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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What's with the Shark Fin?



What's with the Shark Fin?



That seems to be a pretty much universal question the first time someone picks up a Boulevard Bourbon.



Turns out, it's a belt and belt buckle, not a sharks fin, although it takes a while to figure it out. But wait, on second glance, there is a sharks fin too... Why Buneman and Martinoni chose this particular design is anyone's guess.

Henry Buneman & Emilio Martinoni were in partnership for a number of years. They first appear as a partnership in the SF Directory of 1879. Mention of the partnership last appears in the SF Directory of 1895. Their location remained same for the entire duration of their partnership; the "NW corner of Clay & Front".


The first embossed bottle that they had blown for the brand is a clear "German Connection" fifth. 


All that I've seen have had either a light "steel" hue or a straw colored cast to them, indicating either a lead or selenium based composition of the cullet. They will not turn color if exposed to normal (non-radiation UV)  sunlight. A clear western blown tool top fifth, which will turn purple if exposed to UV rays, was also produced. Both were embossed identically; "Boulevard OK Bourbon / surrounded by the belt design / Buneman / & / Martinoni / Sole Agents / SF Cal ". And emerging from the belt just to the left of the buckle is what appears to be a sharks dorsal fin. Whaaat?...


This would date the first Boulevards to the ca. 1890 - 1892 era. Why they waited 21 years to have the first mold cut is anyone's guess. I can just imagine what an amber glop top mold, dating to the late 70's / early 80's for Boulevard Bourbon, could have looked like. Research of the California State archives for trademarks failed to turn up any registration of Boulevard Bourbon.


The last listing for the partnership is in the SF Directory of 1895. There is no longer a listing for "Buneman and Martinoni" in the 1896 directory. What does appear is a listing for E. Martinoni, wholesale dealer in wines and liquors. And another listing for H. Buneman wholesale dealer in wines and liquors. And so, somewhere toward the tail end of 1895 they separated and went their own ways, both pursuing what they knew best, the wholesale liquor trade.


 






Henry retained the rights to the Boulevard brand and in 1895, the mold for an amber tooled top cylinder was commissioned. The design is similar to the earlier one. It is embossed "Boulevard OK Bourbon / surrounded by the belt design / H. Buneman / Sole Agent / SF Cal.". Oh, and there's that shark fin again~










On February 12, 1897, Emilio Martinoni registered two brands of Kentucky Club Whiskey with the State of California; OK and AA. No embossed examples of this bottle have been found to date so we can assume that he opted to forgo the expense of having a mold made, and just bottled and sold the product in paper labeled slicks.






Getting back to Buneman, as stated, he appears in the 1896 directory flying solo with the Boulevard brand. There is no longer any listing for H. Buneman Wholesale Liquors in the 1897 directory. Instead, the directory lists "the estate of Henry Buneman". My guess is that the Buneman and Martinoni partnership was dissolved due to failing health on Buneman's part. Albert Buneman, Henry's son, is listed as executor for the estate. In 1898, the listing changes again, this time Henry Buneman, estate of, wholesale wines and liquors. This listing remains constant through the 1904 directory.


 


In 1905, the name of the firm changes to Buneman Mercantile. A third mold was cut for the Boulevard brand. This time reading, Boulevard Bourbon / Buneman Mercantile Co. / Sole Agents / SF Cal. 

The belt and "shark fin" were omitted this time around. The firm was located at  317 - 319 Front St., in the heart of the liquor district. Who was Buneman Mercantile? Would you believe, N. Grange, president and treasurer?!!!






Unfortunately, Granges timing couldn't have been worse. They'd no sooner set up shop when 5:18 AM on April 18, 1906 rolled around (literally). Surprisingly, Buneman Mercantile was reorganized in the post Quake era of late 1906. It was incorporated as Buneman Mercantile Inc., moved to 1949 Market St., and continued on in the wholesale liquor trade for several more years. The last listing for the firm is in the 1916 SF Directory. 

No embossed bottles for the newly incorporated firm were produced, making the Buneman Mercantile Co. variant by for the rarest of the three embossed examples.



Summing it up, the Boulevard Bourbon Brand had one heckuva run; first appearing in 1879 and winding down in 1916. A lifespan of 37 years, for any brand, by any stretch, was quite the feat in the dog eat dog world of the San Francisco wine and liquor wholesale trade of the late 19th, and early 20th century.


 



Still, I can't help but wonder, what's with the sharks fin?

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)! 

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Friday, January 25, 2019

The Deer Hunter.




The name E. (Edward) A. Kolb (of Kolb & Denhard)
is synonymous with a scant handful of the some of the most desirable western picture whiskies in existence.


What surprised me, when I began the research for this article, was the abundance of print concerning not the brands produced by this firm but instead, the amount of publicity E. A. Kolb garnered due to his obsession with deer hunting. His passion for the hunt was legendary, and it's nearly impossible to read an issue of the Pacific Wine and Spirits Review, without coming across an article about Kolb's latest deer hunt. Although most of his hunting activities occurred in the Mendocino hills of central California, I found one reference to his frustration in not being able to hunt his familiar stompin' grounds, due to new seasonal game regulations and instead, made one brief foray into Southern Oregon to slay a "big one" in the early 1890's.



Many years ago I was metal detecting just south of the Oregon State line in an area that had been heavily mined for gold just after the turn of the century. We'd done well there in the past having dug good quality, albeit post turn of the century, bottles and artifacts. About a half mile north of the center of the mining activity my detector picked up a strong signal. It was fairly low on the ID scale, which indicated a ferrous target. Sure enough, out popped a solder seam tin can from beneath several inches of forest floor litter. It was quite obviously late 80's - early 90's; much earlier than what we'd been accustomed to digging down at the mine and mill site proper. It had been crudely opened with an implement other than a can opener, and was the type and size that could have held canned peaches or something of the sort. The can was the only target picked up by my Garret, but I scraped around in the mulch in the off chance that there was a bottle in the vicinity. As luck would have it, a large amber shard made its appearance. Embossed on it was a picture of a large buck. It read " Old Joe Tracy / Trade (picture) Mark / Whiskey / Kolb & Denhard / San Francisco".


Herman A. Denhard is listed as both living, and working, with his brother John in 1889. They were engaged as butchers and pork packers. E. A. Kolb had married an Emma Denhard in 1888. At the time, he was associated with the firm of Kohler and VanBergen, who were liquor wholesalers. Although I could find no listing of Emma prior to the marriage, there can be no doubt that she was Herman's sister, and that the newfound relationship resulted in the partnership of Kolb and Denhard in the liquor business, which debuted in 1890. They were originally located at 422 Montgomery St. smack dab in the heart of the downtown business district.



The exact date that the co-partnership was cemented eluded me, but they wasted no time in registering the firm with the State Of California. On June 28, 1890, the firm trade marked their new flagship brand, Non Pareil (having no match or equal) with the State. And the logo; a stag buck...



















Initially, they advertised somewhat generically for California and imported wines, brandies and liquors. Shortly thereafter though, they embarked on a campaign in the California Wine and Spirits Review, which ran for nearly ten straight years. This campaign pushed the flagship Non Pareil brand, and pushed it hard. 




A mold was commissioned and the bottles were blown, filled and marketed. They were a clear cylinder fifth with a base mark of 113. Who actually blew them is unknown but they bear all the hallmarks of a San Francisco bottle. For whatever reason, the vast majority of this brand must have been sold in paper labeled slicks as only two mint to near mint, and one repaired example are documented to exist in collections. Yes, I know, it's "just a clear fifth". But with only three documented examples in any condition existing, it's a darned sight rarer than 99% of any glop top!













 






















Another bottle was also produced in the form of a handled jug. It is always crude, red, whittled to beat all, and was most probably produced in Europe, as many of the other "German Connection" fifths were. 


They too, are exceptionally rare, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen known. Of these, the majority are missing the handles, no doubt the weak point of the vessel. Kolb & Denhard weren't bashful about their pricing structure. After all, if you wanted Non Pareil, you had best be willing to pay for it. The fifths listed for $2.50~ (this in an era where most decent drinkin' whiskey sold for a buck a bottle) with the presentation jugs listing for a five dollar bill!



A quick Post Script; I was reminded by an old friend that there is one other bottle that Kolb & Denhard had produced for the brand. It is a pint pumpkinseed blown in clear glass. One intact example is known to exist. It was found in the vicinity of Roseville California around 1972. To date, no other whole specimens had been reported.



Somewhere along the way, they opted to introduce two more brands; Old Joe Tracy, and Old Tom Parker; best guess is in that order. Old Joe Tracy must have flopped, hard, as no known intact bottles exist. At one time, there was one in a collection, but sadly it was accidentally broken. Both the Joe Tracy and the Tom Parker (Kolb & Denhard variants) are amber with tooled tops, and are highly sought after by collectors today. One was embossed "Old Joe Tracy / Trade (picture) Mark / Whiskey / Kolb & Denhard / San Francisco", the other "Old Tom Parker / Trade (picture) Mark / Whiskey / Kolb & Denhard / San Francisco".

 



(the bottle pictured is, at least for me, akin to a homing pigeon as I've had it on three different occasions)






































Kolb & Denhard are listed in the SF Directories from 1890 - 1902. Denhard left the firm in June of 1902. A new firm, E. A. Kolb Co. Inc. was incorporated on July 3. 1902, registration #35787, with a capitalized worth of $25,000~. Although Herman Denhard is still listed as living in the city in the 1903 SF directory, all reference to his association with Kolb, or involvement in the wholesale liquor trade, disappears.


 























A new mold was commissioned (not just a re-slugged modification to the original) for the new firm. It is embossed "Old Tom Parker / Trade (picture) Mark / Whiskey / E. A. Kolb Co. Inc. / San Francisco". 
























Whether through fortuitous fortune or dumb luck, E. A. Kolb made the decision to sell out prior to the end of 1904. The lucky (or in this case unlucky) buyer was the Golden Eagle Distilleries Co. They set up shop at 417 - 419 Montgomery St., directly across the street from Kolb & Denhards old digs. The transition must have been smooth and amicable as E. A. Kolb maintained an office at the 417 location for one more year, forever vacating the address in late 1905, slightly in advance of the April 18, 1906 disaster which consumed the entire area later that fateful morning.

Coming full circle, we have E. A. Kolbs passion for bagging the big one for the existence of some of the rarest and most desirable of the western picture whiskies. 

And one can't help wonder if the broken panel of the Old Joe Tracy that I found just south of the Oregon border wasn't, in fact, tossed there that late fall day by E. A. Kolb himself~

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Welcome 2019!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

The long and the short of it; (or the story of the Crown Cocktails fifth and the mini).




Years ago, Wilson made mention of a product of the Crown Distilleries Co. which has baffled me ever since. It's an amber cylinder embossed simply " Crown Cocktails / Ready to Drink". It was listed as an amber fifth, (no mention of whether it was glopped or tooled) #52-4 and he stated that it was common. 



Well, if it's so common, why have I only seen a scant handful in the ensuing fifty or so years?


Later, Bob Barnett, in his Western Whiskey Bottles series, listed it as coming both with a glop and a tooled top. Bob dated it to ca. 1890 - 1910.


The history of Crown Distilleries has been well documented by Russel Umbraco, a descendent of Ernest Reuben Lilienthal, who owned the company of which Crown Distilleries was spun off from. Russ stated that Lilienthal & Co.'s interests were so large and diverse, that the Crown Distilleries Co. was created in 1895 to handle Lilienthal's liquor interests. He further states that Crown Distilleries liquidated it's assets in 1917, due to the passage of the Volstead Act, and impending national prohibition. 


That narrows down the window for Crown Cocktails considerably. In as much as the bottle is scarce and that bottles were produced with both applied and tooled tops, I date it to the emergence of the CD Co., ca. 1895, as opposed to later. Extensive searches of newspaper archives and brand registrations were fruitless. It was never advertised and Crown Cocktails simply didn't make the cut. Based on the scarcity of the bottle, I'd say the brand flopped and was abandoned the same year it was introduced.


Not mentioned in the Wilson or Barnett books is the presence of a sample (mini). Crown Distilleries marketed railroad sample bottles which were used by the Southern Pacific Railroad; much like today's airline single serving bottles. They were embossed on one side, and had a paper label on the reverse. The brands were named after the passenger trains of the line; including Daylight, Flyer, Seashore Express, Shasta Express and a number of others. Fellow collector Mike Menze obtained a cache of these a number of years ago, which he liquidated at the Morro Bay Show.


A number of different "sample" variants were produced including squats about 4 1/2" tall, larger examples around 5 3/4" tall, and a scarce shorter one with the embossing in a rectangular slug plate. All are tooled; either having a cork or a Riley patent inside thread closure which utilized an ebonite threaded stopper.



A number of years ago, I was contacted by a digger in Burlington Vt. He and a friend had excavated a railroad depot outhouse, and had recovered a clear mini embossed "Crown Cocktails". It had a five point crown embossed on it with jewels on the tip of each crown point. I'd not heard of it before but when he sent me a photo of it, and I compared the photo to the Crown Distilleries label and the embossing on a Crown fifth, it became immediately evident that it was indeed was a Crown Distilleries product, and was a "mini me" version of the amber Crown Cocktails fifth. 


 











Wow, not only had a "new" western whiskey made its appearance, but it was a mini "picture" as well!



 

I can just imagine someone boarding a Southern Pacific train in Oakland, making the transcontinental trip to the eastern seaboard, toasting his arrival home with a Crown Cocktail and unceremoniously pitching the empty under the seat as he disembarks the train in Vermont.

Thanks, whoever you were!



 
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