Friday, March 27, 2009


This picture was just emailed to me. It's not a whiskey bottle, but a top shelf western bitters is close enough. What an absolute gorgeous bottle! I believe the bottle has some damage, but the picture is not staged. It was dug within the past month. I always thought it was bad luck to bring a camera along with you on a dig. Of course I am always willing to blame my bad luck on just about anything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Just an additional comment about Braunschweiger and Bumsted. I found an old folder that I had put away with a Bear Grass label included. Notice that the trade mark is registered in Sept. 1884, which led me to another source that provided additional information. It seems like Herman Braunschweiger registered a group of whiskey trademarks with the State of California in 1884. These include Bear Grass, Golden Rule, Silver Wedding, Extra Pony, and others. They were registered by Braunschweiger & Co. So it seems that Bumsted was no longer associated with Braunschweiger as of Sept. 1884.

Back in 1995, Steve Abbott put together a little booklet of California Whiskey Trademarks 1864-1916. I have found myself using this resource many times over the years.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


One of the best "named" of the western glob top fifths is the Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon(t-6). The agents for this famous brand of Kentucky bourbon were Herman Braunschweiger and Edward H. Bumstead of San Francisco. Braunschweiger and Bumstead hooked up sometime in 1882 it appears that they were still advertising the Bear Grass brand together into early 1885. Their business was located at 223 California St. In Thomas' Whiskey Bottles of the Old West it is noted that Bumstead left the partnership with Braunschweiger in the fall of 1884 to go to work for Wolter's Bros. in San Francisco. This may be accurate, the business directory showing the two together in 1885 may have been printed or at least proofed in late 1884.
Regardless, the amber Bear Grass(t-6) bottle could not have been used for very long, they remain quite rare. Probably 12-15 examples known, I would rate them as very rare. Popular with glob top collectors as well as "picture whiskey" collectors, they are a tough bottle to come up with. Five examples came from one hole in Idaho in the early 1990's. Several of these sold through Jeff Wichmann's American Bottle Auctions during the late 1990's. Prices ranged from 3600.00 to 6500.00 on examples that I noted as selling. Hard to put a price on one today, have not seen one sell for a few years. The distribution of the bottle seems to be fairly limited. Northern California has produced a few, Washington and the Idaho dig added the rest.
The bottle is not air vented, but I have not seen an example that is whittled to speak of. The examples that I have seen are somewhat weakly embossed. They come in medium to darker amber shades, I have seen one broken example that was found near Boise, ID that had a strong olive tone to the glass. I have not seen a lighter amber example, someone please send us a picture of a whittled, yellow amber smoker. All amber Bear Grass fifths are found with a four piece mold and have the glob top. The bottle is in the transition period where globs as well as tool tops are seen for the same embossing pattern, such as Phoenix(t-120), Choice Old Cabinet(t-31), Old Castle(t-22), and others. The clear Bear Grass bottles with just Braunschweiger's name come with several different mold variations, but only with a tool top I believe.

So just a couple of years was Bumstead's claim to fame, or was it Bumsted.
His name appears on the Bear Grass fifth and the square Hibernia Bitters bottle. Both bottles have his name spelled Bumsted, even though advertising directories shows it as Bumstead. Maybe that was what caused the split with Herman. On the Hibernia bottle, it looks like they nearly ran out of room for Bumsted's name. So I guess it can be spelled both ways, Bumstead - Bumsted, just drop an "a" what the "hay" or "hey". It must have been pretty tough answering to "hey Bumstead" all day long, especially from a dude named Braunschweiger.
Braunschweiger and Bumsted - it's a western classic!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I am still pretty jazzed about the recent appearance of the first intact A.M. Smith - California Wine Depot - Salt Lake City flask. Thought I would give a little background on the fascinating Mr. Smith. Not only did he operate as a wholesale and retail liquor dealer in three different cities, Salt Lake 1872-75; Philadelphia 1875-1886; and finally, and most famously in Minneapolis from 1886-1915, Smith was a numismatic writer and coin collector of high merit. While in Philadelphia, Smith became interested in coins and the minting of coins at the facility in Philadelphia. Smith wrote quite a number of books and pamphlets on coin collecting and his Encyclopedia of Gold and Silver Coins of the World written in 1886 was the standard work on the subject for many years. Check out this web page of a display put together by Mr. Pete Smith, a relative of A.M. Smith. Pete won best of show with his display.

You can see that A.M. Smith wrote two autobiographies, Up and Down in the World or Paddle Your Own Canoe; and The Luck of a Wandering Dane.

These are pretty fascinating to read, to really get a glimpse into the start up of his business in Salt Lake and the move to Philadelphia is very interesting. The only other western liquor dealer that I know of that has as much personal information available is the great A.P. Hotaling.

Here is a photo of Salt Lake in 1874 or so. Check out the box by the side of the road in front of Smith's Wine Depot. Appears to be full of bottles.

Embossed A.M. Smith bottles are known from Philadelphia, an amber strap-side flask that is also extremely rare. His bottles from the Minneapolis address are well known and there are upwards of 25 to 30 different examples of embossed flasks available to collectors.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


There are still wild horses to be seen in western Nevada. Despite the best efforts of the B.L.M. to round up the horses and anyone looking for said horses, a true stallion could still make an appearance at any time.

We caught just a glimpse of these two palominos last year, and worked hard to get a rope/hand around the neck of one, but it was not to be.

This particular breed of horse has made it's way from the S.F. Bay area and now populates several areas near Washoe, Storey and Nye Counties in Nevada.

My past experiences in horse watching in the Nevada desert have been unfulfilled at best, and the snapshot that may best describe my temperament and personality after another unsuccessful roundup is--

After reading this post you may also want to put words to the snapshot
"What a horse's ASS".

Friday, March 6, 2009


Recently I came across a picture of a grouping of Gold Dust whiskies, in assorted colors, on Jeff Wichmann's American Bottle Auctions web site. In the picture gallery he has this line up of John's and N's that is quite remarkable.
check it out -

The early Gold Dust bottles, John van Bergen(t-154) and N. van Bergen(t-155) are two of the most highly sought after western glob fifths. The Gold Dust Kentucky Bourbon was a very popular brand from the moment it was introduced to the Pacific Slope by Barkhouse Bros. through their agent the John van Bergen Co. of San Francisco. The name is a natural for the early California and Nevada trade, it probably was a significant factor in the brand's popularity. The Gold Dust name however, is in reference to the horse depicted in the trade mark, and of course embossed on the bottle.

Gold Dust was the product of a mating of the famous trotting champion Vermont Morgan #69 and the chestnut daughter of the Arabian stallion Zilcaadi, who had been a gift of the Sultan of Morocco to the U. S. Consul - a Mr. Rhind. In 1855, near Louisville, Ky. the foal was born and was remarked to be "pure gold in color". This beautiful stallion grew to stand "16 hands" and weighed 1275 lbs. at maturity. This famous horse of the 1860's was written about extensively - "Gold Dust was a most beautiful horse, and one the very great sires of the country, he is unequaled in achieving his extreme speed". Numerous matched races were held throughout the early 1860's, but Gold Dust's legacy was already sealed when he beat the much heralded and formerly unbeatable Iron Duke in a best 3 of 5 matched race in 1861.

Gold Dust was the first breeding of Morgan and Arabian horses. This breed, known as Morabs, are very popular today for their beauty and athleticism.

So hand it to Barkhouse Bros. of Louisville, if Kentucky is famous for anything it is race horses and bourbon whiskey. Their trademark application of Nov. 25, 1871, indicates that they have been using the proposed design for 4 months past. Trade mark was officially registered on Jan. 9, 1872.