Friday, July 6, 2018

Aqua N. Van Bergen Gold Dust, 1880 and newer?

Now I'm confused. The folklore of western whiskey collecting tells us that the aqua N. Van Bergen Gold Dust bottle dates from 1877-1883. While trying to come up with some evidence to support this claim I came across some advertisements that N. Van Bergen put out in the Daily Alta from 1874 to 1883.

Daily Alta, July 10th, 1874:

The following ad in almost identical iterations ran in the Daily Alta from August 21st, 1874 to May 17th,1880:

Then, beginning on May 18th, 1880 this ad appeared and ran until July 28th, 1883:

Where it gets confusing is that Barkhouse Brothers & Co. from Louisville Kentucky was only in business from late 1871 to 1876 and then renamed themselves Kentucky Distilling Co. in 1877. Based on the above monthly ads, N. Van Bergen did not proclaim to be the sole proprietor of the brand until May 18th 1880. Who owned the brand from 1876 to 1880 ? It is interesting to note that Julius Barkhouse made two trips to California from Louisville, one in February 1878 and one in August 1879. Was he perhaps hammering out the details of N. Van Bergen's future sole proprietorship of the Gold Dust Brand ?

Does this mean the aqua N. Van Bergen variant dates to 1880 and is a few years newer than previously thought ? I would believe so and also believe that the aqua N. Van Bergen went well past 1883, perhaps up to 1887 or so.


  1. This may help clear things up...

    John Van Bergen got his start during the California Gold Rush in San Francisco in the late 1850's. In 1870, huge discoveries of gold and silver in Nevada brought with it a massive influx of prospectors to the West (all clamoring for whiskey!). John Van Bergen went after one of the popular Kentucky whiskey brands, Gold Dust Whiskey, made by the Barkhouse Brothers & Co. in Louisville Ky. The company registered the brand in late 1871.

    John's brother Nicholas (in partnership with Louis F. Holz (the "& Co."), took over the reins in 1874 and the firm known as N. Van Bergen & Co. was born.

  2. No offense Bruce, that does not address the still unknown transition from Sole Agent to Sole Proprietor. I left out the history of John Van Bergen on purpose since it is not relevant to this discussion. It was previously thought that the change was when Barkhouse Bros changed their name in 1877. I'm not so sure that is when Nicholas became proprietor. The above evidence leans towards an 1880 transition. It also brings into question when the Woodburn bottle was made. 1874 or 1880. It sure looks like a mid 1870s bottle, but who knows, N. Van Bergen had the agency up to 1880!

  3. Good research on your part Andrew.