Thursday, May 20, 2010

Del Carlo Wine and Liquor

Back in the seventies, paper labeled whiskies were viewed with disdain. In fact, if a bottle was both labeled and embossed, a lot of folks just scrubbed off the paper in order to make the embossing easier to focus on. So much for history...

In the mid seventies, I saw the writing on the wall and started squirreling away honest paper labeled "stuff". It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the glass was going to outlast the paper by a few thousand years. Plenty of time for me to enjoy... Paper labeled whiskies, viewed as cast-offs, were affordable and back then collector competition was next to nothing. So, whenever I had a couple of nickels to rub together, I picked them up. It was about that time that Bob Barnett and I tossed around the relative rarity of embossed vs. labeled. And so, without fail, every few months my old pal would ship me over one or two that had showed up on his doorstep.

Six dozen and change later, I've got a fair representation of labeled bottles, most also embossed and a few with contents, competing for space with the "hitters". And truth be known, I value many of the labeled tool tops as much as I do my tooled pictures and "top shelf" globbies. Sure, when the time comes to pass them on to the next generation of collectors, they won't bring anywhere near the dollars that the yellow Tea Kettle, the green SHM, or the chocolate amber globby Bear Grass will, but for uniqueness this labeled stuff can't be beat!

And so, the next few postings will delve into the realm of paper labeled tool tops. We'll start off with Del Carlo Wine and Liquor Co.. Bob shipped three different ones to me around 1980. They'd come out of a collection down in the Bay Area. What first caught my interest with Del Carlo's wares was that all were on swirled shoulder slick cylinders. A novel approach to making sure that their product stood out against the other plain, label only, competitors on the shelf. And the graphics were nice; multi color, not overly done, but very eye catching just the same.

The first one, Golden Gate Whiskey, is just plain neat. The brand is, oh so, San Francisco. And the use of pastels and gilt really sets it off. Spelled, Whiskey, (KEY instead of KY) it's obvious that the brand was distilled and rectified in San Francisco. The bottle itself is extensively air vented and neatly made. No base marks are present.

According to glassworks catalogues of the post earthquake era, this style of whiskey bottle was called a Minnosota Brandy. The empty bottles ran the liquor dealer the princely sum of twenty one cents apiece.

The next one, West Point Bourbon Whiskey, is again a west coast product; although straight whiskey as opposed to blended or rectified. This time the use of black over white, with gilt borders, sets off the label. From a research standpoint, the presence of the lithographers name at the bottom helps to narrow down the time frame of production. And, once again, the label is just plain fancy

With a little research, I was able to locate the lithographer, Occidental Supply CO., S.F., who produced the labels.

They appear in the March 22, 1909 San Francisco Call classifieds; advertising themselves as Wine Makers Suppliers at 525 Market.

The last one out of the box came as quite a surprise. A. P. Hotaling & Co. Belmont Whisky. Whisky spelled KY indicated pure Kentucky Bourbon instead of the west coast product spelled KEY. Del Carlos address was again listed as 3692 Eighteenth St. and the phone number was Park 2154.                    

Hmm, that should be enough to start the search. Sure enough, the Sanborn map plainly shows a saloon at that location on the corner of Delores.

Several hours of sleuthing for hard data about D. Del Carlo, the principals of the saloon and or company, or the years that it was in business came up absoultely blank. Nuthin'! None of the City directories or phone books dating from 1895 - 1915 make any mention of the business. Still, there it is, plain as day. Dating is also made easier by the Pure Food and Drug Act stamp of 1906 on the label. And that makes sense, since the residential part of the city expanded westward after it was rebuilt, subsequent to the Great Earthquake and Fire.

Two theories about the Belmont brand are possible; either Del Carlo purchased unblended Kentucky Whisky in hogsheads from Hotaling and rebottled it under license, or they were nothing but a fly by night backwater saloon bottling red eye with a fancy label. Lending credence to the latter is the fact that the Belmont brand does not appear in the list of brands registered to Hotaling. In fact, only two western wholesalers registered the name Belmont; one being James Gibb (Belmont Whiskey) in 1902, the other an outfit by the name of Venaglia, Costa & Co. (Belmont Club Whiskey) that registered it prior to Gibb, in 1899. Shame, shame on Del Carlo; another imposter?

And yet, look at the label! It plainly shows the Hotaling brand on the barrel ends. Either the brand is indeed legit, or Mr. Del Carlo was skirting the dark edge of the gray area in an attempt to avoid the wrath of old A.P.'s legal department~ I guess we'll chalk this one up to another of life's mysteries...
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