Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reno Expo People

The Federation Table
Cherry Simi
Leisa Lambert
Stacey and Bev Siri   (Ken Schwartz going for his billfold on the far left)
Randy Selnak (on left) and Lou Lambert
Pam Selnak and Jeff Wichmann
Shelly and Aaron Hill
Ken Gaeta
The Dolcini's
Elizabeth and Ferdinand
Blake, Denny and Roger
Dennis Fox and Steve Bird


  The FOHBC show was an incredible event! You could feel the electricity in the air on Thursday afternoon during registration. The show consisted of over 350 tables loaded with great glass, and the "who's who" of the antique bottle community. During the setup and early lookers period, it was almost impossible to determine a game plan to systematically hit each table and have a chance at snagging a great piece before it was gone. Almost immediately, I was able to see the offering of nice western bitters on Ted Siri's table. The selection was amazing with a Bryant's cone and lady's leg, a rare Mohica Bitters, a pretty green Lacour's, bennet's Wild Cherry, Chalmer's, Alpine Thomas taylor, and several others. I was able to pick up a hammer whittled yellow Yerba Buena for a reasonable price. Racing to the rest of the tables was pretty chaotic, and very inconsistent. The plan was to hit the table of each dealer / collector which I suspected would have the possibility of a nice western bitters. I saw Wonser's, Lacour's, Renz's, and another Yerba Buena in a nice yellow with strong olive tone. After shelling out the cash for this one, fellow collector Jon Lawson mentioned that a beautiful emerald green and super crude Dr. Henley's IXL bitters was just put out on a table, and after some negotiation, this gorgeous variant 2 Henley's was added to my bitters collection. This had been a recent find in a Nevada "ghost town" by non collectors who had began repairing a sinking floor in an outbuilding, and viola! Prior to the show , I was able to make arrangements to purchase a green Alex VonHumboldt's Stomach Bitters, and an extremely rare Henley's OK Bitters...my bottle budget was already strained to the breaking point prior to even arriving in Reno.
  There were other great western bottles ( my primary collecting focus)...too many, as it became clear that this entire process was going to be a hit and miss proposition at best. There was a rare Pioneer Brown  blob soda in green with an enormous top which I hesitated on, and it was quickly sold to a collector with better ability to pull the trigger on a purchase. I was able to purchase an extremely rare "Marden and Folger, San Francisco pontiled spice in problem free condition from Aaron Hill. I had never seen one of these Gold Rush bottles available before. This was bottle nirvana! I am fortunate to not have been bitten by the eastern figural bitters bug, as this show was a blur of cabins, barrels, pigs, and others  There will be many posts written with a much better perspective than I, but I wanted to share a bit of my experience. This was a monster show!
Dale M.

Reno 2012 FOHBC Expo Pictures

Extremely rare bottles in the Northwestern Bottle Club's "Gazebo"
Dave & Pinkie's fantastic E.G. Booz display
Beautiful Display of swirled glass from Dwayne Anthony
"Peoples Choice Winner" - Pickles and Sauces from Lou Pellegrini
Ted Siri had plenty of western bitters for sale

Stay tuned - lots more pictures and comments on the FOHBC Reno Expo

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FOHBC Expo 2012 Shootout

Fellow Enthusiasts................. Come join the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, the Norman Heckler & Company and yours truly at the 2012 Expo........350 (yep! Three Hundred & Fifty) tables of bottle and bottle related Dealers and the Saturday afternoon Western Style bottle "SHOOTOUT"....so....Bring your best Drakes, Circle Cutter or Umbrella Ink and join the action in the high desert town of Reno Nevada. If your not hankerin' to throw out your best bottle then please join us for Hors d' oeuvres and a magnificent display of antique glass.....I'll be looking forward to seeing y'all !

Thursday, July 12, 2012


 As early as 1856 A. Barbier is advertising in various western newspapers, including the Grass Valley Telegraph, as a wholesale manufacturer of cordials, syrups and ginger wine. Barbier was located at 148 Washington Street in San Francisco. In his advertisements he is pushing a beverage called Barbier’s Grape Ginger Wine that he manufactures from pure white wine and Jamaica Ginger Root and that he sells only to the jobbing trade in cases and kegs. These advertisements lead me to believe that Barbier was not in the business of selling his products to the general public but to agents or wholesalers who provided the public with his products.

The Barbier schnapps bottle is somewhat of a mystery to the western bottle collectors that I have questioned about its origins and history. What is known about this bottle is that of the six or so known examples all have an iron pontil, were discovered in Northern California and they are to early a bottle to have been manufactured on the west coast.It is not known if Barbier manufactured the schnapps or imported and bottled it at his San Francisco location during the time it was marketed.

Having a bottle blown on the east coast and shipped to the west coast to be filled, without doubt, would cost more than the spirits that were concocted to fill it.
In 1992 I discovered shards of a broken iron pontil Barbier’s Schnapps at the gold rush settlement of Excelsior here in western Sierra county. It cannot be determined if this bottle was a “carry in” or if the Barbier schnapps was marketed in Sierra County’s gold rush country. It is reported that a mint Barbier’s was recovered from the old mining town of Monte Cristo on the early 1960’s. To my knowledge these are the only Barbier’s that have been discovered in Sierra County.
The Barbier’s Aromatic Schnapps is considered extremely rare and the selling price for the last one that came to auction confirms that it is not only a rare bottle but also a highly desirable gold rush era western distributed bottle. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Rare Square

 On a cold, wet and dreary day 20 plus years ago, two diggers located a privy in the back of a lot once belonging to a drug store occupied by a Dr. G.W. Brown in the early 1870s. The hole was a shallow one by this town's standards...about 7 feet deep. Along the way down, there was little sign that this particular pit would have anything interesting. There were pieces of 1870s bottles, and a few feet down, an embossed half pint amber union oval flask among the bricks, rocks and debris typically found in an outhouse. On the bottom of the hole, a square appeared and the digger in the hole mentioned that he had a square bottle in amber showing, and mentioned it was likely a Hostetters Bitters, or something similar. Upon clearing away the dirt, he was blown away at what was revealing itself...this was not an ordinary square. The bottle was still full of it's contents and was securely corked as if it had been discarded prior to anyone consuming the contents. The digger sat there for a minute in shock as he was holding a bitters bottle, but not a Hostetters. The bold embossing read " Dr. G.W. Brown's Oregon Chittum Bitters". The glass was extremely crude and the condition was pristine perfect. This bottle remains as one of the most significant discoveries in the western bitters world.
  For decades, I have studied ( and worn out) Wilson's book "Western Bitters". In the back section of this book is a chapter outlining the few known label only western bitters which did not come in an embossed version at that time. Since 1968 when the book was written, several of these "label only" bitters have surfaced in actual embossed bottles! The Blue Gum Bitters, Old Man's , Asher Taylor, and now the Oregon Chittum Bitters.
 Dr. G.W. Brown was a prominent figure in Portland's history being active in politics and running an eye infirmary in the 1860s. In 1871 he opened a drug store and "created" a bitters using the bark of the chittum tree which was found in abundance on the Oregon coast. On August 13th, 1872, he patented this concoction and challenged everyone to try this amazing product. Unfortunately for the good doctor, he died less than a year later. On January 10th, 1873, a group of Portland's important city leaders gathered at the Harmony Encampment No. 6 of the Red Cross of Portland, to hold a service. They unanimously adopted resolutions relating to George brown's death and divided political duties among the group due to Dr.Brown's passing.

 The bottle is a smaller square ( a bit larger than a pint) with a crude applied top, and those famous curved western "R"s. It is embossed on two sides, and was likely blown in 1871 or 1872. While I am sure there were more produced, this example remains as the sole example known to a very few collectors. To my knowledge, not even a shard of another specimen has been documented. This example has been in one collection ever since it was dug, and kept under wraps all these years. I have received "gentle pressure" by those who have seen it to share this great bottle with others, thus am doing so.

  Who knows what great new finds will occur in the future, and where they will be found? This is one aspect of our hobby which keeps us ever on the hunt for the next new discovery! I wish to thank Lou Lambert for supplying valuable information, and of course the two diggers who's identity will remain anonymous.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Downieville 1851

The 4th of July in 1851 was celebrated in Downieville with the  fanfare and celebration that was common for a California Gold Rush mining camp. Drinking, gunfire, gambling, parades and patriotic speeches were all part of a  4th of July bill of fare.  A miner by the name of Jack Cannon, having consumed his share of celebration, found himself at the cabin of a young Mexican girl by the name of Juanita. History does not record the exact circumstance of their confrontation but is reported that Cannon and Juanita exchanged heated words and was harassing her before he was chased away.

About 10 o'clock the next morning  the cry of 'murder!' came up the river. Everybody was running toward town. At the scene of the action a vast throng was surrounding a large tent, and within, a miner was lying dead. 

The dead miner was Jack Cannon. He was drunk the night before (the Fourth of July) and accidentally or on purpose fell into the door of a Mexican miner named Jose and his wife Josefa (later this evolved into Juanita). Cannon returned the next morning to make amends and spoke to the husband and wife in Spanish. A Mr. V.C. McMurry saw a highly aggitated Josefa fly into a terrible rage. She suddenly plunged a Bowie knife into Cannon's breast bone and into his heart.

Cannon fell dead into the street and friends carried him into his tent on what is now the Downieville Brewery property. Word spread quickly of the murder and Josefa (Juanita) was apprehended in the Craycroft saloon.

A trial was held in the main plaza with a hastily selected judge, jury and lawyers for both sides. Every statement or testimony for Josefa was ignored. The trial lasted 4 hours with Josefa being found guilty. She was taken to her home and given 2 hours to put her affairs in order.

At the given time she was taken to the gallows. She confessed she had killed Cannon and was willing to suffer the consequences for it. She adjusted the rope around her own neck let her hair fall free. Her arms and clothes were tied down, a cap put over her face and she was hung. The only woman ever hanged in California.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What The...

Here is one which just came out of the ground yesterday. It came from 1870s context and was inches away from an 1870s western blown spice. I have never seen one like it and it looks soooo western blown and crude. I do not read spanish, but from what I can decipher, it is a medicine, and a phosphate emulsion of some kind. The embossing reads; " S..A.Droguera Universal Mexico" ( front panel)." Emulsional Maraz" ( left panel), "Con Hipoffitos" ( right panel). The top is applied, and is a tapered collar style. This oddity looks to be 1870s and is very whittled and a fire aqua. Any thoughts? Dale M.