Friday, November 1, 2019


MEAT & FISH PACKING  CO

This little barrel shaped bottle is one of the treasures of the early western glass industry. The company that sold it, the Meat & Fish Packing Co. of San Francisco, was very short-lived. Documentation is nearly non-existent save for one reference that put in on the map. The relatively new product was marketed in 1878 and the proprietors decided to enter it into the 13th Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute in September of that year, and noted in the Pacific Rural Press, September 21, 1878.





Literally translated from its German roots, Ochsenmaulsalat means ‘Ox mouth salad’. This concoction was a delicacy (and probably still is) originated in southern Germany and Bavaria. It must be made from meat picked from the cheeks and tongue of a cooked corned beef head. The meat is additionally boiled in a water vinegar mixture for three hours then cut into small pieces with onion, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil, with additional spices if desired.

Apparently there weren’t enough Germans in San Francisco to keep the company in business and it silently went away. The business was never even listed in the San Francisco business directory. Left behind were a very few of the “nicest glass barrels” as pictured below.




The barrels are a little larger than most mustard bottles and are obvious contenders for being blown at the San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works – in 1878. Measuring about 5 1/2 inches in height, I must agree, they are very nice, and one of my very favorite California made bottles.






If one is really observant it is even possible to find an example blown from the re-worked mold of the Meat & Fish Packing Co., as shown above.  A slugged out arch hiding the area of the previous embossing is a dead giveaway. These bottles are also not very common and I have no idea what they may have contained, but they do look similar to a mustard bottle and may have been used for that product.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


GIBB





Except for the Virginia City embossed ink bottles, for some strange reason the only other ‘early’ western ink with the proprietors name embossed is the Gibb umbrella. I know that there has been no documented evidence that this bottle is western made but I would put a hefty wager on the odds of it being blown in San Francisco. Regardless, let’s look at Mr. Gibb himself.



The earliest listing found for Gavin Gibb was in the 1863 San Francisco Directory.

Born in Philadelphia in 1843 Gavin J. W. Gibb was in San Francisco by about 1863 when he was first listed in the San Francisco city directory selling paints and offering his services as a painter.  During the first few years he named his business the Pacific Color Works. Known for obtaining his own color sources from minerals found throughout California and Nevada, he invested in a mill and necessary equipment for producing paints. In June 1866 Gibb was forced to file for bankruptcy. After opening his paint mill in January 1866 his expenses put him in the red by about $5,500.




The first of two bankruptcies that Gibb had to endure was documented in the Daily Alta California on June 19, 1866.

After a hiatus of a few years Gibb is noted in the 1868 San Francisco Directory as a sign painter at 633 Market Street. He then took a partner in 1869, then known as Gibb & Koch – sign painters. By 1871 Gibb worked alone as a sign and ornamental painter. By 1872 he was in partnership with Hiram B. Melendy as sign painters and importers and manufacturers of paints, oils and varnishes. The following year the partnership was reorganized and called Gavin J. W. Gibb and Co. By 1874 Melendy had left Gibb and his company was simply called Gibb & Co.

While maintaining the same company name of Gibb & Co., in 1875 he acquired another partner named Albert M. Shields and Gibb no longer advertised sign painting. As in the previous several years this partnership did not last very long. In December 1875 Shields left the company.  The end of his business was just around the corner when he was forced to sell nearly all of his stock in January 1876 and he was adjudged bankrupt in December of 1876.




Gibb never recovered from the assigned sale of most of his business in 1876.  Daily Alta California, January 26, 1876

In his last few years Gibb hired out as a sign painter and even tried his hand at manufacturing window shades.  The final chapter in the life of Gavin Jarden Watson Gibb closed on March 22, 1879, when he died in San Francisco, of “apoplexy”. His grave marker at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma notes he was born in 1843.

Gibb’s wife, Emma Josephine Holt, lived on until 1930, and died in Alameda County. The last of their five children died in 1966 in Berkeley. To think that I was collecting and researching bottles in the early sixties and could have interviewed her – if I had known of her existence – is somewhat disconcerting.

Following the upturns and downturns of Gibb’s business life it is very difficult to insert a logical time for when he produced his umbrella ink style bottle. One observation is that the bottle may not have held ink but was used for paint. This is not unusual for there is precedent for labeled examples of the same style of bottle used for paints by other merchants. It is certainly safe to determine that the bottle was produced some time between 1863 and 1875. Any tighter time assignment would be speculation unless more information comes to light.




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tulare - An oldie, but a "goodie"!

I remember the Tulare California Show fondly. Early one afternoon, Bob Barnett, Bob Scott, and I were standing in an aisle not far from the entrance to the show, talking shop, when we all spied a deep amber glop top sticking out of the top of a sock as it's owner drug it into the hall.

Bob Scott was closest, and fastest, out of the starting blocks. When the bottle was pulled out of the sock, the most amazing example of a dark chocolate amber Old Woodburn made it's appearance. Wonky top, hammered with whittle, and dead MINT! The owner placed the Woodburn on the table and Bob Scott started dispensing hundred dollar bills like an ATM on steroids. 

A legendary moment in the Tulare Show's long and well deserved reputation as a great show, where sleepers surface.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

NAPA SODA


NAPA SODA

Many years ago I called upon bottle digger and collector, Mel Hughes, who has long since gone to his reward, to photograph his Baker & Cutting pickle bottle. Mel was an avid digger, and if you find an Oly beer can at the bottom of a privy hole in California that you thought was un-dug, Mel beat you to it. He also owned the bottom portion of a spectacular Napa Soda bottle that I have not seen before or since.

Many people are not aware that Napa Soda has been bottled since 1856 but its early history is shrouded in intrigue and even violence over the rights to ownership. Even during the long California Supreme Court battle over who owned the spring, various people were given rights to bottle and sell the water as agents. Its early bottling history, therefore, is not very clear.

Mel’s bottle is unquestionably the crudest Napa Soda and most enigmatic. It is not known if it is the earliest embossed bottle used for the water but certainly must be one of the first. Its age is only part of the mystery, for the mold used to blow the bottles has to be the crudest on record. No respectable eastern or mid-western glass manufacturer would have allowed the use of such a mold. There is no record of this Napa Soda bottle being blown in the West, even though that would be the logical favorite. The wastage from the first San Francisco Glass Works has been excavated by several people over the years and no trace of Napa Soda bottles were found. The only other western source may have been the glass works established by J. Lambert & Co. of San Francisco. The Sacramento Daily Union of August 16, 1860, noted, . . .”Lambert & Co. state that it makes an excellent quality of common glass, and that they will use, at present, from one to four tons per week.” This glass works was obviously not successful as very little documentation exists, and given the crudity of the above noted bottle, it may be one of the reasons failure soon followed. This works lasted at least through September 1860, as noted in Warren Friedrich’s book on EARLY GLASSWORKS OF CALIFORNIA. This is only conjecture, but there seems to be very few logical options available for the manufacture of this bottle.

I am posting these photos to see if any other examples of this bottle may have been found by someone else.



The front of the bottle is embossed with the familiar wording, NAPA SODA. The most significant clue to its origin is embossed near the base of the front, P & W  SF, which must be either the initials of the agent, or the short-lived proprietors of the spring.




The reverse is lettered with the typical words, NATURAL / MINERAL / WATER, but in a very crude and clumsy style.




The base sports a very nasty, almost dangerous, blowpipe pontil.


While several parties involved with the early Napa Soda Springs have surnames beginning with W (Whitney, Wood & White), a likely candidate for the partnership initials embossed on this bottle may be Thomas A. White. The surname beginning with a P is a complete mystery to me. White apparently had some involvement with the springs as early as 1860. However, his earliest documented involvement as a sales agent wasn’t until 1861.

The other known early variant of an early Napa Soda bottle is marked W. & W., and is most likely the initials of Whitney & Wood. I have seen one example, nearly whole, but if my memory serves me correctly, it did not show any signs of a pontil mark.

 By October of 1861, as San Francisco agent for Napa Soda, White advertised the sale of this water in his own trade marked bottles, which included his initials – T. A. W.

Note also that Phil Caduc, Sacramento agent for Napa Soda, was the first to register his Napa Soda trademark, on September 16, 1861, but it only consisted of the bottoms of his bottles painted white, with no embossing involved. For some unknown reason T. A. White chose not to register his trade mark initials with the State. Perhaps he felt the precise establishment of his trade mark features described in his advertisement in the Daily Alta California, beginning October 6, 1861, and running for one month, was enough to adequately document his proprietary rights.



T. A. White’s October 6, 1861, advertisement clearly documents his trade mark for his Napa Soda bottles.


White’s Napa Soda bottles were as well made as any of that period and were probably blown in the East. The only slightly unusual feature is that the lettering is deeply cut into the mold.



It is not clear when White stopped functioning as agent for Napa Soda. He no longer advertised after 1861. White almost certainly gave up his association with the springs after November 1862 when the bottling house and other structures were destroyed by Amos Buckman, one of the previous stakeholders in the spring who went on a vengeful rampage against Whitney and Wood, the other claimants of the spring. T. A. White subsequently entered the mining business by 1863. The ownership squabble over the springs went well into 1865.

Please note that this was not written as a complete early history of Napa Soda bottles. As many are aware, John O’Neill has been collecting information about Napa Soda for many years in anticipation of publishing a book on the subject. I know he will eventually succeed in this task and I am sure it will be a necessary read for many of us. My objective here is to elicit response about the mysterious broken P. & W. bottle shown above and hopefully add some knowledge about its place in this world. It would be great to see a picture of a whole specimen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

AN UNUSUAL LITTLE MEDICINE BOTTLE

I recently picked up this unassuming little 5 ½ inch aqua unembossed but labeled medicine bottle because it appeared the proprietor was located in California. The town location was very difficult to read but enough of the lettering remained to make a decent guess. It looked very much like the word FOREST. I drew a blank on where a town by that name could have been a likely location for someone to produce a commercial medicinal product. Of course, the SYRUP OF FIGS was well known at about the time this little bottle was made, but EXTRACT OF FIGS had me stumped. The only town I could find in California with the name of Forest, is the former Sierra County gold rush period settlement of Forest City. It is a remnant of its former glory and never did contain more than about 1,500 inhabitants during its heyday. In fact, as its residents began moving away it lost its post office and its status as a ‘city’, becoming simply Forest in the mid-1890’s. (see http://www.calexplornia.com/forest-city-sierra-countys-authentic-gold-rush-ghost-town/ for a nice article on the town.)







Not convinced this little town may have contained a doctor who was willing to peddle a medicine from such a remote location I focused my research attention on Dr. E. R. Brooks. It wasn’t long before it was clear that Ezra Rockwell Brooks was, in fact, a real doctor and he actually did settle in the old gold rush town of Forest. I had to find out a little more about him.

Ezra R. Brooks was born June 12, 1861, in Seymour, Iowa. In 1886 he received his M.D. degree from the College of Medicine of the University of Iowa. On August 20, 1890 he married Kate Thomas in Union County, Oregon, where a number of his siblings had previously relocated. His first daughter, Lucile Frances Brooks was born in Oregon in 1892.

Dr. Brooks had located to Forest, Sierra County, California, by 1896, where his second daughter, Greta, was born on August 12, 1899. He continued to practice medicine there until about 1901 and then moved to Bodie, California, where he stayed until 1906. Brooks then moved to the copper boom-town of Greenwater, Inyo County, for about a year and was also appointed postmaster in that town.

Dr. Brooks wife, Kathryn, was apparently tired of his wanderlust and they were divorced. Kathryn remained in Orange and Los Angeles Counties for nearly the rest of her life.

His first daughter, Frances Lucille, had graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and became a music teacher. By some tragic act of fate she died in 1916 and is buried in Santa Ana – age 23. Even her alma mater wondered what happened to her when it published in one of its odd little newsletters titled The Brazen Knocker, on June 23, 1923, “WHAT HAPPENED TO L. BROOKS. The mysterious disappearance of Lucile Brooks is still puzzling the authorities.  Eleven years ago her whereabouts were well known to everyone. She was pointed out to visitors as one of the most promising entites (sic) in the vicinity.  She had even attained the honorable position as a josh editor of the Exponent, but shortly after its publication on June 1912, she disappeared suddenly. Anyone having knowledge of her whereabouts will kindly notify the authorities.”

 About 1945, and in failing health, Kathryn Brooks moved back to the Washington, DC area where her daughter, Greta, and family were living. Greta’s husband, Robert E. Soderberg, was a career military man stationed there at the time. Kathryn died in Arlington, Virginia, on January 31, 1946. Her death certificate notes that she was to be buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Suitland, Maryland, but her final burial place is in Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, Orange County, CA, along side her daughter, Frances Lucille.

About 1908 Dr. Brooks moved to Orange, Orange County, for awhile and then moved to Holtville, in Imperial County, in May of that year, where he associated himself with the Central Hospital in El Centro, California, until 1910 when he then moved to Coalinga, Fresno County for a short time. By 1912 Brooks had relocated to Oakland, California, where he met and married Mabel M. Hagel on March 29, 1916.

Then, by 1920, Dr. Brooks moved to Meadow Lake, Nevada County, as noted in the census record for that year (Feb 7, 1920). He then moved to Floriston, Nevada County, where he continued to practice medicine. He stayed there until 1924, and in the following year moved to San Francisco. He then moved to Albany, in Alameda County by 1927 and stayed there until about 1934. While living there, his second wife, Mabel Mary Brooks, died in Santa Clara County, on November 4, 1930, probably at a hospital there.  In 1935 he was back in San Francisco.

 I lost track of him for a few years but he apparently moved to Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County after his San Francisco residency.   The San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram, December 30, 1938, notes. “Dr. E.R. Brooks returned to his home in Atascadero recently.  During the summer months he is employed as resident physician at the Michigan California Lumber Company near Placerville.” He continued this summer job at least until 1940, all the while maintaining his primary house in Atascadero and moving there in the winter months. This is probably why the U.S. census for 1940 lists him as living in Georgetown, El Dorado County with the occupation of “lumber camp physician”

The San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, October 24, 1941, notes. . .  “ Dr. E.R. Brooks has sold his home at the corner of Cubaril and Rosario avenues and has moved to the Anderson Kentucky Home on Rosario.” He would have been about 80 years old by this time – certainly old enough to slow down a little.

Why Dr. Brooks chose Forest to live and to produce his Extract of Figs is currently not known, however, it was truly an isolated location that had already witnessed its glory days as a gold rush town. It just doesn’t seem like there would be a sustainable market demand for a medicine within the area he chose to live. And, in time, he probably came to the same conclusion.

Although packaged like many patent medicines of the day it only skated on the edge of such products. Most importantly, it is not a scam product and is an effective medicine for the relief of constipation. Even though the dominant product of the day, Syrup of Figs, located in Reno, Nevada, was similar in nature, and actually may not have contained figs, apparently that company chose not to rein in Brooks’ version of the product, since it really didn’t present itself as a blatant copy. Or, perhaps the Syrup of Figs company was unaware of Dr. Brooks’ version since it really was not a great success in the market place, thus not a real competitor. It is even doubtful that Brooks continued with his Extract of Figs after he left Forest and moved to Bodie. Whatever the answer it is an unusual artifact from an unusual location.

Initially, I had no intention of following the life Dr. E. R. Brooks with such tenacity but I don’t recall anyone, especially a real medical doctor, move around with such frequency. It became a fascinating challenge to see where he would go and what he would do next. Has anyone else seen one of these bottles?




Sunday, June 9, 2019

Many of us are still thinking of you Rick, and we want to keep your excellent blog alive. Coming Soon!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In Loving Memory


Thank you all for your wonderful comments, accolades and caring responses through this difficult time. Rick’s passing was so unexpected and it’s heartwarming to our family to receive your support.  Rick was one of those guys that you could never forget. He had a presence about him and when I first saw him 45 years ago, I knew immediately that our paths would cross someday.

Please keep me on your mailing list for upcoming shows and newsletters. I’m hoping to continue supporting the hobby as much as possible. Thank you again.
Cherry
"Rick" Richard Gary Simi
December 21, 1947 - March 19, 2019

                                                          

“Rick”, Richard Gary Simi passed away on March 19, 2019 at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, CA after complications from a serious surgery.  He was 71 years old.

Rick was born in Oakland CA and was the first born boy and first boy grandchild in the Simi family. He spent his childhood moving between El Cerrito, Lake Tahoe and South Carolina before moving back to California and graduating from Harry Ells High School in 1965.

After graduation, Rick worked with his father at Berkeley Glass and received his Journeyman Glazier certificate. Later he worked with Bob Holt, who had a lightshow business during the early rock days. They produced light shows for rock concerts at Winterland, the Filmore and other Bay Area concert venues. Rick worked with many popular rock bands during the 1960-70’s and enjoyed friendships with several.

He had a passion for music all his life, as well as photography, race cars and motorcycles.  Rick had an artistic flair and was good with his hands; creating stained glass windows and working with wood. He had many hobbies and always pursued them to the fullest.  He was truly an example of a “renaissance man”.  Rick loved being outdoors; motorcycle riding, fishing, long range shooting, metal detecting, and bottle hunting. He was well-known for his knowledge of antique bottles and wrote a local history book called “Gold Rush Camps and Bottles of Sierra County”. Rick also created a popular forum-style website about collecting and researching antique bottles that has a large following of viewers.

Rick ventured into the gold country during the early 1970’s and finally found his forever home. He camped and panned for gold and ultimately bought a house in Sierra City.  This was where he wanted to plant roots. He obtained his building contractor’s license and did much of his work in the Sierra City, Downieville area. He and wife Cherry purchased the old Downieville Brewery and completely renovated it. After retiring from the building industry, and at the time of his death, he was a Federal, State and Locally licensed firearms dealer, instructor and gunsmith.

During his 49 years as a Sierra County resident, Rick was a past member of the Sierra City Fire Department; acted in the Sierra City Fireman’s Follies as the memorable French maid “Fifi”, was a past Downieville Cemetery Director; served as a Director on the Forest City Historical Society; volunteered to create exhibits and remodel the Downieville Museum; has been the Yuba Pass Chili Cook-Off three time first place winner; hosted the annual Downieville Antiques and Bottles Show, and participated in many other local activities and organizations.

Rick is survived by his wife of 32 years, Cherry; children Alex Simi (Napa), James Prince (Downieville), Chandra Baciocco (San Francisco), Natalina Simi (Oakland). Sister Renee Simi Kantor (Pleasanton) and brother Michael Simi (Rohnert Park), and several nieces, nephew, and cousins. Dear to his heart are grand-daughters Macie and Makenna Prince. Also grandchildren Jordan and Zachary Simi. Rick was preceded in death by his brother Joseph Simi and both parents.

A Celebration of Life for friends and family will be announced at a later date.

As in the lyrics from the song Truckin’ by the Grateful Dead:
 Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me,
 Other times I can barely see,
 Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

We love and miss you, Rick. 


Rick adored his grand-daughters and they loved him back. This is a favorite photo of mine. 



Friday, March 22, 2019

Rest In Peace

Rest In Peace Rick, we are going to miss you.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Mills' Bitters A.M. Gilman

Update on the Mills' Bitters


The first listing for the Mills' Bitters in California is in, The Shasta Courier, July 22, 1854. It shows H. Gilbert of Shasta, Cal. selling it.

Here is an ad from the Nashville Union and American, Dec. 2, 1855. It shows what the Mills' Bitters was made for and from whom. It was highly advertised in Nashville, Tenn. during the 1850's.
 
 
The first listing for A.M. Gilman is in the San Francisco directory 1854. He is listed at 106 Battery St. S.F.
 
Next in 1856 he is at 82 Front St. and established the company name, A.M. Gilman & Co. in 1855
 
 
1861 -  324 Front St.
 
1862 - 414 Front St.
 
1864 - 409 Front St.
 
1871 - 322 Washington St.
 
1873 - 308 California St.
 
1876 - 308 California St. "Lick House" Billiard Saloon
 
1880 - 1516 California St.
 
There is no listing for A.M. Gilman after 1880.
 
The newspaper ads I found for A.M. Gilman start in 1857.
The first one is in the, Daily Alta, April 2, 1857
 
 
 
Next is in the, Red Bluff Beacon, April 11, 1861 and August 7, 1862
 
 
 


 Daily Alta, August 2, 1873
 
 
 
Daily Alta, Nov. 27, 1874
 

Daily Alta, Dec. 20, 1875


Daily Alta, June 4, 1876



Daily Alta, August 12, 1877


Daily Alta, Jan. 31, 1878





Daily Alta, August 14, 1878
This is the first and only ad for the Mills' Bitters and the very last ad for A.M. Gilman.


Strange that Mr. Gilman waited until the end of his career to produce the Mills' Bitters. After this ad in 1878, he is only listed one more time in 1880. He is listed as a merchant at 1516 California St. After that he disappears. Shortly after Mr. Cassin takes over the brand. Mr. Gilman had a 26 year run in the liquor business.  He had only one liquor business in the Santa Cruz area fail.


But, the great thing that A.M. Gilman did is produce a rare one year only Western Bitters.
Thanks Mr. Gilman



 
 
 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A RECENT WESTERN DIG

Hey Rick;

“Two western diggers( JS &DM) teamed up recently in a western State and found three pits ranging from the early 1860s to the late 1880s. There were over 100 intact bottles found with these being the undamaged “favorites”. Quite a variety of glass from all categories. Nothing like digging fun glass in 10 foot deep mud filled holes!”
Thanks!















Monday, February 11, 2019

Aurora Oregon Show - this weekend

I'd strongly suggest calling before traveling to the show due to inclement weather (IE; a LOT of snow)! 

 Image may contain: text

Saturday, February 9, 2019

W.S. Wright- Revisited - A True Piece of History.

Recently I was able to reacquire a bottle which I dug many years ago...lost in the pick, purchased it later, traded it, and now am grateful to have back on the shelf. It is a dark aqua W.S.Wright blob soda with thousands of champagne bubbles, and in perfect condition. To me these sodas are among the most historically significant pieces of western glass.
William S. Wright came to California in the 1850s and initially settled in the Petaluma, California area. He ran

a store there until moving to the Comstock about 1860. Wright started in the soda water business in 1861 at Mill and B street in Virginia City. In the Summer of 1863, Wright placed an order for 24,000 soda bottles from the fledgling Pacific Glass Works. This large order actually made headlines in the San Francisco and Sacramento newspapers. Obviously he had grand ideas of the demand for his bottled soda in the booming town. For such a large order of "custom" bottles, relatively few have survived. It is thought that a significant percentage of these bottles were poorly manufactured with flashes, numerous pot stones, and other impurities. In 1989 literally thousands of these "rejects" were dug in a large well or outhouse near the W.S. Wright factory. Only a handful were found intact, and most of these were loaded with chunks of charcoal, and stones. I have seen and held the killer dark green example with hundreds of stones throughout, and amazingly, none radiate. What a bottle!
The W.S. Wright has "Pacific Glass Works" proudly embossed on the base, and although no State is embossed, these are considered to be the earliest western blown soda bottle. They are also territorial which makes these bottles the earliest territorial soda bottles in the U.S.
Very few of the Wright sodas have been found outside the Virginia City area, which makes sense as there was most likely this one order. There are in my opinion about 30 undamaged examples in collections. All in all this is one important western bottle! Dale M.