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.


  1. I remember the one AT had and it was if I remember was a base embossed only variant, it was also black glass, real dark, kool bottle.

  2. The Salutaris Bitters is one of the earliest western made bottles. In 1864 Bryne & Castree displayed 145 cases of this bitters at the San Francisco Mechanic's Institute Fair.

    The unique letter A in the word Salutaris is exactly like the early Pacific Glass Works cylindrical sixth that I had with the missing crossbar, as well as being the same color.

    It is definitely a Pacific Glass Works blown bottle and historically a very significant piece of early western bottle history.

  3. Definitely appears to be the same embossing engraver that a few years later provided the embossing for the EC&M insulators. The snake-like "S" and the "F" are dead ringers, as is the slight pyramidal pattern on the letter cuts.

    Super looking bottle...I want one!

  4. Dwayne,

    There is some limited information in my book that may be of interest to the insulator collectors, I'm sure you'll find the book extremely interesting, as a certain article talks of a insulator of a new pattern being made.

  5. Warren,

    That sounds very interesting. I'm really excited about picking up my reserved copy at the Auburn Show!

  6. Very - Very nice M.E. That's a tough one to put in your collection. Congratulations!
    See ya at Auburn this weekend?

  7. Thanks RS,
    I will blast down to Auburn for some pre arranged deals, and jet back home. Look forward to seeing you!

  8. About 30 yrs ago I dug a damaged puce Byrne & Castree in the SF Bay Area.
    A guy I know, found a base-embossed only version about 40 yrs ago in the crawl space under the Birds Landing General Store. That historic bldg was featured in the Clint Eastwood movie "Honky Tonk Man". I dug the privies for it about 10 yrs later. No more Salutaris', but did get a USA Hosp Dept bottle outta one of them !

  9. The Byrne & Castree bottle and the E. Widemann & J. Chappas bottle are both the earliest products from a West Coast glassworks that I can account for, and both being products of P.G.W., those fortunate enough to own examples of these are very lucky indeed.

    The Widemann /Chappas bitters was displayed at the same 1864 S. F. Mechanics' Institute Fair as the Bryne & Castree product, only they displayed 45 cases of their Dr. Garale's Alpine Swiss Bitters.

  10. I have a Byrne and Castree bitters with a lady leg nick. We found it many years ago,in the early 80's. It was found in Eastern Oregon along the Sparta ditch where the Chinese labors were digging for gold.The bottle is in perfecr condition, nor cracks or chips. The color to me is dark brown, Lyle Wescott.