Sunday, January 27, 2013

M. Seller & Co. Portland, O.

 The firm of M. Seller & Company was one of the largest in the west devoted to the jobbing and importing of crockery, glassware, tinware, stoves, and house furnishing goods.They occupied eight floors of offices, showrooms and a retail outlet for their goods at the corner of fifth and Pine streets in Portland. They also had large warehouses at Thirteenth and Kearney streets directly on the tracks of the then "transcontinental"  railroad. His business was established in 1859 ( the year of Oregon statehood) by Moses Seller. He moved to Frankfort on the Main in Germany in 1890 but was in charge of the company until it closed in 1909. Moses was born in Germany, and was a pioneer who made the long trek  to the Oregon Territory in 1852 where he opened a general mercantile in Corvallis, Or.. In 1859 he moved to Portland, opening a small wholesale crockery, tinware, and household furnishings on Front and Stark Streets. This was at the time the center of Portland's business district, and Moses Seller's business grew to great dimensions. His watchful eye and foresight allowed his business to grow until it became one of the largest on the West Coast.In 1889 Seller opened branches in Seattle and Spokane. The business was never incorporated but was a partnership between himself, Phillip Lowengart, F.M. Seller ( Moses' son) and Sanford Lowengart.
  The wax sealer type fruit jar was used beginning in 1881 and continued until 1883. These rare jars come in both half gallon, and quart sizes, and are typically crude and pristine San Francisco glass. The mold for the Cutting and Co. jar was altered to produce both the San Francisco Glass Works jar, and the M.Seller. I know of the M. Seller jars being dug in Oregon and Washington, and they are rumored to have been found in California as well. As important as food preservation was at the time, it is a wonder that all of the western wax sealers are rare to extremely rare. I believe that the western glasshouses were transitioning to the "new" Mason's patent and Gem jars with the screw type closure. The Victory jar from Pacific Glass Works is the western patent which was "borrowed" from W.W. Lyman of Pennsylvania. I think the scarcity of the western wax sealer is simply due to the transitioning to this new closure rather than the relatively primitive wax seal with tin top.
 These gorgeous jars have the curved "R"s and beautiful clarity indicative of western glass. I believe there are about 12-15 quarts known to collectors in any condition, and maybe 6 of the half gallons in collections. I love Oregon glass( maybe one of a handful of collectors who do), and the tie in to San Francisco in it's manufacture makes this an especially desirable piece for Oregon collectors and fruit jar collectors nationwide.
  About 10 years ago, I was able to purchase the beautiful 25X25 brass sign which was recovered from a demo project in Spokane. It is the only one I have ever seen, but have heard that another may exist in Portland.

 While not my collecting focus ( western bitters), these pretty jars represent a time in our history where merchant's immortalized themselves in glass for all of us glass addicts to covet.

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