Saturday, June 16, 2012

Western Blown Inks

Here are three inks which were dug in California. These "burst top" inks represent a little discussed aspect of western glass collecting, but are beautiful little pieces of history. They come in many different colors from clear, to aqua, teal, yellow amber to dark amber, and green shades. The "loaf of bread" is very hard to find, and I know of examples dug in Virginia City, Marysville, and Petaluma. I have never heard of anyone definitely pinning down the exact dates of manufacture or glasshouse which blew them. There has been speculation that OGW made them in the 1880s, and there is one embossed umbrella type ( Gibb), and the school house form " N.E. Plus Ultra". Let's see some more western inks!


  1. i remember digging a gibb,is this western?

  2. This is exactly why I try to drop in on this website every day or two. What a great education I've received from posts like this. All the recent group pics of the meds, etc. have been awesome. I was not aware of the "loaf of bread" ink and frankly, if I saw one in an antique shop I would have easily blown it off as English. Great stuff, keep it coming!

  3. The Gibb is 1870s and from Oakland California. The "loaf of bread" is a real sleeper & definitly Western. I've dug these both broken and whole from late 60s early 70s pits: Sacramento, Marysville, V.C. & S.F. Their known primarily in shades of blue but also come in greens and aqua, their usually quite crude.

  4. Uggh.

    Old too soon, smart too late. I had a virtually identical example of the "loaf of bread" ink years ago when we were in the Main Antique Mall in Medford. Assuming it was of English origin, I priced it accordingly, while adding for color. I was amazed when it was gone the next day for what I thought was too much money. And now I know why. Someone got a rare ink!

    Thanks for the killer photos and for the education. Great stuff!

  5. I have dug the square inks, too, and always thought them of British origin. Many continental inks made it here, too, especially in the Gold Rush years.

  6. I used to think these were all definetly Western-blown as well, but over the past couple of yrs I've started to wonder if that is actually true.
    The reason being, is that I have seen some shear-top umbrella inks with English companies embossed on them. Before that, I had never seen an embossed sheared-top umbrella ink other than the Gibb. That, in combination with the high-percentage of English bottles we dig from the same era, makes me wonder.... if these slick umbrellas could've been blown in England and simply been distributed by a Western agent ?? I can't really think of any other types of Western-blown bottles with sheared-tops, but I can think of several styles of English bottles (castor oils, meds). Something to think about... Would be cool to be able to nail these inks down as being Western-blown thru some advertisment relating to the SF glass houses. The colors on the umbrellas and NE Ultra sure do look Westerny though...
    I'm still leaning towards "Western", but not all the way until some one turns-up an ad or something showing or describing the umbrellas or NE Ultra being ordered from SFGW or SFPGW. As for O.G.W., they are way too old for that. I've dug a bunch of the umbrellas, and at least 4 NE Ultra's, and they come out of pits/layers earlier than 1884.

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  7. Could we, just maybe, be looking at "The English Connection". If Abramson Heunisch could broker red whittled whiskies from Dusseldorf and Luther & Bendixon from Dresden (Germany), who's to say that S.F. glass wholesalers didn't import quantities of inks from the British Isles as cheap ballast headed westward across the Atlantic?

    Just a thought~

  8. Perhaps Bruce, but the red whittled whiskeys are from the later 1880s-90s, while the inks are earlier. I do believe that some medicines often thought to be western blown are indeed English made, such as some of the Wakelee products ( some Camelline, and the Nelson's). One can only speculate, but the english inks seem to follow some common characteristics not shared by these such as straight sided octagons, squares, fluted side, and pen rests...I have seen lots of eastern ( America) blown "burst tops", and they too seem to be easily identifiable ie; more narrow body, and pale aqua and clear. Some of these umbrellas exhibit an open pontil leading one to pretty much assure they are eastern made. The "western" umbrellas are squattier, and have base characteristics which are different than the others. I agree that OGW is too late for most of these.Even a label would not provide definitive proof of course but would add a clue.

  9. It’s the glass quality & colors that’s the dead give-away in addition to locations where these are found. After studying Western blown bottle glass for as long as I have, if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck then it’s likely not a chicken. The English bust top inks were a long run and 1890s at best, they even go up into the teens, these do not. Methods of bottle glass blowing in America are not unique to this county. Bottles were being blown all around the world for hundreds of years before anything was ever produced here in the West. Depending on the origin of the mold makers or blowers your going to find bottle similarities that mimic others blown from different parts of the country or even around the world.

    These loaf of bread inks only turn up hear on the West Coast and so do the N.E. Ultra Plus. Time spam is also very narrow on these and their always seen in shades that fit other bottles blown in the same era in the West. I should also mention that English glass bottles dug here in California are always stained and etched and never come out sparkly like these do. This is primarily due to the glass composition not being of native components and reacting to non native soils.

  10. Interesting dialogue on the burst top inks. We have bought several burst top inks over the years for Cherry's Antique store here in Downieville. Even a few loaf's of bread in western looking colors. All of the burst tops we have bought have come from dealers or collectors that specialize in selling English poisons and other small size English bottles.
    Sometimes if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck but is flying with some geese it just might be a small goose

  11. I'm glad by playing the "doubting Thomas", I was able to stimulate more information/conversation/posts to come out on the inks. I agree with Golden Plantation re: the English bottles of the 1870's era ,when dug here in the West, are stained/etched, where as the umbrella inks from the same era come out sparkling, most likely due to the native high quality sand (Monterey), as G.P. stated. From my experience digging, I dont really start to see sparkley dug English bottles until the Turn of the Century. I'm referring mostly to Bay Area and Valley digging, and not to the mtns (Sierra)where even the Eastern and English bottles mostly can come out of the ground clean.