Saturday, June 23, 2012

Totally Choice, dude~

Choice Old Cabinet

The name itself instantly conjures up the mental image of a top notch whiskey. And what better way to merchandise a top notch product, than to have a top notch mold made for the bottles that held it. A quick glance at the full face embossing tells you that the bottles were blown in San Francisco thanks to the "funny R". The amber applied top cylinders, what few of them are around, have that characteristic look of a late 70's - early 80's classic western glop top.
Crane Hastings & Co. came into being on July 2nd of 1874 when Byron G. Crane and Everett L. Hastings established their co-partnership. They opened their doors that day at 608-612 Front Street.

Based on the appearance of the cylinder, the molds were commissioned and the order for bottles filled from the get-go.

This arrangement was short lived, thanks to the sudden demise of Hastings in 1875. He was aboard the ill fated steamer "Pacific", that went down on November 10, 1875 near Port Townsend Washington Territory. Hastings had been "up north", participating in legal proceedings against saloon owner S. Benton in Colfax, Washington Territory, caused by a default on a $1200~ payment for goods received from Crane Hastings & Co.. Colfax was located in what is now NE Washington near Moscow Idaho. Hmm, might be a good place to look for Choice Old Cabinets...

Hasting's wife participated in ownership of the company from the time of Everett's death until April 5th, 1876 when Crane legally assumed sole ownership of the firm while remaining at the same location.

Four years later, Crane, on March 10, 1880, went into a partnership with a Charles E. Benjamin. They retained the same company name of Crane Hastings & Co. but made a move over to 121 California Street; still in the heart of the wholesale liquor district. For whatever reason, two years later they relocated once again, only this time to two separate locations. One being at 316 Sacramento Street, the other at 321 Commercial Street. On April 1, 1886, Crane dissolved this co-partnership and again makes a go of it alone. He retains both locations. What I find strange, is that the two addresses are only a half block apart; the first on the corner of Sacramento and Front while the latter address is on the corner of Front and Commercial. He kept the doors open at both locations until closing the doors to the company in 1895.

Now back to the bottle (bottles). Based on the number of Choice Old Cabinet bottles remaining in private collections today, they must not have been highly successful; at least not in comparison to say A. P. Hotaling or Moore Hunt & Co. I could find no evidence of newspaper advertising in either the Daily Alta California or the Call. There are no etched shot glasses known to exist and I've not seen any back bar signs or other media that would indicate extensive advertising. According to Thomas, around twenty of the bottles exist; having been found in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Although it never made John's top twenty list, the Choice Old Cabinet is one of my favorite glop tops for many reasons. Often quite crude, the full face embossing and sloppy tops coupled with all the attributes of this era of whiskey really make it stand out in a crowd. What many collectors are unaware of is that there are actually two very similar molds in existence. One has the typically crude rounded embossing so typical of the late 1870's 1880's era while another has "chisel point" embossing so sharp that you can cut a steak with it.

This new mold was made at the time of glassblowing technique transition and has a tooled top. At first glance, one might mistakenly think that the old mold was simply re-cut. However, despite the outstanding job of duplication, minute differences exist proving that it is indeed a new mold. Oddly, the R's retain the characteristic curved leg of the older molds; an anomaly not present on most of the bottles blown during the 1890's transition era. As is so often the case, the tool tops "don't get no respect" despite the fact that they are infinitely rarer than the glop tops. Personally, I value both equally and am fortunate to have one of each in my collection.

For those in the market for one, I might suggest checking out ebay. There is one currently available from a well known and respected western collector.

It's totally choice, dude~

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