright green one went at the 2006 Reno Expo. Time to find another one, or two.

  2. WOW, that has to be some kind of record.... a stable full in one pit !
    I have found them in my diggings to range from about 1860 to 1869, with there being at least 5 different molds. The bigger Catawba shaped mold is the earliest.

  3. One bottle that I can't seem to dig is the Catawba. I blew my chance to find one years ago by going somewhere else instead of digging right that minute. We had the holes poked out, too. When we returned later in the day a couple of thieves were there diggin' the privies. Not only did they get the Catawba, but the only amber Davisville druggist ever found. How did they know?! Aaarrgh.