Tuesday, July 26, 2016

R.L. Higgins Virginia City

 For many years I have been attracted to anything Virginia City. The history of the Comstock and surrounding area has a mystique all it's own and any tangible piece from there gets my blood pumping. I have been fortunate to dig for bottles in VC over the years, and have been blessed with some great glass. In recent years, digging in Virginia City has shut down and the glory days of finding historic bottles appear to have ended. Some of the finest bottles ever dug were found there and many grace collectors shelves today.

 One of the bottles ( well...three) that I had always wanted to dig was an R.L. Higgins, Virginia City ink. Any of the three versions of this incredible bottle would do... but alas, not a shard of a Higgins ink crossed my shovel, Actually some of the most hard core diggers from the past, had not found so much as a shard...they are THAT rare.

 These inks date from the early to mid 1870s although R.L. Higgins had been in Nevada since the early 1860s. After several business ventures, Higgins opened a stationary, book, and music store in Virginia City in 1873. It is about this time or shortly thereafter I believe, that Higgins ordered custom made ink bottles from the Pacific Glass Works. While it is not known exactly when the bottles were produced, it must have been just before the fire of October 1875. There had to be one order or at least very few bottles produced as a town of 25,000 in 1875 should have had these inks in every home had there been sufficient time to distribute the ink bottles. Higgins' business went under after the fire and he split the VC scene, ending the possibility of any more inks from being distributed.

 There is a tiny little cone ink from R.L. Higgins, an aqua master and an amber master of a smaller size. Why would this be?

The cone is so small, it would not hold enough ink to fill three pens, and the amber master is smaller than a typical master ink. The aqua examples are of more typical size and make sense...the amber master and miniature cone make little sense. Surely it was expensive to make these odd, non generic size bottles, but I am sure glad he did!

 The Higgins inks are rare with two amber masters known, and two or three aqua masters in collections. The cone is also very rare with maybe six known in any condition. All three proudly read " R.L. Higgins, Virginia City". They are fabulous reminders of the history of the west. Good luck digging one of these! DM.

( click on the photo to enlarge)


  1. Never noticed, but these Higgins look like they could be English made ??

  2. Andrew if you handle the bottles and really study them, they are SF all the way. About as English as a John Van Bergen.

  3. Is there any documentation that these were blown in S.F. All three bottles pictured appear to have the same type of embossing from the same mold maker. I am not questioning their origin just wondering if anyone has found some positive link to S.F. manufacture

  4. Rick, actual documentation as to where any western bottle was blown is pretty tough to prove in many cases. I have studied the inks extremely closely and the letter font is absolutely identical to my Yerba Santa medicine, and my Pacific Congress Water blob sodas. Identical to the most minute detail. I am 100% sure the Higgins were SF blown but until I see a photo of a 12 year old boy actually blowing one, it is just my opinion. DM

  5. Oops, not the Yerba Santa, but the Dr. Warren's Botanic Cough Balsam...