Saturday, November 22, 2014


It's a nice short word. It can be a noun; an act of shooting a gun, or an effort to do or accomplish something.
It can also be a verb; to cause (a projectile) to be driven forward with force.  
And, it can be an adjective; in a very bad condition. And for those with a phobia about injections, it can be the thing that you get when the dentist says, "open wide - this won't hurt a bit" (yeh right)...

Obviously, whomever wrote the above at Mirriam Webster, wasn't a western whiskey collector though.

For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word is a little glass with etching on it that was used to measure or serve whiskey by the "shot".

I guess technically, they're called a shot glass, but to me the word SHOT gets the message across just fine; short and sweet.


Something that many western whiskey collectors overlook are advertising shot glasses. They date, for the most part, to the early post turn of the century era; approximately 1900 through the mid teens. It's surprising how many different glasses exist, advertising both brands and liquor wholesalers from towns and cities, both large and small, all over the west coast.

Although the actual process of production remains a mystery, it is believed that a rubber stencil was created in mirror image. The rubber stencil then had some type of medium applied to the pattern and this substance was transferred to the nearly paper thin glass. Once this medium was applied, powdered glass was dusted over the shot glass and the glass was then re-fired. The powdered glass adhered to (actually bonded with) the glass and the resulting effect was a semi durable reverse image of pattern of the rubber stencil.

The mortality of the glasses is, not surprisingly, high. The glasses were meant to be a disposable advertising medium and the walls of the glass were typically about as thick as an eggshell. As such, all it took was a clank against another glass, or being popped down a bit too hard on the counter of the saloon, and into the trash went the pieces.

The glasses are typically about 2 1/2" tall and range in form from straight sided to tapered walls. Some of the walls are paneled (either outside or inside) while others are plain. The rims of glasses are seen, on occasion with a gold rim. Some glass etch patterns are plain, simple and to the point, simply advertising a brand of whiskey. Others have both the brand and the company name and city, while some actually have all of the above plus ornate pictures on them. Most have "white frosted" labels, but a select few are enameled; much like the back bar bottles. Enameled glasses are typically white, but on rare occasions one will encounter a multi colored enamel glass. They are both extremely rare and extremely valuable.

The first shot glass that I actually dug was in the railroad district in Ashland, Or. back in the mid 70's. It was a multi colored enameled glass made to advertise OPS / Old Kentucky Home Club / OPS. It is an exceptionally rare glass that was produced for Blumauer & Hoch of Portland Or. Talk about a way to get started! Turns out, forty years later, it was the only shot that I've ever dug...


There's a lot to like about pre-pro shot glasses. They take up very little space on display, are great go withs to accompany the fifths, and are affordable when one considers the rarity. Personally I'm surprised that they haven't become more mainstream to western collectors. And yet, in retrospect, with the exception of the one I dug, I never paid much attention to them. That was until a few years ago. Fortunately, the competition has been almost non-existent and I've been able to acquire many, many tough glasses without having to invest a fortune. I look at the shots much as I did when I started amassing labeled and embossed fifths (before I got priced out of the "market"). They're rare, each one is unique, and I haven't needed to spend a fortune to build a great collection!
Following you'll see some examples, grouped by location. Enjoy~
San Francisco had, arguably, the highest number of liquor wholesalers on the west coast. As such, a myriad of glasses were produced.

(Here's a hint - click on the photo and it will open in a large format high res. mode in a separate window)



For those of you who thought that supersize was something off the McDonalds menu, think again. The highball glasses were the supersize of the pre-pro shot world~
Los Angeles was hitting it's stride around the turn of the century, and a few glasses exist that were made for the So. Cal. liquor crowd. A number of glasses were produced for the dealers in smaller communities as well, such as Fresno, Santa Barbara, Anaheim, etc. etc.

The east coast had far and away the most glasses produced for their thirsty customers. They are for the most part fairly common. But a few exceptions do exist and the graphics on a select few rival even the most sought after of the west coast glasses.


And of course, the east coast had it's "supersized" glasses as well.

Occasioanlly we run across a glass that was created to do double duty. It's simply a glass that has a "stock" pattern which could be modified to reflect the proprietor of the brand as well, be it west or east coast. Such is the case with the following glass. The top glass is the stock pattern, the bottom is an identical stencil with the addition of F. Brassy & Co. of San Jose Cal.; a tough glass!

And on rare occasions, we encounter a glass that was of presentation grade; copper wheel cut for the best of the best customers. I've only seen a couple of these wheel cut variants over the years. This one was produced for the firm of Goldman Levy & Co. of San Francisco. They were in business for just three short years, located at 211 Battery (1893-1894) and 209 Sansome (1895).
It is an early glass and is believed to be unique.
In closing, you just gotta love these little gems. They have a ton going for them in terms of graphics, take up very little shelf space, and they are still "out there", lurking in the recesses of cases and cabinets in second hand stores, antique malls and junk shops. Happy Hunting!

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