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.


Rick Simi said...

Nice acquisition and well researched post. Who says turn bottles can't be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I just acquired one two days that looks identical to the amber colored one! It however is embossed with THE // ATLAS // BAR // FOURTH // & // SAN PEDRO // LOS ANGELES, CAL I'm still grinning ear to ear! Nice collection you have!

Anonymous said...

I have a chance to pick up two of the same bottles, that say eagle nest whiskey from Redondo California. Does anybody know how rare these are and approximant worth.

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