Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Lowly Tanker

In the mid to late teens, toward the end of a long, successful run, the liquor industry on the west coast began to loose it's spark. The days of ornate picture whiskies were over and the days of glop tops were already a distant memory. More was better and cylinder fifths were being replaced increasingly with full quart rectangles. Gone too, was the age of innocence and consumers were now assured of the purity of their product thanks to the wording on the label that read "guaranteed by (name of wholesaler) under the Pure Food and Drug Act of June 30, 1906".

So, the logger, the miner, the laborer and anyone else with a taste for whiskey, could now indulge with a safe supersized container of their favorite brand. Good for them, but bad for us aficionados of their empties. Face it, the plain, ungainly looking full quart rectangle just didn't have the grace of a slender cylinder fifth. Not to mention that most of the embossing was, well, just plain boring. For the most part, gone were the ornate logos and pictures were as extinct as the dinosaurs.

Well, that's true for the most part. But, nearly all of the tankers also had a paper label on the reverse side - opposite the embossing, and that's where the pizzazz gets lost to time. Sadly, the glass has outlived the paper labels well over 99% of the time. And that's were collecting the tankers gets interesting. It's also where a few of the mysteries get cleared up.
We'll look at a few this time around. Let's start with Hawkins Rye, not much to look at normally. Aqua, with a simple name embossed inside a circle, "Full Quart" on the reverse shoulder, a funky step inside of the tooled cork type top, and nearly all of the time without a label. So just what was Hawkins Rye? Well the Snyder database says that it was a product bottled by McDonald & Cohn of S.F. I'll buy that; it's a matter of record that they registered the brand along with a bunch of others, somewhere between 1903 - 1911, when they tossed in the chips.
Enter a labeled example. But wait, it reads Guaranteed by Levaggi Company. Huh? According to the records, they only sold Claremont AAA and Royal Life. Well trust me, labels don't lie and since I scored this one out of a basement in the Montague California area, where it had been since the contents were sucked dry, I know it's the real deal. And, actually, it make sense since Levaggi picked up steam, (they dated ca. 1907 - 1919), about the time that McD & C were loosing it. That's another great thing about labels; they help narrow down time frames; in this case from 1911 - 1919.
Another item generally relegated to entry level collector status is the Lawton Rye made by Roth & Co. Rightfully so, it's about as common as a chicken beak.

And not much to look at; until you come across one with a label. Roth trademarked both Lawton and Lawton's toward the end of their marathon wholesale liquor stint, which ran from 1858 - 1919. Hell, they'd probably still be around if the Feds hadn't stuck a fork in them. This particular example is both embossed and labeled for Lawton (singular - not possessive) Rye.

It still sports the correct embossed Riley IT stopper, remnants of the neck label, which matches the main body label and shoulder seal. The graphics are a real treat! Also unusual about this specific bottle is that it has the "Union Made" seal embossed on the shoulder.

Donnelly Rye was a Sacramento product and must have been good whiskey since the brand was extensively distributed in Sierra Nevada logging camps. We found them virtually littering the pine duff above Sonora when I first started digging that area in the late 60's / early 70's. J. C. Donnelly was in business from 1906 - 1914. This is called a strap sided tanker due to the raised side panels. Yep, another one of those lowly "beginners bottles"; until you land a labeled one... Again, the Pure Food and Drug act guaranteed quality and purity. Yea, right...

The multi colored label has great graphics and the neck band reinforces the integrity of the product, boldly stating "Purity".
Hanley Mercantile had a pretty cagey merchandising ploy. Oregon enacted "local option" in 1904, whereby many counties went dry. Prohibition hit the state in general in 1914, well before the rest of the nation in 1920. So, Hanley Mercantile merchandised heavily "up north" and did a land office mail order business via the Southern Pacific. Send them five bucks, and they would forward you four bottles of Hanley Rye in a "plain brown wrapper" on a future northbound freight. Increased business for them and no one need be the wiser in Oregon; necessity was, and is, the mother of invention.
This particular critter came from the same place down out of Montague and obviously never quite made it north of the border. Hanley Rye; again neat graphics, and the correct hard rubber Riley IT stopper.
Their other brands were "Hanley Maryland Rye", and "Hanley Whiskey". Surprising that they were only in business from 1905 - 1910...
Larry (or Larry's) Whiskey. Another brand of rye. Incidentally, rye whiskey was almost unheard of prior to the turn of the century but the fad really caught on around 1910. It must have fallen back into disfavor with the whiskey drinkers because I don't recall ever seeing it on the shelves these days. Larry was a brand of Wilmerding, Lowe & Co. and is a real late product in terms of their lines. It dates ca. 1912 - 1915 and must have not been a good seller since they never registered the brand and they are considered rare by tanker standards.
This one sports the strap sides correct embossed Kellogg Whiskey IT stopper and a simple, yet to the point label. Interesting is that the bottle is embossed Larry's and yet the label reads Larry~ Significance? Don't ask me...
Old Judge! I saved what I consider the best for last. Common as dirt and late (1907 - 1915); the bottle is nothing to get excited about. It's a corker so not even a fancy embossed rubber stopper.

But, add a label with these graphics and I'm drooling like a teenager spying on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot. Sure, a little tattering and some minor label loss is present, but try to find another one. And then there's the label proper; slightly raised patterns with a floral border, multi color graphics and "Da Judge" replete with a shot glass full in hand - pinky finger elegantly extended in anticipation of savoring the goods. Your honor, sir, could you pour me one too?
Tough to improve on the overall draw that this one's got!

'Till next time~


Mike Dolcini said...

A few years back, we dug a pit in a nearby valley town that had over 150 Louis Taussigs in it. Many were rectangles, both pint and quart, but all varieties were represented, including "28 Main St" and "Wholesale Liquor Dealers" fifths. Nearly all of the rectangles were tossed back in the pit, which now sits under a new home. Sometime in the far distant future, when we old timers will be "dirt napping", some lucky digger might rediscover that hole and be blown away by the finds.

Kentucky Gem said...

Years ago, we were digging a mining camp west of Hornbrook in Northern Ca. It was late, around 1905 +/-, and did those boys ever love their Taussig / Carroll Rye. After a long hard day of digging those miserable things with the vertical ribbing, and setting them beside the hole for someone else to enjoy, I'd about had it. Tom, my digging partner, was done for as well and offered up the idea of filling the holes and cuttin' trail. "Sure, just let me finish digging out this last Carroll Rye", I said, wrestling the miserable cur loose from the tangled maple roots that had a grip on it. Hmm, cobalt blue? Yep, the Carroll Rye was actually a Bowman's Poison! Never give up hope~

Anonymous said...

Just this morning, as I was pruning back an out-of-control rosebush near an old cabin on our property, I saw a bottle neck sticking out of the dirt under the cabin. It turned out to be an intact Hawkins Rye, Full Quart, just as you have pictured here in this blog entry. There is no label. Anyway, it is fun for us to have some more "history" for the cabin. The cabin had local newspapers used as insulation under the flooring. Dated from 1927 and 1928, they are issues of The Red Bluff Daily. (We are in Tehama County in Northern California.) My question is, can you tell me how to clean an old bottle such as this? There is dirt stuck inside.

Kentucky Gem said...

Apologies for the belated reply, as I normally don't monitor the reply's once an article is posted and running for more than a month or two.

In answer to the cleaning question; If the bottle is simply dirty, luke warm (tepid - not holt or cold) water and ammonia is a good starting place. Normally a 24 hour soak in a bucket with the interior also filled will loosen things up. Fine gravel, bird shot or a similar material poured into the bottle that is about half full of ammonia water, after the initial soak is a good follow up. Shake it side to side and vertically for a few minutes, pour out the contents and rinse with clean water. Remember; no drastic fluctuations in temperature as the glass will crack or worse if cold is followed by hot, or visa versa.

If the bottle is stained, there are professionals with cleaning machines that can remove haze, stain, mineralization etc. that was not removed by the prior method. Unfortunately, the cost of pro-cleaning, which ranges from $15~ - $100~ often exceeds the value of many bottles.

Hope this helps~

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