Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Looking for a needle in a haystack.


I recently acquired a bottle that first surfaced in the late 1960's. It's nothing to look at. Just your basic tooled orange amber cylinder fifth, embossed Cunningham / Distilleries Co. Inc. / San Francisco / Cal.
 






 

Wilson showed a picture of the embossing  and dated it ca. 1900 - 1903. He said that it was extremely rare. Barnett also listed it in the Western Whiskey series. It appears on page 51 as #209 in the 4th edition, called it scarce, and dated it 1900 - 1904. But just how accurate was the dating, I wondered.
 
The bottle is heavily air vented at the shoulder with multiple fine dots present, and well made, making me lean toward the post earthquake era. There's no base mark, so no way to identify it's glass house of origin.
 
How either author was able come up with a circa date of 1900 - '03 or '04 is beyond me. Inquiring minds want to know, so I poured through the S.F. directories from the late 90's up to prohibition. I could find no listing, period. Nothing in the "white pages", nothing in the business listings for distilleries, and nothing under liquor wholesalers and or retailers. Finally, I located it quite by accident, in the Walter S. Fry Co. / S.F. - Oakland directory of 1907; Volume 3
 
 
 

on page 119 in the white pages only.
 
 
 
Here's a photo of their location;

 
 
 
 
Looks more like a bank than a distillery, doesn't it?

And so, mystery solved thanks to the needle in the haystack. Why the Crocker directories elected to ignore them is a mystery~
 
I don't recall ever seeing another, so will have to agree with Bill Wilson in his classification of extremely rare. Cunningham Distilleries Co. Inc. was yet another low budget preverbal flash in the pan of the San Francisco wholesale liquor game, lasting for, at most, one year; 1907.

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