Thursday, April 18, 2024




Born in St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota,  on September 1, 1860, his father was James Nolan, and mother, Mary McCormack. He is first noted in the 1880 U.S. Census for San Francisco, where he was living with his widowed mother. His first job was with Heuter Brothers, Pioneer Varnish Works, and he quickly assumed a role as a salesman.

 He apparently acquired a sense of the utility of paint as a method of preservation of the underlying surface and became fascinated with the concept of keeping iron and steel from rusting, without impacting the usebility and appearance of the treated item. Nolan decided to take a big step in his career and develop a product that could be a little better than those already on the market. Brands such as Cosmoline and similar ‘jelled” petroleum products were quite messy if one wanted full protection. His product would protect with less mess, and he decided to become an entrepreneur and start his own company.

 What is with the name Bessemer Compound? It was Nolan’s way of marketing his product by tagging it onto the name of a state-of-the-art process for producing steel from ‘pig-iron’, which was introduced by Henry Bessemer, beginning in the mid 1850’s. Simply described, it was a method by which oxygen was introduced to molten pig-iron, thus removing impurities from the iron, and producing a much improved product. The impurities would rise to the surface of the molten iron in the form of slag, which could then be discarded. Nolan’s product had no connection with the Bessemer process, but Bessemer steel was nearly always the product used in firearms, which would have been a primary use for his “Bessemer Compound”.

 Nolan received a utility patent for his product from the U.S. Patent Office on January 5, 1886. The main ingredients were bi-sulphide of carbon, beeswax, and sperm oil, combined per his specifications. The bi-sulphide of carbon has a disagreeable ‘rotten-egg’ odor, so his patent also included the addition of some sort of perfumed substance as well, in order to sweeten the aromatics. Each bottle is small, just 4 5/8 inches tall and holding slightly less than two ounces of liquid. Marketed as a rust preventer, the small amount could only be used for small iron or steel products, as in pistols and rifles.


A copy of Nolan’s patent document, describing the details of his new product.


As any responsible entrepreneur would do, Nolan also requested trademark rights for his Bessemer Compound, and received it from the U.S. Patent Office on April 12, 1887 as number 14281. Beginning with his arrival in San Francisco about 1880, Nolan was a traveling salesman for several paint and varnish companies, and continued with that line of work nearly throughout his stay in San Francisco, except for the few years from 1886 to 1888, when he focused on the sale of his compound. In 1889 he went to work for the Pacific Varnish Co. until he left San Francisco in 1892.There is no record of his Bessemer Compound after that date, and it is likely that he moved to Ohio, where he is scheduled in the U.S. Census there in 1900. In that year he was listed as a boarder in the home of the Barron family with the occupation of traveling salesman.


The box wrapper for Nolan's Bessemer Compound accompanied his trademark application.

Nolan’s partner in the Bessemer business was Horace Van Arsdale Scott, described as a general commission merchant. In June 1888 he was forced to file bankruptcy, and probably no longer became associated with Nolan. (San Jose Mercury-news, June 2, 1888). Scott later became a traveling salesman for W.P. Fuller & Co., a large paint and glass establishment in San Francisco. Scott later filed his own patent for a “refilled bottle detector”. (San Francisco Call, July 2, 1903) Patent No. 732,592. It is doubtful the patent was a success as it appears somewhat useless.




A nearly complete label connected to the Bessemer Compound.

At age 39, Nolan married Louise C. Siehl, age 21, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 20, 1900, and had three children there, Ruth May Nolan, born March 20, 1901, John Francis Nolan, born Dec 16, 1902 and Louise Christine Nolan, born September 3, 1905. By 1920 the U.S. census notes his residence as Ardmore, Oklahoma, with the occupation of paint manufacturer. By 1925, his son, John F. Nolan, jr., had established a paint manufacturing business in Houston, Texas. It was there, at the William Penn Hotel, on June 8, 1931, in downtown Houston, that Henry Francis Nolan, took his last breath. His body was transported to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was buried with his wife, who joined him there upon her death on February 25, 1955, in West Palm Beach, Florida.


An interesting look at the business of J.F. Nolan and his mastic paint company. (The Daily Ardmoreite, Ardmore, Oklahoma • Jun 3, 1920)

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Monday, March 4, 2024


    Bondy Brother's Belt ManufRS  Cast Clasps                        
                        By Nicholas Kane

   Recently, a unique clasp drew my attention that was discovered by a gentleman by the name of Bill Cochrun in 2023. The disc on this clasp is a variant of the Bondy Brothers Belt Manufrs  New York but does not exhibit the embossed "Belt Manufrs". Most interesting of all it is hard soldered to the "High Noon Eagle" tongue or male portion of the clasp . As soon as I noticed this I realized the same foundry most likely produced both of these clasps and the hybrid that I had unearthed in 2017.  The first image is of the standard cast Bondy followed by a standard High Noon Eagle & the hybrid clasps.


                                                                                                             Standard Cast Bondy 

                                                                                                Daguerreotype with a fine Cast Bondy 

  Back of a standard cast Bondy

High Noon Eagle and correct cast slide 
        Bills complete High Noon Eagle clasp  with variant Bondy Disc rather than the High Noon Eagle


    Bills Bondy tongue without " Manufrs "

Next will be another important variant from the same maker of these clasps which consists of a Bondy variant tongue that has a similar bar to the above with the standard Bondy center disc . This example was located by Harrison Cole and sold in 2020 to Mark D. and recently changed hands to Rick P. in 2024.
                                                                                          The back showing the same course file marks.
                                                                                       The solder outlines match & not a later marriage.
 The image above shows the standard Bondy center disc on a flat hybrid  tongue bar.
 Finally another hybrid like Bills , Ricks & the High Noon Eagle with a twist .
                                                                                 Hybrid I recovered within approximately a 4-5' area 
            Dug by Nicholas Kane in 2017 with guest Larry Soper who enjoyed the guess of which part was next as much as I with a shovel in hand . 

     Side view above showing the arc on this thicker down tapering T Bar than the previous example with the standard Bondy Center disc. This variant is slightly thicker than the standard Bondy all around . I am quite certain the High Noon Eagle disc was on this hybrid originally since there is almost no sign of solder and would only be on the two edges like the High Noon but with the slight arc a bit more surface area that if it was flat . I placed the High Noon Disc and it was a beautiful fit all around and dropped right in . 
To support this initial theory even more we must go back to when I dug this clasp . I ended up digging the matching parts pictured above with a Five Tailed Soldered On Eagle disc . I strongly believe the disc broke off in the diggings below this camp and the belt came back and some how this other eagle disc was tried and shortly realizing that the disc was larger  the parts were all discarded and possibly the entire belt . 


Bondy variant above and incorrect center disc recovered together in a tight group.

Below you will find two different types of High Noon Eagle tongues and wreaths I felt should be noted .

      Above Daguerreotype of a California Gold Seeker wearing the Bondy clasp.This image is flipped therefore the wreath is on our left .

                                                                                      Above tapered leading edge and flat belt loops 

                                                                                                   The High Noon Eagle center disc
                                                                                                Original tinned High Noon Eagle back 

Rick ,
I want our work to stay together here so I will finally try and make time to wrap up what we started.


I am not certain who owns the two Daguerreotypes at this time I am using as visual educational aids so there is nobody to credit at this time.

The second image was removed from its case at a later date and revealed a wonderful Bondy clasp.

The eagle center disc had quite a few names over the last 20 years and Harrson Cole came up with "High Noon Eagle"  after he dug his first recently & it seams to have stuck.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

                                            UDOLPHO  WOLFE


There are times when unexpected information pops up that is encountered when least expected. About 15 years ago I found the following pages in a book that most collectors of antique bottles may find interesting.

I published it in our local bottle club newsletter, which was read by only a handful of people.  I believe that there are enough collectors who are familiar with the bottled product of this man that it would have a general interest.

The name of our subject is Udolpho Wolfe, a Virginia born businessman who moved to New York and made a huge fortune selling gin.  His secret was two-fold.  Udolpho gave his gin a new name, “schnapps”, which was apparently a colloquial word for gin that was commonly used in Holland.  His other secret was advertising.  Udolpho’s advertisements appeared virtually all over the world, which was a huge expense but paid off handsomely.

Udolpho’s will left his substantial company to David H. Burke, his brother-in-law, and partner in the firm at the time of Udolpho’s death on September 14, 1869.  Burke, and others, acted as executors of Udolpho’s estate for two years until Udolpho’s only son, Joel Wolfe, reached a majority age, who then took charge of the company.

There is really no need to include pictures of his bottle here, since most collectors have seen many examples.  The earliest specimens are pontiled and the latest are machine made. While the story of the man and his bottles deserves an expanded treatise, the following recollections of him, by a fellow businessman, and New Yorker, printed in 1885, gives some fascinating insight into his life.

The following biographical sketch explains the reason for the subtle difference in the appearance of the Australian Udolpho Wolfe bottles compared with those of the U.S.  Wolfe’s manufacturing and bottling house in Hamburg, Germany, serviced all parts of the world except the United States.  The schnapps destined for the American market was distilled in Schiedam, Holland, and shipped in bulk to be bottled only for the U.S. market.  On the subject of litigation it should be noted that Wolfe’s schnapps was possibly the most imitated bottled product known.  As a result a great amount of information on his schnapps and his imitators reside in numerous legal and court documents scattered around the U.S. and the world.  One day it would make a great research project for someone.

*Note:  In several places a unit of measurement called a “pipe” is referred to below.  One pipe equals approximately 126 gallons.

 Just one of the many lawsuits presented to the Wolfe company is presented in the article below. Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), October 28, 1884