Monday, October 31, 2016

One of my Favorite Western Bottles.

 When I was fortunate enough to dig in Virginia city, and before digging was basically shut down there, the one bottle I wanted to dig the most was the early "Geo' P. Morrill, Apothecary, Virginia City". This crude and typically deep colored "citrate" style medicine has a mystique to me and typifies early western glass. These bottles were blown in San Francisco in the 1863-65 time period, and are some of the first bottles blown at the Pacific Glass Works. They exhibit crude embossing, crude glass and that MONSTER top.They are also considered territorial bottles. I believe there are about a half dozen in collections and some of them have issues. It is hard to imagine how that huge top could have survived, use, being discarded, and dug up without being chipped but a few are perfect.
  If I were to create the stereotypical western bottle, this would be a contender. To me it just has everything going for it including a rich Comstock history. It is VERY unlikely that any more will be dug or found and I was never fortunate to dig so much as a piece of one...thankfully a few other diggers did and I was able to add one to my collection. DM

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where East Meets West

Thanks Bruce for the picture of the great collection of pepper sauces...... Now any guesses which bottles are western blown? -  If in doubt read Eric's great article on gothic pepper sauce bottles in the previous post - rs -

Friday, October 28, 2016


The gothic style peppersauce was probably first designed in the 1840's and became very popular with retailers until the 1880's. It was produced in numerous glass houses in the East and Midwest. As would be expected, stylistic variations are abundant, but the gothic arch panel is usually the mainstay feature. The style was so popular that it was even produced by the early San Francisco glass factories. This little California jewel is, in my opinion, somewhat under-appreciated by collectors.

So far, the earliest documentation of this bottle that I have been able to find is the 1869 Pacific Glass Works display at the Mechanic's Institute Exhibition, when it was photographed along with many of the company's wares. Having studied these bottles for many years I have noticed several unique features that I would like to share and also, perhaps elicit comments and observations from others who may have found these bottles interesting. I am sure there are outstanding examples residing in western collections.

My first observation is that there was only one pattern used in their manufacture in San Francisco, and it is unlike any other design. In other words it is only found in the western states. While it may be similar in design to some of those used in the East, it is distinct in form. To think that none of these bottles were ever shipped east is quite unlikely, however, they are so common in the west that it is only logical to assume they were produced in the west.

At first glance the pattern appears to be like many others that are also found throughout the United States. The most significant unusual feature is the simplicity of the top two sunken panels. All non-western versions have slightly more embellishment in this area. The remainder of the pattern is virtually identical to many of the eastern/mid-western counterparts.

To complicate matters just a little, the western design is also found in two distinct molds, and with a corresponding distinct lipping tool used with each of the molds. Both are shown above. It is probably impossible to determine if the molds were used simultaneously, either by the two major factories during the time, or at the same time by the same factory.  With this in mind I will venture to predict that the earliest mold, which I will call Mold One, pictured above on the right, is probably the same mold that produced the bottle in the 1869 Pacific Glass Works photo. The design of the side panels are nearly impossible to differentiate between the two molds, however, Mold One has a unique base design and lip finish. Mold Two is on the left.

The base of Mold One is characterized by an edge frame that is not present in Mold Two. The central dome on the base is formed to create a true "key" type mold, with the dome attached to one side of the bottom, which forces the two mold halves to tightly align when the mold is closed. Another unique characteristic of Mold One is located on the base on the upper left of the above photo. This part of the mold seam is extra heavy and this feature is found on all of these bottles that I have examined.

 Mold Two, above, has its own unique characteristics and was likely used over a greater period of time as the bottles are found with tooled tops and in contexts that date to about 1890. Perhaps the greatest difference between it and Mold One is that the base configuration is missing its surrounding "border" and the central dome is a separate post piece, usually referred to as a post mold. There are no unique or outstanding mold line "fingerprints" on the base that could otherwise identify it.

 As noted earlier, the lips of each mold are consistently made with slightly different tool configurations. Keeping in mind that the lipping process can produce somewhat inconsistent variations, a study of the lip profiles reveals slightly different yet identifiable features. The lipping tool for Mold One, on the right,  reveals a rather sharp edged skirt while the very top profile is more full and rounded. The lipping tool for Mold Two, on the left,  creates a more rounded skirt profile and the topmost bulb is flatter across the top.

 The last of the notable differences are contained within slight inconsistencies along mold seams. Much like fingerprints, these differences are unique to specific molds. The seams along Mold One are clean and show no unique features except for one on the base, as noted above.  Mold Two also produces fairly clean seam marks on its bottles except for one feature on the shoulder and located just to the left of the red marks on the above photo. Although small, and difficult to photograph,  this bump or protrusion of glass is typical of all bottles blown in Mold Two.
The photograph above also shows the last of the bottles blown in Mold Two (on right).  By the 1880's the vibrance of our aqua western glass began to look like nearly every other glass works product. As in the tooled top example of the Mold Two peppersauce, probably made in the mid to late 1880's, the telltale signature of the small bump on the shoulder still survives.


However, a most obvious variation to Mold Two is the enlargement of the neck, which likely allowed for some relief to the age-old problem of the contents becoming stuck in the bottle. The neck portion of the mold was increased 3/16 inch which allowed for easier pouring.
With the described revealing features, along with the usual but less consistent visual substance of western glass qualities,  it is quite easy to identify these bottles. The colors are the usual range of aqua found in western glass, even with an exceptional western citron example sometimes blown in Mold One.

Eric McGuire
Thanks for the informative and interesting article on these under appreciated western bottles - rs -

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"The Best of the Best" Backbar Bottles

To those who are new to collecting back bar bottles, pay attention. This is a list of back bar bottles that just sold at Morphy's Auction. They are the best back bar bottles you will ever see. These are on a different  level of collecting bottles. Forget crudity, its all about the "Bling".

 Sold; $22,000

Sold; $16,000

Sold; $7,000

Sold; $11,000

Sold; $10,000

Sold; $10,000

Sold; $14,000

Sold; $7,500

Sold; $9,000

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Like most collectors, I try to specialize in one category of collecting. The key word is "try". Over the years, I have accumulated or dug several boxes and cabinets of western glass that is not in my primary collecting focus, western bitters. Here is one cabinet with odds and ends which each have their own special quality.

I just love crude early western blown glass, and it does not need to be necessarily rare or valuable. It would be nice to see some other "side collections" !As always, click on the photo to enlarge. I will mail a great western bottle to the first collector who correctly identifies each bottle in this grouping :) DM

Friday, October 7, 2016

San Jose Soda Works

Does anyone have any information on this company ? Not much is known about this bottle or who produced it. Was it the Williams Brothers first bottle before they switched to the gravitator style, or was it a separate company ? They seem to be early to late 1870s, but some have also come out of early to mid 1880s privies.


Dorr, P., soda manufacturer, Market
Winslow & Williams, soda manufacturer St.John bet First and Market


Winslow  & Williams, bakers and soda manufacturers, St.  John


Doerr, P., soda manufacturer, 435  First
Villa, L., soda manufacturer, 246  Market
Winslow  & Williams, soda manufacturer, 374  St.  John

Roese & Co, liquors and San Jose soda works, 435 First
Williams Bros., soda manufacturer, 278  St.  John

Doerr (typo listed as Loerr)) Phillip, soda manufacturer, 435  First
Williams Bros., soda manufacturer, S s St. John bet First and Market


Williams Bros., soda works, St. John


San Jose Soda Works, Hegele B. (Homer & Hegele), proprietor, 519 Fourth
Williams Bros. (Thomas and David Williams), soda water manufacturers, 278 St. John


George Stenger, proprietor San Jose Soda Works, 350 Park Ave (1884)


Williams Bros Soda Works, David Williams, 46 W. St. John

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Nevada Back Bar Documentation

October 1, 2016

This letter is in response to the “Unicorns and Rainbows” opinion that certain bottles mentioned in an article entitled “Nevada Backbar Bottle Bonanza” (FOHBC magazine “Bottles and Extras, September-October edition, page 33) are not genuine, legitimate Nevada bottles.  I include my personal research on a select handful.

Columbia Club Rye – C. Thomas

This bottle came from the Columbia Club in Pioneer, Nevada.   That the Columbia Club existed is evidenced by a rare Columbia Club, Pioneer, Nevada, 12 ½ cent trade token.  Additionally, an article printed in the May 7, 1909 edition of the Reno Gazette-Journal mentions a “disastrous fire in Pioneer, Nevada” in which the Columbia Club was among businesses suffering loss.  Charles Thomas is listed in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census living in Pioneer (Springdale district), Nevada as the manager of a department store, which makes sense because the fire in 1909 destroyed the saloon.  The final, and most compelling evidence, is a photo (found in the UNLV digital library on line) from the Charles Thomas and Perry photo collection showing Charles Thomas standing in front of the Columbia Club in Pioneer with the handwritten notation “He is always the same.”  This bottle has been examined thoroughly by many collectors and has been deemed to be genuine.


Manhattan XXXX – J.E. Connor

The author left out one distinctive marking on this bottle that helps greatly in its identification.  The name “J.E. Connor” is enameled below the “Manhattan XXXX” on this backbar.  Joseph E. Connor was a hotel and saloon owner in Manhattan, Nevada, as evidenced by RL Polk’s Nevada State Gazeteer and Business Directory, First Edition (1907-1908) and further supported by the 1910 U.S. Federal Census.  He continued to reside in Manhattan through 1920, as evidenced by the U.S. Federal Census, and is still in the hotel business in addition to being co-owner of the Manhattan Water Company (documented in the Appendix to Journals of Senate and Assembly of the State of Nevada and Report of the Railroad and Public Service Commissions of Nevada).  This bottle has been examined thoroughly by many collectors and has been deemed to be genuine.


International Hotel

This particular bottle was found in Austin, Nevada in the burned out ruins of the International Hotel.  When the hotel burned local resident Gail Williams, then a young girl, recovered it from the site and asked the owner if she could have it.  He replied “Yes, if you promise never to bring it back.”  Many years later a bottle show was being held in Austin and although the International was not on display, show goers heard of its existence there in town.  Gail was subsequently pressured by so many collectors that she put the bottle in a closet in her home and refused to answer the door when they knocked.  The bottle was however, ultimately sold.  Her nephew is a close friend of mine and I was permitted to view the bottle several years before it was sold.  The story of the bottle’s discovery was relayed to me directly by Gail Williams, the then-owner.  Its provenance is impeccable and is well-known among Nevada collectors.


Belmont W.B.

There are actually two Belmont backbars:  Belmont W.B. and Belmont W.B.&S.  My research documents the second bottle.  W.B.&S. stands for (Thomas) Warburton, (Frank) Brotherton and (Carl) Schaefer.  These merchants are well known to Nye County, Nevada researchers.  Warburton was a hotel owner in Belmont as well as a deputy sheriff, the county assessor and treasurer, a school trustee, deputy postmaster, and a member of the IOOF Nevada grand lodge.  Brotherton served as Belmont’s postmaster, was the county clerk, a clerk in the judicial district court, and was also a member of the IOOF Nevada grand lodge.  Schaefer, Brotherton’s brother-in-law, was a general merchant in Belmont.  There are many, many billheads, receipts and ephemera that document the trio’s partnerships.   They were brother Masons and active in both the IOOF and Silver Party and Republican groups.  At one time, Thomas Warburton owned a hotel.  This bottle, however, is from the period when the trio dealt in general merchandise.  In a shrewd business move, when Brotherton served as Belmont’s postmaster he moved the post office into the general merchandise store. 


That they dealt in whiskey and bottled spirits is evidenced by a letter from a resident of Jefferson, Nevada requesting “a bottle of good whiskey be sent by stage”.  Over-the-counter drink sales are proven by an extremely rare “Frank Brotherton, Belmont, Nevada 12 ½ cent drink or cigar” token.  The W.B.&S. bottle was found in the 1950s in Belmont by a person who lived in both Belmont and Tonopah.  It was subsequently purchased by Willie Manzini of Austin, Nevada.  This Belmont, Nevada backbar bottle’s provenance is impeccable and certainly has not been faked.


In conclusion, it is always good to chronicle the ownership, custody or location of any historical object, including bottles.  Establishing that history, whenever possible, through contextual and circumstantial evidence helps authenticate the item.  We’re fortunate that we have so many research aids at our fingertips through the internet.   I hope my comments above have alleviated any concerns about the authenticity of four important Nevada backbars.


Dennis Eastley

Tonopah, Nevada

Thanks Dennis for the research and providing this information to all of us - rs -