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Thursday, July 12, 2018

United We Stand

A belated Happy 4th of July!

For me, the 4th is not all about big sales at the stores, barbeques, or fireworks. Instead, it's a special day to reflect on the freedoms earned the hard way for us by the countless brave souls who have sacrificed all, so that we can live free in a democracy.

Patriotism goes way back in this country. The Commonwealth (State) of Kentucky adopted the slogan United We Stand, Divided We Fall in 1792, and it appears on their state flag. 

The western liquor industry of the 19th century saw a way to cash in on the slogan, as well as capitalize on Kentucky Bourbons image as being of superior nature. 

One of the earliest western firms to take advantage of the term "United We Stand" was Wilmerding and Co. of San Francisco. To my knowledge their amber applied top cylinder was the first of many to use the term on a bottle. It was introduced in the late 1870's. Embossed top to bottom, it reads "United We Stand / Old Bourbon / Whiskey / Wilmerding & Co. / Sole Agents / San Francisco. At one time, I had what was considered to be a top example of this bottle in my collection. Boldly struck in a nice light honey amber, it was dead mint. It was found lying in the pine duff in a draw beneath a line shack above Ashland Oregon. Wished I still had it! Wilmerding & CO. had a beautiful back bar advertising litho made to promote their brands. 

Among the brands promoted are SHM, C. W. Stuarts, and McKennas along with a few others that must have been paper label only. And smack dab in the lower middle of the sign in bold letters is "United We Stand".

A few years later, in the mid 1880's, Charles Kohn of Portland introduced his brand of United We Stand whisky. It's a slug plate and is embossed "United We Stand / Whisky (note Ky., not key) / Charles Kohn & Co. / Agents For / Northwest Coast". These are seen with both applied and tool tops. I uncovered something in the January 27,1883 edition of the "Roseburg Independent" newspaper that caused my jaw to drop. 

See the following article.

The same article appeared in the "The Columbian"  on Feb 2, 1883. No wonder Kohn named this product United We Stand. The 19th century liquor industry on the west coast was indeed a tangled intertwined web. One can't help but wonder if there aren't examples of the Kohn bottle still in the ground in both St. Helens and Roseburg... Kohn's wholesale house was both successful and long lived, spanning over a quarter of a century. However, the United We Stand bottles are still a tough one to acquire.

Next at bat was C. J. Stubling of the Dalles Oregon. I wrote an article about Stublings dealings some time back. For those who missed it, here's a link to it;

I've found no concrete evidence linking Stubling to Wilmerding & Co. but there could be a similar connection due to the wording on the bottle "Distributor" (albeit, as a friend pointed out today that is it mis-spelled Distributer). But then there's the date discrepancy (80's vs. 90's)... On second thought, there is a very real possibility that Stubling was indeed associated in some way with W&Co. as the firm continued to do business as Wilmerding & Co. until 1894!

Later, in the late 90's, W.J. Van Schuyver advertised United We Stand, as well as their old standby "Cyrus Noble". It must have been bottled as a paper label only, or paper label on their slug plate fifths, as no embossed examples have surfaced.


I have, in my collection, an example of the embossed clear fifth produced by Jno. Graves. This firm was located in San Jose, Cal. and dates ca. 1910 - 1915. The label on the reverse (or perhaps the obverse depending whether you call the embossed or the label side the front) advertises their Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey with the slogan of none other than "United We Stand" front and center.


Wrapping up, I pose the question, what's more uniquely American than the 4th of July, and Kentucky Bourbon?

Again, a slightly late Happy 4th!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

See ya there!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Cause or the Cure - Revisited

The Cause or the Cure - Revisited

A bottle that nearly every entry level collector of western whiskies has on the shelf is embossed, "Slaters Premium Bourbon / John Sroufe & Co./ Sole Agents / San Francisco". They're a good looking cylinder with pretty much full face embossing. They're attractive, affordable, and available. The Slaters brand, having been distributed for many years, ranges in character from hammer whittled - very nearly glop top in crudity, to later ones that look like they were blown yesterday. 

The John Sroufe story is an interesting one. I first found reference to him in the 1871 San Francisco Langley  Directory as a commission merchant doing business as Sroufe, Sweeney (Lorenzo H.) & Co. at 406 Front St. John E. Ruggles was a silent partner (the "& Co."). Front St. incidentally, was in the heart of the wholesale liquor district, although there is no evidence that Sroufe dabbled in the "spirits trade" at this time. 

Pipifax (magen bitters) was first trademarked on Nov. 15, 1870 to a Max Walter of S. F. .   

Three years later, it was acquired by a different firm and on Sept. 9, 1873, it was re-registered to J. M. Goewey & Co. More about them in a moment.

In 1876, Sroufe dissolved his commission merchant endeavor and entered into a wholesale liquor partnership with Hugh McCrum; "Sroufe & McCrum", with locations at 208 - 210 Market St. and 9 - 11 Pine St. The Pine St. location was also in the heart of the liquor district. I found reference to their main brand, "Slater's Premium Bourbon". The Sole Agency for this brand was acquired from the firm of J. M. Goewey, & Co., who had been located directly across the street from Sroufe's earlier firm, when they were located on Front St. The Slater's brand had a huge and loyal following, and was imported in hogsheads from the distillery in Ky. The Pipifax brand was also part of the acquisition. All indications are that this product was marketed in a paper label only container by Max Walter, J. M. Goewey, & Co. and Sroufe & McCrum. The Sroufe and McCrum partnership existed and prospered from it's inception in 1876, until 1892.

In 1893 the firm of "John Sroufe & Co." emerged. 

The "& Co." was Charles I. Crowell. Charles had been the company book keeper for Sroufe & McCrum. It is my opinion that it was at this time that Sroufe commissioned an embossed mold for the Pipifax product. It's a very late glop top as is evidenced by the lack of crudity present on most all of the examples that I've had and seen over time.


It was marketed in the square amber fifths that grace the shelves of many western bitters collectors. This partnership did well as is evidenced by the number of Slater's Premium Bourbon bottles in collections. Pipifax (bitters), although not quite as popular as Slater's Bourbon still did well enough to have made the transition from the applied top, to the tooled top, eras. 


The mold must have gotten quite a workout as quite a few examples  have embossing which is all but non-existent due to mold wear.

 On July 16, 1904, John Sroufe died. He'd contracted pneumonia two weeks prior. He was 77 years old. 

Rather than toss in the towel, his widow enlisted the assistance of Charles I. Crowell (the & Co.) and endeavored to maintain status quo rather than shutting the doors for good. Thanks to her decision, the firm not only weathered the Great Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906, but was able to remain financially solvent. They moved out to 659 - 661 Divisidero and reopened the doors shortly after the disaster.

In 1910 the firm name appears as John Sroufe & Co. (Inc.) with Z.A. Sroufe (I believe this to be Zelda Sroufe - one of Johns daughters who was married to J. R. Loosely) as president, J. R. Loosley as vice - president and Charles I. Crowell as secretary, as well as a new location at 41 Drum St. 

The final listing I located was in the 1915 S.F. directory, still at 41 Drum St. Lasting for twenty plus years in the dog eat dog wholesale liquor industry was no small accomplishment and we have John Sroufe to thank for two wonderful additions to modern day whiskey and bitters collections; both a cause and a cure.


Thanks to Jerry Forbes / Peachridge Glass, and American Bottle Auctions for the Pipifax bottle photos. Please note that there are facts stated herein which contradict some statements published in Wilson's "Western Bitters". However, all documentation within this article was taken directly from original archival material and not "the book".

Monday, May 21, 2018

No whiskies, but still some outstanding western glass!


Check out Pole Top Discoveries current auction offerings.

Loads of western glass IE; EC&M's, and Cal. Electrics. 

Color? You Bet!

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