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Thursday, November 17, 2022

BB

 

BB

 

Mr. Dictionary says…

Noun~

A size of shot, 0.18 inch (0.46 centimeter) in diameter, fired from an air rifle or BB gun. Also called BB shot. 

Shot of this size.

 


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Three years ago I sold my Victorian “mansion in the country” and placed my collection into storage. No, not a BB collection; my bottles! The rental house in town was a roof over my head, and nothing more. Less than half the size of the Victorian, there was little room for anything inside but the essentials. And so, the bottles sat boxed up in the garage for what seemed like an eternity.

 

Fast forward to 2022. I’d bought and remodeled a “mid century modern” two story home in Jacksonville proper. It was the COVID remodel from hell. I’ve built and remodeled a LOT of homes over the years but nothing could have prepared me for this project. A combination of manpower shortage, supply chain “issues”, and skyrocketing prices turned what should have been a fairly straightforward job into a prolonged nightmare. And so, the bottles sat boxed up in the garage once again for what seemed like another eternity.

 

Finally, I was able to afford to have the cabinets fabricated, the LED back lighting assembled and wired, and the display installed. The magic moment of “the great unpacking” had finally arrived. The foods went into a china cabinet in the kitchen. The bitters went into an ornate Victorian curved glass china in my office and the labeled whiskies and shots went into an equally ornate oak book case. The embossed cylinders and mini’s were placed in the new back lit display, which occupied an entire wall in the living room. It was like an early Christmas!

 

Recently, one of the bottle websites had a theme day; “bottles with embossed addresses”. Hmm, I wondered, how many western whiskies met the criteria? I was amazed to find only four out of well over 100 embossed western cylinders, and even less in the labeled group of a few dozen, qualified. I gave the collection another once over and a mini caught my eye.

 

Embossed “BB / Whiskey / Brinckmann Bros / Geary and Jones / S.F. Cal.” , the bottle measures 5 5/8” tall, is tooled, and clear with a manganese dioxide based cullet that will turn purple. It is to my knowledge, unique, as I’ve never seen or even heard of another in existence. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


I posted it as my contribution to the theme. Supposedly there is also a clear tooled embossed fifth “in the wild”, but I’ve never seen or heard of who owns it. Bob listed it as #83 and recorded the embossing as Brinckmann Bros / monogram / Geary and Jones  S.F. Cal.”.

John Oneill, an advanced collector and all around great guy, added a PS to my post stating “I have the coffin flask for them.” The flask is a half pint. It too is unique.

 


So, just who were these Brinckmann Brothers and why are their bottles as rare as a pair of lips on a chicken? I generally start my research using the SF City directories, and this case was no exception. Given the “construction” of the mini, I assumed that it would date ca. late 1880’s / early 1890’s or newer. I ran the search all the way through prohibition. Wholesale liquor dealers – zilch. Retail liquor dealers – nada. “Brinkman Bros.” in the general directory listings, nuthin…

 

Amazing though, how a simple mis-spelling on my part can account for countless hours of wasted time. Not “Brinkman Bros.” dummy; “Brinckmann Brothers”!!! I started over. Nothing in the searches through the TOC popped up. And then 1904 bore fruit. Not in liquor listings though. Instead, the general directory listed them as being grocers.

 

 The 1905 directory listing was pretty much a clone to the '04.

 


The “Brinckmann Brothers” were comprised of Frederick H. and his older brother August H.

 


They emigrated to the US from Bremervoerde, Germany in the early 1890's. By 1904 they had established themselves as the Brinckmann Bros. / grocers.  

 

 

 

Much like Wm. Cline, Goldberg Bowen, and several others in their earlier days, they apparently had a small “backroom” whiskey bottling operation in their grocery store and had an initial run of a gross each of cylinders, minis and flasks blown. The cost of private molds for such an operation would have been significant and they obviously had visions of grandeur. However, their endeavor was doomed to failure.

 

As noted the Brinckmann Brothers established their store, located at the corner of Geary and Jones, in 1904.  

 


At 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906, San Francisco was rocked by the worst earthquake in recorded west coast history. Fires broke out immediately. According to archived SFFD records, fire broke out “all through the merchantile (sp) districts. On both sides of Market Street embryo fires were discovered”. At 9AM on the 18th, the Woolworth Bank building, located at Post and Market, caught fire. Roughly ten minutes later, the Brinckmann Bros. grocery building caught fire and burned to the ground. By the time the flames died out on April 21st, 25,000 buildings lay in smoldering ruins. Much of San Francisco had burned to the ground.

 

“In the weeks following the fire Fredericks wife, being a very practical North German, saw an opportunity for them to get back on their feet when she heard that the civil authorities were paying men to clean bricks of the fallen buildings for reconstruction.  Frederick disappointed her by not taking full advantage of the brick cleaning opportunity.  Instead, he took his Ansco No.5 camera, and armed with several rolls of film”, began to walk the ruins taking the pictures of the earthquake and fire damage that many will recognize to this day.

 


 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After “the earthquake and fire destroyed the store, Frederick and his family came to live with his wife's family in the less affected area of the Mission district and eventually reopened his grocery store there”.  

 

 

The year of 1907 saw the brothers go their separate ways. Although both remained grocers, they owned and operated stores in different parts of the city; Frederick at 3394 26th St. and August to the northwest, at 3799 17th St. 

 

 

In closing, we western whiskey aficionados have the brothers Brinckmann to thank for three extreme rarities, courtesy of their visions of grandeur and the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

 


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I’d like to thank Dale F. Smith, descendant of Frederick, and his “Photograph by F. H. Brinckmann” for some of the photos and text contained herein.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Chalmers Catawba Wine Bitters - the rest of the story

 

If it looks like a whiskey, swims like a whiskey, and quacks like a whiskey it must be a whiskey. 

 

Well, OK it reads bitters but what the heck, it's one of the top western bottles that looks like a whiskey. Besides, Thomas included it in his books "Whiskey Bottles of the Old West".

 

Several years ago, I acquired one of my dream bottles from an old friend.  I first ran across this same exact example in Willow Glen, California in 1974. 45 years later, I finally owned it. In going through some old paperwork yesterday, I ran across a couple of pages of fascinating history regarding Robert Chalmers and his endeavors that I thought I would share. Enjoy~

 

 


 





Saturday, January 1, 2022

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The tale of 33712

 What goes better with a turn of the century western whiskey than a pistol of the same period?

 

The tale of 33712

 


John C. Stewart was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, on September 17, 1875. Like so many others seeking a better life in the land of milk and honey, he emigrated from his birthplace to the United States of America.

 

Dr. Darwin French led an expedition to an area in the SE desert of California in 1860 and discovered silver at Coso, nine miles from the future site of Darwin. Silver was discovered at Darwin proper in 1874, the same year that the boom to Panamint City occurred nearby in the Panamint range. Darwin quickly mushroomed and by 1876, boasted a thriving population of over 1000 souls. However, Darwin's time in the limelight was short lived as the deposits proved to be shallow, water was scarce, and ore values began to plummet starting in 1877. Despite its short lived window in the history of the Old West, Darwin proved to be one of the wickedest places on earth. Bodie paled by comparison when one compares the body count racked up during Darwin's short lived history, courtesy of both knife and gun. In its first three years of existence, between 1874 and 1877, there were said to be at least 80 murders, most of them unsolved.

 

Undaunted, John C. Stewart made his way west, determined to make his fortune as a miner. He arrived in Darwin, California in 1897, lured by the promise of finding a fortune in silver. John obviously lead at least a subsistence existence, but nothing newsworthy occurred. Based on facts and some sketchy evidence, we know that he purchased a Smith and Wesson model 1902 pistol, serial number 33712, at the Darwin General Store in early 1904. The gun had left the factory on Tuesday, December 1, 1903, shipped to a dealer in St. Louis. It was resold to the Darwin General Store and subsequently purchased by John. Chambered in "38 S&W Special / US Service Ctg's". It was a powerful and modern double action handgun that used the newly invented smokeless powder cartridge. It was good for keeping vermin, be they four or two legged, at bay.

 

Little is known about John's life, his successes and or failures, for the next couple of decades. However, he must have been able to eke out a living as a jackass prospector, ranging far and wide in the hills around Darwin and throughout the area bordered on the northeast by the then booming strikes at Goldfield and Tonopah.

 

That was, not until March of 1929. It was at that time that Smith and Wesson received 33712 back at the factory along with a note from John. He listed three requests; fix the loose barrel, refinish it, and install a set of pearl handle grips. John must have finally made a strike.

 

Johns requests were obliged, (for the most part) and the gun left their repair facility on May 1, 1929 with a "tightened barrel" and new finish. The tab; about $7~. Unfortunately, they were out of Pearl Handle grips, and the gun was returned with the desert worn originals. John, disappointed that he couldn't walk heeled down the street with gussied up grips, took matters into his own hands. He had a local make new wooden grips that served two purposes, they shifted his grip back so that the trigger guard would no longer slam into his middle finger when fired, and they looked "purdy".

 

John got careless one day, a year or two after he had the gun spruced up, and it ended up being lost by the side of a gravel road outside of Darwin. My ex-wife's grandfather, Herman, worked for the road department, and spotted the gun lying in the  dirt while making his rounds. He asked around town, but no one had heard of a missing pistol, and John and his trusty burro must have been out looking for their next big strike.

 

The gun sat in the dresser drawer in Herman's bedroom, wrapped in an oiled rag until they departed Darwin in the early 30's. Herman had a son, Dick, and when Herman died, Dick inherited the gun. It sat in the same oiled rag that had been its home for another forty years, in Dick's bedroom dresser. Several years ago, Dick's health took a turn for the worse. With the writing on the wall, he gifted it to me. I was grateful.

 

I've always been a stickler for historical authenticity, and the "gussied up grips" bugged me. I made a concerted effort to locate a pair of period correct walnut or guttapercha grips for it. It took a while but I finally located a pair and replaced the grips, restoring 33712 to its original glory.

 

Being an historian, I was also curious about, what Paul Harvey used to call the "Rest of the Story". With the help of a new found, and extremely knowledgeable, acquaintance we were able to connect most of the dots. Many of which you've just read. We were also able to determine that this is a model 1902 (pre first change) and that there were only approximately 13000 of this variant that left the factory. Markings on the guns grip frame document that it is original as when it left the factory, with the exception of the metal work, reseating of the barrel, and the replacement grips.

 

As for John C. Stewart; he died in Darwin on May 23, 1947 of "heart trouble". His occupation was still listed, simply, as "miner". 

 




















 

 

Many thanks John, and Herman, and Dick for allowing me to be the custodian of an incredible piece of the wild west.

 
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