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Friday, February 26, 2010

Extra, Extra - Read all about it!

Holt Glass Works never existed! We've been hoodwinked. Yep, I'm guilty as charged, along with a lot of other collectors. I swallowed the Holt myth hook line and sinker for the past God knows how many years. According to legend, Holt Glass works was located in West Berkley California, and was dated to ca. 1893 - 1906. This according to Dr. Julian Toulouse in his work "Bottle Makers and Their Marks" written in 1971.

Unbeknownst to each other, Andrew K. and I have been working independently on documenting the dates that Holt Glass Works was supposedly in business in order to more accurately date some of the transition whiskies from the turn of the century (TOC). Somewhere, I thought that I recalled hearing or reading that the factory had been rebuilt in 1905 after some sort of calamity and subsequently went to the ground for good on April 18,1906, courtesy of the Great Earthquake and Fire. We tried to use those events as a research tool as well. Problem was, the harder we researched, and the deeper we dug, the more it's mere existence seemed to slip from our grasp. To heck with tightening up the time frame and narrowing down the "* H" to "*** H" base mark. We couldn't even find written documentation of a Holt factory.

Andrew published the following this morning on the glop top site. His research seemed to point increasingly to the probability that existence of Holt Glass Works has been nothing but a myth.

He wrote:

"Did Holt Glass Works Even Exist??

I'm pretty sure it did, but who founded it and how long it existed needs to be more clearly defined. A while back I tried to research Holt Glass Works and came up with rather inconclusive findings. I started my research by reviewing the Berkeley 1892,1894, and 1897 city directories and did not find ANY glass works in the business section, and furthermore I could not find anyone with the last name of "Holt" living in or doing business in Berkeley during those years. Next, I investigated the 1900 census and found a William Holt (born in England) living in Berkeley with an occupation of "glass dealer". After reviewing city directories and census records, I decided to investigate the 1901 Sanborn Map of West Berkeley to see if I could find any clues and located a vacant glass works on the corner of 2nd and Addison Street. Could that be Holt Glass works ??????? Unknown.

I then turned my attention to 19th century Bay Area newspapers and found the following:

March 23 1885 - Campbell Glass Works of Berkeley about to begin producing glass by May 1st.

May 22 1885 - J. Campbell & Co. (proprietors of Campbell Glass Works) dissolved and J.H. Campbell to continue business in his own name.

January 15 1887 - O'Neil Flint Glass Works of West Berkeley burned and planned to be rebuilt.

November 7 1895 - Vacant glass works in Berkeley.

March 26 1896 - Glass works in West Berkeley to be re-opened or re-built.

1902 - Vacant glass works in West Berkeley on 2nd and Addison Street.

My theory is that the English emigrant William Holt re-opened one of the above vacant glass works between 1896 and 1901. I'm even open to the possibility of Holt Glass Works never existing or being named something else since the phrase "Holt Glass Works" or even "Holt Glass" did now show up in ANY documentation (newspapers, municipal reports, books. ect) published between 1885 and 1922.

Maybe a much more thorough investigation of Campbell and O'Neil glass works could shed light on the true history of Holt Glass Works.

Has anyone researched the years of all the western companies that put out bottles with that base embossed H ?

We were able to find one link to a Wm. Holt in conjunction with glass making in Berkeley. The reference was gleaned from a book written in 1952 entitled The Glass Industry; Volume 33‎ - Page 256 (Technology & Engineering - 1952).

The dating is close, but no cigar when it comes to a match according to what Toulouse wrote. And where did they get their information back in 1952? Why can't we pick up the trail of breadcrumbs? Is this what Toulouse used when he listed Holt? And why the discrepancy in dating the enterprise?

In the meantime, weeks worth of corresponding finally started to pay off and I began to receive information from research librarians and historical societies in the East Bay. I also spent the better part of this afternoon digitally screening all copies of the S.F. Call, and other Bay Area newspapers for news articles and or advertisements. I ran Holt Glass, Berkley glass factories, Berkley glass works, etc. etc. from 1895 - 1905. The search was absolutely void, nada, nuthin'~.

And then came the straw that broke the camels back in the form of an email from a senior research librarian in West Berkley. It stated;

I found many references to industrial and manufacturing businesses in West Berkeley during the era you mention, including multiple references to a glassworks called O'Neill Glass Company located at the foot of University Avenue. However, there was no mention of a Holt Glass Works or Factory.

There were also references to two substantial fires in the area. The first, in 1893, is described in The History of West Berkeley as "BIG FIRE at Sixth and Delaware destroyed four buildings including a shoe store, a saloon, a butcher shop and adjoining dwellings." The second, in 1901 is described as "A disastrous fire destroyed the Niehaus Brothers & Company Planning Mill." Neither mentions a glassworks.

I found entries for a Wm. Holt in the Berkeley City Directories from that era. The first entry I was able to find is from the 1899 Directory and the last from 1904. They read as folows:

1899 - Holt, Wm, lab, r 4th cor Holyoke
1900 - Holt, Wm, glass S F, r Anthony nr 5th
1902 - Holt, Wm, glass dlr S F, r Anthony nr 5th
1903 - Holt, Wm, glasswkr S F, r 829 Anthony
1904 - Holt, Wm, glass dlr S F, r Murray bet 7th and 8th

I say, too many inconsistencies and contradictions! Holt Glass Works - Myth Busted?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Old Private Stock. A friend of mine recently gifted me with a bottle of a little known and highly touted brandy. In perusing the catalogue that came with it, I noticed that they offered their own "Old Private Stock". Funny, the more things change, the more they stay the same...

A. P. Hotaling's OPS brand first appeared on the market around 1878. Two very similar examples exist. One is #52 in the latest Thomas text and was blown in a full face two piece mold with an applied top. It is embossed OPS / Bourbon / Whiskey / From / A. P. Hotaling's / Old / Private Stock . San Francisco. Another nearly identical mold variant exists, but is missing the "OLD". It's listed as #53. It's actually the older of the two. A very small number of #52 have been seen with tooled tops and are extremely rare. They fall into that crossover category that we recently discussed.

Ebay currently has an opportunity for someone looking for one of the tooled variants. The seller has described it as "OPS in fancy monogram / BOURBON / WHISKEY / FROM / A.P. HOTALINGS / OLD / PRIVATE STOCK / SAN FRANCISCO / .. A Pristine example with ZERO ISSUES .. Tool top, 2 piece mold with the front being nicely whittled, a few scattered bubbles. Only the OPS bottle is being offered. Superb example of a 1885-1892 Western whiskey. Listed in Barnett # 218 t." The photos appear to depict an exceptional example with strong overall character and a great strike.

According to his count meter, quite a few folks are watching it and I wouldn't be surprised to see the snipers hard at work tomorrow afternoon when it closes!

Photos courtesy of Ebay and the consignor, "dabitterinn"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Canyonville or Bust

Canyonville 2010 

February 11, 2010

Dear Dealers and Fellow Collectors;

October seems like light years away. And yet, it will be show time before we know it. The Jefferson State Antique Bottle Collectors are pleased to announce the continuation of our ongoing relationship with Seven Feathers Casino Resort and to let you know that the show is a go for 2010 on Friday October 15th and Saturday October 16th. Mark your calendar!

2009 again showed that despite the economy, Canyonville continues to be an increasingly popular attraction for bottle and insulators collectors alike. 2009 saw roughly 70 sales tables and 6 display tables spoken for. Early bird attendance was up, way up, for 2009! Sales again were strong and most dealers reported that they did as well or even better than in previous years; again despite the economy. And, true to form, a lot of “sleepers” made their way into the show. Several dealers that I've spoken with since the show commented that they were able to network with locals, gaining access to quantities of "stuff " after the show that were real bargains!

We were able to break even last year and that has resulted in no increase in table space fees. The new table arrangement that we laid out last year was well received and dealers commented on how much better it was compared to previous years. We will be able to accommodate a total of 74 sales and eight display tables for 2010. First come - first served will again be important. Everything that you’ve come to appreciate about the show; plush carpeting and comfortable seating, linens and table drapes, valet parking, great lighting, the onsite appraisals and live auction action, plus the chips 'n dip & no- host bar on Friday evening remains as well. And of course, the entertainment, dining and wagering opportunities that Seven Feathers has to offer is also tough to beat. We’ve received reduced block room rates this year. Just mention "Jefferson State Bottle & Insulator Show room block" to receive your preferred rate.

Our website will be up and running soon and we will begin accepting early dealer reservations starting around June 1st. On behalf of Bill, Dale, Scott and myself, we’d like to personally extend our invitations to you, our valued dealers and fellow collectors, to join us on October 15th and 16th for Canyonville 2010~.

See you in October at Seven Feathers Casino Resort, where you can Expect The Best!

Bruce Silva
Show Chairman
P. O. Box 1565
Jacksonville, Or. 97530

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Makes you want to say "bless you" after someone says it. Sounds more like a sneeze than a brand of whiskey, doesn't it. Actually, Old Potuin is the proper name and it was a Johnny Come Lately to the west coast liquor game.


Josiah Harbinson was a relative later comer to the Sacramento whiskey crowd, tossing his hat in the ring in 1903. Sacramento was already a thriving metropolis in 1903, thanks in part to the fact that the city was the west coast anchor for the transcontinental railroad and also the state capitol. 1903 saw the establishment in Sacramento of both the first automobile dealership and J. Harbisons liquor wholesaling endeavors. He chose 1917 6th St. as the home for his fledgling enterprise and selected B. W. Houchin, Old Buck, and Old Potuin as his flagship brands.

Etched pre-pro shot glasses were ordered for the first two brands. The B. W. Houchin glass has an attractive pattern, with bold lettering surrounded by an intricate wreath pattern.

A highball glass also exists. Both this brand, and Old Buck that follows, were registered to Harbinson in 1906. The Old Buck glass takes shot glass art to a new level with an ornate and detailed picture of, none other than Old Buck.

One glass was lettered with a conventional acid paste etch, another in black enamel and is topped with a glowing gold rim. Man, how I wish that an embossed picture whiskey for this brand would surface! Unfortunately, neither of the preceding brands had an embossed bottle produced; at least that we know of - yet...
Old Potuin - (bless you); no shot glass known, but... a killer embossed whiskey does exist. Blown with a tool top in clear glass that will turn amethyst, the Old Potuin is extremely scarce. The brand was registered to Harbinson in 1905 and was his earliest. I've seen two, and only heard of a few more kicking around since I started collecting back in the sixties.
The bottles have a slight domed kick up with an unusual base mark; 400 over the number 1. They are air vented at the shoulder and the embossing is set into a round slug plate.
Around 1906 Harbinson packed up and moved to new digs over on 2nd St.; 915 2nd to be exact. In 1916 he partnered with his brother and the firm name was changed to Harbinson Brothers. No known shot glasses or bottles exist for this partnership, although odds are, a lot of slick cylinders and flasks found in the neighborhood at one time sported paper labels with their name on it. The brothers remained partners at the 2nd St. address until shutting the doors around 1918, courtesy no doubt due to the looming passage of the Volstead Act and subsequent prohibition.
Footnote: Thanks to Robin P. and his photo rchives for use of the shot glass photos.
Second Footnote: The Old Potuin example pictured in this article has been consigned by a fellow collector and is available for purchase. Feel free to email me for details and pricing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eagle Glen

The photos of the #16 base Eagle Glen drummed up quite a number of emails. Obviously, this particular brand of tool top picture whiskey has a pretty loyal following.

The firm of Mohns and Kaltenbach first registered the brand in 1895. It was then that the now infamous amber #16 base with high domed kick up bottle was blown. By whom, we still don't know (hint - hint). The embossing detail and relief is beyond compare. There is literally nothing left tothe imagination and the eagle looks as though he could fly off the face of the bottle. A clear picture variant was also produced in a different mold with the typically seen flat base.

A flat flask was also produced for them. Also called a "dandy flask",  many of these had threads blown through the top, were then finished off on the grinding wheel, and topped with a fancy pewter cap.

As a side bar, Mohns and Kaltenbach also marketed Atlas Bourbon; a brand
which resulted in the manufacture
of both a rare picture whiskey and
matching etched pre-pro shot glass.

According to records, the firm became Mohns and Mohns in 1901 (S.F. Call- June 15, 1901 advertisement), when Kaltenbach left the partnership. The clear mold from Mohns and Kaltenbach was reworked for the firm. Some examples show strong detail in the wing feathers whereas other are notably weak; similar to the Phoenix Whiskey.
And true to form, another flat flask appeared.
The firm of Mohns and Mohns incorporated either in late 1903 or early 1904. A new mold was cut reflecting the incorporation. The bottles were blown in clear glass only and once again, the detail is striking. Notice the reappearance of the nearly vertical "AND"? This partner ship lasted until 1904, when Werle and Willoh purchased the brand.

The old mold was reworked yet again for Werle and Willoh with bottles once again being blown in both clear and amber. By now, the mold is showing consireable wear and the loss of definition becomes obvious. A time line of documented addresses is as follows; 29 Market (1905-1906), They were burned out in the '06 earthquake and relocated to 55 Market (1907-1916), 147-149 Market (1917).

Notice - no mention of a 59 Market St. in the archives? And yet, here it is...It is unknown if this was a mold error (probable) or if they did indeed have outlets at both locations. I'd lean toward the former in that it makes little sense to have two retail locations, separated just a few doors down from each other...
Research over the past few days has confirmed that the 59 Market Street addess is indeed a mold cutting error that was caught shortly after a small run of bottles was produced and distributed. They are rarely encountered.

The firm also commissioned the production of three different etched shot glasses.

In addition to the cylinders and shot glasses, a "dandy flask" was also produced for them in both amber and clear glass. Notice the address goof on this bottle as well as the cylinder?
This example still sports the original label!

All bottles produced for the Eagle Glen brand of whiskey are exceptionally rare, as are the shots glasses. Many collectors have never seen one and those that have both seen and owned them are in a definite minority. Funny how a brand can be made and distributed over a span or 22 years and have so few examples still remaining. Funny too, how these bottles were omitted from the Thomas works despite the fact that they are infinitely rarer than many of the bottles that he so favored. Maybe that's why they've remained such a great value over time~

A special thank you to Rich L. for his assistance with this article and the photography of many of these examples!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wanted - Dead or Alive

As many of you know, Bob Barnett assigned all rights to the Western Whiskey Bottles series to me shortly before he passed away. Bob's final work was Western Whiskey Bottles 4th Edition.

As some of you know, the 5th edition was in the late stages of drafting when the motherboard on my computer fried, corrupting both the primary hard drive and the external back-up. The data on both drives was deemed non-recoverable despite the best efforts of my IT guy. Even the use of forensic recovery programs failed to bring the data back from the dead...

Maybe a blessing in disguise. Rumors of a large number of new finds have circulated since the "crash", giving us a chance to add a lot more listings to the new edition. The work on the 5th edition has resumed (actually re-started from scratch) and I am actively seeking documentation of "new" western whiskies, regardless of whether they are glop or tool tops. If you have an unlisted bottle that is not present in the 4th edition, please forward crisp, detailed, photos of it to me.

I'd like both a full body shot, as well as a close-up of the embossing. Also, feel free to forward any specifics about the provenance. Damage is not a consideration; whole bottles or just embossed panels are welcomed.

Like I said,
Wanted - Dead or Alive!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good Ol' number "16"

The mystery of mold numbering on the base has us scratching our heads as often as not. Sure, McC and C&I show up on a lot of older whiskies and the source of the bottles is well know. But what about the "lowly" tool tops?

There's base mark numbers, letters, letter and number, and number and letter combinations. Why, the thought of it is almost dizzying~ One particular base mark has always had me scratching my head; Good Ol' number "16". You've seen 'em. High domed kick up with a big number 16 planted
smack dab in the middle of the dome on the base. Come to think about it, maybe you
haven't seen them -'cause they're rare!

About as common as chicken lips, the number "16" variant is seen on a small handful of mid nineties tool top cylinders and "crossovers" with neatly applied tops. The numbers of each are about equal. These bottles are comparatively easy to date thanks to McLeod and Faus, who were in business for only two years; 1894 & '95.

Other S.F. wholesalers who used this "16" base mold include Weil Bros and Sons (ca. 1888 - 1917), Seegelken and Buckner (ca. 1893 - 1899), and Roth and Co. (ca. 1859 - 1919). Seems to me that there might be another, but the name escapes me at the moment.

The embossing patterns on all but the Roth (and it may be as well but can't remember that either) are very distinct in that the lettering is contained within a nearly full faced oval, instead of the typical round slug plate. Other consistencies include an abnormally bold strike (probably because the molds were new and very few bottles were blown in them) a distinctive light orange amber coloration and notable overall character. I've heard of a total of five Weil's, a couple of Seegelken and Buckner's and Roth's and one solitary McLeod and Faus. The Weil is a fairly recent discovery and it is not yet listed.

The slug plate dimensions are identical but it appears that the portion of the mold containing the embossing was an insert. The McLeod and Faus and Seegelken and Buckner share a similarity in that the "and" in the
company name is almost vertically
embossed, whereas the Weil and Roth
have "and" embossed as "&". Embossing styles and fonts are about as varied as one could ever expect to encounter.

Top styles are also varied, as is the length that the necks were drawn out. None bear any evidence of mold air venting, although the Seegelken has what appears to be some form of embossing venting in the letters at the very top of the slug. The Weil does not.

In my book, this grouping is pretty tough to beat. They've got everything going for them in terms of color and character. Compared to early glop tops with equal rarity, they can be had for a song; that is, if you can find one... And, preferences aside, both the glop top and tooled top versions of Good Ol' number "16" are darned tough to beat for even the most advanced collectors out there in western whiskey land. But the question remains; who were those masked men that made this bunch of bottles?

And the plot thickens; I kinda thought I remembered another and sure enough, my old pal Rich L. sent photos of it. Now we're talkin'! A picture toolie with the "16" base. Notice the familiar "and". What a smoker!

Oh, and by the way, MOHNS & KALTENBACH (ca.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

A quick summary is now in order. Based on the earliest possible date that the bottles could nave been blown for Mohns & Kalthenbach, and the latest date that they could have been blown for McLeod and Faus, it is evident that the "16" base could have been produced only in 1895. Time frame confirmed.

Now who were those masked men???
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