Monday, May 23, 2011

Those great 1860s!

I have been out digging every week since late Winter. Other than a few less than noteworthy bottles, and dozens of even less noteworthy vessels recovered, it has been very slow in the "finding" department. I have not really heard of anything significant being found as of yet by my normal circle of friends...maybe this week is the week.

When I am feeling like the "bottle loser" which is fairly often, it is nice to sit in my office and admire the beauty of the western glass that means so much to me. Do any of you do that too?

Here are four beauties which were all made about the same time...late 1860s. What a fantastic time for San Francisco artisians to create such incredible works of art! To think of the odds of these bitters being blown, handled, packaged, shipped, filled, shipped again by wagon or mule, consumed, discarded, and dug up 130 + years later! It is amazing that they survived at all, let alone being gathered up by someone who sold them back to the glassworks to be crushed up and beginning the cycle again.

I am heading out again in a few days to dig a hole I probed last week...the quest continues.


  1. I always try to look at the loser holes with a positive attitude. They are part of the process of elimination, just another X on the map for a property conquered and scratched off the hit list. There's always that continuous thrill and adrenalin rush hanging there with the next prospect. It's the unknown of what hides beneath the surface of the next hole on the next permission that gets me through the dry spells. Yeah, I have been known to whine a little when the dry spells seem endless, but one decent dig can do wonders to rejuvenate the spirits. It will definitely be the next hole...I know it, I can feel it!

    I agree that admiring and studying the glass already on one's shelves can be a big mood booster, not only for the dry digging spells, but when other things in life are pressuring you as well. There’s something truly special about crude, old glass that definitely attracted me to collecting it many years ago--there is certainly a calming tranquility found within it. Then you have the history--imagining the bottle as it was being blown in the glass can almost smell the fumes of the molten glass and feel its heat on your face as you are watching the gatherer carry the blowpipe to the glass blower standing over the mold. Well, I could go on, but you get the idea...

    I also find much joy in seeing what others have dug and collected. I saw a world class Western collection this past weekend and it has inspired me to no end! I appreciate those that are willing to share their finds, collections and knowledge. For me this is a multi-dimensional hobby that does not revolve around the digging alone, so when a poor digging streak raises its ugly head I can fall back to many other aspects of this hobby to find perfect solace.

    That is a gorgeous group of bottles in the pic, Dale. I see no "bottle loser" anywhere in sight! ;-) --D.A.--

  2. Well put IXL, its just part of the game ! You are right about it being a slow year though, I haven't dug any non Cutter whiskeys or bitters and have only heard of one nice non-Cutter being dug (but I'm sure a few diggers are keeping their finds private). In certain towns these days it's an accomplishment just to locate an undug 1870s privy, let alone a heavy bottle. There is digging left, it's just not a free for all like the 1970s. I could not imagine what was possible in the 1970s if you did your homework, dug the right towns, located each hole, and finished each hole ! As long as I am accounting for all the holes on the property and digging at least applied top holes, I can't complain, the rest is up to the bottle gods.

  3. Go get 'em, IXL and Numa. I'm "off the grid" for the foreseeable future due to heath issues and am certainly no threat to digging anything, let alone "heavies" Hit the towns and cities hard before the dirt solidifies from lack of moisture. Nothin' worse that having your probe "ping" off the rock hard CA summer cap.

    I don't recall any "free for all" back in the '70s. There were more diggers back then and locations had to be kept under wraps just like they do now. Many of the old farts like me are in their "long tooth" years and have had to "pass the probe" to the Gen-X diggers. LOL

  4. Hey Mike, yeah, heard from one of your digging buddies that you've been a little under the weather lately. We're all pulling for you for a speedy recovery so we can see you back in the trenches soon. Gotta keep those probes ground polished--there's no place in a digger's world for rusty probes. In the meantime, keep the words flowing here on the blog, your knowledge and posts have been invaluable and very much enjoyed.

  5. Through trials and tribulations treasure is revealed. Keep up the good fight. The game is afoot.
    Dennis E

  6. I've had a "slow year" for many years. I mostly buy at shows, on ebay. Recently went up to visit Buena Vista, Calif. to buy a couple bottles, and view an Advanced Collector's collection. I actually got to hold and appreciate several bottles worth as much as my entire bottle collection. If you can't dig or don't have well-honed "permission getting" skills this hobby can still be worthwhile. There are still deals to be found.

  7. Sometimes after a long day I'll escape into my bottle-cave (a man cave plus bottles). I'll take a few off the shelves, rearrange them, try to create a few openings for new bottles before an upcoming show, then just space out for a half hour or so. It's very relaxing to admire all of the different shapes and colors, while wondering where each bottle was consumed and whether or not a 10 year old made some of the crude and crooked ones....