Friday, January 8, 2010

Western Bitters Square; Star of the Union

This beautiful square bitters bottle was recently acquired from the digger, who found it in Northern California several years ago. It is a gorgeous light yellow olive, and covered in whittle effect. The top is similar to the E.G. Lyon's square. The embossing consists of a large star, with the letters"T" and "M". Since the first example of this bottle turned up in Oakland 25 years ago, there has been much speculation as to the bottle's origin, contents, and exactly what the embossing indicates. Now with about 7 known examples(all dug in California, and Nevada), there is a growing sentiment that this is indeed a Western blown bottle, and that it dates to the later 1860s- early 1870s. The color is a dead match for some other Western squares, and other bottles blown in San Francisco.
Several Western bottles display the prominent star as a trade mark. The Star Shield Cutter whiskey, which began in 1869, the Pacific Glassworks pickle bottle, and this bitters. There is a strong indicator to lead one to believe that this product was for "Star of the Union" Bitters, and was distributed by the A.Fenkhausen Company. The advertisements for the brand are pretty clear, showing the star as the trademark (which I believe the TM indicates), and the age of the bottle in relation to the product distribution. This is a great bottle that is gaining in popularity. The value has risen with demand, however I believe it is still a solid value.
Being extremely rare, there are not enough to go around.Western bitters are growing in demand, and few are available for sale.
(This post was taken from Dale Mlasko's new western bottle site)
Thanks Dale!


  1. That's an interesting conjecture, ME, and one that has merit. We will never know for sure because the trademark file for Star Of The Union Stomach Bitters was stolen from the CA State Archives many years ago. Sadly, a number of important documents disappeared from the archives at a time when there was little control taken to protect their assets. Without a doubt it was a "collector" who removed the files and what became of them is unknown.

    A. Fenkhausen and C.P. Gerichton applied for a trademark for Star Of The Union Stomach Bitters in 1868, so it is entirely possible that the Star/T. M. bottle could have been the container for their product.

    Perhaps the OR State Archives will have a copy of the application for Star Of The Union, as the product was probably also sold in the state.

  2. I have a multi-color advertising sign for this bitters that reads as follows: THE STAR/OF THE UNION/CELEBRATED/STOMACH BITTERS/A. FENKHAUSEN/SOLE MANUFACTURER AND PROPRIETOR/SAN FRANCISCO/FOR SALE HERE/LIT. DROUAILLET S.F. The sign shows a large eagle with shield in the center surrounded by three vignettes--one similar to the Calif. State seal (Eureka with bear, railroad, etc.), one of city folk drinking from wine glasses ("try the Union Bitters"), and one of gold miners drinking from a bottle ("the Union Bitters now and forever"). The only years when Amandus Fenkhausen & Gustave Drouaillet were both listed in S.F. were 1862, 1863, and 1867. My sign appears to date sometime between 1867 and the formation of Fenkhausen & Gerichten in 1868.