Friday, June 6, 2014

A loving dose of heartbreak

This being my first post I thought maybe I would post a little something to gain your sympathy, and take you for a ride you might not soon forget.  Like any digger I have a list, a collection in my mind of those all but unattainable but must have bottles that if they became available to buy I probably could not afford, and even if I could I would rather dig myself.  Then there are the bottles that I could possibly buy, but again I would rather dig.  Setting goals to dig a particular bottle can be rewarding, it can also lead to disappointment as the years go by and the empty space on the shelf retained for that special dig remains empty, or maybe filled with a stand by which will quickly find a new place to rest once that dig finally comes home!  One such bottle for me is a large black glass Hosetter's Bitters.  Now it certainly isn't far fetched to hope to dig one of these big ol crude and common tankers here in the heart of Gold Rush California, I dig 5-10 broken examples every year.  As of yet the space remains empty, my hopes dashed but not broken, I know there is one waiting for me out there still.  Another bottle I will dig, (not to sound conceited or cocky but to me faith goes a long way), is a Catawba Wine Bitters.  For some reason I cant get enough of those Catawba bottles!  There is just something appealing for me in those squares.  The list goes all over the place from there, from yes I probably could to "come back down to earth there buddy!"  One of those head in the clouds bottles would be a "G. A. Simon's Medicated Aromatic Bitters", fat chance, right?  Well lets get on to the digging...

At an undisclosed location somewhere in the foothills of California where once men scrambled over the mountains and creeks for gold I am now prospecting for the refuse they left behind.  This particular camp sure did like their squares, and something different every time.  Its as if someone buried a bottle collection and I stumbled across it!  Well at least I stumbled across the pieces left behind by a careless construction worker 30 years ago.  I wish it had been another bottle collector rather then whoever shoveled their way through this horde because there within lies the real heart break, this little collection shows all the signs of having been moved, and destroyed in the process.  At this point the dig is winding down and I will share with you a visual presentation of what I have found.  It all started with a broken panel from a G.A. Simon's Bitters and through a subsequent 10 days of digging the site has been a roller coaster ride not for the faint of heart!

This was enough to keep me up at night, but soon my thoughts were no where else!  The collection grew...

There's my Catawba!  A Dr Townsend's, a huge Gothic Pickle base, a couple slick squares, a beautiful Western Blown Case bottle, a Rosenbaum's!  And yes, two G. A. Simon's now...

A glued back Catawba to hold the seat for a while... (how long?  I dont know)

That base is broken but if you look close there are two whole bottle in the dirt!

One of them is a Morning Call!

It did this after I cleaned it...

The other whole bottle is a Dr J Hosetter's in amber...  dont worry, besides being a little sick its in pretty good shape...

Then this guy popped out, nice metallic pontil, the initials "I R" on one panel.  A big crack in the lip and neck

not to be out done was this "Old London Dock", my favorite bottle from the dig, it does have a chipped lip and a ding with a small crack in the base.  There is also a little cement in neck.  It survived being dug up, tossed aside and then thrown in the fill while getting cement poured into it during the construction!

and the dig goes on, A Black Glass Hoss, two Rosenbaum's!

These would have been beautiful, slightly different mold variants also...  Is the olive yellow example the Jacob's bottle without Rosenbaum's embossed on it?

To cap it off yesterday a third G. A. Simon's surfaced...

That about wraps it up folks...  I'm about done with this area of the dig.  So far I have not found any sign of glass of this caliber anywhere else on the site.  The evidence points to this having been a wooden barrel loaded with killer glass of which the remains were dug through and scattered around a small area of the site.  The only undamaged bottle from this 1860-70 period was the amber Hossetter's!  lol  you got to love what you get and love what you do, I sure had fun on this dig but I wonder, is there any other hobby that can take you so high and so low all in the same experience?  I think I stumbled, fell raised up and towered above the earth all in a fleeting moment, only to come back down to the reality of what I really had in the end, the fulfillment of doing what I love and dreaming of what could be, a couple nice glue backs for the collection and the hope that I am one step closer to that spectacular find, or maybe just that special bottle for the empty spot on the shelf...

Matt L.


  1. I've never seen a tapered top example of the Simon's Medicated Aromatic Bitters, that is really something! I would enjoy seeing those three examples sometime.

  2. Mat,
    What a great post. I can relate to your "highs and lows" on that dig. Hopefully you will hit another sweet spot that has some intact bottles.
    What a incredible amount of rare bottles for one dig. Thanks for the post!

  3. I just noticed that I spelt Hostetter's wrong in the post! Warren, I'll bring the Simon's pieces to the next meeting. I missed the last one because I was digging this site and just to pooped to make it. It was also they day I dug the Morning Call which literally popped in my hands after cleaning it 15 minutes before I was going to leave for the meeting... I was rushing to get it clean so I could bring it and I think I didn't let it acclimate long enough... Most say it would have happened anyway but well you never know...

    Thanks Rick, it really was an incredible dig although I do not have a good intact bottle to show for it. I thought it was so strange how besides the Simon's and the Rosenbaum's every bottle was different... You just do not see that, ever! The two rarest were the only duplicated bottles too...

  4. Wow! what heartbreak! and wouldn't you know, an amber Hoss survives out of all those great examples of western glass!!!!

  5. Heart Break Hotel ! As painful as it was, you were in the game. Much better than 99.9% of our city digs. Keep working it !