Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's Miller Time!

"The Champagne of Bottled Beers."
"If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer. Miller Beer."


Ok, we all like a good slogan. But in this case, we're not talkin' beer. We're talkin' bourbon.

Millers Extra Old Bourbon, to be precise~

E. Martin & Co. They were a thorn in A. P. Hotaling's side, and a cash cow for Hotaling's attorneys, from around 1872 until the Supreme Court ruling against Martin for copyright infringement in 1879.  

During those seven short years, Edward Johnson Martin along with partners Daniel V. B. Henarie, E. P. Rowe and James Mairs did their best to steal away the J. H. Cutter brand from Moorman, and subsequently Hotaling.

Three different fifths, and one flask (both 1/2 pint and pint in capacity) were made for E. Martin & Co.

One of Martins fifth molds was an exact clone to Hotalings early container; the "shoulder Crown". It is the earliest, dating ca. 1872.

Another, is the mid crown, which was made slightly later, probably in response to growing pressure from the Hotaling camp about copyright infringement. Thinking that repositioning the crown from the shoulder, to the center of the embossing pattern, would get the Hotaling camp off their back, the mold was thus redesigned. It obviously didn't work and Hotaling, like a dog with a bone, refused to give up.

Regardless, they must have sold a lot of product as both the shoulder and mid crown Martins are present in many west coast collections. It took several years, but A. P Hotaling emerged victorious and E. Martin & Co's attempt to steal away the J. H. Cutter brand was thwarted.

Once the courtroom dust had settled, they simply changed the initials from J. H. to J. F., redesigned the molds and went on their merry way until prohibition put both them and Hotaling out of business in 1919.

One bottle that didn't have such a popular following, was the Millers Extra brand. My guess is that like Hotaling's OPS, Millers Extra was their top shelf bourbon and, as such, was out of the financial reach of the working class. Good thing for us, because there's not many to be had, and when one does appear for sale, it's quickly snatched up.

As mentioned, the bourbon was bottled in an applied top fifth, and two different sizes of flasks; both also with applied tops. These are early bottles, dating from ca. 1872 until the mid seventies, and generally have everything going for them in terms of crudity and appeal, common to this era of S.F. glass.

It was obvious that E. Martin & CO. was going after brand recognition in a big way too, since the embossing pattern on both the flasks, and the fifth are identical. This is something of an anomaly as the embossing on most western flasks of this era are different than the fifths.
Brand recognition or not, the numbers just weren't there. According to Thomas, there were only 10 mint fifths in collections as of 2002. For whatever reason, the flasks do seem to exist in greater numbers than the fifths. Again an anomaly as most rare western brand flasks are greatly outnumbered by their fifth counterparts. The 1/2 pint Millers are supposedly rarer than the pints. I personally haven't seen enough of either over the years to form an opinion.

Color, character and crudity are the big three "C's" when it comes to 70's western glass. Fortunately for us, the Millers fill the bill in all three departments. Although most of the Millers are seen in the "typical" medium amber hues, a few anomalies exist. Occasionally both the fifths and the flasks are encountered in shades of extremely light amber, shading to near yellow, and on rare occasions, straying toward green. And talk about crudity! Sloppy is often the rule of the day.

Spillover, slumped in sides, bubbles, tears, swirls and massive swings in color density are occasionally encountered. Face it; no matter what shape or size, ya just gotta love those Millers!

Yep, It's Miller time!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

"New" Los Angeles saloon flask discovered!

Sometimes, good things come in small packages. In this case, in the form of a 1/2 pint amber flask.

You know the feeling; you look at a bottle that you've never encountered before, pick it up, and it "talks to you". Kind of like a stray pup or a kitten. It says "I'm something special. I know, you've never seen me, or even heard of me before, but trust me, don't put me down". It spoke, and I listened.

This bottle was especially "haunting" as it had the name of a legendary 1870's San Francisco saloon embossed front and center on the top line; Laurel Palace. A post turn of the century reincarnation? It couldn't be, or could it? Nah...

I recently had an amber flask in my "revolving collection" that looked virtually identical, sans the embossing. It was an embossed recessed slug plate defender flask from down on the southern California coast. It was a cute little guy. One that I'd had in clear for years, but never seen in amber. Main difference between it and my new one was that it had the town listed on it.

I don't normally go out on a limb for a complete unknown but this new stray had spoken to me and without thinking twice, I acquired it. It was a five hour trip back south, so I had plenty of time to kick ideas around as I motored along at 55 miles an hour, towing my new 5,000 pound home away from home.

We pulled in late last evening, and I flopped myself down in front of the computer to answer a mountain of emails and maybe, spend a little time trying to learn a little bit about my "new friend".


I figured the easiest way to ID this flask was just to plug in the address, and then start chasing down the location. Once I had that, the who's who would just drop in my lap. A piece of cake, or so I thought.

The bottle was in with a bunch of stuff from Portland, so Oregon or Washington seemed to be the natural place to start the search. Wow, talk about a dead end. Seattle, nope. Same thing with Spokane, and other larger Washington state cities. Portland, Salem, Albany, Eugene, and then eastward to the Dalles in Oregon. Nope! Not a single one had the right combination of 1st Street, West, and 215 tossed in to cinch the deal.

Midnight came and went, and I tossed in the towel for the night. The sun blazes thorough the east window of our bedroom in the second story turret at a little after six AM these days. Up and at 'em early, after coffee and bacon, I went at it with a renewed vigor. But with a different angle. I figured that the flask must have originated in California instead of the NW. Slowly but surely, I made my way past one large city after another. I refused to give up. There just "had to be a be a pony in the closet"!

About 700 miles south of the Oregon border, and countless large cities later, stubbornness was rewarded with SUCCESS! Los Angeles California. Duh... 20 scant miles from Redondo Beach, is 215 West First Street in the old original downtown section of L.A.
The first mention I could find of the saloon was located in the 1894 edition of the LA City Directory. Location identified, I went to work on the identity of the owner. It was owned by two partners by the name of McGinnis & Basler. The order of the names suggest that McGinnis was in the drivers seat.


The 1898 directory lists only Basler, "A. Basler, Proprietor". It also is missing reference to "Saloon", and instead shows it as "Wines and Liquors". Did Basler decide to retail instead of tend bar?

The September 1, 1900 edition of the Los Angeles Herald had an interesting tidbit of news.

The 1901 directory lists the presence of the Laurel Palace (sans Saloon), in the same location, but without any reference to ownership.

Finally, in 1911, Norman E. Rich, makes his official debut. And "Saloon" is prominently present in the title once again.



Norman Rich had his irons in other fires as well; specifically gold mining.

The last reference that I could find in the directories to the Laurel Palace and or Norman E. Rich was the 1915 edition. The type is identical to that which appeared in 1911.

After that, both the Laurel Palace saloon and Norman E. Rich disappear into the pages of history. Fortunately, he left us with a lasting reminder of his brief foray into the saloon business in the form of a little amber flask that I dare to say is just as elusive as it's older and bigger brother from San Francisco.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sasquatch Update!

News Flash

Witnesses says Sasquatch is hiding in

abandoned Detroit buildings.

Check this out!
"We see this hairy arm reaching out the window. I say what the hell, he gonna get cut that dude with the broken glass, man. Then a whole body coming out the window, looked like a monkey, only big damn monkey with a stick on the hand. Maybe about 7-ft tall. It had short, reddish hair. But hold on, the face was human looking, as crazy as it sounds. My wife kept telling me to drive away, so we did. I got to see the animal’s eyes and all, big and dark, with a huge head, like a triangle shape, kinda, know what I mean?"
Seriously, how could anyone dispute an eye witness account like this? And pictures too~

OK, so if Sasquatch is being spotted in Detroit, how come there's no Theo Blauth sneaking around Sacramento?
He must exist, right?

I mean folks claim to have seen him, why, there's even photos and movies "proving" that he's real.

The other day, old pal Steve Abbott and I were tossing around the subject of lost western whiskies. You know, the ones where only pieces have been found, and then even the pieces have disappeared; like the Sutro Nevada - Old SIgnet find (don't get me goin' !). And then there's the "only the good die young" bottles like the "Palmtag & Barnhart slug plate Phoenix Bourbon" from Hollister. It made it's appearance in the early 1980's, set the western collecting world on it's ear, only to pull a humpty dumpty and end up in a pile of pieces. None have been seen since~ Back in the late 1960's I dug the first known example of the Hotaling OPS Bourbon (without the "OLD" in between Hotalings and Private Stock) in a mountain of oyster shells (spelled the consistency of concrete) in a saloon dump in the hills above Saratoga, Ca.. My OPS also pulled a humpty dumpty, flying off the bottle shelf in the living room. The score - flagstone hearth 1 - OPS 0... Fortunately, a few have surfaced since then, so it doesn't qualify for Sasquatch status.

All the above were glop tops so the lack of new finds is understandable, given both the age and the lack of numbers actually blown to begin with.
Steve chimed in and tossed a name out that I hadn't thought of before. And it's not a glop. In fact it's a somewhat late tool top, and was blown for an outfit that was in business all the way from the early 80's through to prohibition. It's a Sacramento bottle. Nuthin' to look at, but it is truly the Sasquatch of the toolies. It's embossed
It's #55 in Western Whiskey Bottles 4th edition. Now we know this isn't just an "old figment" of our imaginations because we've seen a photo of it. It's on page 37 #2 of Bill Wilsons "Spirits Bottles of the Old West". He rated it as common, with a scarcity rating of *10 in amber and *6 in clear.
Here's what we know abut the firm from archived Sacramento Cal. records;

 T.H. Blauth: 1021 4th (1882-1884), 407 K (1885-1904)

 T.H. Blauth Sons Co.: 407K (1905-1912)

 T.H. Blauth & Son: 407 K (1913-1917)

We know that he sold MELLWOOD WHISKEY based on a small advertisement that exists (the only advertisement...). The actual brand name was owned by Mellwood Distillery of Louisville, KY. As such, Blauth was just a licensed west coast wholesaler of the brand, along with Theo Gier of S.F.

He also owned California Bottling Works, dba T. Blauth or T.Blauth and Sons, which produced lots of embossed beer bottles.

During the course of conversation, Steve added the following;
"This piece of info is amazing. My wife and I were on an Alaska cruise. We stopped in Ketchican for a few hours. I went on a long and rapid walk as far through town as time would permit. I saw an "antique"/thrift store. It had a Buffalo Beer opener. I bought it and asked the owner how she got it. She said she bought the shop and inventory from a person from California. We talked about that, then she said she had the business ledger from the other party with all the inventory. She showed it to me. On the inside page in florid script was THEOBALD BLAUTH. She wouldn't sell me the page. She said that apparently the previous owner was a descendant of Blauth and that she had a couple of beer bottles at home. She told me the man's name and that he lived in X----YZ California." When I got home, I started searching and actually found the man based on the info that she'd supplied me with. "He said that I should talk to his mother who was 90+ who lived in XXXXXXXX, and gave me her phone number. I called her and talked to her for a half hour or so. Great memory. Blauth was her grandfather, but died before she was old enough to know him. I kept notes on the conversation and placed them in a loose leaf notebook titled "WHISKEY MISCELLANEOUS." I have never seen a Blauth billhead or anything else, though for a guy who sold as much beer and whiskey as he did, there must be some."

I spent quite a bit of time trying to ferret out more information via Sacramento and California State archives. I did find some family history;

Theobald and Caroline (Hack) Blauth, came to California among the sturdy pioneers of 1879

Mr. Blauth engaged in the wholesale liquor business in 1880, and lived to see the 28th of February, 1918, and to acquire considerable property, which he left in his estate. His good wife also died here.

JULIUS BLAUTH.--Julius Blauth was born in Sacramento, on April 6, 1884
associated himself with his father, in business.
But in terms of the business, talk about a dead end... This outfit just flat kept a low, low, profile. Nothing in the way of liquor advertising, no shot glasses, no back bar decanters, no back bar signs; just plain nuthin'.

I did find one interesting tidbit relating to the liquor firm, dating to 1905;

The Sacramento Bee
September 19 1905


WOODLAND (Yolo Co.), September 19 - C. BLAUTH, a Sacramento wholesale liquor dealer, who was arrested at the instance of District Attorney HUSTON for selling liquor in Washington without a county license, pleaded guilty to the charge before Justice LAMPTON yesterday. It seems that Blauth has been in the habit of retailing liquors from a wagon sent over into Yolo County. He said that he was ignorant of the fact that he was violating an ordinance, and promised it would not occur again. Upon this understanding sentence was withheld and he was allowed to go.

(Just a quick PS. I couldn't locate a town of Washington in Yolo County at first. Turns out it was later was renamed Broderick. It is now nothing more than West Sacramento. It was located where the current  Sacramento Ave. and Cal. SR 84 intersect.) Progress...

Well folks, that's pretty much the long and short of it. The
cylinder seems to have vanished under the radar, since we can't account for any intact examples that are present in a west coast collection.

C'mon now, there's got to be some out there! They're late, pretty plain, and were rated common back in the late 1960's.

Send me a current photo or two of it, just to prove that it's not a Sasquatch!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rest in Peace

1/30/2009 - 2/14/2014


A friend emailed today, asking if I'd noticed what was up with Sole Agents site today.
I hadn't tried to log in since earlier this week.
This is what greeted me as the home page.
Bummer, and a real loss for the west coast fraternity.
I touched base with Sole Agent a couple of weeks ago about migrating the archived articles to this website if his folded. At that time, he had intentions of simply renewing the domain. Now that a domain shark has possesion of it, we'll try to figure a way to have his old database added to this one.

If any of you computer experts have an idea about how to implement this, please get ahold of me and we'll give your plan a try.
Have a good weekend!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Reasonable or Rip-off?

Every so often, this topic comes around. It's like a bad habit that just won't go away.

Recently, an online glass gallery auction closed. A collector won the high bid on a bottle that measures 8" tall by 2 3/4" wide at the base. It weighs 11 ounces. The hammer price was $70~.

The bidder received their invoice via email. The invoice was in the amount of $100.60. The amount was for the price of the bottle, shipping, plus an 18% buyers fee (reduced to 15% if paid by cash or check - this fee was understood and acknowledged prior to placing a bid).

The Auction conditions of sale read;

"8. Shipping: Shipping, insurance and packaging charges will be added to your bill unless the lots are picked up in person. With the exception of larger items we ship U.S. Mail, registered, 1st Class and insured. Larger items will be shipped via U.P.S. or by freight. When shipping by freight, shipping and packing charges will be billed C.O.D."

The shipping charge on the invoice was $18.oo. Yes, Eighteen Dollars. The buyer took exception to this.
The shipment, including the bottle, packed in an oversized box (providing a minimum of 6" of space between the walls of the container and the bottle) and enough protective wrapping and padding to insure it's survival if dropped out of an aircraft, weighed  in at a total of 1 lb. 15 oz. Just under two pounds...

A check of the USPS rate calculator showed the actual cost of mailing from the east coast to the west coast as $9.97 via USPS Priority 2 day.

Let's summarize; $9.97 actual cost vs. an invoiced amount of $18.00.

When questioned the auction gallery at first failed to respond. Finally after a week, the bidder received the following email;

"The invoice we sent it the amount we are charging." (sic)


1) What would your thoughts be if you got this bill?

2) Is this reasonable or A Rip-off?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII Advertising

I was taught, years ago, that the secret to a successful ad campaign is three fold

1) Does it catch your attention?

2) Does it keep your attention?

3) Does it make you want to by the product?

My 1st place award for advertising yesterday goes to Budweiser for their commercial with the yellow lab puppy! For starters, it reminded me of my pup, McKenna, when he was a baby. And it accomplished all three of the above criteria in spades. A home run (or a touch down) in my opinion.

But, what did folks do to push their wares in the days before Super Bowl XLVIII, or TV, or for that matter radio?

Starting around the turn of the century, the whiskey business on the west coast in general, and San Francisco in particular, became intensely competitive. Gone were the days of friendly coexistence. Sink or swim. Eat or be eaten was the new order of the day.

Everyone likes a freebie. Same then as now. And the liquor wholesalers were not oblivious to this part of human nature. Free one shot sample bottles, handed out at public events helped introduce whiskey drinkers to a new brand. Free wooden sleeve corkscrews emblazoned with the brand name helped keep the product "top of mind". The ever present scantily clad ladies advertising a brand on the back bar sign that hung on the wall certainly didn't hurt either. Fancy acid etched shot glasses began to proliferate. Ash trays, match safes, even clothes brushes with the brand and wholesalers names were handed out to saloon owners and "preferred customers". Brass fobs with patriotic red - white & blue ribbons hanging off of bottles, porcelain cork toppers perched on back bar bottles, and brass door push plates stared back at potential customers. Yesterday, while watching a silent film about a cable car ride down market Street in S.F., just before the earthquake, I was astounded at the number of buildings with whiskey advertising painted on the sides of them. Photos of pre-earthquake and fire S.F. abound and many of them show stained glass transom window advertising and corner reverse glass painted signs advertising everything from Ahrens Bullwinkle, to Gilt Edge to Wolter's Bros.

And let's not forget the tip trays and advertising trays. The artwork on many of these is simply classic. Many, if not most, of these artistic pieces of pressed tin, dating to the post TOC era, were made in Coshocton Ohio by the evolution of two large firms; The Meek and Beech Co. ca. 1901 - 1903, The Meek Co. ca. 1903 - 1909, The H. D. Beach Co. Ca. 1903+, and the American Art Works Co. ca. 1909+. They were mass produced "stock art trays" that were purchased en masse by San Francsico advertising wholesaler "Bachrach & Co". They in turn rubber stamped the proprietors name on the tray after initial production to advertise their goods.

So kick back, have a look at some pre Super Bowl XLVIII advertising and enjoy~
(click on the photos and they will open in an enlarged separate window)

Personal collection (PC)

Courtesy Robin Preston


All signs (PC)


(Collection of M.J.)

(anonymous private collection)


(all PC)


(current eBay listing #141180306930)

Even 100 years ago; Puppies in advertising!

This stuff caught and kept my attention. That's for sure.

And I would have bought their products
in a New York (uh I mean, San Francisco) minute.

Some things never change.
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