Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Western Wines

After seeing that CC & B, I was a bit reluctant to post this, but I opened one of my Christmas presents a few days ago, and was thrilled to see these western blown wines!

Apparently my wife acquired these at the Canyonville show last October from my good friend Jeff Hooper in Washington. I kept noticing he, Dennis Eastley, and her in some type of covert discussions but never thought she was wheeling and dealing on these wines, and the Henley's. They were stored secretly in my basement for the months since. I NEVER go down there anymore, as Lance Westfall used his "ghost detector" on his I-Phone recently, and the radar showed several ghosts, or spirit activity. I have not gone down there since!

I now have 16 of these beautiful wines, and each one is a different color. It is interesting ( though not as interesting as a CC & friggin B soda), that the Henley's Celery Beef and Iron is the exact same mold as the regular unembossed wines. I have seen these in some wild colors, and would love an ice blue one.

Happy New year to all! I just want to dig a W B Shasta...I guess that is next?

Dale M.

Recent Finds

How about these recent finds.
All I received was this picture, no other information was provided.
Nice looking blue bottle in the center!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


More Than Meets Your Eye
The California gold rush produced some interesting and rare products that were contained in square glass bottles. Gin, various brands of schnapps and more than a handful of medicated, aromatic and other vague sounding alcohol based concoctions competed for their share of the California market.

Did the companies that produced and sold these products understand or care what words they had blown in the containers that held their products? I, for one, think they probably did. They chose carefully what they had embossed in their bottles to entice consumers, that could read, into buying their product. For those potential customers that couldn’t read, horses, jockeys, animals and other attractive objects were blown into their glass bottles. I’m not an expert on 1850-60s’ marketing, but I do know a little about the California gold rush. During the beginning of the gold rush you could sell anything you could get to California. Not so true during the mid to late 1850’s. By the late 1850’s every liquor distributor on the east coast was “riding the elephant” and the California market was flooded with goods from the east. Just take a look at any late 1850’s California newspaper and count the advertisements for cases of liquor products being auctioned right off of the wharf that the supply ship was moored to.

What this all boils down to is the competition was extremely fierce during the late 50s’ and early 60s’. Liquor distributors had to use their wits to compete in an over supplied market. “Medicated Gin”, “Aromatic Schnapps” and “Club House Gin” were but a few of the products that were being pushed on the buying public. The advertisements for these products claimed to cure as many ailments as the patent medicines of the period. Oh, and by the way, they tasted better and left you feeling tipsy if not downright comatose.

Ever wonder what these early gold rush squares contained? I certainly have. Two of the foremost products were Gin and Schnapps.

Gin - we all know that gin is a strong colorless alcoholic beverage made by distilling or redistilling rye or other grain spirits. There were dozens of varieties of gin and each agent claimed theirs was the best tasting, most medicinal or had the greatest healing properties.
London Gin is your basic run of the mill dry tasting gin and usually doesn’t have any flavorings or spices added. Old Tom Gin is a lightly sweetened gin that was very popular back in the day. Dutch or Holland gin was typically distilled from Juniper berries and had a distinctive aroma and flavor. And then there’s the medicated gin (containing some sort of medicine), Cordial Gin (a stimulating and invigorating concoction), Clubhouse (high class belonging to a club) kind of gin and it goes on and on.

Schnapps, on the other hand, is a Dutch spirit distilled from potatoes and sometimes other grains. Schnapps was possibly the first widely distributed liquor based product during the gold rush. We find scads of them in the early gold rush camps and towns here in California, and like the gins, there were dozens of different brands and types.

Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps, the most common of schnapps found here in California, was a distilled spirit flavored with spices to give it a pleasing aroma and flavor. Voldner’s Aromatic Schiedam Schnapps was distilled from juniper berries, and as such, had a very different aromatic flavor.
The word Schiedam refers to not only to the city in Holland but to a particular type of schnapps. The recipe for Schiedam schnapps varied by manufacturer but almost always included the addition of honey, nutmeg and orange flower water to give it that “aromatic” flavor. Yummy! Schnapps was always advertised as a medicinal product and recommended for family consumption.

Next time you take a gander at one of various Clubhouse gins, aromatic schnapps, or one of the dozens of colorful embossed or un-embossed glass containers that made their way to California during the middle of the 19th century. Remember you're not just looking at a piece glass, you're looking at a GOLD RUSH SQUARE!

Thanks to Max Bell for the pictures and contributions to this post

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bryne & Castree

Here's another ad I found in the Daily Alta California. Seems Bryne & Castree (the dynamic duo) had a little run in with Henry Bryne and had their property sold at auction.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merchants or Scoundrels

Fraud or Politics as usual?

Dale’s post on the Salutaris Bitters got me to thinking about how little I knew about this western bitters and the merchants that bottled it. Dale states in his post “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.”
Castree and Bryne advertised as early as 1854 in the Daily Alta California that they were importers of groceries, wines and liquors and located at the corner of Post and Kearny Streets in San Francisco.
One article I ran across rang so familiar that I just had to relate it:

In August of 1854 the San Francisco Grand Jury was considering payment of a bill for supplies furnished by Messrs. Bryne & Castree for the last session of the Grand Jury. The bill amounted to $145 and the Board of Supervisors ordered payment be made to Castree & Bryne.

The supplies furnished to the Grand Jury, according to Castree & Bryne, amounted to five baskets of champagne (the Grand Jury claims to have been furnished just two baskets of champagne. One basket for their expedition into the country for the examination of a county road – the other for their rooms- if more were furnished they did not see them)
Three thousand five hundred cigars (The Grand Jury claims that at the utmost extant they could not have smoked more than a thousand). The sherry wine and brandy charged by Castree & Bryne are at least double in quantity the amount brought to the jury rooms, and were so inferior in quality that but very little was used.
As regards prices, making all due allowance for the discount on script, they are so palpably exorbitant that a glance is only necessary. (Script was paper money, not gold, so was worth less and discounted)

The Grand Jury goes on to try and discredit Castree & Bryne stating that the brandy, wine and other supplies that were furnished were of inferior or common quality and at best could not have cost half of what was charged. The jury also denies having ordered the supplies; deny using them or having been provided with them. They further state that it is customary to furnish Grand Juries with refreshments, which is no doubt proper enough, but never ordered them.
The jury also states that the Grand Jury rooms are open to others and supplies provided to the jury may have been consumed by others.

Castree & Bryne were paid for the supplies that, according to a somewhat confused Grand Jury, were never ordered, used or provided to the Grand Jury. Does any of this sound familiar? One hundred and fifty six years have come and gone, but nothing has really changed. Or has it?

Monday, December 20, 2010

MR & D

Martin Rancich and Gaetano Deluchi

Martin Rancich started in the soda water business sometime in the early 1850's. Martin's soda works were located at different addresses close to J Street in Sacramento California from around 1852 to 1861.
Rancich's first soda bottle was embossed MR/ SACRAMENTO. There is a misspelled variant of the MR bottle that is embossed MR/ SACRIMENTO.
Sometime in 1863 Rancich took Gaetano Deluchi in as a partner in the soda works and had a soda bottle embossed with MR&D on the face of the bottle and UNION GLASS WORKS PHILADa on the reverse.
Although the MR&D is the later of the two Rancich bottles it is quite a bit rarer. Up here in the gold country we run across the MR soda every so often in both of the correct and incorrect spelling of Sacramento. I have never seen a piece of the MR&D in Sierra County.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas comes early for two Northern California guys.(digger & collector) The lucky digger, dug this unbelievable western soda one week before the Auburn Show, and changed hands shortly after to its new proud owner. This GREEN, that's right I said GREEN MR&D soda is probably the rarest soda on the planet, and it was dug in a small trash pit no more than 10" deep. Doesn't this soda get the heart rate up or what. This is what bottle digging is all about. HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just Another IXL...

Here is one I was going to bring to the IXL "showdown" in Auburn, but unknown plans for the weekend caused me to leave it at home. This is another Nevada find from awhile back, and is a lighter lime than some I have seen, with a good dose of yellow. This one has that big top and no circle around the IXL indicating it is very early for a Henley's. These are just impossible for me to resist, and while still relatively affordable, are getting to a point where one might not be able to buy one in the near future. I have dug dozens of IXLs over the years, but they have ALL been broken. This is one which I have on my "want to dig" list, and it is still there...kind of like cathedral pickles in the larger sizes. Not even one intact example in decades of digging holes with these vessels in them. Someday...

California Wine Bitters- M. Keller

The recent IXL "showdown" in Auburn, and a recent American Bottle Auction offering got me to thinking about one of my favorite bitters. The California Wine Bitters brand was offered by at least three different company's and there were trademark infringement lawsuits flying all over the place for awhile in the 1860s. There is even a paper labeled lady's leg with the California Wine Bitters brand! I suppose this name for a bitters drew quite a demand, and several agents and proprietors just assumed the rights to it. The M.Keller continues to be a mysterious bottle even after 50 years of bitters research.
My theory is that in an effort to escape legal ramifications, Keller was one of the few Western concerns that actually exported their bitters to the East. This would definitely be in the minority of Western bitters manufacturers doing this, but of the 7 or 8 examples known, only a few have been found in the West. I am 100% convinced that this bottle is Western blown, and each one is a different color with two being a deeper olive with yellow tone. They are such pretty glass, and elaborate in design. As "bittery" as Nevada is, I would be interested to know if even a shard of a Keller has ever been found there. I have not heard of one. I do know that Matthew Keller had a depot in Philly to market these bitters from the Los Angeles vinyards. Regardless of where they were exported, they continue to be extremely rare. SO similar to the Henley's IXL, and with the pushed up base, and mold characteristice of the Western "seamed wines". They also come in the exact colors of these wines so coveted by Western collectors. Someday a Keller with a label will show up. I do have one, but the label does not indicate anything but the brand. Overall this is one of the most misunderstood, and vaguely researched bottles out there. I believe it is one of the most beautiful!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Auburn IXL Showdown

On Saturday December 4th the 49er Historical Bottle Club held their annual bottle and antique show.
After a brisk Friday afternoon dealer setup Saturday’s attendance was steady and most of the dealer's I talked with reported strong sales all day long.

It was great to see all the fellow bottle collectors and I visited with collectors from Northern California, Southern California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin and many other regions.

One of the highlights of Saturday’s show was the Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters “showdown” that was conceived and overseen by western collector “The California Kid”. I am not positive, but I believe, there were over a dozen entries of IXL’s in the circle and non circle variants. The varied and stunning colors that the IXL is known to come in made for a very colorful display.

After the three judges conferred, they awarded first place in the non circle category to collector Richard Siri for beautiful amber colored IXL. Richard also received first place in the circle IXL category with a drop dead deep blue aqua Henley’s – a clean sweep of the showdown for the Santa Rosa collector.

Thanks to all that participated in the showdown and to the Auburn club for an entertaining and well run showdown. I have heard rumors that next year’s showdown will be Phoenix western fifths and flasks. Excellent!

49er Bottle Show

I would like to thank the 49er Bottle Club for a very well run show this last weekend.
The club had security folks walking the floor throughout the weekend and we were not bombarded with announcements all show long reminding us to take care of our own business.
I only heard of one bottle disappearing off of a sales table during the show, and hopefully that was the only incident of the weekend.
I will be posting more on the Auburn show real soon and would like to hear your comments and thought on this years show. Feel free to comment or post your Auburn experience.
More to come on this....