Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wm. Pfunder- Portland, Or.

As an Oregonian, I have always had an interest in Oregon bottles...especially the whiskeys, and bitters. Oregon also has some very rare and desirable medicines such as the Unkweed, and Henley's Indian Queen.

One of the most interesting categories in Oregon is the colorful line of medicine and bitters put out by the William Pfunder Drug Company which operated in Portland from the late 1870s through the turn of the last century. Pfunder was the founder of one of the oldest , and most successful drug companies in Oregon history. He was born in Germany in 1840, and emigrated to America in 1864. He found employment in New York City in various lines of work, but not successful by any means. In 1869 he moved to the Pacific Northwest because of rheumatic troubles, and moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco before permanently settling in Portland in 1873. In October of 1873 Mr. Pfunder opened a drug store on the corner of First, and Oak sts. As his business grew, he eventually purchased the stock of the well known Smith Davis Drug Company in Portland, which had been in operation since the 1850s. In 1879 he succeeded in compounding his own medicines including the well known Oregon Blood Purifier. His trademark was the embossed baby's face which makes these bottles so popular with collectors today.

He also sold his brand of Cough Balsam, Asthma Cure, IRON BITTERS(!), and Ague Mixture.

Pfunder was a real tycoon, and owned property all over the West, including timber lands, and orchards. His business closed down shortly after the turn of the century, and he died shortly thereafter.

Pictured are some of the rarest Oregon medicines known. The blue sample is the only example I have ever seen, the amber medicine dates to tha 1880s and is very rare. The citrate is unique to my knowlege, and of course the very rare "palmer green" medicine is pictured in one of two sizes. They also come in cobalt blue. The baby face medicines are extremely desirable, and rarely come up for sale. These were all found by the same bottle digger who shall remain nameless, and who's privacy shall be respected.

Climax Bitters

For the last week I have been watching the Climax Bitters up for auction on ebay. I threw, what I thought, was reasonable bid at it but watched it close at over half a grand.

After thinking about the Climax Bitters and searching the old memory banks I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember ever seeing one for sale at a bottle show or at auction. Maybe I should have done my homework on this bottle and paid more attention to the auction.

Well, to make a long story short, I started researching the Climax bottle and found absolutely nothing in the Daily Alta California, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento Transcript or the San Francisco Call. Next stop was the “go to” bitters reference books; Wilson’s Western Bitters and Wichmann’s Antique Western Bitters Bottles.

Wilson has Sacramento’s Justin Gates and partner Alonzo Van Alstine from San Francisco as manufacturers of the product from about 1887 to sometime in 1890. In the early 1880’s Gates moved from Sacramento to San Francisco and by 1884 was in partnership with Alstine and the two of them were selling Dr. Gunn’s Bitters. Sometime in 1889 Gates died and the Climax bitters product along with him.

Wichmann, in his Antique Western Bitters Bottles book, has pretty much the same information as Wilson. Both Wichmann and Wilson rate this bottle as “very rare” No wonder I can’t remember seeing an example of the Climax for sale. Next time I see one of these obscure 1890’s era western bitters for sale you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be paying closer attention to it.

Love Them Bitters

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Gin Wars

I recently ran across these two advertisements in the same 1857 Sacramento newspaper. Seems like ol' J.T. Daly was getting a little tired of the competition that Edmund Charles was giving him.
Daly is having his name embossed in the case gin style bottles while Charles is printing testimonial's about the purity and healing powers of his gin. Heck, he even has Dr. Valentine Mott (Dr. Mott's Wild Cherry Tonic) talking up the virtues of his product. Even in the 1850's, as now, competition was stiff and any edge you could get on the other manufacturer helped sell another bottle of your product.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

M. Keller California Wine Bitters

The top advertisement is from August 13th, 1862.
The middle advertisement is from October 9th, 1863.

The bottom advertisement is from April 27th, 1864.

Does anyone have any information on the California Wine Bitters?
Doesn't seem like there is much information on this bottle. What do you SoCal collectors have on this bottle? Any dug down south?

Mathew Keller a viniculturist from Southern California bought a tract of land that had not been improved upon since its original deed in 1847. In 1857 he planted a vineyard and recorded this deed of land. He became one of the early pioneers of wine makers in California, along with Kohler & Frohling and the Sainsevain Bros. as the earliest and largest wine manufacture in California in the early '60's. M. Keller went on to produce wines that eventually found favor with the eastern cities in 1871 & '72. He and Isador Landsberger began shipping by ship and by rail thousands of gallons of wines to New England, including his wine bitters.
However the facts surrounding the embossed bottle remain quite elusive. In researching this product to try and nail down a manufactured date for this bottle I could find no evidence that would indicate that M. Keller had any type of legal confrontation with Sainsevain Bros. or G. A. Simon or Mercado & Seully or Kohler & Frohling or any one else for that matter that was marketing a similar named product and had prohibited him from marketing his California Wine Bitters using that name on his product.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Times -They Are a Changin’

At the last bottle show I attended a friend purchased a freshly dug rare western fifth with some very minor content and light ground contact staining. As he was showing me the bottle he mentioned that after it was cleaned it would be in mint condition.

This got me to thinking about how we grade the condition of our bottles and the time and money spent trying to get these bottles to “mint condition”.

Let’s start right off with defining “mint”. Mint condition is an expression used in the description of pre-owned goods. Originally, the phrase comes from the way collectors describe the condition of coins. Mint is the place where the coin was manufactured. Mint condition is the condition a coin is in as it leaves the mint. Over time, the term "mint" began to be used to describe many different items having excellent, like-new quality.

For a bottle to be mint it must be in the same condition as when it left the factory. Agreed? If you agree with the term mint condition then stress cracks, annealing checks and other in making flaws are acceptable distractions to a bottle, it came from the factory that way didn’t it? . Are you still with me on this or are you collecting “perfect” bottles?

Perfection is a philosophical concept and not necessarily a condition of a piece of glass. If you want a “perfect” bottle then just maybe you will need to improve on what the factory manufactured.

Back in the day it didn’t matter if you dug a bottle, bought it or was given it. You had it “cleaned” It was the thing to do. Cleaned? At first, bottles that were stained or even just a little dull, “got the treatment”. By that I mean they were polished to death. Heck, I remember a couple of diggers that worked over at the muffler shop “buffing” their bottles just like the chrome on the mufflers that they were manufacturing. Those bottles were so slick that you couldn’t hold on to them, water ran off of them like off of a duck’s back and the muffler boys were proud as punch of their bottles.

Then there was the bottle dealer from Northern California that was believed to work for some winery in the Napa Valley purchasing bottles for the wineries “collection” of antique bottles.
I was warned by a buddy NEVER to let this joker clean my bottles. “Why” I inquired. My buddy replied “I gave him a Hostetter’s to clean and when I got it back all the corners were round and the embossing was gone!”

The point here is everybody cleaned their bottles in the old days. If you didn’t own a bottle tumbler you knew someone who did and would do your bottles for you. As with everything one thing led to another and the next thing you know folks are buffing out chips, replacing tops, taking mint condition bottles and making them perfect.

As a collector matures and becomes more sophisticated he starts to appreciate the character of a collectable piece. Whether it is the unique handmade appearance, apparent in making flaws or just an honest wear pattern, the not so perfect has become perfect in his or her eyes.

My friend just called to let me know that he decided to just lightly clean the content stain from the inside of the fifth. “Your gonna’ love this bottle” he said, “I left the outside with the original patina, it’s a little dull but original and looks great”

You're halfway there Amigo.

Too Close...

Here are two bitters which were found in the same hole. They are 1860s bottles, and are very close in age...and color! Both are uncleaned, and the closeness in color is pretty amazing to me. That the Hostetters came out this pristine, when other known Eastern made glass was stained, and etched is interesting. The Pittsburgh glasshouses must have used some high quality ingredients to make their glass as did the Western concerns. Almost look like they were made the same day, in the same place. Of course they were not. Right?

Western Soda’s Still Strong at Auction

I have been watching with interest the western soda’s that have been up for auction on eBay the last couple of weeks. Sodas seem to be really hot right now and the prices they are fetching make today’s western soda a seller’s market.

The big dog on eBay’s soda section right now is a three cities Chase & Co. in a nice shade of green. The graphite on the base is a little sparse but with 14 bids and over two days to go it has already reached $650.

Sitting at $410 with over three days to go a GREEN Owen Casey with a smooth base has four bids but, in my opinion will go fairly high before the hammer falls on this auction.

A teal blue colored Lynde & Putnam with an iron/open pontil has nine plus days to auction end and is at $202 but hasn’t met reserve. Nice color and an interesting base just might make this bottle go for a pretty steep price.

Other soda’s on the bay right now include an A.W Cudworth in a dark aqua or teal color, dark cobalt Owen Casey and a rare James Dewar hutch from Elko Nevada.

In the “buy it now”, or as it has been called, “hose me down” category a green Golden Gate soda can be had for $395, an aqua Billing’s for $25 and a Bay City Soda Water for a ridiculous $495. And if that isn’t enough insult to your intelligence this seller will stick you another $18.20 to ship this Bay City to you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whiskey Site Expands Format

Our Amigo soleagent, over on the western whiskey site, has expand his format to include not just globby whiskies on the site but anything to do with bottle collecting. Now titled:
Whatever "Bottle Collecting Related" stuff you want to talk about. Digging, collecting, glass making, history... share your information and interests

Click on to take a look at the soleagents new expanded site

More on the "Moonplant"

Back on February 6, 2010 we posted an article on Connell's Moonplant along with a picture of the bottle and an advertisement from the 1873 Sacramento Daily Union. Several testimonials claimed the "Moonplant" helped cure rheumatism along with Ague and several other ailments.

Here's confirmation that the "Moonplant" was definitely sold to cure rheumatism.

Thanks to John & Margie Bartley of Donnels Creek Antiques of North Hampton Ohio for sending along a picture of their Moonplant with a partial label and tax stamp.

Green Squares


Check out this great grouping of Western square bitters!(and one rare beer). From left to right- Jacob Denzler San Francisco;N.B. Jacobs San Francisco;Alex Von Humboldts Stomach Bitters;Dr. J. Hostetters Stomach Bitters;Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters;Rosenbaums Bitters, San Francisco;E.G. Lyons; "Star of the Union";Cundurango Bitters. Notice how the tops are applied so crooked, they almost appear to be ready to slide off! Collectors love crudely made bottles, and for some reason, Western squares exhibit this characteristic more than other bottles. Each of these examples are top specimens. Thank You to Dennis Eastley for displaying these in a "Ken Edwards" custom cabinet. Western glass does not get much better than this.
Thanks to Oregon Trail Antique Bottles and Glass for this post

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday Dig

Saturday proved to be a lucky day for Mister Mike Lake, of Roseville, CA.
He "harvested" this fine olive green large letter Renz's from the damp confines of a small pit in a nearby valley town. Considering the amount of metal and other rough substances surrounding the bottle, it's amazing that it came out "alive". No issues at all, except the light scuffing that is visible in the photos. A non-survivor was a KILLER example of a flint glass Grimm's Rejuvenator For The Hair that had a wild donut like applied top.

Dr. Henley's Celery Beef & Iron

Dr. Henley's bottles & advertising from the Oldcutters collection. Thanks!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What is "Rare?"

Warren's recent post discussing how rarity has changed over time was very interesting. I read Wilson's "Western Bitters" for decades, and my impression of desirability was molded by this book. It's numerical "weight" was pretty innovative in it's day, and most of the bitters in this book have retained their desirability compared to one another over the past 40 years! I also found it interesting that there are 19 or more variant 2 Cassin's Grape Brandy Bitters in collections. This was considered an "extremely rare" bitters in 1969, and while there have been more examples come to light, the demand for this bottle stays strong. I would be very curious as to how many of the 19+ are near mint to mint. They are so prone to damage, it is incredible that they can be dug up and be perfect. The Wonser's Bitters seems to have strong demand though there have been quite a number of amber examples sell in the past 10 years. It seems that the values remain strong. This indicates there are fewer bottles than collectors who want them. According to Warren's count, they are a very scarce bottle, but not rare. Again, I wonder how many are mint or near mint. I see the word "whole" or "intact" when counting specimens. One bottle that held a very high numerical weight in 1969 was the Wormser barrel shaped bitters. These appear to have fallen a bit in desirability over the years for some reason. Why? They are very scarce, and colored, and have a nice shape. Barrel bitters are passionately persued by collectors from coast to coast...maybe it's because they do not come in green or aqua, or puce? I have noticed that so far in the 2010 Spring digging season, there have been some killer whiskeys dug, but I have not heard of even one top bitters being unearthed this year...maybe I am out of the loop.

Western Soda's Strong on Ebay

Ebay the last week or so has had listed and sold at auction some very desirable western soda bottles. Yep, were talking soda bottles on the bitters site - but if you look under the Western Bitters News banner it reads; "Dedicated to the advancement of the antique bottle collecting hobby" and anything associated with our hobby is fair game in my book.
A Golden Gate soda in “deep rich emerald green’ without any described problems reached $166 when the hammer fell.
C&K Eagle Soda Works in a cobalt blue color fetched $113 when all was said and done.
A brilliant lime green Owen Casey that was just listed already has three bids and is sitting at $395 with over nine days of auction left.
The green three cities Chase soda with an iron pontil has 11 bids with over eight days of auction left and has already reached the $600 mark.

Seems like the western soda’s are on fire right now and the prices they are realizing tend to confirm that assumption.

On the western medicine scene a Pratt’s Abolition Oil with the backwards S has climbed to $37.
The western Dr. J.J. McBride’s King of Pain and the Dr. Perry’s Last Chance Liniment, both started at a steep $199, are languishing as “Buy it Now” items.

If you are looking for western soda’s or meds at auction...... bargains are few and far between at the present time.

Botanic Stomach Bitters

John Bach, Hermann Meese and Rudolf Luedke, in August of 1874, formed a partnership called the United Anaheim Wine Growers. Bach and Meese were located in San Francisco and Luedke, residing in Anaheim, could possibly have been the partner that supplied the wine products for the emerging liquor firm.

By February of 1877 the United Anaheim Wine Growers filed a notice of dissolution in the Daily Alta California and partners John Bach and Hermann Meese assumed all assets and liabilities.

A year later the wholesale liquor firm of Bach Meese and Company is advertising that they are the Sole Agents for C.Conrad’s original Budweiser Beer. (Now you know where those original Budweiser’s you have been digging came from).

In all the searching I have done on Bach Meese I can’t seem to find any advertisements for the Botanic Stomach Bitters or any mention of the Bach Meese Company from about 1878 until 1898 when Hermann Meese retires from the firm and Frank Eckenroth becomes the junior partner to John Bach.

In January of 1902 Frank Eckenroth commits suicide by asphyxiating himself with illuminating gas at his home on Mason Street in San Francisco. It appears that Eckenroth was accused of “cooking the company books” to pay gambling and horseracing debts. A few weeks later Bach Meese and Company file a petition of insolvency in the United States District Court.

It is believed the Botanic Stomach Bitters was manufactured from 1885 up until sometime in 1889 but I have absolutely zero proof of that belief. The Botanic comes in two variants; BOTANIC STOMACH BITTERS with BACH MEESE & Co. embossed on the reverse of the bottle and a supposed later example with BOTANIC STOMACH BITTERS embossed on two sides of the bottle. The Botanic's have a tool top and usually do not dispaly any crudeness. The variant with Bach Meese embossed on the reverse of the bottle is considered scarce but I can count on one hand the examples I have seen.

Although the Botanic bottle is a later made western bitters it is still a desirable and fairy tough bottle to add to your western square collection. Seen one lately?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 National Show

If your thinking of attending the 2010 National Show it's not to early to start making plans and reservations. For more information log on to:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Few More Chico Pictures

Everett L. at his sales table

Sales tables with Bob Kaiser and Steve Bava

A recent find by Sacramento's own OldCutters

John Ronald and Gary Antone

A very unique grouping of 3 different brands of products made in a similar mould style. Left
is a Catawba Wine Bitters, center is a Charles London Cordial Gin, and right is a Jockey Club London Gin.

Gary Engle and show chairman Randy Taylor

Pacific Glass Works...

Hopefully I will not get "booted" from the Western bitters site, but I know Warren has been doing massive research on the Western glass houses. This was a pick up from the Chico show, and is the only example I have seen in a long time. Also, since the "star" motif has been a topic of discussion here in the recent past, this bottle crosses over into a couple of areas of recent interest on this blog. This example has the star embossed on the shoulder, but does not have the embossing on the base. it is 11 1/2" tall. I understand they come in two sizes? I am curious as to when they were made, and how many exist. It appears to be a late 1860s jar, but has anyone pinned it down? What a beautiful piece of glass this is. Warren, any ideas? Hey...there have been sodas, gins, and meds featured, so hopefully a pickle does not ruffle too many feathers.
Pacific Glass Works first advertised pickles as one of their products on June 23 rd, 1863. The first time they advertised different size pickles came on June 3rd, 1864, having a 1/2 gal. size & quarter gal. size.
On November 17th, 1870, Pacific Glass Works advertises pickle bottles in 1/2 gallon large, 1/2 gallon small and quarts.

Chico Show Pictures

Just wanted to share a few pictures from the annual Bidwell Bottle Club show in Chico. Enjoy!

A nice array of the many different known variants of the Dickey's Pioneer Chemists bottles.

Randy Salmon behind a table of goodies.

A terrific example of the Jacob Denzler quart beer bottle was also brought for show and tell at the Chico show. Three bears a dancin', of course after tasting this concoction.

Barrel bitters bargaining was happening between Ken Edward and Ron Brock while Mike Henness looked on.

A chocolate colored example of the seldom seen Dr. Miller's Ratafia Damiana bottle was recently acquired and displayed briefly for some of the advanced western bottle collectors.

Dale and Dennis hanging out at their table with some bottles for sale. Dale was also accepting consignments for the Oregon Trail Bottles website.

A nice example of the J. Moore, E. Chielovich Sole Agent whiskey was also acquired at the Chico show.

Don Dwyer and his son Donovan. Don put on the extensive display of bottles from Butte county, including Oroville & Chico. The display covered 3 tables! By the way, one of Don's particular interests is Western Bitters!