Thursday, June 24, 2010

#202 WHAT?

Never say never. And it couldn't ring truer here. Western Whiskey Bottles 4th edition, Page 50 & 51. #202. Crown Distilleries / crown and shield / Company. Pint and fifth. Ca. 1901 - 1911. Shades of ambers ranging from orange and yellow to dirt clod brown. Normally neat like it was blown yesterday with a tidy tooled inside thread closure top. Not a bottle to get excited about, ever. That was until today.

Part of another collection rolled in and I about fell off my chair when I unwrapped this critter.

PCGW base mark. Yea, big deal.

But a drippy applied top? What'd they do, have grandpas day at the glassworks and bring in a few retirees for old times sake?

Anyone else ever see one like this? And no, it's not photoshopped~


Russell Umbraco is, unquestionably, the expert on Lilienthal / Crown Distilleries. Here's what he had to say about this bottle;

I still wonder how many mold variants Crown really made. As you probably don't know, Crown actually began production in 1894 (not 1895 as noted in some of the books). I went through a dozen of my Crowns and found one that matches yours except for a slight difference in the top, could be in the quality control of the manufacture. Both are base embossed as they were made in San Francisco at "P G Co". Most Crowns aren't base embossed, but a few are embossed with "P C G W". The key to this variant (yours) is in the crown itself, which has an oval base with its band containing 7 dots, seated very close to top of the shield. A similar variant with 7 dots, has a flattened bottom rather than the rounded oval as above and also has a neatly applied top, with no base embossing. I went through several of mine that are drip tops, but their embossings are quite different. I Don't have all of my Crowns unpacked yet and don't recall all except those with lots of character like the whittled drip top varieties. At one time I think I counted over two dozen variants. What I thought was fun, was to find an example of an Inside Thread top with its matching Cork top, but I have a few Cork tops, which is reasonable as the big advertising campaign for Crown was its IS thread closure for security. The best I can tell is that the inside thread closure began in or about 1892 by Lilienthal. If you run across a Crown with a Lilienthal IS stopper, Crown was using them also at least through 1906 until their supply ran out (I found many at my in laws mining camp in southern Nevada in the mid 1960's, which dated to 1906).

Monday, June 14, 2010

All this, and free shipping too!

I guess nothing should surprise me any more. Still, every once in a while even I get caught off guard. Such was the case this morning. I got a call from a fellow collector who couldn't wait to share what he'd seen on a certain online auction site.

Although the listing was totally void of description, the less than detailed photos appeared to picture a stained, etched, and dinged up example of an Old Joe Tracy tooled picture whiskey. Admittedly rare, I still couldn't help but chuckle over the enthusiastic verbiage.

You can check it out at;

That's right folks; you get stain, etch, dings, $200~ in ebay bucks and free postage too! All for the paltry some of $125,000~.

You'll need to excuse me now; I can't laugh this hard and type at the same time...

News Flash; This just in~ Price rollback! Now only $25,000.00 or best offer. This is just like shopping at Walmart...

Western Bitters News Site Crash

Friends and fellow collectors. In case you haven't noticed, the Western Bitters News site is down.

Good friend and site master, Rick Simi, touched base with me yesterday and said that "It appears someone in Oslo Norway bought the domain name westernbittersnews according to godaddy".

Unfortuantely, Rick also experienced a computer crash and lost most of his data as well; (sound familiar?). Must be some new strain of H1N1 virus going around that only attacks the hard drives of west coast bitters and whiskey webmasters...

In the meantime, Rick has made alternate arrangements and the site can be accessed at

Good luck to Rick on getting back up and running!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Days of 49

The mental image conjured by this term is almost universal. A great westward migration complete with wagon trains and Indians. And then there's the scouts on their trusty steeds protecting the wagon trains; each outfitted with their Colts and Spencer repeating rifles.

Every time I hear "Days of Forty Nine" I can almost hear the bullwackers cussing the stubborn oxen, hear the snap of bull whips and taste the choking alkali dust in my throat. Those were the days!

Just before the turn of the century, Meyerfeld Mitchell and Company must have had the same vision. The firm supposedly dates to 1888, and was marginally successful through 1905. The evolution of the firm is as follows; Meyerfield & Mitchell (1888), Meyerfield, Mitchell & Siebenhauer (1889-1893), Meyerfield, Mitchell & Co. (1894-1905). However, I found an article in the Daily Alta California, dated October 6, 1886 stating that the firm had been formed on October 1, 1886 in San Francisco; earlier than first thought.

For being in business for so long, not much in the way of advertising exists. Although they marketed a myriad of products including, "Army & Navy Whiskey", "Army and Navy Club", "Barrister Old Tom gin", "Canada Rye", "Canada White Rye", "Cy Hooper Bourbon", "Cy Hooper Rye", "Days of "49"", "Dexter Special", "Dugan's Malt", "Mt. Pleasant Rye", "Old Harvest Home Whiskey", "Pipeline", and "Shasta.", the only brand that they pushed hard was Days of 49  (well not even hard - more like a whisper). Two tooled bottles exist; a clear fifth cylinder with a ring lip was blown exclusively for the Days of 49 brand, (there's actually a couple of very similar variants of this example).
An amber embossed conventional cylinder was also blown. The amber cylinder was a generic bottle that was paper labeled to accomodate whatever need arose.

I've got one with a Cognac label...

Back to advertising; four different etched glasses were produced.
Three were made to advertise Days of 49, one is a generic. The scarcest one is a logo glass emblazoned with the familiar design that we see on the clear bottle.

Less known is the exceptionally rare back bar sign. An exemplary piece of western art, commissioned by M/M & Co. through H.S. Crocker of San Francisco, this one has it all!
Let's segway to good ol' J'ville ca. 1895. Located on the corner of Oregon and California Sts. is a quaint brick building that currently houses Scheffels Toys. Back in the day though, it housed the Cronemiller & Love Saloon.
And Cronemiller & Love were purveyors, for a little while, of Days of 49 whiskey. According to the descendent of one of the original owners, his uncle had been a mule skinner in the 1880's, and 90's, hauling freight to the mines out in the Applegate region south of here. Nearly 20 years of being soaked to the bone and freezing cold in the winter, and being choked by thick clouds of dust in near 100* heat in the summer had gotten old. The years and the miles had taken their toll and a more genteel lifestyle was in order. And so Stan's uncle and his new partner plopped their $1500~ in gold down on the back bar and became joint owners of the saloon. Not long after, a whiskey drummer rambled into town. A new brand that he was an agent for was a sure fire thing. "Days of 49 - buy ten cases and I'll give you this handsome back bar sign! You can't miss!"

The whiskey arrived on his next trip through town, along with the sign, which was proudly hung on the wall next to the back bar. Apparently the brand wasn't a sure thing after all (since we've never even dug so much as a shard here in town - back when it wasn't illegal to dig...) but the old man loved the sign just the same. He could sit in the comfort of his own saloon, roll his Prince Albert cigarettes, and gaze at the sign while reminiscing about the old days without being punished by the elements.

As the song goes, "all things must pass". The writing was on the wall in 1912. Oregon was going dry before the rest of the country and with prohibition looming, the decision was made. The saloon was sold, but with one condition, the sign went with Stan's uncle. It hung in the blacksmith shop on the ranch out by the Table Rock, quite a ways north of here, from then until around 1960, a reminder of better times. By the time that Stan's uncle died the blacksmith shop was all but falling in. The roof had failed years ago and the walls were skewed at crazy angles. But the sign remained intact; just a little water damage here and there. Every relative was allowed to take one item home as a memento of the old man who had been part of the mortar that had cemented Southern Oregon so many years ago. Making his way into the derelict building, the first thing that grabbed Stan's eye was the sign. Away it went to it's new home in northern eastern Oregon.

Unfortunately, Stan's wife was a politically correct sort and would have nothing to do with Indians sitting in the dirt, guzzling Days of 49 whiskey. Not sure what the problem was; heck I've sat in the dirt doing the same thing many a time and no one's ever called me on it...

Into the attic it went, to be forgotten for another few decades. In 1995, I got a call. They'd sold the place and found the sign in the attic while packing things. The opportunity to acquire the sign had arisen and I jumped at the chance. I was accused of spending a stupid amount on it but with only five known to exist in any condition at the time, (a sixth one has since surfaced), who's to say what's too much. Here on my wall it sits, valued as much by me as it was by Stan's uncle, and only a few blocks away from where it once hung on the saloon wall, where it's story began~

Days of 49, the mental images keep running through my mind like an endless picture loop.

Just a quick PS to add today, March 27, 2012.

In researching for another article I've determined that the firm of Meyerfeld, Mitchell and Siebenhauer dating has been stated incorrectly in the past. Siebenhauer remained with the company only through 1893. Starting in 1894, the company is listed as Meyerfeld, Mitchell & Co..

And so; Meyerfeld, Mitchell and Siebenhauer 1890 - 1893

Meyerfeld, Mitchell & Co..1894 - 1905

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whoa Nelly!

Thanks to a defective Qwest modem / wireless router, old KG's been out of service for the past week and change. Sorry about that...

It all began innocently enough, answering a couple of emails around the 20th of May. One minute things were cruising along famously - all systems normal, and the next, dead in the water. The little red light on the modem didn't bode well. Sure enough, after hours of "pleasant conversation" with outsourced tech support in God knows where; I tossed in the towel. Here's a picture of the last guy I talked to~

Ever try to find the right piece of technology in the "wilds" of Southern Oregon? Don't! After almost a day of chasing around to every place that might, just maybe, have the right part, I tossed in the towel - again. Ears ringing and neck veins pounding, I stopped off to see the guys down at the fire station that I used to work out of. One of them jokingly said that I looked like I was ready to blow a gasket. I was. As a joke, he took my blood pressure. A new personal best; 180 / 138.

Today life is slowly returning to normal. I'm now on an exciting diet of fish and chicken, and chicken and fish. And then there's the fish oil horsepills... Ahh, my kingdom for a big juicy steak or maybe a big polish dog, hot off the grill loaded up with all the good stuff! The new modem arrived yesterday afternoon. Guess they had it delivered by pack horse. A couple of hours of fine tuning later and the ol' WWTT Gazette was ready to start churning out articles again.

So what's up? Well, the phone's been ringing like crazy this morning for one. The June list went out last Saturday and must have hit everyone's mail boxes today. No lack of interest in whiskies these days for sure! A little digging going on here and there, limited success here in the State of Jefferson, but better than nothin'~ The northern part of the state's hot, Southern Oregon's not. Killer glop tops coming out of old town Portland, nothin' but a crude and rude early tooled Slater's out of an anonymous town just north of the California border down in our end of the state. An exploratory trip this weekend, along a backwood road that follows the original California and Oregon rail lines, which went in during the early 1880's north of old J'ville, shows some major digging promise for the future; once the state repeals the laws against digging on public (spelled government owned), or personal, properties. God forbid that anyone would actually consider civil disobedience in the form of "illegal digging"...

Who woulda thunk though, that the informative signs identifying a townsite, so thoughtfully placed by our government, were in reallity close to a half a mile away from the actual location (based on documented historical latitude / longitude coordinates) when located by my GPS...
Like I tell my mutt, McKenna; Dig, dig, dig!
And then there's auction results from American Glass offering number fifty... Talk about a hot topic! Almost without exception, folks are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what makes the auction mentality tick. Although we generally avoid prices like the plague on the Gazette, we'll make an exception and look over a handful of the results that are up the ol' tool top alley.

Lot number 271, Big Seven is #47 in Western Whiskey Bottles 4th edition. Graded a 9.6 and called perfect, it darned near brought the big seven, hammering at $672~ including auction fees. Not even I was prepared for that! A scarce bottle yes. But oh my! Lot 272, Remington / 3rd St. is #661 in WWB 4th. The 3rd St. is a little more available than the Washington St. variant. Still, graded at a 9.7 and closing at $179~, I'd call it a good value. Lot 273 was a group of three; a Coblentz & Levy and one each of a Rathjen and Cerruti Mercantile; all in amber. It brought $202~. Again, a good showing but still a fair buy. Lot 275 surprised me. #638 in WWB 4th, Pepper Hand Made, it was rated a 9.5 and closed at $420~. Arguably one of the toughest tool tops around; I'd have thought that it would bring quite a bit more. It was one of the more difficult toolies for me to add to my shelves and I've only seen two others since I landed mine in the eighties. A good solid buy! And then there's lot 276. Good golly Miss Molly! #760 in the book, the St. George Vineyard blew the doors off of everyone's expectations. Described as yellow green and graded 9.7 it brought an astounding $1008~. Not much I can say... A couple of Phoenix Bourbons (a small and large bird) did OK, both bringing over high estimates. A Golden Rule, rated at 9.8, closed at $246~. A good value. Lot #280, a Gold Dust variant #803 in WWB brought a very strong $2688~. That compared to the aqua glop top, lot 292 that closed at $1120~. Proof again that tooled pictures are really coming into their own. I could rattle on forever but think I'll finish this up by saying that as usual, tool top pictures were strong and the rest was a crap shoot. So, you place your bets, take your chances and with any luck, you end up with a winner when the hammer falls. And that's what makes auctions interesting.

Just a footnote. Since we made an exception and discussed the almighty dollar; total accrued sales for auction 50 were reported to be $370,000~. That nets $44,400~ in buyers fees at 12% and an additional $64,750~ in sellers fees, assuming an average consignment rate of 17.5%, for a total payday of $108,750~ less overhead. Not a bad paycheck by any stretch of the imagination. Antique bottle collecting is alive and well despite the economy. Congratulations to Jeff and the crew of American Glass Auctions!

Site Meter