Saturday, December 22, 2018

The long and the short of it; (or the story of the Crown Cocktails fifth and the mini).

Years ago, Wilson made mention of a product of the Crown Distilleries Co. which has baffled me ever since. It's an amber cylinder embossed simply " Crown Cocktails / Ready to Drink". It was listed as an amber fifth, (no mention of whether it was glopped or tooled) #52-4 and he stated that it was common. 

Well, if it's so common, why have I only seen a scant handful in the ensuing fifty or so years?

Later, Bob Barnett, in his Western Whiskey Bottles series, listed it as coming both with a glop and a tooled top. Bob dated it to ca. 1890 - 1910.

The history of Crown Distilleries has been well documented by Russel Umbraco, a descendent of Ernest Reuben Lilienthal, who owned the company of which Crown Distilleries was spun off from. Russ stated that Lilienthal & Co.'s interests were so large and diverse, that the Crown Distilleries Co. was created in 1895 to handle Lilienthal's liquor interests. He further states that Crown Distilleries liquidated it's assets in 1917, due to the passage of the Volstead Act, and impending national prohibition. 

That narrows down the window for Crown Cocktails considerably. In as much as the bottle is scarce and that bottles were produced with both applied and tooled tops, I date it to the emergence of the CD Co., ca. 1895, as opposed to later. Extensive searches of newspaper archives and brand registrations were fruitless. It was never advertised and Crown Cocktails simply didn't make the cut. Based on the scarcity of the bottle, I'd say the brand flopped and was abandoned the same year it was introduced.

Not mentioned in the Wilson or Barnett books is the presence of a sample (mini). Crown Distilleries marketed railroad sample bottles which were used by the Southern Pacific Railroad; much like today's airline single serving bottles. They were embossed on one side, and had a paper label on the reverse. The brands were named after the passenger trains of the line; including Daylight, Flyer, Seashore Express, Shasta Express and a number of others. Fellow collector Mike Menze obtained a cache of these a number of years ago, which he liquidated at the Morro Bay Show.

A number of different "sample" variants were produced including squats about 4 1/2" tall, larger examples around 5 3/4" tall, and a scarce shorter one with the embossing in a rectangular slug plate. All are tooled; either having a cork or a Riley patent inside thread closure which utilized an ebonite threaded stopper.

A number of years ago, I was contacted by a digger in Burlington Vt. He and a friend had excavated a railroad depot outhouse, and had recovered a clear mini embossed "Crown Cocktails". It had a five point crown embossed on it with jewels on the tip of each crown point. I'd not heard of it before but when he sent me a photo of it, and I compared the photo to the Crown Distilleries label and the embossing on a Crown fifth, it became immediately evident that it was indeed was a Crown Distilleries product, and was a "mini me" version of the amber Crown Cocktails fifth. 


Wow, not only had a "new" western whiskey made its appearance, but it was a mini "picture" as well!


I can just imagine someone boarding a Southern Pacific train in Oakland, making the transcontinental trip to the eastern seaboard, toasting his arrival home with a Crown Cocktail and unceremoniously pitching the empty under the seat as he disembarks the train in Vermont.

Thanks, whoever you were!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wishing all a very

Merry Christmas 

From our little Elves at the Western Whiskey Gazette

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