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!

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