Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Bottle Digger's Wishlist

Have you ever fixated on how special it would be to dig a certain bottle, or ever had trouble sleeping the night before a big dig because that dream bottle was keeping you awake? Have you ever thought it was your imagination running wild, that is until you actually dug the bottle? I'm not sure what got me thinking about what dream bottles I'd love to dig -- maybe it was the picture Dale posted about the Var.1 Cassin's, New Year's resolutions, or the frigid 50 degree winter weather in San Diego that's kept my family mostly indoors (well it was last week, but today it's 72 degrees and sunny).

Less than 10 years ago I had just a handful of common western whiskeys, but had amassed a pretty substantial collection of western blob top sodas....the only thing was that I hadn't dug any of them. I had longed to dig a cobalt blue Bay City, H. Ficken, Gerdes, or colored Empire, but the reality of digging those in SoCal made that feat seam nearly impossible (which is mostly true). However, all of that rapidly changed course when I moved to San Francisco (a.k.a Soda Francisco) in the Spring of 2007. Only hours after getting all my belongings and moving boxes packed into a small studio, I got a call from the boys about a small lot in the city that might have a few outhouses. So I eagerly hopped into their car, arrived at the lot, probed for an hour or so, opened up some late trash pits, and we called it quits. Well almost....having found a broken shard of a blue Owen Casey earlier, something in me refused to leave just yet. A few minutes later my probe hit glass at less than a foot....probably just another trash layer, right? With nothing to lose but more patience and time, I kicked a few inches of sand away with my foot and miraculously exposed a cobalt blue soda. We raced back to the car to grab a few shovels and a dig stick, still in a state of disbelief that this floating area in the center of the lot would have anything worth digging up. Well, it turned out that it was an 1870's era terracotta trench hole with a half dozen mint sodas laying gracefully all around the old pipe: (3) Bay Cities in different shades of blue, a cobalt Crystal Soda Water, an aqua San Francisco Glassworks, and a Lime-Aqua Pioneer Soda (with Shield). I couldn't believe it, my very first dig while living in S.F. seemed as easy as plucking sodas right off the worn pages of my Markota book. Hundreds of digs later, I realize it was a just lucky fluke mixed with a little persistence; that dig still holds it's spot as one of the top 2 or 3 soda holes I've ever dug.

After living in S.F. for a little over a year, I ended up digging some bottles I never expected to see come straight out of the ground: Tea Kettle, No-Crown Cutter, Sole Agent Cutters, Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters, J.F. Cutter Fifth, and a few more handfuls of sodas. And since then, the list has grown further: Kane O'Leary 1/2 Pint flask, Miller's flask, J.F. flask, King of Pain med, African Stomach Bitters, and believe it or not, even two blob top sodas in San Diego :)

So what bottles do I dream about digging now? What if someone told you that any bottle is possible to dig, yes any bottle, even a Baker and Cutting Cathedral Pickle, a Frisch, or an Old Signet....It starts anew in 2015, the proof of the past is that every bottle, in every collection, was found by someone somewhere, whether it was an old lady gardening out an Old Castle flask by some roses, a hunter stumbling across a Cassin's beneath some pine needles, or the dedicated outhouse digger pulling out a bucket of western fifths after countless hours of time, research, probing and digging!

Here's my list....and I'd love to hear about yours!!!

The following bottles are not necessarily the most rare or expensive (although most are), but are the ones that present a worthy challenge or have some other unquantifiable significance to be dreamt about:

GREEN California Clubhouse
G.A. Simon's
Oldner's Miner's Protector Jug
Black Glass or Aqua Cassin's
Barry and Patten (Full Face)
Olive Dr. Wonser's
GREEN J.F. Cutter Fifth
Chalmer's Cylinder
Denzler Quart Beer
ANY San Diego, CA Fifth
Blue Indian Queen
Genuine/Grange Flask
Dr. Bowen's Blood Purifier
Baker and Cutting Pickle
Cobalt Blue H&G Bear Soda
Non-Aqua Gold Dust Fifth
*Too many others to list....but simply 2 or 3 from the list above would be of storybook proportions.


  1. Great Post! My "wish to dig" list is long as well, but I would love to dig a mint Lacour's, Boerhaave's, Cassin's, small Rosenbaum's, Cusparia Bitters, Old Woodburn fifth, two name Bear, and a AAA Old Valley flask. I get excited digging anything early though.Dale M.

  2. Thanks, Dale! I've definitely had a few dreams about digging an Old Woodburn or Two Name Bear. To dig a mint Lacours that didn't come out of the "big dig" would really be impressive! And the AAA is just one of those iconic western bottles. Speaking of AAA's has anyone dug an example in the past 5 years? It seems those aren't coming out of the ground hardly at all anymore.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Only one on my list. The Baker & Cutting pickle. I have dug 5 broken B&C pickles. One that was 80% intact and not one was the same color. I will dig a whole one someday. "Dream Big"

  4. Wow, that's crazy Mike! 5 broken in different colors!?!? If there is only one bottle to have on the list that's as good as any. If a whole one was found it would certainly be in the conversation as the greatest Western bottle, the Holy Grail if you will. Those sure have a lot going for them: ancient age, colorful, crude and bubbly, Historic, Extreme Rarity, and they are large bottle that demands a lot of attention. I agree -- you will dig one someday! Good luck in your quest :)

  5. I forgot...also a Loryea Unkweed Cure, Furber's Cordial of Mountain Balm, and a WB Shasta soda...Dale M.