Sunday, October 19, 2014

Western Spices

From the moment I started collecting bottles over 30 years ago, I’ve had an attraction for the shape of the “Honeywell” style spice bottles. Even though it is not considered a ‘fancy’ design, I find it uniquely appealing to the eye. Other than the common ones I’ve dug over the years, I’ve only admired them in other collections…that is, until I decided about 6 years ago to specialize in Western made bitters, sodas, meds and utilitarian bottles.

Color is usually king with me, but on occasion a super crude aqua bottle might garner my attention…or even a good labeled bottle. Such is the case with these two labeled Western spices I was able to purchase at the last Downieville Show. Although the labels are partially worn, it is exciting to take a glimpse back in time and experience a visual of what one would find in the cupboards of a 1870 home here in the west. Plus, I feel it is important to document these labels, as they may turn to dust someday.

The more colorful label reads: Ernest Adelsdorfer & Co/Ginger/406 & 408 Sansome/San Francisco. My very limited time doing some quick online research revealed the company was at the least doing business in the late 1870s to early 1880s manufacturing and dealing in teas, coffee, spices and yeast powder. Ernest was born in either 1853 or 1854 and lived into his 90s. This bottle appears to be from the 1880s period.

The other less colorful label reads: Steam Family/Chartres Coffee & Spice Mills/Fresh Ground/Sweet Marjoram/For/Family Use/Put Up By/Chas. Bernard/707 Sansome St/Between Pacific & Jackson Streets/San Francisco. Bernard appears to have gone into business quite early in the SF area, as I find reference dating back to the late 1850s and carrying into the late 1870s. This bottle appears to be 1870s.

My post is not intended to be the final word on these spice bottles and the companies listed on their labels, so please add to, or correct my limited research. This is also an attempt to incite more information to be brought forth on these and other Western spice bottles, both embossed and unembossed, that seem to be somewhat underappreciated…or at least not discussed much. Are there any written materials within our hobby on these bottles that I’m unaware of? 

Finally, what are the thoughts out there on the origin of the spice bottles we find here with Western companies embossed on them, or those with Western labels found on them? Are most (all?) blown here in the west? Any tips on identifying those blown here, especially the slickers? 
Thanks in advance--Dwayne


  1. This type of bottle was among the earliest to be blown by the Pacific Glass Works when they began blowing bottles in mid 1863. Several examples in the familiar medium lime green often seen in PGW' s earlier made bottles have surfaced at various western bottle shows, I've seen at least three wonderful examples frothy with thousands of seed bubbles.

    The slightly later embossed spice product bottles such as H. C. Hudson & Co and D. Ghirardellli & Co are likely manufactured at either PGW or SFGW.

    It's likely that with three other western glass works operating during the 1859 through 1860 time period that there were also some spice bottle mold-blown bottles produced, but it is somewhat difficult to associate them to a particular glass house company.

    Plus the incredible amount of imports being brought into California during her growing years makes for a wide array of spice bottles being exported by eastern concerns as well as imported by western companies during the population expansion of this state.

  2. The western blown spice bottles represent a great opportunity to collect some amazing colors of western glass. I have had them in pure yellow, emerald green, all shades of green and turquoise, as well as pink. The Vernard's(Venard's too) come on some super colors and I have a deep green embossed example. The earliest western spices ( Marden and Folger, Bovee) are pontiled. These were eastern blown but still very historical. Like the early western sixths, and wines, as well as the colored ammonias, the prices are steadily climbing as collector's demand increases. Nice spices! DM

  3. Check out Betty Zunwalts book on food bottles.

  4. Warren and Dale, you guys always have some great informative input. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I agree that the western spices seem to be gaining in popularity, you almost never see the embossed greens for sale. They same holds true for the green western Jakes. All the good ones seem to be locked up in collections and rarely dug anymore. Hmmm...western spices and Jakes might make a great theme for a joint Roseville exhibit at some point in the future?