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Friday, September 27, 2019

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. Not much of his life as a miner is known in these early years. However, he must have been able to eke out a living as a jackass prospector. Based on facts and some sketchy evidence, he purchased a Smith and Wesson model 1902 pistol, serial number 33712, at the Darwin General Store in early 1904. 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.

The gun 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. Not much is known about John's life, his successes and or failures, for the next couple of decades. He obviously lead at least a subsistence existence, but nothing newsworthy occurred.

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 new wooden grips locally made 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 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.

Cutter whiskey must have been drink of choice, as there was a myriad of discarded Cutters scattered about Darwins outskirts. And of course, Old Kirk was the popular pre-pro brand that Hotaling pushed in the post TOC gold camps. 
Back to the Smith...

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 gutta percha 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, friend 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, re-seating of the barrel (which is documented by the frame stampings beneath the grips), 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.

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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Startup show in Northen Caifornia!

Last year was the inaugural event for the Williams Show. Although I was unable to attend, I heard some good things about it. 

 From what I was told, it was a nice show with great dining nearby.

Granzella's and Louie Cairo's Italian to be precise~


October 2019

04 & 05 October 2019 (Friday & Saturday) Williams, California2nd Annual Antique Bottles & Collectibles Show, Saturday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm; Early Bird Friday 10:30 am, $10. Free Admission. In the old gym behind the Sacramento Valley Museum, 1491 E. Street, Williams, California, Contact Slim or Christy Edwards, 530.473.2503,

I've got downloadable copies of dealer applications. Feel free to touch base and I'll forward their packet to you in short order!

Here's to another great show in the making.

Aurora Oregon Show - Small but mighty~

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tea Anyone?

"Gimme two fingers worth". "On the rocks". "Neat". "Straight up".

Before the turn of the century (1900), these phrases were simply directions to tell the barkeep how you want your whiskey served. Two fingers worth was a double. Rocks were ice, when you could get it... Neat is a straight shot; whiskey, and nuthin' but whiskey. And so on.

 (Marble Arch Saloon / J'ville Or. / ca. early 90's)

Me, I may not be "neat", but I do drink mine Straight Up.


Years ago I started picking up "go with's" to round out my western whiskey collection. First there were playing cards with brand names like Taussig, Old Kirk, J. H. Cutter, etc.. Then came the "etched" shot glasses, letter heads, invoices, stenciled wooden dovetail whiskey boxes, etc. etc. etc. 


And not wanting to leave any stones unturned, I even started to seek out metal, silver plated, handled advertising pitchers. (Heh, it's an illness...) But just what were these things really intended for?

The commonly accepted theory was that they were an advertising medium that held water. Water so that the whiskey drinker could order a corked and sealed bottle of whiskey, and water his drink down to taste. That, instead of taking a chance on the rotgut stuff from the barrel in the back room that had probably been watered down already, and also often contained strychnine, cut plug tobacco and anything else that gave it that little extra "kick". 

Now I don't know about you, but I've never drank with anyone that watered down whiskey with water. Ice, yes. Water, nope~ But, that was the story I'd been told about the handled metal "pitchers" back around 1970. And like so many of the stories that both Thomas and Wilson crafted, they've been perpetuated and passed down as gospel from one collector to another for decades.
Some time back, a good friend of mine gave me what I thought was an eastern "pitcher".  The silver plating saw its glory days long ago. The pitcher itself is in good shape, free of dents, dings, etc., and the engraving is crisp and legible; it's just that the plating is well worn. The engraving is pretty much top to bottom; (in western whiskey terminology we refer to this as full faced). It reads "Harvest Home / / Mau, Sadler & Co. / Agents". Hmm, no city...

Of well, it was different; kind of unique in its own way. And so it sat as a conversation piece on my fancy antique oak mantle for years.



A friend of mine had a shot glass that advertised the brand. It was one heckuva fancy glass. Sadly, once again, no city or state.



Not too long after I received the gift, I started researching the brand and the Sole Agency. The turning point was the presence of another, different, shot glass in the Schwartz collection. This example was a dead ringer for the pitcher but, it also read San Francisco, Cal. It was western after all!

Thanks to Kens glass, I met with success and was able to attribute Mau, Sadler & Co. to the west coast, based out of SF. They were primarily doing business as grocery dealers. I did a short article a couple of years ago documenting this.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if a business model works for one, there's no reason why it shouldn't for another. Much like Goldberg, Bowen & Co. of S.F. and Hall, Luhrs & Co. out of Sac., Maui, Sadler & Co. were diversified. They, like GB & CO. and HL & Co., dealt in wholesale dry goods, staples and groceries, "ciggaros" and cigarettes.  They also had their own line of liquors.

Mau, Sadler & Co. first appeared in the SF directories in 1888 with an incorporation notice posted in the SF Call dated Jan 4th. 

They appeared annually with their final appearance in the San Francisco city directory dated 1904. Their location bounced around a bit during the years that they were in business. 


The first, and only, advertisement that I located was dated Feb. 11, 1889. At that time, they were pushing cigars. Other than this advertisement, I could find nothing in the way of classified advertising, but this can probably be explained due to the fact that they were in the wholesale, and not retail, trade.

Harvest Home whiskey was distilled by Hayner Distilling Co. of east coast fame. The distillery was located in Troy Ohio, not far from Dayton. Mau Sadler & Co. had the west coast sole agency for the brand. Rick Simi clarified the definition of sole agent nicely;

" Let’s start with the word “Sole”- Sole means, as we all know, not divided, not shared or exclusive.

“Agent” is the party that has express authority to act for another. An agent is under the control (is obligated to) the principal, and (when acting within the scope of authority delegated by the principal) binds the principal with his or her acts. The agent, however, does not have title to the principals goods in his or her possession."

Getting back to the pitcher...old friend Russell Umbraco and I always make it a point to talk at bottle shows. Somehow, the topic of the Mau Sadler / Harvest Home pitcher came up in the course of discussion at Reno last month. 

As many of you know, Russell is the indisputable expert when it comes to Ernest Rueben Lilienthal, Lilienthal & CO. and Crown Distilleries. In the course of conversation, Russell related a story that finally identified the true purpose of the pitchers and tea pots which advertised brands of whiskey. Russell stated the following via an email requesting that he assist with this article;

"In 1966 Kitty and I visited her parent’s old (ca 1905) mine in Johnnie Nevada. We found our first Crown Distilleries bottle and  a group of Lilienthal inside screw stoppers. Since Crown was already using CDCo inside screw stoppers for over 10 years, and Johnnie was established after 1900, I concluded Crown was using up its new old stock along with the new CDCo stoppers.

That was the start of our research and quest for everything related to Lilienthal and Crown Distilleries (Cyrus Noble and W.A. Lacey whiskies— principal brands), which led to our meeting Mr. Ernest R. Lilienthal (ERL). ERL was the grandson of Ernest Ruben Lilienthal,(founder of Lilienthal Co. in 1872) and president of Haas Brothers, bottlers of Cyrus Noble whiskey in the 1970’s. ERL was most gracious in sharing his company’s and family’s history.   He had a small museum in his office which had many advertising and promotional artifacts of which, one was a tea pot. The tea pot was silver plate and engraved Cyrus Noble with the CDCo. logo trade mark.  Kitty asked about the tea pot and how it fit into the liquor industry?

Then ERL told us the story in a few words:

Business men were expected to attend afternoon tea with their wives.  When tea was served, the men were served a small tea pot with the name of a whiskey and it contained WHISKEY for the men to drink!

The company gave these to their executives at Christmas."

Here are a few of the tea pots in Russell and Kitty's collection.

So there you have it; mystery solved, myth debunked. "Tea" (well actually whiskey), not water~

And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story~


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