Sunday, July 13, 2014

That's a bunch of Bull!

Yep, a big ol' ornery bull. A Durham bull to be exact.

The Durham is an old breed, dating back to late 18th century England. They were initially prized for both dairy and beef production. Later, they were bred specifically for meat production. The Durham ultimately became what we now know as shorthorn cattle.
But we're not talking about steaks here, although a good bourbon and a good steak do go hand in hand around my place~

According to the US Patent records, the "Durham" brand was registered in 1878 by the firm of ELLISON & HARVEY, who were liquor wholesalers located in Richmond Va. The firm existed from 1870 - 1905, a long span of time in the liquor industry compared to most west coast firms.
The firm commissioned an amber glop top cylinder that is unique among whiskies, be they an east or a west coast bottle. The back side sports a raised protrusion that can best be described as the base of another bottle; commonly called a "foot". The "foot" served double duty in that it allowed the colorful label to stand proud of the rest of the bottle, and also allowed the bottle to perch on it's side when employed in less than stable environs, such as the stern and side paddle wheel steam ships of the day.

At some point in time, after the creation of the original design, the foot was removed by patching the mold. Subsequent bottles blown were of the more conventional round cylinder form, (sans the "foot"), but the mold repair area can be plainly made out; much the same as the A. Fenkhausen / Old Pioneer Bear amber glop top with the rivet repair plate on the rear, which was blown in San Francisco during roughly the same time frame.



The embossing pattern is attractive and straight to the point; simply "Durham (picture of a Durham bull) Whiskey". The leg on the "R" (in Durham) is straight, the glass is most often shades of medium to darker amber, and the bottle is generally well made without much in the way of crudity.

The glass works that produced the bottle is unknown, but a side by side comparison with the word "WHISKEY" on an original E. G. Booz, produced by Whitney Glass Works, reveals an uncanny similarity in embossing patterns. In fact, with the exception of the "S", they bear a striking resemblance to one another.

 Thomas stated that the bottle dates ca. 1876 - 1882. However, the bottle most probably does not
pre-date the brand registration, which occurred in 1878.

The brand mascot was indeed a Durham bull (not a steer or heifer).  To my knowledge, the Durham Whiskey, and the Buffalo Bourbon from Sacramento, are the only pre-prohibition embossed whiskeys with a bovine embossed on it. And there's no doubt about the sex of the critter when you look at the embossing pattern...


Later, they had an acid etched picture shot glass produced to advertise the brand. It also sported the now famous bull.

The Durham whiskey bottle was merchandised on both the east and the west coast but the number of examples found west of the Rockies has been slim at best. As far as early glop top whiskies go, the Durham is tough to beat, either with, or without the foot. It may not be in the heavy hitters club that the western "curved leg R" Chielovich Durham is, but for my money, it's one heckuva bottle.

And that's no Bull~


PS: We recently acquired a significant and large collection of western glop and tooled whiskies. The Durham was part of this collection. Please feel free to touch base with me if you have a "wish list", as we will be making the collection available for purchase on our soon to be published summer mailing list. Best bet is via email at
Thanks and as always, best of luck with your collecting endeavors.

Monday, June 23, 2014


27 & 28 June 2014
(Friday & Saturday)

Reno, Nevada
Reno Antique Bottle & Collectibles Club

51st Annual Show & Sale

Grand Sierra Resort and Casino
2500 East Second Street, Reno, NV 89595

See Ya there!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cleanliness. It's not all bad~

A while ago there was some pretty heated debate about cleaning bottles.

The discussions took place on Western Bitters News, Peachridge, the WWG (here) as well as on another website which shall remain un-named. The anonymous website had some extremely harsh (bordering on fanatical) words to say about the morality or, (according to them), lack thereof, involved in cleaning bottles.

It seemed that everyone had their own slant on bottle cleaning; self included. By far and away though, most supported the procedure, assuming that, if and when the bottle was to change hands, both parties were aware of said cleaning.

I stated the following;
"Thanks to what I've recently learned, I think that it's a travesty to leave a good (but stained) bottle stuffed away when it can be restored to as new appearance and be proudly displayed for all to enjoy."

One of the bottles pictured in the WWG article of 10/28/12 was a badly stained open pontil Dr. Hooflands German Bitters. It was an Oregon dug gold rush era bottle, but such a dog that it sat in a box here, both before and after the article. (hint, if you click your mouse on the photos, they'll open in a separate and enlarged window for a real eye opener)
Recently, a good friend of mine got into the good stuff. The mailman arrived with a gift from him a couple of days after we chatted about the dig. It was a Rosedale OK "German connection" glop top. Neat bottle, I guessed, beneath an eighth of an inch of stain and crud. Odd, the stain was pretty much a dead ringer for the Hoofland's "case of leprosy".

To clean, or not to clean... I bit the bullet and took a chance. The stain had to go and the Hooflands would be the guinea pig. I was stunned after the "Ol Bottle Doc." had worked his magic on it.



With that dilema put to bed, I made the decision to take a chance on the German Rosie. Check out the before and the after.





And so I pose the question; Is the practice of cleaning deserving of tar and feathering, drawing and quartering or jail time as another author so pointedly espoused?

You be the judge. Amoral, immoral, or the right thing to do? Which would you rather have in your collection; the before or the after?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A picture pair from Portland

As many of you are aware of, we do occasional consignment sales for collectors who are adverse to eBay or the "big auction houses". We recently received a couple of bottles from a collector up north that we just don't see; ever. Both are Portland picture whiskies and both are just flat rare. We've seen a total of two of one and three of the other over the past 40 years. Both are tooled tops and clear in color. I realize that this may well turn off some of the purists out there, but for those who appreciate fancy, full faced embossing coupled with extreme rarity, this pair is tough to beat.

They are "Commodores Royal OK Old Bourbon". The embossing patterns differ slightly; with one having "KY" after Bourbon; the other "Rye" after Bourbon. The other primary difference are the names of the proprietors; Marx. & Jorgensen vs. E. C. Jorgensen.
I learned, a long time ago, not to publish what has been regurgitated as fact for the past 50 years. As such, I spend a great deal of time trying to either verify, or discredit, that which has been accepted as gospel with regards to western whiskey history.
The history of this pair of pictures is almost as tough to come by as the bottles themselves.  There's been little to nothing written about them and Portland newspaper and business directories are scant to non-existent compared to San Francisco.

John Thomas was, in this particular instance, for the most part correct.

 Here's what we came up with in terms of history regarding this pair of bottles and the folks that were responsible for them:

Daniel Marx &  E. C. Jorgensen;

According to Thomas, the firm of Marx. & Jorgensen had their start up in 1877. This is probably either correct, or quite close. (the newspaper article in the closing chapter of this article states 1876). I located an ad from "The Daily Astorian" dated January 26, 1879 stating that the firm already had an established branch operating in Astoria, Oregon, which is 98 miles by river, downstream from Portland.

Astoria has, as many will recall, been the source of more than just a handful of rare whiskies (and bitters) over the years.

According to what I was able to glean, their product line appears to have been exclusive to one brand, "Commodores Royal Old OK Bourbon". It was Kentucky bourbon whiskey, which was casked at the distillery on the east coast (I was unable to determine who the distiller was), shipped in hogsheads via railroad, and bottled initially in embossed private mold amber glop top cylinders in Portland. This bottle is quite rare, and is considered to be one of the top Oregon whiskies.

Later, a clear "German connection" glop top cylinder was produced. This bottle would date. ca. early to mid 1890's. About the same time, a domestically produced tool top was also blown. Neither the amber glop, or the clear tool tops are embossed with the name of the product.
The third variant in the lineup of embossed Marx & Jorgensen cylinders is a "real hitter". It would date from approximately the same era as the prior variants; ca. early 1890's - 1902. It is embossed with full faced coverage "Commodores / Royal / OK / Old / Bourbon K.Y." inside of a large ornate draped crest topped by a large jeweled crown, with "Marx & Jorgensen / Portland Ogn" beneath. (why the period after both K and Y in KY?).

The bottle was blown with a manganese dioxide based de-colorizor that allows the bottle to turn purple when exposed to UV radiation (sunlight). It has a long tapered collar over single ring closure that was sealed with a cork. The shoulders were air vented by a series of six small vents. The base was air vented in a like manner. The embossing does not bear any indication of air venting, although it is extremely bold and crisp. The base is plain and void of mold marks or glasshouse identifiers. We are unable to ascertain for certain which of the glass factories blew this variant, although all evidence points to San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works.


A pair of matching acid etched advertising shot glasses were produced to advertise the brand.

Commodore is a military rank used in many navies. The etch pattern is reflective of this, picturing a commodore on the rigging of a sailing ship.

On January 11, 1902 a notice appeared in the Portland newspaper "The Morning Oregonian" , which signaled the beginning of the end of the firm. The notice was a "dissolution of co-partnership", in which Daniel Marx announced his impending retirement. Emil C. Jorgensen would assume the roll of president and the responsibilities of the firm.

E. C. Jorgensen & Co. was comprised of Emil C. Jorgensen as president, Carl F. Bartholama as vice president and Max Fleischauer as secretary. The two partners were rumored to have bought out Marx's interests upon his retirement but, to our knowledge, no concrete evidence to support this exists.


After the changing of the guard, a new mold was commissioned for bottles. All production techniques noted above with regards to the prior bottle apply to this bottle as well and it too, will turn purple. This variant closely resembles the original with a couple of exceptions. Obviously the change of company name was reflected in the new embossing pattern. Another small change is in the product itself. Rather than stating that the bourbon was "K.Y.", the new mold states Bourbon & Rye. This indicates that the product was now being distilled and rectified on the west coast; no doubt to reflect the growing acceptance of west coast bourbon whiskey (and rye whiskey) and also to decrease expenses and increase profit.

One other difference encountered, although rarely, is the presence of the Riley patent inside thread closure. Thomas had never seen an example, but noted the supposed existence of one example with this new style substitute for the old cork style top. The example we have is believed to be the one that John referenced.

In keeping with the advertising theme of the era, an acid etched shot glass, sans Marx & Jorgensen was also produced.

The death knell of E. C. Jorgensen & Co. sounded on December 31, 1905. An article appeared in "The Morning Oregonian" announcing the closing of the firm. And so, with this brief announcement, the doors to the firm of Marx & Jorgensen, and E. C. Jorgensen & Co. closed for the last time.


Thankfully, we have two full faced picture whiskies and three acid etched picture shot glasses, which were produced for the firm, to remind us of these two men, and their Commodore brand. All are rare.

Thanks to Robin Preston for the shot glass photos. They are from the estate of the late Ken Schwartz~

Friday, May 30, 2014

Grampa's Medicine

Every now and then I "stray to the dark side", as friend Rick puts it. Today I'm taking a break from the normal fare of bourbon and rye and am instead delving into the history of an interesting druggist bottle.


Grampa's Medicine

Years ago I had a digging partner named "Tom". He had some, shall we say, "unusual" drinking habits. Most of my pals are what could be termed maintenance drinkers. You know, a few beers every night along with a glass of wine or two at supper.

Tom, on the other hand, was a binge drinker. He'd go for a couple of days and never touch a drop. And then he'd climb up on the diving board and take the plunge. I can recall getting emails from him on those binge nights time stamped 3AM. After the better part of a case of beer, they were generally unintelligible...

He didn't care for hard liquor either. Wine and beer were his refreshment of choice. He called it "Grandpas medicine".
My wife's folks are in their mid 80's. We've recently moved them into a senior retirement complex here in J'ville. Although originally from the south S. F. Bay Area, they'd live in Mt. Shasta since Dicks retirement, many years ago. Their home in San Jose was a modest single story tract home. When they relocated to No. Cal., they brought everything (and I mean everything) with them. In the ensuing years, they continued to hoard. The place in Mt. Shasta has a 3,00 square foot two story home, a two car garage, a 1,000 square foot shop, two large outbuildings and a horse trailer. All packed to the rafters with... "stuff".

Since the move to the retirement center, we've been tasked with the job of sorting through 65 years worth of; you name it~. Sadly, most of the "stuff" has been fodder for the dumpster. There have been a couple of exceptions though (thank God). We found a few boxes full of fairly early beer openers, many from S. F. We also dug out an album stuffed full of pre 1900 San Francisco business and trade cards. Neat "stuff"!

One afternoon, while pawing through cases of empty "no - deposit / no - return" 1970's Pepsi bottles and pull tab Schlitz beer cans, I stumbled across an amber tooled quart blob beer. At first glance I thought it was a John Rapp or something equally unexciting. Instead, it turned out to be embossed "Franks Bros. / San Francisco". Turns out, it's a half way decent bottle.

A little while later, while tossing newspaper in the recycling, a small pharmacy bottle rolled out of the stack. My seven year old grand daughter, Ali, made a diving save just before it hit the pavement. As she held up the prize, I said "neat medicine". Ali joked, "look, it's Grampa's medicine". She then commented about the color; a rich sun colored amethyst. (I recall my first bottle find - it too was purple).
This bottle was embossed. A mortar and pestle on one side with "Pure Drugs" embossed on it. To the right was embossed "Dr. A. A. Gilmour / San Francisco / 500 G. G. Ave.". 


I said "let's see what we can find out about this Dr. Gilmour" as I fired up the laptop. I explained to her that I might be able to find out who he was through the use of old city directories and newspaper articles. My inclination, based on the look of the bottle was to start in 1900, and then work both backwards and forwards. This would tell us how long he was in business and maybe a little more about him. She seemed genuinely interested. A budding young collector in the making?

Hmm... nothing in 1900. 1895? Bingo; but the address was wrong~

Here's a chronology of his appearance in the San Francisco / Crocker directories, starting in 1889.
500 Golden Gate Ave. matched the bottles embossing.

Looks like Angus Jr. (Angus D.) decided to join the family business in 1892, right after the big move over to McAllister.


A little more digging was rewarded with a brief history of his career through the year 1892. It rounds out a lot of the questions about his earlier years.

"The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 1, page 491-492, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

 Angus A. Gilmour, M.D.
Angus A. Gilmour, M.D., proprietor of Gilmour's Golden Gate Pharmacy, at No. 410 McAllister street, San Francisco, has been a resident of California since 1868, and has been engaged in the practice of medicine for the past eighteen years. He was born in Three Rivers, Province of Quebec, Canada, in 1848, and received his early education in the public school of that place.
At the age of twelve years he was sent to Nicolet College, where he remained for five years. He then entered the medical department of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he graduated in 1868, receiving his degree of Doctor of Medicine and Surgery. He at once engaged in the practice of his profession, and was appointed surgeon of the Canada Active Militia, and in 1872, to the medical charge of the Shefford Field Battery or Artillery, Col. T. Amyreault commanding. After ten years he retired from active service, with the rank of Surgeon-Major. Meanwhile Dr. Gilmour had been engaged in private practice at Montreal and later at Waterloo, Province of Quebec, where his battery was stationed.
He came to California in 1878, on a leave of absence, and remained six months. He returned to Canada, leaving his wife, whose health required a milder climate, and after nine months spent in Canada he again came to California, where he has since remained, and engaged in the practice of medicine. The first ten years were spent in Modesto, Stanislaus county, where he practiced medicine ten years and owned a drug-store for five years.
In 1888 he sold out, and came to San Francisco, where he purchased a drug-store, which he now owns, in addition to his medical practice. Considering the time he has been in San Francisco he has done well. He is a member of several Scotch societies. He has been fortunate enough to receive the appointment of surgeon of Clan Fraser, numbering nearly 200 and growing very fast. The order was instituted in 1890 by Hugh Fraser and Rev. Mr. Easton, of Calvary church: John Elder as chief; Maxwell L. Crowe as Tanist; L. Drerer as treasurer; Wm. McCormack, secretary, F. L. Gilchrist as financial treasurer (some of the best Scotch blood in San Francisco). The Doctor is also medical examiner for the order of Knights of Honor, and physician of the Thistle Club, making some 500 or 600.
His parents were Dr. W. A. R. Gilmour, born in Glasgow, Scotland, and Helen Cresse, the latter the youngest daughter of Seigneur Cresse, of Nicolet. Her ancestors were born in France, and were prominent among the early French settlers in that part of Canada, Seigneur Cresse being the representative of the French government until the British occupation.
His father graduated in medicine and surgery at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and obtained the degree of F. R. H. S., Glasgow. Emigrating to Canada, he became a prominent physician at Three Rivers, Quebec, and was one of the medical examiners for the Province of Quebec. He is now eighty-three years old and still practicing in Waterloo, Province of Quebec.
Dr. Gilmour's eldest brother, Colonel A. H. Gilmour, is the colonel of the Sixtieth Regiment of Active Canadian Militia, and private banker at Stanbridge East, Quebec, Canada; another brother, James Gilmour, is a wholesale dry-goods merchant in Montreal, of the firm of Lindsey, Gilmour & Co.; two other brothers, George and Alfred, are prosperous merchants in Canada; George and Alfred are in Waterloo. Dr. Gilmour's wife was a daughter of Duke Roberts, a capitalist of Waterloo, Canada. They have one boy, Angus Gilmour, who is now attending school in San Francisco.

Back to the directories;
1893 (phone directory)
 Another move, this time to 404 Golden Gate Ave, just down the block from the old place at 500 G.G.
Angus Jr. is still at it.
Oops, looks like Angus Jr. decided that the family business wasn't to his liking after all.
Angus Jr., back at the store again.
Or maybe not... And now a quick hop, skip and a jump to 408 Van Ness. Ave.
Looks like Jr. finally decided that being a machinest was "the ticket" after all.
And yet another move. This time to 1236 Market.
The "ol doc" hit a bump in the road this year. Seems that his wife headed for greener pastures as this article from the San Francisco Call will attest to.
Once again, a move. This time back to McAllister.

The year 1899 was obviously the capstone of Dr. Angus A. Gilmour's career. He was now a well respected surgeon, catering his skills to the elite gentil of San Francisco. Unfortunately, the year of 1899 was also his last.
Now that I had all the pieces of the puzzle neatly in place, I pulled Ali aside and asked what she could deduce from what we'd found. She's a smart cookie. "Well Grampa",  she said, "He moved a lot!".  "And the address on the bottle only matches the address in the books for three years, 1889, 1890 and 1891. That means that the bottle must be pretty rare. And it's pretty too."
With that, I handed her the bottle. And Grampa's medicine, became Ali's medicine. Her first antique bottle.
(Here's hoping that the fire stays lit~)
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