Saturday, January 31, 2009

THE BEGINNING "continued"

Bill and Betty Wilson, while they were together, authored 3 very well put together and informative books on western bottles. The first of these came to collectors in 1968 under the title of SPIRITS BOTTLES OF THE OLD WEST. Numerous books and pamphlets had been published prior to Wilson's book, but SPIRITS BOTTLES took collectors to a new place. Not only was it a large book, with hundreds of examples listed and photographed, the bottles were also noted to be found in different colors and degrees of crudeness. Bottles were given a numeric weight so they could be compared with each other as to desirability. Wilson stated it perfectly in his book when he said "the one thing that creates value in a bottle is demand. Several factors may influence demand; rarity, color, crudeness, and popularity." In his book it was easy to see the older, more crudely made glob top fifths and flasks were quite different in appearance to the newer, tooled top style of the 1890's -1915.

During this time period another book was being put together that really brought together as a group, collectors of the older glob top whiskies. John L. Thomas' book A CHOICE LISTING OF THE MOST DESIRED OLDER WHISKEY BOTTLES has a long title, but a narrow list of bottles. Thomas, with the help of pioneer collectors of these older fifths, put together a listing of 144 of the most desired western fifths. Thomas' book immediately became the bible for collectors of these early whiskies. Not only did he have a listing of the all the known early whiskeys, but he went into some detail on each bottle as to distributor, history of the company, how many examples were known, and where they have been found. I have a copy of his first spiral bound publication, possibly 1968. He published another updated version in 1969, under the same title, but including a listing of 47 of the older flasks. In 1977, Thomas revised his earlier work under the title of WHISKEY BOTTLES OF THE OLD WEST. The fifth section of this publication had grown to 177 bottles and the flask section to 64 examples. Not all of these were glob tops however, as this book contained a number of tooled top "picture" whiskies that had become popular with collectors. The flask section also has a number bottles that are known only with a tooled top. Maybe that is why Thomas eliminated the words Choice and Most Desired from the new title. --- Smile, I'm Joking!!! Kind of!
Thomas' book remained the ultimate work on these older whiskies until 2002, when his work was updated and revised with the help of Ken Schwartz, Bill Ham and Richard Siri. Again, 177 fifths and 64 flasks. They kept the numbering system the same as Thomas' 1977 book to avoid confusion. Histories and bottle populations were updated. Nice color pictures were added and some very interesting research on bottles and distributors was included. As in the earlier Thomas books, a pricing guide or value guide was included for each bottle. When a book is published, everyone wants a pricing guide included. I'm sure it is a necessity. The bad thing is that the prices are almost immediately out of date.

One of the uses of this blog is to present new information on these early glob whiskies, including pricing. I will track auction sales and private sales as best I can and report findings on a timely basis. Collectors can report what they see or hear about, as well a listing something they may want to sell.

In all references to the early glob fifth and flasks I will be using the 2002 revised WHISKEY BOTTLES OF THE OLD WEST. The numbering system of this book will be used in the description to help avoid confusion. Example, J.H. CUTTER non crown, J.H.CUTTER full face, J.H.CUTTER oldest cutter, Oldest Hotaling, are all collector slang for the same bottle.
My reference to this bottle will be J.H.CUTTER , HOTALING (T-49) or MILLER'S EXTRA OLD BOURBON large circle flask would be MILLER'S large (TF-19).
It will be easy enough to follow along with the posts and entries I'm sure, but the book is the base line or standard work for collecting these old whiskies. Any information we can add to it will just add to your enjoyment of collecting.

I have to mention one other very influential whiskey bottle dealer, and author. Bob Barnett served the collecting community very well for many years. He was a regular at all the western bottle shows and his regular listing of whiskey bottles for sale was sent out to hundreds of collectors throughout the country. Many of the desirable early whiskies are now in the hands of collectors in the Midwest and the Eastern states due to Bob and his mail order sales lists. His integrity and honesty made it possible for many new collectors to enjoy these early western bottles. Bob didn't specialize in just the early whiskies, but he provided whiskey bottles to collectors of all levels. Beginning collector or advanced collector could always count on finding something from one of Bob's lists or from his sales table. Bob published a listing of known whiskey fifths and flasks that included many small town or local bottles that had not been listed in print before. His work was revised 3 times and grew to be quite a complete listing or encyclopedia of whiskey bottles. His popular book is used by many collectors and dealers.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Just getting started. Looking for collectors of early western bottles, particularly applied top whiskey bottle collectors, to share information about their bottles. Pictures, history, digging stories, bottle shows, anything that is related to the old fifths and flasks.
I hope to post information that collectors will find interesting, and hope to attract some new collectors that may have an interest in this specialized field of bottle collecting. Send me a comment or a picture and lets see where this takes us.
I have been an avid collector of these old western bottles for nearly 40 years. I have seen many collectors and collections come and go over the years. The applied top or glob top western whiskies have always been near the top of the list of western collectible bottles since the beginning of the bottle craze in the late 1950's. Ghost town digging in California, Nevada, and Utah produced some of the first examples of these wonderful old bottles. Bottle collectors formed bottle clubs and every major city in the West had a club and a 'bottle show and sale' each year. Examples of these glob top whiskey bottles changed hands at these 'shows' and before long a group of collectors began to look for or specialize in this particular type of bottle. Collectors traveled to the Las Vegas show, Santa Rosa show, and other shows just to look for glob tops.
Urban renewal projects in Sacramento, San Francisco, Stockton, Portland and other early western cities uncovered pre-1890 refuse dumps. New examples of glob fifths and flasks were discovered, bottles were found in different colors. Collectors began to look closely at their collections and found that the same embossed bottle might have subtle differences in the mold or lettering, indicating several variations may exist for particular bottles. Finally in 1968, there was enough information, enough collectors, and enough demand, that two books were written on the subject of WESTERN WHISKEY BOTTLES.

For information sake let me clarify what we are talking about here:

The bottles I am referring to here are mold blown bottles that have the raised lettering on the bottle, usually the on the face of the bottle or shoulder. Although these "embossed" bottles or private mold bottles became popular in the 1830's and 1840's, and embossed bottles were blown on the West Coast as early as 1859, the cylinder western fifth was probably first embossed in 1868. Embossing a company name on the container, as well as the name or trademark of the famous brand of bourbon or rye in the container became very popular in the 1870's. Dozens of different companies or their agents came out with embossed whiskey bottles and a field of bottle collecting was created.

Glob top bottles or applied top bottles refer to style of manufacture of the top of the container. The term applied top, as you may guess, refers to the top being applied to the neck in a separate step at the glass works. The earliest embossed western fifths 1868-1880, are usually found with this crudely "applied top". The top may sit crookedly on the neck, the "mold seam" runs up the side of the neck and under the top. The favorite feature with collectors is when there is actually a "drip of glass" or glob of glass hanging down the neck from under the top. Hence the name GLOB TOP or GLOP TOP.

In using the term WESTERN GLOB TOP WHISKIES it is not meant to cause any geographical arguments. The whiskey bottles I am talking about were blown and distributed almost exclusively for the western market. Most of the embossed bottles carried the brand names already made famous in the eastern United States. CUTTER, BLAKES, W.A. GAINES, MCKENNA, S.T. SUITS, so on. The western agents for these brands were the driving force behind the "embossed" fifth containers. S.T. SUITS KENTUCKY BOURBON is a good example. WALKER BROS. were liquor dealers in Salt Lake City in the 1870's. They became SOLE AGENTS for S.T. SUITS KENTUCKY BOURBON for the Utah Territory in 1872. The bourbon was shipped from the east to Walker Bros. in Salt Lake by the barrel. Embossed bottles were ordered from one of the west coast glass works, probably the SAN FRANCISCO GLASS WORKS, and also sent to Salt Lake to be filled and sold by the fifth. The S.T. SUITS glob top fifth is recognized as one of the TOP WESTERN WHISKEYS, but the Suits name is well known to eastern collectors. In the east the containers of choice are various sizes of "salt glaze" jugs. I will post more information about the different bottles that are found with the same names both in the East and the West. Exceptions to every rule it seems, but it is safe to say that the embossed cylinder whiskey bottle became synonymous with the West. Whether it was a form of advertising, or a guarantee of the genuine item and quality, the embossed cylinder whiskey bottle was very widely used in the West from 1868 through prohibition.
It is not a surprising fact that almost all of the EMBOSSED GLOB TOP WHISKEY FIFTHS 1868-1880 are found in the west. Cal., Nev., Utah, Oregon, Washington have produced the most. Some have been found in Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, a few in Hawaii, and a very few in Colorado. Montana may have yielded a few and possibly Wyoming though I don't know of any intact examples positively found in either of these states. The area west of the Rocky Mtns. is really the only area these bottles are found or more precisely "pulled out of the ground".