Friday, August 20, 2010

What happened in 1860?

That very question came to mind when I recently bought a collection that had a few back bars in it. One of them, is decorated with "1860 Bourbon". It is executed in a copper wheel cut design, on a high quality decanter that appears to have a very faint amethystine cast to it. It was blown in a two piece mold with a sunburst design on the base and an intricate pseudo cut glass pattern embossed into the neck that does a 90* counterclockwise twist.

First, the "why" behind the name... Well, two things come to mind as being the prompting behind the brand. First would be April 1860. Note the following; Tuesday 03: The first successful Pony Express run from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California begins, and is completed on April 13. Hmm. Sounds good to me and certainly a reason to quaff a good bourbon!

And then... November 1860; Tuesday 06: U.S. presidential election, 1860: Abraham Lincoln is elected as the 16th President of the United States, the first Republican to hold that office. I'll certainly drink to that as well!

I'd lean toward this one but who knows for sure. The nagging question remained; who, Who, WHO? This was a tough one. This particular example is delicate in form, obviously of presentation grade, but not one that could be readily linked to either the east or the west coast. And so the "digging" began. And dig, and dig, and dig. Talk about a stone wall! Nothing in any book, nothing in archives nothing online; nothing...

The break came while tracking down some info for a fellow collector on our pal, ol' J. Clute Wilmerding. Although he first partnered with Calvin Kellogg in 1868, he'd been involved in the west coast liquor business for quite a few years before then. In fact, Clute first showed up in "The City" in 1859; as "(Fargo & Co) 52 Front." This according to the Crocker Directory. Fargo & Co. is listed as a liquor Wholesaler, but not as a retailer. Wilmerding is listed as neither. And, he also is not listed as having any residence or address, other than that of 52 Front St. Things must have changed for the better because in 1860, he is listed with both Fargo as an employer, and a residential address of "rooms 622 Sacramento".

The jewel in the crown came when the search for registered whiskey brand names came back with one result, and one result only for 1860 Bourbon; "Wilmerding - Loewe Co. of San Francisco, CA." Their brands included; "1860 Bourbon", "Days of 49", "Kellogg", "Kellogg's", and "Kellogg's AA.".

The company link, in and of itself, helps to further narrow down the timeline since they were listed from 1896 - 1918. I'd date this critter to ca. turn of the century based on the manufacturing techniques employed and the obvious manganese dioxide base of the cullet.

The why behind the name remains a mystery. Maybe a letter head or an invoice will surface someday with more info. For now, I'd guess that Clute was influenced by his good luck back in 1860 combined with either nostalgia for the pony express or patriotic exuberance over Lincolns ascendence to the presidency back in the day.

Either way, he left one heckuva rare go with for us to enjoy. Now, if there were only an embossed one out there~

Identity Crisis?

I received an email from a gentleman back east who was curious about the origin of a bottle that he'd dug in Illinois. He wondered if it could possibly be western. I have to admit, the photos caught my interest. I also have to admit that it was one that I'd never seen. The shape of the bottle looked very familiar, but unlike any western whiskey I'd encountered.

In fact, it looked like an eastern bitters that I recalled seeing quite some time ago, but who's name I couldn't recall. Still; Elk's Pride Whiskey sure was a catchy handle. A little research into the whiskey brand data base revealed two strong contenders for the origin of said "Pride". One was J.S. Low of Carlisle Pa., the other, Adolph Harris of S.F. Cal.

Some online sleuthing revealed a very similar bottle, identical in appearance but embossed Elk's Pride Rye. It appeared to be a 5 3/4" mini with externally blown threads and with the same stag embossed on the obverse as on the "Whiskey". It was also a rectangle with the same decorative treatment and logic says that it had to come from the same outfit. Interesting too, was that it was also dug in Illinois.

I then compared the amber Adolph Harris in my collection with the Elk's Pride bottles.

It was evident that the antlers on the A.H. were very typically western in form; nearly erect, whereas the Elk' prides were more horizontal in style and more in keeping with the eastern renditions of stags that I've seen.

Still later, I came across a photo of a pottery jug from the aforementioned J.S. Low of Carlisle Pa. It clearly depicts a stag along with the words Elks Pride Whiskey.

I promised the owner of the bottle to solicit coments from the general western whiskey arena. So; is it eastern or western? Feel free to weigh in with your ideas.

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