Thursday, November 17, 2022





Mr. Dictionary says…


A size of shot, 0.18 inch (0.46 centimeter) in diameter, fired from an air rifle or BB gun. Also called BB shot. 

Shot of this size.




Three years ago I sold my Victorian “mansion in the country” and placed my collection into storage. No, not a BB collection; my bottles! The rental house in town was a roof over my head, and nothing more. Less than half the size of the Victorian, there was little room for anything inside but the essentials. And so, the bottles sat boxed up in the garage for what seemed like an eternity.


Fast forward to 2022. I’d bought and remodeled a “mid century modern” two story home in Jacksonville proper. It was the COVID remodel from hell. I’ve built and remodeled a LOT of homes over the years but nothing could have prepared me for this project. A combination of manpower shortage, supply chain “issues”, and skyrocketing prices turned what should have been a fairly straightforward job into a prolonged nightmare. And so, the bottles sat boxed up in the garage once again for what seemed like another eternity.


Finally, I was able to afford to have the cabinets fabricated, the LED back lighting assembled and wired, and the display installed. The magic moment of “the great unpacking” had finally arrived. The foods went into a china cabinet in the kitchen. The bitters went into an ornate Victorian curved glass china in my office and the labeled whiskies and shots went into an equally ornate oak book case. The embossed cylinders and mini’s were placed in the new back lit display, which occupied an entire wall in the living room. It was like an early Christmas!


Recently, one of the bottle websites had a theme day; “bottles with embossed addresses”. Hmm, I wondered, how many western whiskies met the criteria? I was amazed to find only four out of well over 100 embossed western cylinders, and even less in the labeled group of a few dozen, qualified. I gave the collection another once over and a mini caught my eye.


Embossed “BB / Whiskey / Brinckmann Bros / Geary and Jones / S.F. Cal.” , the bottle measures 5 5/8” tall, is tooled, and clear with a manganese dioxide based cullet that will turn purple. It is to my knowledge, unique, as I’ve never seen or even heard of another in existence. 








I posted it as my contribution to the theme. Supposedly there is also a clear tooled embossed fifth “in the wild”, but I’ve never seen or heard of who owns it. Bob listed it as #83 and recorded the embossing as Brinckmann Bros / monogram / Geary and Jones  S.F. Cal.”.

John Oneill, an advanced collector and all around great guy, added a PS to my post stating “I have the coffin flask for them.” The flask is a half pint. It too is unique.


So, just who were these Brinckmann Brothers and why are their bottles as rare as a pair of lips on a chicken? I generally start my research using the SF City directories, and this case was no exception. Given the “construction” of the mini, I assumed that it would date ca. late 1880’s / early 1890’s or newer. I ran the search all the way through prohibition. Wholesale liquor dealers – zilch. Retail liquor dealers – nada. “Brinkman Bros.” in the general directory listings, nuthin…


Amazing though, how a simple mis-spelling on my part can account for countless hours of wasted time. Not “Brinkman Bros.” dummy; “Brinckmann Brothers”!!! I started over. Nothing in the searches through the TOC popped up. And then 1904 bore fruit. Not in liquor listings though. Instead, the general directory listed them as being grocers.


 The 1905 directory listing was pretty much a clone to the '04.


The “Brinckmann Brothers” were comprised of Frederick H. and his older brother August H.


They emigrated to the US from Bremervoerde, Germany in the early 1890's. By 1904 they had established themselves as the Brinckmann Bros. / grocers.  




Much like Wm. Cline, Goldberg Bowen, and several others in their earlier days, they apparently had a small “backroom” whiskey bottling operation in their grocery store and had an initial run of a gross each of cylinders, minis and flasks blown. The cost of private molds for such an operation would have been significant and they obviously had visions of grandeur. However, their endeavor was doomed to failure.


As noted the Brinckmann Brothers established their store, located at the corner of Geary and Jones, in 1904.  


At 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906, San Francisco was rocked by the worst earthquake in recorded west coast history. Fires broke out immediately. According to archived SFFD records, fire broke out “all through the merchantile (sp) districts. On both sides of Market Street embryo fires were discovered”. At 9AM on the 18th, the Woolworth Bank building, located at Post and Market, caught fire. Roughly ten minutes later, the Brinckmann Bros. grocery building caught fire and burned to the ground. By the time the flames died out on April 21st, 25,000 buildings lay in smoldering ruins. Much of San Francisco had burned to the ground.


“In the weeks following the fire Fredericks wife, being a very practical North German, saw an opportunity for them to get back on their feet when she heard that the civil authorities were paying men to clean bricks of the fallen buildings for reconstruction.  Frederick disappointed her by not taking full advantage of the brick cleaning opportunity.  Instead, he took his Ansco No.5 camera, and armed with several rolls of film”, began to walk the ruins taking the pictures of the earthquake and fire damage that many will recognize to this day.











After “the earthquake and fire destroyed the store, Frederick and his family came to live with his wife's family in the less affected area of the Mission district and eventually reopened his grocery store there”.  



The year of 1907 saw the brothers go their separate ways. Although both remained grocers, they owned and operated stores in different parts of the city; Frederick at 3394 26th St. and August to the northwest, at 3799 17th St. 



In closing, we western whiskey aficionados have the brothers Brinckmann to thank for three extreme rarities, courtesy of their visions of grandeur and the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.




I’d like to thank Dale F. Smith, descendant of Frederick, and his “Photograph by F. H. Brinckmann” for some of the photos and text contained herein.

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