Sunday, November 28, 2010

Byrne & Castree Salutaris Bitters

Here is one that may not be in the "top 20" of Western bitters, but for pure history, rarity, and crudity, this bottle is tough to beat. According to Wilson, Castree and Byrne opened a grocery store at 184 Kearney Street in San Francisco in 1863. Unlike many other bitters manufacturers, these two did not really have a tie in to any liquor distributer, or any large company backing them. It is interesting why they would find it necessary to actually go to the expense of making a bottle, and marketing a bitters. I guess everyone else was, so why not? In any case there are two versions of this extremely rare ladies leg bitters. One has the embossing only on the base, and the other has the prominent shoulder embossing "Byrne & Castree" along with "Salutaris Bitters, S.F." on the base. I believe this is the earlier bottle, though I have no proof. Ring / Ham lists all variants as extremely rare. Also of note is that half of the advertisements for these two grocers have Byrne listed first, and half have Castree listed first...
These bottles come in shades of puce, from cherry, to gasoline, as well as this dark yellow green. I believe they are Western made, and perhaps W.F. could shed some light on this. I have only seen 5 of the shoulder embossed version, and one of the base only version. I believe there are about 7 known in puce, and maybe 2 or 3 in green.
I would also date these bottles from 1863-1867 at the latest. There must have been several batches blown, as each one is a different color! Where are they? I would like to know where they have been found. I know of at least two being dug in the Bay area.


49er Bottle & Antique Show
Auburn California Dec. 3rd & 4th
Dec 3rd. Noon to 8pm
Dec 4th. 9am-3pm

I have been attending the Auburn Bottle Show for so long it seems like I have been doing it forever and it is at the top of my list of shows to attend. Auburn always boosts two buildings full of bottles, antiques, advertising and a place for old friends from the collecting hobby to get together to buy, sell or just enjoy each other’s company.

The amount of mid to high end bottles and collectables, in my opinion, available at Auburn out numbers any of the other "western" shows that I usually attend. For the last few years I have been purchasing a sales table at Auburn under the guise to sell a few things but in reality to enjoy the overall experience that Auburn seems to provide.

That "Auburn Experience" in the last two years has been diminished by what I consider an unacceptable problem, mainly the theft of dealers bottles. The last couple of years it seems like every other dealer I talked to lost one thing or another off of their table. I understand this is a "touchy" subject with the 49er Bottle Club and their attempt last year to correct the problem was also unacceptable. Announcing every five minutes for dealers to watch their tables, that something has been stolen or reminding dealers to not leave their tables is just plain bunk.

Heck, I was so jumpy about the theft problem, and constantly being reminded of it, that I had to darn near pay someone to watch my table while I went to the restroom. No one was leaving their table to visit or check out what other dealers had for sale. Dealers swapping or buying collectables from each other is a major part of every bottle show. It's hard to see what's available from other dealers when you are tied to a table.

I hope that the 49er club has discussed this problem and addressed the issue at their meetings. I don't expect an instant remedy to the problem but maybe the club can provide some security or even just some table sitters so us oldtimers can grab a cup of coffee or a restroom stop without wondering if our table will still be there when we get back.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dr. E.C. Balm

Dr. E Cooper ‘s Universal Magnetic Balm was first advertised, here in the west, sometime in the mid 1860’s. There is a bit of speculation on whether or not the E.C. Balm is a western manufactured product.
Advertisements from the Sacramento Daily Union during the 1867 time frame list W.R. Strong as the Proprietor of the product doing business at Nos. 5 and 9 J Street in Sacramento California. Later advertisements from 1868-69’ period list Redington & Co. from San Francisco as sole agents for the product.

Tim Higgins, in his book, “Early Medicine and Apothecary Bottles of the Old West” lists an E.C. Balm with W.R. Strong embossed on one side panel and Sacramento embossed on the other side panel and considers this bottle extremely rare. Tim also relates this bottle comes with the signature western curved “R”.

The two examples of the E.C. Balm in my collection are embossed only on the front panel “Dr. E.C. BALM” do not have curved “R’s” or embossing on the side panels. Each example is from a different mold and the tops on the bottles are completely different. Both of these bottles are fairly crude, have that deep aqua colored glass and quite possibly were blown here in a western glass house.

As with most of the medicines that were marketed early, the Dr. E.C. Balm claims to cure everything from Dysentery, burns and bruises to fever and Ague. And, of course, it was recommended for the entire family.

The E.C. Balm, in my opinion, is an interesting, fairly scarce western distributed medicine bottle that is still an affordable piece of western history

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral is another eastern manufactured product that found it’s way to the California gold fields. The California gold rush created an instant market for any product that could be freighted to the remote early camps and towns that were springing up in the gold country. Although most collectors consider the Cherry Pectoral a fairly common bottle, in my book, it’s a very desirable piece of gold rush history.

James Cook Ayer first started producing a line of home remedies as early as 1841. He bought the Robbins' Drug Store sometime in 1841 and began to concoct and sell his home grown remedies out of this newly acquired business. His Cherry Pectoral was, according to Ayer, a medicine aimed at relieving disorders of the chest or respiratory tract. His home grown family remedies were very popular and successful enough for Ayer to pay off the loan for the Robbins’ store in 3 years.

James Ayer manufactured and sold many different medicinal remedies and eventually became a very rich man. After he died in 1878, the business was run by family member Frederick Ayer for a while. The business stayed in the family until 1888, when it was finally bought out by Sterling Products Inc.

The Cherry Pectoral bottles that I have encountered here in the Northern part of California’s gold fields comes in two sizes, the small size is about 6 ¼ inch tall and the large about 7 ¼ inch tall. The earliest examples of the Cherry Pectoral sports an open pontil base, later examples have a smooth base.

Having spent most of my life here in these Sierra Nevada Canyons I can understand the need for something to cut through the damp winter chill that penetrates you to the bone. If three fingers of good old redeye didn’t open up that congested chest I guess it was time to reach for James Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral. Thousands of 49ers did!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone, Time for some serious eating and a Big Dose of Gratitude. Rick DB

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2012 expo

Who wants to do a seminar at the 2012 Reno expo ? Contact Marty Hall or Richard Siri .I don't know how many of you out there have seen the gazebo display used at the Santa Rosa show. It's a big dislay and could house many various Western Bottles I think we could get it hauled to Reno if there is enought interest . It would be a joint dislay not judged . I thnk it would be remembered like the Weaverville Window.
Another thing if western folks want to see western bottle articles in the FOHBC magazine they need to write some and submit them to the new editor .You don't have to go through June Lowry ,submit them direct to the editor . I don't think at this time other than Eric McGuire anyone has sent in anything western to be printed . You can't fault the Fohbc for not having anything western if nothing western gets submitted .RTS


I just received this correspondence from a fellow collector on a very interesting western liniment.

“As far as I am aware two specimens are in collections. I dug my example in Mountain View, California back in the late 1970s out of an old stage stop dump.
All the other bottles had been burned, except for the pocket of moist thick clay that held this bottle and two "black glass" ale/beer bottles. All of this not 6 or 7 feet from a major 6-lane boulevard.

Take a look at the pictures, and feel free to post them as a bit of "change of gears" on your Western Bitters blog. Noticed your Mexican Mustang Liniment trade card is imprinted "For Man & Beast"...
I know Eric McGuire knows something of William A. Clark although my own research through the online SF city directories came up with only ambiguous (and numerous) "William Clark"s. This example is filled with tiny seed bubbles, "no crack" small potstones and bits of black. Applied lip, and reblown with "ghost" lettering below the various lines of embossing on the wide panels.
Jason P.”

Thanks to Jason Parker for the pictures and information on this rare and interesting western bottle -rs


Here’s a bottle that gets little respect but is one of the earliest products distributed in California’s gold rush country. The Mexican Mustang Liniment bottle is generally found in every camp, settlement and town in the Mother Lode, Northern Mines and also in the early California cities. I have dug dozens of these bottles and I am sure the more prolific diggers have dug hundreds of them over the years.

The agents for this product claimed that it would relieve the pain associated with everyday hard work so common to the times. Not many occupations were more physical than digging for gold and a pain reliever, other than liquor, was an item that flew off of the merchant’s shelves.

The manufacturers of the liniment claimed not only did it work on men and women but was also recommended for children, horses and domestic animals.

These bottles were made for a long time and the earliest examples have an open pontil base and are fairly crude. Some of the earlier examples are embossed D.S. Barnes New York. (Hear that Dr. Barnes) Later examples have a smooth base and are neatly made.

Are you storing a few of these early bottles in your basement or garage? Well, get them out and take another look at that crude and early medicine bottle aimed at the gold rush market.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I just received my November – December issue of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors “Bottles and Extras” magazine. I always like to read the President’s Message first before wading into the articles and information contained in the magazine. For me the President’s message gives me a little insight into the mindset of the federation leadership and sets the tone for the whole issue.

Unfortunately this issue’s message starts off with an apology. First off -new president Gene Bradberry apologizes for the lateness of the previous issue (that, by the way, I never received) then informs us that former editor Jesse Sailor (the fellow hired by the former leadership to get the magazine back on track and current) has been replaced by the recently elected Midwest Region director. I don’t have a problem with changing magazine editors or even with the magazine being a little late. That being said, I do have a problem with trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

It’s been long enough now for the smoke to clear after the heated and ugly election that took place in the Federation earlier this year. We lost (in my opinion) three of the bottle collecting hobby’s biggest supporters and volunteers in the aftermath of that struggle for control of the Federation.

During the two years of the former administrations tenure we saw the magazine arrive on time and with content that included articles aimed at the western collector. This newest issue contains zero (minus the review of the Arcadia California show) content for the western collector. I hope that future issues will contain some articles or research that will be of interest to western collectors. The former administration also reviewed and revised the Federations by-laws along with getting the expo in Reno in 2012.

I know from conversations with several western collectors that this year’s election literally “took the wind” out of a lot of western folks sails. As a matter of fact, I know of quite a few western collectors that didn’t bother to renew their memberships after the results of the election. Even though I don’t agree with that approach I can respect their decision to not participate. I have even heard rumblings that some collectors are contemplating a break off from the Federation and starting a “Western Federation”

I don’t know where this is all headed but I will continue to give my support to the Federation, try and keep this bitters site current and support our local bottle shows out here in the west. It might be a drop in the bottle collecting bucket, but enough drops make for a full bucket.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The 49er HBC will have an IXL Bitters showdown at their Dec. show on Saturday December 4th starting at “HIGH NOON” There will be a table set up for the showdown, and three judges. The winning bottle will get a silver dollar coin with show info and date on it, as well as best in show 2010.

All entries are welcome so…. Come on over to this year’s Auburn Bottle show and bring your best Henley’s for the showdown.

For information on the showdown contact the “California Kid” Mike McKillop at
See ya at Auburn