Sunday, October 26, 2014

Leadville Colorado


Leadville is a town that is significant to both aficionados of western mining history, and antique bottle collectors.

According to;

" Leadville has played an important role in Colorado history for more than 150 years. Leadville's mining history began in 1860 with the discovery of gold south of town, which made 2010 the 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush.

Roughly 8,000 prospectors arrived in "Oro City," their name for the makeshift town of tents and cabins. During the next five years, more than $4 million worth of gold was discovered using sluice and pan — more than at any other Colorado site. Within five years, however, the gold was playing out. The next boom would be silver. By 1880, Leadville had more than 30,000 residents, innumerable stores, hotels, boarding houses and, of course, more than 100 saloons, dance halls, gambling joints and brothels."

Today Leadville features a remarkably well preserved cross section of buildings dating back to the days of it's zenith.


30,000 residents generated a lot of garbage. Old garbage. And the Leadville dump was famous for both the quantity and quality of it's pre-1900 trash.

As recently as 2011, collectors and diggers have massed at the site of this dump to try their luck.
As one would expect, a town (city) with 30,000 residents and abundant wealth would have bottles embossed with the name of businesses and their location on them. Because Leadville has been extensively dug for bottles, both by hand and with heavy equipment, since the late 1950's, one would expect every variant to have been documented by now.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a friend of a young man who had a whiskey that neither could identify. It read;

"Do you know how much about a knife edged clear flask embossed E. Keppler in an arch at front shoulder. Liquors & cigars two lines in the center front. 603 Harrison ave Leadville colo embossed across bottom front"

I had to plead ignorance. I've had a few Colorado whiskies over the years, all scarce to rare cylinders, including the Old Nectar and Windsor from Denver, and Kellenberger from Durango, to name a few. But flasks are even tougher than the cylinders and I'd never seen or even heard of one of these.
After a bit of scratching around, I was able to locate some particulars about E. Keppler.

A street scene of Leadville, taken in 1879 clearly shows a liquor wholesaler on Harrison Avenue. A sign advertising the establishment is plainly visible in front of the third building from the left hand corner in the closeup using a normal photo viewer (click on the photo and it will open in an enlarged window). An overlay using the photo and Google maps showed that the location was indeed 603 Harrison Ave. But, the Leadville directory for 1879 didn't list Keppler... Odd, a liquor wholesaler at the right address, but no record of E. Keppler?


Inquiring minds want to know, so I asked for a photo of the bottle. Sure enough, the next day a photo of it appeared in my inbox.

A couple of days later, I ran across a copy of a check that was endorsed by... none other than E. Keppler! It was dated Dec. 1, 1884. Proof positive of Keppler's presence in Leadville close to the time that the photo was taken. And the knife edge style of flask would fit conveniently into that era.

Why the discrepancy in time between the photo and the positive proof of Kepplers presence in 1884? Quite probably, he purchased the business from whomever was the startup proprietor.

And so it would appear that we have a newly discovered flask from Leadville Colorado. A significant piece of Colorado and early western mining history that the owner should be proud to own.

An old pal of mine, who has access to additional resources, just sent in the following information;

1881 - First Leadville Directory (Colorado directories for 1878 "New Mining Town - population 2000 and rapidly increasing" and 1879 do not list any proprietors.)

1881 - 1883 Leadville Directories do not have listings for him

1884 - First listing. E. Keppler wholesale and retail liquor and cigars 603 Harrison

1888 - Last directory with entry for Earnest Keppler at 603 Harrison

1889 - 1892 at 606 Harrison

1893 and 1894 at 618 Harrison Avenue

Glen Preble, in Impressed In Time, notes him at 603 Harrison from 1882 through 1889. Not sure if he has directories he called upon that I did not have available to me.

Starting in 1890, 603 Harrison is the address for Carl Nollenberger (2 different flat flasks).

From 1893 to 1906, Carl is in business with Mrs. Ed Nollenberger and from 1907 - 1915,

Carl is again the sole proprietor at 603 Harrison Avenue.
Thanks Ralph!
Photo credits; Keppler endorsed check from sanjuanslim - ebay, digging scenes AB&GC, Leadville street scenes internet.


Rick Simi said...

Great post on Leadville and the unique Keppler flask.
Keep these informative and enjoyable posts coming!

Geo. S. Evans said...

That's nice I love the pictures of the club dig. Here in nutty California all those participants would be viewed by the media as urban terrorist and looters.

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