Saturday, September 22, 2012

Who In The Heck Was Marcus Sass?

 Here is yet another western bitters bottle which seems to have some mystery surrounding it. This bottle was unknown in embossed form until a dark amber example was discovered in the Red Bluff, California area in the late 1980s. Prior to this discovery, it was believed that this brand was a label only bitters. Wilson's 1968 reference book on western bitters indicates the inventor of this oddly named concoction was a Amandus Sass of San Francisco,( Marcus)? and other bitters reference books also collaborate this. I have not seen any advertisements or trade mark information which would make this bottle's origin more clear. I understand that it dates to 1876, or 1877. Apparently it was only produced for a short time as they are extremely rare bottles. I only know of two complete examples...the original discovery in dark amber, and this "old amber" specimen.In my collection I also have the bottom half of one which was dredged up in San Francisco bay many years ago, and it is an olive amber. There was also a broken in place example found in the Bay Area a few years ago. I have seen photos of this one and it almost looks like a probe skewer, but hopefully this was not the case.
 The example shown was recovered in 2001 in the San Francisco Bay area as well. It would appear that while there were indeed several batches blown. due to the differences in color shade, this brand was not distributed as widely as other brands of bitters.
 If anyone has any additional information on other pieces or whole examples known, I would certainly appreciate it. Also, it would be interesting to know if there have been any shards, or advertising in other western states. DM


(Wow! that's a big eagle!)
October 5 & 6, 2012 (Friday & Saturday) Canyonville, Oregon. Jefferson State Antique Bottle, Insulator & Collectible Show & Sale at the           Seven Feathers Casino Resort.

Dealer setup October 5 from 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm and October 6 from 7:30 am to 9:00 am. (early lookers 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm Fri. & 7:30 am – 9:00 am Sat. – $10).

Free Admission Sat. 9 AM 'till close of show.

Info: Bruce Silva, 
Show Chairman, P.O. Box 1565
, Jacksonville, Oregon 97530,


NOTE: Change of date / weekend!

NOTE: Dealer sales tables are SOLD OUT for this year's show and it is shaping up to be one of the biggest and best shows in Canyonville's history. 
The Canyonville Show has a lot to offer for more that just the western bottle collector... Insulators, Collectible bottle and insulator go-withs and plenty of other interesting things to add to your collection.

Don't forget the casino and fine restaurants that Seven Feather has to offer and of course (my favorite) the beautiful drive through Oregon - rs


Friday, September 21, 2012


Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters was first marketed in an embossed bottle on the Pacific Coast as early as 1858 by the firm of Park & White of San Francisco. David Hostetter, with his father’s recipe for bitters, and George Smith with the capital to produce and market the product, in 1853, formed the firm of Hostetter & Smith. The first containers produced for the western market were the large 31 ounce size “black glass” bottles that were manufactured and shipped to the Pacific Coast. A 27 ounce bottle was also produced for the western market. These large blacks are rarely unearthed east of the Rocky Mountains and almost all examples have been discovered on the west coast.  The large size Hostetter’s were distributed until sometime around February 1865 when in an advertisement run by Hostetter, Smith & Dean they claim to be discontinuining “the old size large bottle used exclusively in the west” and replacing it with the small size 20 ounce bottle. This information leads me to believe that if you are digging the large size Hostetter’s here in the west you are digging a bottle made before 1865 and possibly as early as 1858.

Although several western collectors believe some variants of the Hostetter’s were blown out west I cannot find any evidence that Hostetter had any of his bitters bottles manufactured on the west coast.

Hostetter’s Bitters was one of the best selling bottled products of the 19th century and the amount of these bottles available to collectors is staggering. It is believed that after 1865 Hostetter was selling over six thousand bottles of bitters a day, an unbelievable amount of bottled goods for that time period. The Hostetter’s come in dozens of variants and a myriad of colors ranging from the lightest of yellows to a dark black-amber. Although the majority of the Hostetter’s are considered common unusual colors and different mold variants are highly desirable and sought after by collectors.
Relation to Sierra County

The Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters are found in all the gold rush camps, settlements and towns of Sierra County.
Two of the large size blacks were recovered from the settlement of City of Six. One whole black example was discovered at Excelsior along with at least a half a dozen broken examples. I can account for over a dozen of the large size bottles that have been excavated from the ghost town of Monte Cristo. This bottle was as common to the gold rush country of California as the Udolpho Wolfe’s Schnapps. Any gold rush collection worth its salt has a large size 31 oz. Hostetter’s in it.






The Catawba Wine Bitters was made by the Longworth and Grew Company of Cincinnati, Ohio and marketed on the west coast by sole agent George Grimes of San Francisco. The Catawba Wine Bitters comes in various shades of green and amber colors and the earliest examples have an iron pontil. These bottles are considered rare with possibly only twenty to thirty examples known in any color. These bottles are highly prized by both bitters and western glass collectors.


                                                            Relation to Sierra County

Broken examples of the Catawba Wine Bitters have been found in the North Yuba Country of Sierra County. The author broke an iron pontil emerald green example while digging a root cellar in the ghost town of Chaparral Hill. After relating the broken Catawba story to a well known advanced bitters collector and bitters book author, he walked the two miles into Chaparral Hill to recover the broken shards of the bottle to catalog it for a revised addition to his bitters book – now that’s dedication in my opinion. Broken pieces of smooth base Catawba’s have also been found at Chaparral Hill. A broken smooth base green Catawba Wine was discovered at a cabin site above Indian Valley in the spring of 1993. Broken pieces of the Catawba bottle have also been found in the early gold rush settlements of Morristown, Craigs Flat, Forest City, Poker Flat, Brandy City and Downieville. A intact example was found in 2010 in Downieville next to the Yuba Theater.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sierra County California Ghost Towns

                                                       Brandy City / Strychnine City

The Main Street of Brandy City circa 1900


The site of the once thriving town of Brandy City is located six miles northeast of Indian Valley and sits on a ridge at an elevation of 4000 feet. Hydraulic placer mining began in 1851 and the growth of the town was extremely fast. By the middle of the 1850’s it was the center of the mining and business activity for the area from Eureka to Morristown. In 1854 there were about one hundred and fifty miners at work in the diggings and the town had a population of several hundred citizens.

            Through the 1850’s the town continued to grow and by 1860 the town had a population of five hundred permanent residents. All matter of businesses was located in the town and outlying camps supplied their needs at Brandy City. One could buy a pair of boots, walk across the street to purchase mining supplies and finish off your trip to town with an oyster supper and a shot or two of San Francisco’s finest whiskey.

In July of 1855 the event that brought more attention to Brandy City than all of the gold that was being recovered was the duel of Robert Tevis and Dr. Lippincott. The reason for the duel being Tevis and Lippincott were political rivals and had published letters in the Sierra Citizen denouncing each other. The arrangements were made for the duel and the particulars were “double barreled shotguns loaded with one ounce balls at forty yards”. Tevis and Lippincott, each with a second and a doctor, went on horseback to a place not far from Brandy City to commence with the duel. On a signal both fired, Tevis falling with a ball through his heart, while his shot just grazed Lippincott. Tevis was buried at the site of the duel, but the following day he was interred in the cemetery at Downieville. Sometime at a later date Tevis’ brother had the remains removed and buried elsewhere.
In November of 1863 Brandy City suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed most of the town. The fire broke out in Jone's Hotel and the losses to the camp were estimated at fifty thousand dollars.

 Brandy City rebuilt and continued to prosper and hydraulic mining continued until sometime in the mid 1880’s when the anti-depris legislation took effect and hydraulic mining was suspended in the diggings. The Sierra County Tribune reports in their December 1, 1884 issue “All are leaving Brandy City who can get away. Sawmills are shutting down. Six ranches wholly dependent on mining are ruined. Most of the men who remain here are waiting to see if something can be done to start up. This once prosperous camp is now ruined”        Hydraulic mining resumed at the Brandy City diggings in the late 1880’s after it again became legal to hydraulic mine although environmental restrictions required settling ponds and other costly improvements to the mine operators property. The large amount of placer ground that was available to mine at Brandy City saved the town from the exodus that took place in the Sierra County gold rush country during the late 1850’s and early 1860’s.
 Mining and commerce continued well into the 1920’s and can be documented by the amount of bottles and artifacts recovered from this site. Gold rush bottles, historical flasks, early American face pipes, gold rush belt buckles, early western blown bottles, 1870’s western whiskeys, medicines and bitters have all been discovered at this important Sierra County gold rush town.
            Little remains of Brandy City today. Continual logging of the area and construction of haul roads through the town site have disturbed this gold rush town. Even though Brandy City was heavily logged you can still see remains of basements, cabin sites and water ditches running through the town site. The hydraulic diggings, a large settling pond and the cemetery can be seen on the way to the townsite. The United States Forest Service has placed a historical plaque on the former commercial section of this early gold rush town. 
As early as the 1850’s gold rush miners used hydraulic monitors to blast water onto the ancient river gravel to collapse it and wash it through their sluice boxes. The anti-debris legislation of the mid 1880’s put a temporary stop to this practice and it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that this highly controversial practice was again resumed

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tool Top Whiskey Site

Take a look over at the Western Tool Top Whiskey site for the latest article from Bruce Silva

Monday, September 10, 2012

N.B. Jacobs , San Francisco

 Here is another western "bitters" that remains a bit of a mystery to me and others which I have discussed it with over the years. Supposedly this container contained "Carlos O'Donnell's Bitters", yet I have not seen a label nor advertising for the product. It is a pretty scarce square which only comes in an olive toned green and has a tapered collar without a lower ring. The base does not have a "dot" in the center. I can account for 8 or so of these in collections yet there are obviously more, not less known. Most I have seen have some minor damage, and come out of the ground in need of some level of cleaning. It would seem that they were blown in the east, but I am not certain of this.

 The embossing has two fonts or which very closely resembles the R-94 "small" western blown Rosenbaums, and the other side being a more fancy type lettering indicative of the embossing on the "large R-93 Rosenbaums. I have compared the embossing on both examples of Rosenbaums and the N.B. Jacobs  bottles seem to borrow from each. I do not understand why this would be so, nor am I positive which product they actually contained. Bill Ham's exhaustive research on the seemingly ficticious "Dr. Rosenbaum" is interesting in that he can find absolutely no evidence in any directory for Philadelphia during the time frame which this phantom doctor was to be in practice, and the original Rosenbaums Bitters produced. He also has determined that the brand "Old Wheat Whiskey" was being produced between 1864, and May of 1865. Could this square have contained this product?Wilson's Western Bitters book indicates a date of 1868-9. I do not believe it was a generic product bottle as there should be many more in collections. it is my understanding that the majority of known specimens came from one hole in Benicia. I know that Rosenbaums were distributed heavily in the Bay Area, Nevada, and Oregon but I would be curious to know if the N.B. Jacobs square was as widely distributed, and where examples have been dug. After 40 years of collecting western glass, it seems the more I learn, the less I seem to know!Dale M.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bryant's Stomach Bitters - New Information

Bryant's Lady's Leg and cone bitters
Meyer Collection
G.N.W. Bryant created what has become two of the most sought after bitters containers in the bottle collecting community. These bottles were manufactured in the east and it is believed distributed exclusively in the west during the years 1857 – 1861. The firm of William Newell & Co, an early San Francisco wholesale liquor house, were the agents for Bryant’s Stomach Bitters on the Pacific Coast.
In his advertisements Bryant claimed his bitters were an unrivaled stomach corrector and had no equal at restoring the vital energy of the entire system. He recommended a half a glass of his wine bitters before meals to impart a keen relish for food.
Bryant probably only produced these bottles for no more than a few years and by 1870 all mention of Bryant ends.

The first advertisement for the Bryant's bitters, that I have found, in a 1859 Sacramento newspaper claims that the bitters has the name "pressed on each bottle and cap, and see that the Autograph signature is on the label".
I believe this is the first of the embossed Bryant's Stomach Bitters bottles known in the hobby as "The Cone".
The Bryant's cone is an extremely rare bottle with possibly only three or four known whole undamaged examples in private collections.

In February of 1860 another Sacramento newspaper has an advertisement listed by Meacham and Company for a private auction of 500 cases of Bryant's Stomach Bitters in lots to suit. Five Hundred cases of Bryant's Stomach Bitters! Could these be the Bryant's "Cone" bottles that were tall, narrow and generally a poor design for a bottle that was used daily? Where the heck did these 500 cases of bottles go????
I could not locate any other advertisements for the Bryant's product during the 1860 period until...........

The summer of 1861 in The Sacramento Daily Union has an advertisement for the Bryant's Stomach Bitters with Benjamin Brady, located on California Street, as the agent for the Bryant's product. The advertisement does not mention that the bottle is embossed but does call the product "The Cheapest and Best" and is liberally discounted to the trade.
Could this be the Bryant's Lady's Leg bitters that is believed to be the second of the Bryant's embossed bottles? 
After this 1861 advertisement I can't seem to find any other advertisements for the Bryant's bitters product.

One thing is certain, more research needs to be done on these rare and interesting bitters products.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Just in from the Cajon Zone

Rare Nevada Soda Found

Recently found this rare Nevada crown top soda. Four part mold with tooled crown top, embossed JOHNSON & RAMDOHR, WINNEMUCCA, NEV. According to sources, there is only five of these sodas known. It is in excellent condition and sporting a real nice shade of sun colored purple. It was recovered while looking through many boxes of reproduction Coca Cola stuff from a garage sale here in California. – Rick Hall

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Howdy.... The Downieville Bottle Group welcomes you to its annual Show and Sale 
Step Right Up……to the 2012 Downieville Antique Bottles & Collectibles Show and Sale!

A bottle collector’s paradise!  Coming to Downieville on Saturday, September 8 is the annual antique bottles and collectibles show at the Downieville School Gym!  Early Lookers are welcome at 8:00am-10:00am for a $10 fee donation.  The show is free to the public from 10am-3pm. 

This show has gained much popularity over the years as one of the west coast’s favorite shows!  Known for its small town hospitality and friendliness, the Downieville Antique Bottle Show has attracted buyers and sellers from Utah, Texas, Oregon, Nevada and Washington states.  Many desirable bottles have changed hands at the Downieville Show and lots of great treasures have gone home to happy buyers.  

In addition to antique bottles, shoppers will find a great selection of trade cards, advertising tins and signs, ephemera, and so much more.  There is something for almost every kind of collector!  And don’t forget to buy your raffle ticket for some great prizes! 

This year’s show will feature displays of “The Silver Seventies”.  Bottles and related items from the 1870’s; whiskies, sodas, medicines and drug stores will be on display.  This was an important time in history, resulting in the discovery of silver as prospectors rushed to the Nevada area, scrambling to stake their claims.

Downieville is located on historic Highway 49 in the northern gold country.  If it’s your first time attending the Downieville Show, expect to slow down and step back into time in this quaint little gold rush community.  You can park and walk to the bottle show, museums, shops, restaurants, saloon and wine bar.  For dealer or show information, please call Rick & Cherry Simi (530) 289-3659 or email:  We hope to see you here in Downieville!