Monday, September 25, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

From Nicholas Kane



Those of you in the bottle digging community may know of me as " Buckle Nick" or the antique restorer in  Fiddletown . I dug my first buckles back in the Spring of 1999 and soon after picked up a copy of Silver and Gold Cased images of the California Gold Rush .  As I looked at these Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes I was fascinated with the almost uniform appearance  of these Argonauts. wearing blue and red colored wool flannel overshirts  , belts made of  thin Patent leather or woven cotton cloth with para military stamped or cast brass" CLASPS". After 18 years of being a hybrid bottle digger and metal detectorist I have gained quite an interest and knowledge of California Gold Rush material culture and have documented my digs and shared my knowledge with others who have been interested.
    Last year after 17 years of trying to find a mention of buckles I read "Clasps" next to Porte Monnaies and a bell went off . I  immediately started searching clasps and there they were and being sold or auctioned in large amounts prior to Wm. Taussig , Taussig &; Pollack or M.Cohen appearing in the SF directories.
Those of you who are interested in buckle hunting will find these articles priceless as I have .  
  I have attached a wonderful  Hawaiian Islands Commercial Advertiser paper from April 12 ,1858 with a  Pollack Brothers , San Francisco advertisement  . The Turner Brothers ad, I figured, would be close to the Pollack Brothers ad.  I dug this Pollack Brothers tongue last year with my girls and it was a very rewarding  day with priceless company.

Sincerely ,
Nicholas Kane
40 dozen patent leather belts eagle & square clasps
Daily Alta California  August 5, 1851

200 patent leather belts eagle clasps
200 patent leather belts star clasps
Daily Alta California August 29, 1851
Daily Alta California  October 30, 1851
Daily Alta California August 19, 1852
Hawaiian Islands Commercial Advertiser paper  from April 12 ,1858 with a  Pollack Brothers , San Francisco advertisement

Woven cloth belt with star clasp

Patent leather and woven cloth belts with cast and stamped clasps. Original clasps and historically correct reproduced belts assembled by Nick Kane. Contact Nick if you are interested in obtaining one of these.

This is the earliest documented record of the California gold rush belt buckles that have been found in  the California gold camps. A exciting discovery for gold rush buckle collectors.
Great work Nicholas! - rs -

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Identity Crisis~

Although my primary focus in western bottle collecting has been western whiskies for the past couple of decades and change, such was not always the case. Starting in the early 1970's, I began to build a diverse collection of both western whiskies and bitters produced by the same company. Some of you old timers may recall the display of mine which used to appear at many western shows. It was titled, simply, "The Cause or the Cure?". 

The collection included Hibernia Bitters / Old Pioneer Whiskey (Fenkhausen & Braunschweiger), Cunderango / Jockey Club (G.W. Chesley), Damiana Bitters / Phoenix Bourbon (Naber, Alfs & Brune),  Ayala - Ayyalla  / Game Cock (M. Rothenberg), Alpine Herb / P. Vollmers (Thos Taylor), Hibernia / Bear Grass (Braunschweiger & Bumstead), Dr. Millers Ratafia Damiana / Rosedale (Siebe Bros. & Plagemann) etc. etc. etc.

Back then it was generally accepted as fact that if the bottle had those funny curved leg "R's", it was definitely a western blown bottle. Since then, a great deal of in depth research has been done which further cemented our belief about the curved leg (serif) "R's". 

The old saying about "old too soon - smart too late" held true in my case. I temporarily got side tracked and began collecting antique Winchesters in the early 80's. It soon became evident that I couldn't afford to collect whiskies, bitters and lever action rifles. On August 17, 1985, at the Reno Show, I liquidated the bitters end of my collection. I knew the moment that the last bottle went out the door, that I'd goofed. At least I kept "The Cause" even if I did cut loose of the "Cure"...

A couple of weeks ago, my "personal fortunes" made a reversal, and I now had a bit of disposable cash available (it's called social security)... Hmm, decisions, decisions; a slightly bigger bank account or start collecting bitters again. To me, the choice was obvious. And so, history repeats itself and I'm back on the prowl for good western bitters.

My first new addition to the ranks of western bitters was a Dr. Henley's. Not just your basic Wild Grape Root Bitters though; this example was one that I'd always wanted, but never had. A Dr. Henley's California IXL Bitters.   

This one has it all, crude, big sloppy swirl of tobacco juice embedded in the glass right in front, great strike, curved leg "R's" and that beautiful deep fire aqua that just screams S.F. glass!

The embossing is interesting in that the "IXL" logo is a dead ringer for the style on the label (which was trademarked in 1870). The letters resemble logs arranged to spell out "IXL". I got out my Wilson Bitters book but there's no listing for the cylinder California variant in aqua, although it does show Henley as operating out of Alameda, Cal., with offices in San Francisco, in 1870. The lack of mention of the California variant in Wilsons book comes as no surprise though, as it contains as many errors and omissions as not... Fortunately, I have a copy of Bill Hams "Bitters Bottles" and on page 274 is a reference to the California IXL. 

Henry Epstine is listed on the California trade mark paperwork of February 3, 1870, with offices in San Francisco. According to Ham / Ring, a footnote mentions that Henley is also listed in the 1870 Chicago business directory in a partnership dba Epstein (sic), Henley & Co. Prop's., and that the California IXL was an eastern product. 

This bottle has me confused; fire aqua & curved R's both indicate S.F. Glass Works production. And yet it's supposed to be eastern? Blown in the west for the east coast market (not)? Blown back east using west coast sand to produce the fire aqua coloration (not)?

The combination of both the color and serif "R's" sure leaves me scratching my head! 

Eastern? Western?

Looks like an identity crisis to me...

Monday, September 11, 2017

Downieville Bottle Show - End of a Era

By Eric McGuire | Western Region Director

11 September 2017
On Admissions Day, September 9, 2017, the State of California celebrated its anniversary of joining the United States of America as its 31st state some 167 years ago.
At the time of admission in 1850, California was known, first and foremost, for it incredible wealth in the form of gold. Many towns were instantly born during the gold rush, including Downieville, now a sleepy mountain village tucked away in a steep forested canyon on a branch of the Yuba River.
Still relatively isolated it has received a good influx of outsiders once a year for the past twenty years, for the annual Downieville Bottle Show. A hardy bunch of dedicated bottles collectors have made the trek to this isolated spot to enjoy comradery and possibly add a treasure to their collection. Perhaps just as important as the show were the consumate hosts of the “get – together” barbeque the evening before, at their residence. Rick and Cherry Simi, one of the sweetest couples on this earth, opened their charming mountain residence to many of the western region show attendees. It is always a night to remember for many reasons, but mostly for the food and company.
After an amazing run of all these years the Simi family has chosen to take a well deserved hiatus from their yearly commitment to this event, which likely will spell the end for the show itself. Rather than criticize I wholeheartedly commend Rick and Cherry for their selfless dedication to the bottle collecting community and wish them some rest and relaxation during the usually hectic preparation time that the first part of September has befell them for the past two decades. To be sure, they will be staying in the limelight as Rick still hosts his ever popular Western Bottle News blog

The crowd gathered from all parts of the West as the evening progressed, and the guests arrived. The main road, Highway 49, was in a state of intense repair. This effectively doubled the time it normally takes to get to Downieville from the nearest points of civilization – from one to about two hours.

Host, Rick Simi, front and center, makes sure the guests are treated to steak that is barbequed to perfection. Note the doorway in the center background, which is the opening to the Simi’s “gold mine”.

                                Richard Siri, Jr., took some time out to explore the mine

                                       Meanwhile, the party and food continued into the night.

The next morning the show opened its doors at 8:00 a.m. in the local school gym. Long time collector, George Wagoner is seen here selling some of his bottles

Richard Siri, Sr. is shown here showing off a beautiful little reverse glass sign for Bartlett Mineral Water, a once famous California product.

As is often the case Jeff Wichmann set up his sales table with considerable fanfare which stole the show for quite some time

I was especially taken by this newly dug fragmented bottle – perhaps the only known specimen of a beautiful blue large size PRATT’S NEW LIFE bottle, produced by the flamboyant medicine man, Perry Pratt, in the mid-1870s.

Dean Wright’s bottles were being scrutinized by two “next gen” collectors. Let’s hope they stick with it. Dean is a regular contributor to the 49’er Bottle Clubs newsletter. For the last couple of years he has been reading and transcribing articles from early California newspapers beginning with the first days of the gold rush and publishing them in the newsletter. The information is amazing including items not recorded in any history books.

Dealer Ken Gaeta was selling three bark covered saloon flasks. These rustic looking flasks were a West Coast fad during the turn of the century and difficult to find since the covering is somewhat fragile. Just like many of the trees in the West which are now suffering from the prolonged drought, it appears these bottles have also been visited by bark beetles.

Goodbye Downieville Bottle Show, and may you soon be resurrected!

A big thanks to all that have supported the Downieville Show over the years and to Eric for posting this bottle show report on the FOHBC site....

We will see y'all at the upcoming western shows - rs -