Monday, October 31, 2016

Braunschweigers Bears

The label shown here was trademarked on September 17, 1884.

It advertises an apparently (based on days of research) non-existent Oak Valley Distilling Co., as well as Braunschweiger's earliest flagship brand, Bear Valley Old Bourbon. It appears that Bear Valley was the first in a long lineup of products, based on the September 1884 trademark date, since he and Bumstead were in the process of "splitting the sheets" at that time. 

Other brands pushed by the firm included "Bear Grass", "California Club", "Extra Pony", "Golden Chief", "Golden Cupid", "Golden Rule", "Golden Rule XXX Sour Mash Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey", "Oak Valley Distilling: Brunswick Extra Pony Pure Bourbon Whiskey", "Old Pioneer", "California Club", and "Silver Wedding."

Bear Grass would replace Bear Valley as their "go to" brand by 1890. By the turn of the century, acid etched advertising glasses were being handed out for three of the brands in an effort to gain market share. These included three different stencils for "California Club", and one each for "Old Pioneer", and "Bear Grass".

 The Bear Grass glass design is very similar to that on the label, with the exception that "Bear Valley" is replaced with "Bear Grass". The glass also states that the company had been incorporated by the time it was produced ("Inc." first appears in the 1895 S.F. Directory), further helping to date it.

We recently had several clear tooled top cylinders dropped by; all of which are pictures. Two of them are Bear Grasses, and I noticed an immediate difference between them when put onto the display shelf. 

The first and most obvious difference is the size and capacity. The one on the left measures 12" in height, where the one on the right is only 11 3/8". The one on the left is 3" in diameter, where the right hand example is 3 1/8". Both are free of base marks, but the left hand bottle has a stepped kick up where the right one has a round dome shaped base. The shoulder step height is notably different as well. Moving on to the embossing things get even more interesting.

The bear on the left closely resembles the design on the label; the right hand bear looks more like an angry wild pig.
The difference in the size and shape of the circular slug plates is immediately evident, as is the absence of "S. F." on the right hand example.

 According to Barnett, in WWB 4th edition, there is a clear (no doubt German Connection) glop top version of the one on the right, (no height listed but without S. F.) but no listing for a clear tool top that will turn amethyst. My records indicate that I've had over a dozen of the S. F.'s, but have only seen one of the shorter ones. 

I'm curious; why the two different embossing patterns? Did Bob make a mistake when he listed the non-S.F. as being a glop top? Why the absence of S. F. on the smaller variant, and which one is older? And how many of the non-S.F. variants are sitting on collectors shelves these days?

Let's here it from you~

A special thank you to the estate of Ken Schwartz and to Robin P for the shot photos.


Westernglassaddict said...

Hey Bruce, Is there not a squatty quart embossed with the Oak Valley brand? I am not sure of the company that put it out, but I know I have seen a few. DM

Kentucky Gem said...

Hi Dale;

Yes, there is a clear tooled squat embossed Oak Valley Distilling Co. / Trade Mark / (picture of a griffin inside a triangle) / Extra Pony / Braunschweiger & Co. / Sole Agents, S. F.

We did an article on it, as well as documenting the non-existance of Oak Valley Distilling Co., some time back. Use the following link and the article will appear;


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