Sunday, February 22, 2015

A word to the wise.

A word to the wise.

Not everyone's interpretation of the English language is the same. Take the word "FAIR" for instance.

We get a pretty constant stream of emails from collectors and non-collectors in the WWG inbox every week. Most from non-collectors are the typical "I got such and such bottle - how much is it worth?" Most of the novices out there could care less about the history of a bottle, they just want to know if they can make a buck on it. And most of the inquiries are answered with "since it has Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of This Bottle, there's little to no demand at this time", it's pretty cut and dry.

Once in a while though, one really takes the cake. We got an email a while back from an old guy. Years ago, he'd picked a AAA flask up out of the sage brush while hunting.  He was trying to find a value online. The WWG popped up in his search, and he contacted us, hoping that he'd get an unbiased opinion. He asked what his AAA OldValley flask was worth. It was mint, crude, and a very good example. He wasn't interested in selling it but wanted it's value for estate purposes. I gave him the history about the bottle and provided the figures quoted in Thomas, as well as what they'd been selling for recently at shows.

He also told me that a Craigslist ad also appeared in his online search from someone wanting to buy old bottles. What caught his eye was the photo of a clear flask embossed AAA in the ad. It read; "I will buy your antique bottles for cash - $100 (norcal)". He sent me a link to the ad. 


I pulled up the ad that he'd mentioned. It had pictures of a few bottles that popped up in the main window when you clicked on them. One line in the ad caught my interest. " Fair prices, quick response." I wondered, what exactly is a FAIR price? And what would this person base his idea of a fair price on?

And so, we shot him off an inquiry. It read; "Hi. I saw your wanted ad on craigslist. I've got an old bottle (the Rosedale OK in the photo) that says the same thing as the purple one on the right side of your pictures.

Only its brown instead of purple. It is clean and shiny and there's no cracks or chips. I'm sending along a picture of it. What can you tell me about it?"

His response was somewhat generic; "Your bottle is a bit different, but from the same distributors. The one you have is scarcer than the one I have in my ad. It is from San Francisco , probably 1890's or so. Very nice bottle. I would like to buy it, if you are interested. Let me know."

We replied " Thank you for the information. If I were to think about selling it, what do you think that it would be worth?"

This is his reply; "I would pay you $200 for it.

Keep in mind that Thomas quotes a mid book figure of $2000.00. My experience with this bottle is in line with Johns.

We opted not to reply. Sure enough, along comes another email from "SAM". "Any interest? Counteroffer?

When questioned about his offer, and why he asked for a counter, he replied in part, "Well, a couple hundred dollars, ... , is considered quite good in the bottle world. Very few are worth much more and they are very scarce. Also, condition and color are everything in glass and bottles are no exception. The whiskey bottle, if absolutely perfect, with little or no surface scratches would be worth more.

Fair?       Really?
Your thoughts?

(Feel free to comment - In fact we encourage it. All you've got to do is click on "comments" below)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

News Flash - Dig of the decade!

This just in from Rick's "Western Bitters News";

"Just received this picture of a recently found cache of bottles by some mystery digger.
I don't have any information on the dig or the digger but thought I would share the picture"
(heh - a picture's worth a thousand words!)
Check out this stable full of horses!
Most probably the best dig of western fifths since  Lane and Tommy's "John Marsh dig" in the Gold Country many years ago......

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

History repeats~

Quite some time ago I posted an article about labels. It was titled simply, "Paper".

Toward the front of the article I wrote "Back in the late 1960's, just as whiskey collecting was emerging from it's infancy, labeled bottles were still somewhat available. Not plentiful, but we certainly saw a great deal more "back in the day", than we do now. Sadly though, most collectors were either scraping or soaking off the paper labels so that the bottles would display better in a sunlit window or a lighted display case. So much for history..."

I got an email from a fellow collector last night. It was a combination of Show and Tell, and guess what I found. Seems that a non-collector had gone to an estate sale and found a neat old bottle. Darned if it didn't still have the original cork and label in place. Well, that dirty old label had to go. And as long as he was at it, might as well get rid of that nasty old cork and get rid of what was left of the smelly old contents. All the better to see the pretty glass...

All cleaned up, it shined like a new penny. And you could really see the embossing, now that the dirty label and the cork with the antlers printed on it was gone.

This part of the west has been noted for the abundance of western whiskies with antlers in the embossing. OK, so the cats out of the bag; it was indeed a J. Moore.
But not just any ol' J. Moore like this one~

And so, our fellow collector bought the shiny bottle . That's when he sent me a photo of the label that had been unceremoniously scraped (not soaked) off the bottle. Oh my...

Followed by a photo of the bottle, sans the cork and the label... with the crooked neck and spillover dripping nearly a half inch down the neck. It's a brilliant yellowish old amber that's so light that you can read a newspaper through.
Uggh! Some things never change~

Monday, February 2, 2015


A couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine stopped by. I'd lent him a hand a with a deal a while back and, being the generous sort that he is, said he had something for me as a thank you. He pulled out a brass plate which had been dug in San Francisco during the early 1960's. I'd seen this same exact piece before, in a closet collection, and it had "spoken to me".

You know the feeling. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you know that what you're holding is something special, very special. It could be the just dug neck and partially embossed shoulder shard of a glop top whiskey, which has just enough embossing to reveal that it was once an "Old Signet", or the oddly shaped base shard of what later was determined to be a Cassin's Bitters. Like I said, you know the feeling.

And so, I placed it on the shelf with other neat stuff that I've dug and hoarded over the past 45+ years, taking it's place of honor alongside a turn of the century Nevada aluminum hunting license, a brass hotel room tag and skeleton key from "The Annex" in Salinas Ca., a celluloid campaign button pushing William A. Massey's bid for Nevada US Senator in 1912, and a coin pouch dug from the bowels of a turn of the century outhouse in the Sierras, just to name a few.

 "Patant". What the heck was Patant? And who was A. C. Taylor. And what was this odd brass medallion doing in the bay muck alongside Gold Rush era "stuff"?

I just finished a month long project, it's pouring down rain today , so I figured I'd spend a little time wandering down the halls of history. I didn't get off to a very good start though, since a search of the word "Patant" came up blank. I was guessing that it was a noun. Type in Patant into any search engine and it immediately defaults to "patent". Could it be foreign? French maybe? Same thing - patent. During the next half hour of cross referencing and trying to associate the word Patant with anything, I learned more about patents than I ever wanted. I was stuck in a revolving door called the internet.
Focus, I told myself.  And so I stepped out, caught my breath, and figured I'd dig into A. C. Taylor's past instead. It should be a no brainer since San Francisco is prominently stamped into the brass. An online search for A. C. Taylor / San Francisco, was as fruitless as the "Patant" search. Nuthin'! Lots of Taylor this, or Taylor that, but no A.C.
I tried the archives of the S. F. Call and the S. F. Daily Alta California. Zip. Nada. Whoever this A. C. Taylor was, he didn't advertise or expose himself to the limelight.

Frustrated with my lack of success so far, I figured I'd try the San Francisco directories. But where to start... Common sense said early - early, since the strata that the item came from was surrounded by Gold Rush era artifacts. 1850 is as far back as the directories go. Seemed like a logical starting point to me.
It was! Sure enough, there was A. C. Taylor, in black and white - in 1850! In partnership with someone named Gordon. What they did, and what the rest of the gibberish was, I knew not. But I'd found him nevertheless; one of the earliest businessmen in the great City of San Francisco!

 There was no 1851 directory, but the 1852 Morgan edition, and the subsequent 1852 - 1853 combined directories cleared things up nicely. Stoves and tin ware; supplemented by 70,000 pounds of oats.
(who says men can't multi-task?)
In 1854, A. C. Taylor disappeared from the directory. Thinking that maybe he'd left town and Gordon had taken over, I searched for a listing for him in the "G's.. But I overshot by mistake, and ended up in the "H's". "Ho" to be precise.

What I saw nearly knocked me out my chair!


Note, it doesn't state "res" (residence) or "dwl" (dwelling), as was customary in the directories if he was just living there. And this is a business listing. Did he actually own, and or run, the boarding house as the listing implies? Has an unwritten chapter in the life of A. P. Hotaling just been opened?!

According to Wilson, "A. P. came to California in 1852, tried his hand at mining and in 1854 became a clerk with J. W. Griffin Liquors at 154 Sansome; purchasing the firm in 1856." Thomas said basically the same thing except that he put Hotaling back in San Francisco in 1853, beginning in the wine and spirit business then at the corner of Sansome and Jackson Sts.

 Back to A. C. Taylor and the brass plate. There was / is no 1855 directory, but I picked up snippets from the earlier days, in ship manifests, which showed A. C. onboard different steamers arriving in S. F. via Panama and from "around the Horn" so perhaps he liked to travel, or had relatives back east. Regardless, he appears again starting in the 1856 directory as a sole proprietor. The 1859 directory lists him as Augustus C. Taylor. Mystery of first name solved.

Finally, in 1861, he is relisted at a different address (still on Montgomery St.) but as an importer. And then the trail goes cold.

 What did "Patant" mean? Was it a mis-spelling that was discarded once the mistake was noticed? And what was the purpose of the brass plate? We may never know. But one thing is for sure, we have A. C. Taylor to thank for perhaps adding another chapter to the early part life of A. P. Hotaling's life!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dog-on Good Whiskey!

Kennel Club
You read it right, it's not Dog Gone Good Whiskey, It's Dog-on Good Whiskey. That's a catchy little phrase.
The logo that bore the slogan is just as catchy!
As Paul Harvey used to say, many years ago, "Here's the rest of the story".
Rusconi & Fisher first appeared as a partnership in the 1898 San Francisco directory. For two years the newcomers kept a low profile, with only a small listing in the Crocker directory to advertise their existence.
In the ensuing years, they became a power in the S. F. wholesale liquor market, no doubt due to the popularity of the Kennel Club brand, which they had sole agency of. The brand was so successful that the glass works that produced the bottles for the product utilized no fewer than four different molds.
(remember - just click on the photos and they will open in a separate large format - high resolution - window.)
The first big push for the Kennel Club brand occurred in the Pacific Wine and Spirit Review of 1900. The dog (apparently some type of hound) became the mascot for Kennel Club whisky (note Ky and not Key), their flagship brand.
The bottle on the far right in the lineup is quite obviously the earliest of the four variants. The first bottle has all the attributes of having been blown by an eastern firm. The mold is amateurish in appearance, and the bottle is notably cruder than the other three. The slug plate is oblong in appearance and the lettering does not resemble anything we are accustomed to seeing on western produced fifths. The tooling of the top does not resemble western techniques and the base mark is an oddball. It has three numbers contained within a drawn out diamond shape. It's the bottle on the far right, and is under a fifth, but more than a sixth, in capacity.
The next bottle (2nd from right) is slightly larger, has a smooth base (no basemark) and has embossing which looks very much western in appearance. It is heavily air vented and the embossing is crisp and well executed. This mold, and the ensuing bottles blown in it, were no doubt, a product of the San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works (SFPGW).

The next bottle (3rd from the right - 2nd from the left) is a no brainer when it comes to dating. The base mark is 32H, which attributes the bottle to Abramson Heunisch Glass Works of San Francisco. Abramson Heunisch were the successors to the "SFPGW". The base mark dates the mold to ca. 1900, when the firm opened their new glass works at the corner of 15th and Folsom in San Francisco. The H base marks ran in numerical sequence, starting in 1900. This mold was used from 1900 - 1906, when the firm was temporarily incapacitated by the Great Earthquake & Fire.

In 1907, the firm name was changed to Rusconi, Fisher & Co. A new ad campaign was embarked upon (pun intended) and the hound was now pictured perched atop of a hogshead of Kennel Club.

It was at this point in time that they also
commissioned a watch fob and an etched shot glass to help with the brands visibility. Note that the spelling of Whiskey on the shot glass - "Key", indicating that it was now distilled, blended and rectified in S. F., as opposed to Kentucky (Ky).

This variant is the bottle on the far left of the lineup, and is the last of the series of cylinder fifth molds blown for Rusconi Fisher. It has "& Co." added to the embossing pattern. This bottle utilizes the same base and rear half mold as the middle bottle, which as noted before dates to ca. 1900 - 1906. A new front half mold was cut and exchanged for the earlier one which was sans "& Co.". This mold was the last cylinder used.


Around 1910 the rectangular Full Quart became the standard. A mold was cut for the "tanker", (Barnett #708), embossed simply Rusconi Fisher & Co. San Francisco".  The reverse of the tanker no doubt sported labels for Kennel Club, as well as the other brands that the company sold. This bottle was utilized until 1917, when the company shut it doors for good.
Quite the run; 19 years in business. Yep, that's a Dog on Good run!
(Photo credits; watch fob - ebay seller "2chic2beshabby", shot glass - collection of the late Ken Schwartz, tanker - courtesy of friends Pete and Shannon H.)


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