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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A dose of reality~

Contrary to popular belief, we weren't abducted by aliens, locked up in a Mexican jail, and didn't fall of the face of the earth. And yes, the WWTT Gazette is alive and well.

Actually, we did sort of fall off the face of the earth, only to reappear in the Caribbean for a nice break from "reality". White coral sand beaches, great company, great food, and plenty of beer.

What more could one ask for?

But now it's back to the real world, and snow on the ground. Let's see now; 84* with gentle trade winds blowing across the white sand beaches, a cold Corona in one hand and a sun burned face versus 33*, cold, wet, and windy with the white sand replaced by slushy snow. Bundled up in long sleeves and flannel, the Corona has been replaced with a steaming cup of coffee and I'm freezing my butt off...

The obvious question first. Did I score any bottles? Nope. I even employed a local in my futile attempts but none were to be had.
Not that it came as any great surprise. After all, what would any self respecting tooled top western whiskey be doing on a beach half a world away? I did find a few empties though...

One case gin was noted, stuffed away in the dungeon of a 17th century coral fortress in Nassau though~


Paddle molded and free blown, it was an amazing piece of early glass.
Thanks for all of the emails during our absence. I'm doing my best to catch up on one and all in short order and should be able to whittle the 134 down to zero in the next couple of days.

Thanks too, for the constant flow of photos and information about previously unlisted bottles. It's great to learn of flea market finds, successful digs and swaps that continue to add to the seemingly endless array of western whiskies. You fellow collectors are what make this hobby what it is; a true brotherhood of dedicated historians. And I personally want to thank one and all!

OK, back to reality; whatever that is. In the coming weeks, we'll see articles regarding new finds, runs of picture whiskies, "new" molds for previously documented bottles, mold evolutions and what have you. Don't be bashful either! Feel free to let me know what you'd like to see in the way of articles. After all, this is our site!

With that, please enjoy the sunset on our final evening in paradise~


Saturday, March 13, 2010

William Holt; The man behind the myth

In as much as we've put the nails on the Holt Glass Works coffin, I thought that it would be fun to learn about William Holt. My mother volunteers at a library in the Bay Area. She asked a personal favor of the research librarian on my behalf who, after much effort, provided us with the following information.

In this pamphlet, published in 1905, we find the following;

The 1900 Berkley census states;

Translated; this means that his residence was located in Ward 6, on Anthony Street in Berkeley.

The 1910 Census reveals the following;

She went on to state;

How William Holt went from mild mannered glass cutter to the owner of the imaginary Holt Glass Works will remain forever clouded in the mists of time.

But, the next time you see a building in San Francisco that survived the great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, with beveled glass in the front door, or look up at panes of original wavy window glass, remember that you may well be looking at some of William Holt's handiwork (even if it didn't contain whiskey)~

A special thank you to Charlene Silva and the Campbell public library for their assistance in tracking down the information provided herein.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury; have you reached a decision?

Yes, your honor~

On the charge of falsely impersonating a Glass Works, we find the defendant, Holt Glass... GUILTY!

Based on weeks of both my and Andrew K's research, aided by libraries, historical societies, and online archives, the irrefutable truth is that the existence of Holt Glass Works has been disproved.

Dr. Julian Toulouse first mentioned the existence of Holt Glass Works in his 1971 work, entitled Bottle makers and Their Marks. One website " Glass Factory Marks on Bottles" quotes Toulouse as saying " H. Holt Glass Works, West Berkeley, CA (1893-1906) is the source of various bottles with an "H", found primarily in the Western states. Holt-made bottles will have a number (with one, two, or three digits) accompanying the "H". In most cases, the number is reportedly found ABOVE the "H", although in some cases is may appear either below, or positioned to the right of the letter. (fonts occasionally differ slightly but are similar based on my observations)

And that is what we have accepted as fact for the past four decades. A few weeks ago, in an effort to date a different variant of the Gold Dust tool top that surfaced (it has a 684 "H" base mark), I decided to dig deeper into the Holt Glass story. Turns out that Andrew was doing what amounted to identical research; neither of us being aware of what the other was doing. This amounted to a double blind test when the cards finally hit the table.

And so, using different tools, we attempted to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. Problem was, the harder we researched, and the deeper we dug, the more Holt'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 uncovered the following chronology;

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.

Later, we found a 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).

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 a day 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 1890 - 1906. The search was absolutely void, nada, nuthin'~.

Finally documentation arrived in the form of an email from a senior research librarian in West Berkley. Unfortunately, instead of proving Holt Glass Works presence it seemed to reinforce the looming doubt that it never existed. 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\

Finally this morning the final pieces of the puzzle arrived from the California Historical Society;

Oakland-Alameda-Berkeley city directories produced these results:

1892, 1897 – no listing in Berkeley for Holt; no listing in the classified directory under glass for Holt

1899 (Berkeley) – Holt, Wm lab. R. 4th cor Holyoke [translation: William Holt, occupation: laborer, residing on 4th Street at the corner of Holyoke]

1900, 1902 (Berkeley) – Holt, Wm glass dlr SF r. Anthony nr. 5th [translation: William Holt, San Francisco-based glass dealer, residing on Anthony near 5th]

1905 (Berkeley) – Holt, Wm glass dlr r 629 Murray

1908 (Berkeley) – Holt, Wm glass r. 905 Murray

San Francisco city directory produced these results:

1905 – Holt, William. Prism Glass, plate and window glass, 280 Stevenson nr. 4th, tel John 4171, r. Berkeley – he is also listed in the classified ads in this directory under Glass-Plate

1906 Business Directory [post-fire-quake] – under Glass-Plate, is Holt & Habenicht, 269 Fell [St.]

1907 – Holt, William (Holt, Habenicht & Howlett) r. Berkeley [translation: he is with HH&H] – under Glass-Plate in the classified ads is Holt, Habenicht & Howlett at 269 Fell

The California State Archives failed to produce any dates of incorporation for a Holt Glass Factory located anywhere within the confines of the State of California.

And to further muddy the water, I was compiling the Late Winter mailing list this AM, looking over bottles with a fine tooth comb, when I happened upon a disturbing discovery. In one hand I had an E.A. Fargo and in the other, a Taussig / 26 & 28 Main; both toolies and both with nearly identical 29 basemarks. The difference? One had the "H" beneath the 29, but the other a C...

In conclusion, it appears that the base mark theory has been debunked. Yes, there are number over letter combinations but they can not be definitively linked to the non-existent Holt Glass works, or any other glass works for that matter. It also appears that Wm. Holt simply resided in Berkeley. He was indeed involved in glassmaking to a certain degree. However, his involvement was strictly limited to flat glasswares, as opposed to mold blown bottles, which were produced in San Francisco and not Berkeley. Had he either owned, or been involved in managing a glass factory that produced mold blown bottles, something would have shown up somewhere in the way of advertising or trade related news. The fact is, nothing exists.

Much as I hate to admit it, I think that we can agree with all certainty, that both the numbering system that we've attributed to the Holt Glass Works, as well as Holt Glass Works itself, have always been nothing but a myth.

Holt Glass; the jury sentences you to anonymity for life!

PS: One on hand Dr. Toulouse (and Bill Wilson for that matter), made more than their fair share of mistakes. And yet, they made do with what little they had to work with "way back" in 1971. Research into bottles and the companies that made them was all but non-existent. Archives were often located hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where these authors sat at their desks, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. The internet was decades off and what research being done at that time was often accomplished via phone or US mail and often relied on librarians who may or may not have transcribed the available facts to the letter.

That being said, both authors did the best they could with what tools that they had available at the time, and yes mistakes were made. But without their efforts, odds are, we wouldn't be sitting here today, having a cup of coffee some forty years later, reassembling the pieces of the puzzle that they left for us.
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