Thursday, April 23, 2009



I guess I shouldn't be too hard on old Billy Hoelscher, he... wait a minute, yes we should! When you try to scab off of the biggest whiskey name on the west coast, maybe the entire country....that takes some serious stones, or he was just plain stupid. Maybe in today's world, no big deal. I'm mean it isn't A.I.G. or Goldman-SUCKS, but for the time period it is akin to trying to pass off bogus Jack Daniels, maybe worse! Hotaling and Moorman were in no mood for any more 'bull-spit'. They had just ponied up 51,000 (1879) clams to get rid of Milton J. Hardy and E. Martin and their crappy Cincinnati "hell broth". They had fought that battle for 6 long years. They had to deal with John F. Cutter and his claim that they had stolen the business from his father. Chielovich tried to copy their barrel, other small time infringements, too many to name were dealt with continually. Now here comes Hoelscher, not only copying their trademarks, but claiming that he originated them! He even found someone at the California Trademark Office to sign off on his paperwork, no actual fact checking needed apparently.

This does sound like today's events, mortgage fraud, bureaucratic ineptitude, jeez, maybe Hoelscher was just ahead of his time.

Warren Friedrich, in his research, has found quite a number of battles between liquor dealers, wine and spirit distributors, brand originators, so on. It seems like they were all battling in the press and in their advertising as to which distributor was legit., who was selling counterfeit product, who was copying labels, trademarks, etc. Many of these battles actually were settled in court! Fines and or jail time were assessed. They were serious about this counterfeiting stuff, and Warren has mainly been focusing on the early 1860's. Move on to the late 1870's, it would be just a guess on how much more J.H. Cutter product Hotaling is selling, as compared to those early 60's dealers. Safe to say, if the early dealers were that pissed about being scammed, what Hoelscher was doing was, well let's just say he was in way over his head.

It seems like Bill Hoelscher was doing just fine during the 1870's. According to Thomas' Whiskey Bottles of the Old West, Hoelscher and Conrad Mausshardt had formed a partnership and ran their own successful wholesale and retail liquor store for a number of years. William Hoelscher had a brother, Author G. Hoelscher. Author entered the scene in late 1878, as a silent partner. Mausshardt exited about the same time. The new name of the company (the two Hoelscher brothers) was now Wm. Hoelscher & Co.

Not that I know this as fact, why let facts get in the way of a good story, but it seems that Bill Hoelscher's problems started with Author getting involved with the decision making. Early in 1879 the idea was hatched, barrels and crowns make for good trademarks. Hey, why not use the O.K. and A No.1 brand names as well. Can't you just see the two Hoelscher brothers sitting down and coming up with this plan... I mean I wonder how many shots they threw back before this sounded like a great idea!

On Feb. 21, 1879, William Hoelscher signed and had notarized, documents purporting to be the owner and originator of certain devices and designs. Labels for Laurel Crown O.K. Old Bourbon and Laurel Crown A No1. Old Bourbon had been printed by M. Schmidt Litho. S.F. and were attached to the application. Hoelscher was awarded the trademark, #479, on Feb. 25th, 1879.

Trouble was that a certain well known brand, J.H.Cutter Old Bourbon, had been using the "English Crown" and the famous Cutter barrel, and the O.K. and A No1 brands for years. Several of these trademarks were registered in the U.S. Patent Office. C.P. Moorman, and his west coast agent A.P. Hotaling, had been in a spirited court fight for 6 years against Milton J. Hardy, and the San Francisco firm of E.Martin & Co. Hardy was the son in law of the original John Hastings Cutter. Both Moorman and Hardy had been granted the use of the J.H. Cutter name and trademarks in an 1873 ruling.
Finally after years of battles, in the courts and in the press, C.P. Moorman was able to gain a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, and for the sum of 51050.00 he was awarded sole use of the J.H. Cutter brand, including all trademarks. This was awarded in July of 1879.

I'm sure that A.P.Hotaling was well aware of the Wm. Hoelscher & Co., and the Laurel Crown whiskies. As soon as C.P. Moorman won the Supreme Court case, Hotaling filed suit against William Hoelscher to stop the fraudulent use of certain well known trademarks. The case was brought to a conclusion quickly and Laurel Crown disappeared as fast as it originated. There is some evidence that Hoelscher was trying to dispose of the embossed bottles. Several examples of this bottle have been pulled from the San Francisco Bay. Could Hoelscher have dumped his empty bottles to get them out of sight? Possibly, but bottle recyclers picked up a few of them and they were shipped into Belleville, NV. I have seen quite a few broken Laurel Crowns in "beer label town".

So from Feb. 1879, maybe Hoelscher started using the bottle a little before the application, until July 1879 or until Hotaling shut him down. 6 - 8 months is a pretty short time line! Now you know why they are so rare.
Did Bill Hoelscher really think he could pull this off? Maybe he thought the Moorman - Hardy court battle would go on indefinitely. Maybe he was delusional and really thought he originated the trademarks (Al Gore). It seems like he came to his senses. After the Laurel Crown fiasco, he prospered in the wholesale liquor industry for 30 more years!

About 10 known examples of this extremely rare fifth. Hoelscher was determined to copy the Cutter bottle completely. There are two different embossed Laurel Crown bottles. Most have the 'A No. 1' in a circle on the reverse, and one that I know of has the 'O.K.' in a circle on the reverse. Maybe other O.K.'s exist, but Fred Kille has the only one I have seen.

Here is one of the S.F. bay "rollers". Not the skaters, but a bottle that rolled around in the bay until the embossing was just about gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Which one is it??

My old mentor Blackie Owen used to torment the hell out of me with shards. He told me I wasn't a digger or a whiskey collector unless I could identify broken bottles while doing "field work". I had to pass the whiskey piece test numerous times just to get into his bottle room and peek at the master's collection. This broken one came out of the foothills above Nevada City.

That didn't take too long to get a positive ID. I guess I will have to make it more of a challenge on the next one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Francis Cassin, the older brother has somewhat better luck!

After chatting with Roger Terry on some western whiskey history, the counterfeiting of the A. P Hotaling [Cutter] bottles by E. Martin reminded me somewhat of the sequel story concerning the older Cassin brother's [Francis] dealings.

F & P. J. Cassin having launched their Grape Brandy Bitters product in 1867, and promoting it throughout the Pacific Slope region hoping to gain a foothold in the up and coming bitters market, must have been a bit perplexed to watch another bitters product come onto the market about a year later and begin to show a remarkable marketing success with it. Louis Gross & Co. were the manufacturers of the celebrated Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters and it was not long before the Cassin brothers decided that they needed to promote their own version of this successful bitters product. In November of 1868, they began promoting Cassin's California Wild Grape Root XXX Bitters. Well, that tore it with Gross & Co. and the Cassin's found themselves in court again! On December 2nd, 1868 an injunction was granted by the Twelfth District Court. " L. Gross & Co. vs F. & P.J. Cassin- Suit was brought this day by L. Gross & Co., who alleged in their complaint that they are proprietors of the 'Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters;' and that they have the above as their trade-mark. That F. & P. J. Cassin are imitating their trade-mark, bottles and labels, and are selling an inferior article of bitters, called 'Cassin's California Wild Grape Root XXX Bitters.' That they are deceiving the public and interfering with the sale of the IXL bitters. An order was issued to-day restraining defendants from selling same until further hearing was granted."

On January 19th, 1869, the Cassin's succeeded in gaining the suit pending in the Bitter case, and boy did they ever play that up! Advertisements for their Cassin's Wild Grape Root XXX Bitters began showing up in all the Northern California papers, and in almost every issue where one appeared, their was a Henley's Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters ad of an inflammatory nature on the same page! A kind of Hatfield & McCoys feud.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have received several emails regarding being an author of a post to our Western Whiskey blog. There is room for up to one hundred authors for the blog, that should give us plenty of variety. All it takes is registering your name and email address with the admin.  I would love to have anyone that would like to be an author of postings give it a shot. My creativity comes is fits and starts, as you can tell, sometimes weeks pass without a creative thought passing between my ears.

As far as commenting on an existing post, that is open to anyone that is signed up as a follower.

Sign up as a follower, it is very easy. An email will notify you of new postings to the blog.

It is apparent that everyone likes to see bottle picts. It is easy to post them, and I think we should start a photo library of all the glob fifths and flasks. They are easy to group, we could assemble quite a photo album of bottles over time. I haven't tried it yet, but videos are supposedly easy to insert into your blog posting. If you have a video of a bottle dig that you want to share that would be fantastic. If you want to video a few bottles for us to drool over, super. Remember, the white gloves are optional and may in fact be a trademark of a popular auction house.
Email me with any questions or if you want to author....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Old Signet Saga

A number of years ago, in the summer of 1999, we attended the Reno Bottle Show. Deb (my wife) and I opted to “rough it” that year and towed our travel trailer, staying at the Nevada State park adjacent to the Bowers mansion west of the site of Washoe City, about half way in between Reno and Carson. Had a blast at the show and looked forward to camping and exploring over the next few days succeeding the show. During the course of conversation with old pal Loren Love of Dayton, he recounted how urban sprawl was affecting even the Nevada dessert with subdivisions beginning to spread out from Carson towards Dayton. He lamented how even the old site of Sutro was slated for development and how a subdivision had recently been competed nearby. The building had pushed nearly to the western edge of the old townsite and the balance of the site was slated for plat approval the next year.

We had a few archival photographs to work with and realized that this would be our last chance to dig there before the D8’s and belly dumps arrived, and the site was lost forever. As everyone knows, Sutro had been hit hard (real hard) since the late 50’s and the odds against scoring were stacked against us. Still we had the photos and although I’ve never been particularly lucky compared to some, have been rewarded over the years for my combination of optimism, gut instinct, brute force and perseverance. With the aid of the photos and the accompanying terrain, we located where we surmised the main drag had been. Keep in mind that a century of flash flooding, winter snows and blowing wind can make dramatic changes in the dessert floor. Still, it wasn’t long before we were into glass; and lots of it. We had quite obviously, lucked upon a large dumpsite covered by a foot or better of sandy dirt. It also became obvious that the Hostetters Bitters rep. had done a land office business back in the 1870’s. Every conceivable color was present. Lemon yellow to grass green – pucey amber to nearly black; you name it we dug it. Dozens and dozens of crude, early amazing Hostetters were dug; all broken. Also plentiful were glop top cylinders. Well at least broken ones. Unfortunately, fearing for our liberty, we were also looking over our shoulders and in the air for any evidence that we’d been spotted since we were technically breaking the law, even back then. Never mind about the ethical dilemma of losing history for good thanks to progress; the threat of arrest, fines and jail time were an ever present thought.

About two hours in, the fear of arrest really began to sink in and my wife insisted that it was time to get out of Dodge. That was about the same instant that I dug an intact top, neck and shoulder with embossing that seemed familiar. And yet, I couldn’t place it. That was also about the time that we saw a tell tale plume of dust approaching toward us along a jeep road. Enough was enough. We scurried toward our truck, hopped in and sped off in the opposite direction.

Safe back at our campsite, I stared intently at the broken bottle. I knew this one, I’d seen it somewhere before, or had I? I thumbed through Bob Barnett’s 4th edition but nothing jumped out at me. Out came Wilsons text, again nothing. In desperation, I pulled out my tattered copy of Thomas’s Whiskey Bottle of the Old West. I looked back at the piece. The top looked western to me, as did the color. The few letters of embossing also pointed to San Francisco, but what the heck was it. It was then that I thumbed to page 31 and looked at the bottle in the bottom right corner; number 98. Oh My God! I was holding apiece of the holy grail! There was no mistaking the location and combination of the few letters on the piece that I was holding.

Meanwhile, my wife was outside the trailer maintaining a diligent visual for approaching BLM nazi’s. She was convinced that they’d gotten our description and license plate number and that we were done for. Yep, just a matter of time… Her mood deepened and by the next morning it was obvious that this cloud of doom wasn’t going to lift. Shortly after breakfast, we broke camp and headed north. A couple of hours later, we crossed the California border and by nightfall were “safely” back into Oregon, our trip cut short....

The next day was like any other. Work, stowing away the camping gear, cleaning the inside of the trailer, storing away bottles from the show and putting the books back in the library. It was then that I reopened the Thomas book to page 31. There it was, bottom right. That warm feeling returned as I went in search for the Old Signet piece. My piece of the grail! Hmm. Not in the trailer where I put it, not in the bottle boxes. That warm feeling quickly left me, replaced by a much, much hotter feeling. I asked my wife if she recalled where it was and she meekly replied that she was so sure that we were going to get caught that she’d wrapped it up with the garbage in the trailer and deposited it in the trash can back at the campground. Not much was said around here for the next few days… So much for history, Eh?

Friday, April 3, 2009

P.J. Cassin gets into trouble.

Roger's writing about the J.F. & J.H. Cutter whiskies, made me think about the feud and the ensuing court battle to come between Hotaling & Martin. Patrick Cassin (of Golden Plantation Whiskey fame) got himself embroiled in a similar situation between himself and N. B. Jacobs over the Rosenbaums Bitters product.

Apparently at the 1860 San Francisco Mechanics Institute Fair, P.J. Cassin displayed a case of Rosenbaums Bitters (this is documented by an article in the Sept. 8, 1860 S. F. Alta California paper). An article appeared in the May 10th, 1861 paper, stating this "NOTICE. The consequence of assertions that the undersigned was restrained from the manufacture of 'Old Dr. Rosenbaum's Bitters.' I now hereby notify the public that the Bitters manufactured by me are of a far superior quality and flavor to that class, the materials of which were exposed in a late trial in the Twelfth District Court. I am also agent for the 'London Pale Orange Bitters, ' and 'Old London Tom.' Country merchants requiring samples, can have them forwarded free of cost of transportation.

209 Washington street
San Francisco."

Apparently P. J. Cassin didn't learn from this incident, for on Nov. 24th, 1861 this article appeared in the paper. "Udolpho Wolfe's Schnapps.--On yesterday[23rd] an application was made in the Court of Sessions for a new trial, in the case of The People vs. P. J. Cassin, which was an indictment for selling Schnapps, having thereon counterfeit trade marks of 'Udolpho Wolfe.' The new trial was refused by the court, and final judgment was entered against the defendant. Judge Blake, thereupon, sentenced the defendant, P. J. Cassin, to pay a fine of four hundred dollars, and to be imprisoned until such fine be paid. In pronouncing sentence, Judge Blake stated that this case being the first conviction in this county for this kind of criminal offense, namely, 'the selling of goods with counterfeit trademarks thereon,' the court proposed to impose a lenient sentence, but that should subsequent cases of this character be brought to a conviction, the court would probably inflict a sentence of imprisonment in the County Jail, as authorized by the statute."

Apparently the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Francis Cassin [older brother] has a few interesting stories of his own, but for now, I'll save this segment for another time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Thought I would try to editorialize about a fifth that is more mainstream, one that most collectors own or have owned. Most long time collectors have had numerous examples of this bottle, and there are many of us that are currently trying to collect groupings or 'runs' of this bottle. The good ol' Star n Shield Cutter. There is that name again, Cutter! Some readers of this blog profess that they might not be interested in Cutters! Stop reading now!! If you are that jaded, my sympathy goes out to you. There are going to be many, many posts about Cutters. More is known about Cutter, Hotaling, Martin, Hardy, Moorman, and all the other names and bottles associated with these names than just about any other aspect of early whiskey collecting. If you read enough about them, hey, maybe you'll develop a fondness for some of them. After all, it was Hotaling that started this party with the first embossed fifth. E. Martin was right behind him with his first fifth the J.F.Cutter(t-46). I am working on a post that lays out the time line of Cutter bottles, for now we will just jump into discussion about the J.F.(t-46).
This embossing pattern was used for a very long time, maybe the longest of any western glob top fifth. First used in 1870, it was still being used into the early to mid 1880's. There are 4 variants now recognized for the J.F.(t-46).

The first variant or the first bottle used is definitely the 'pointed A' example that has the big stove-pipe top and unusually short neck. The top is similar to the first Hotaling bottle (t-49). That's not a coincidence, the colors are the same too. It starts out being a littledifficult for collectors to sort this "variant 1" out, but after you have seen a couple of them and compared them, it is a no brainer. Some of the variant 1's are very whittled and crude. Super nice, with strong, sharp embossing. I used to think that most of them were that way, but I have seen a few duds. The colors that this bottle is found in are dark olive amber, dark choc. amber, and green. Just like the Hotaling(t-49). I would venture a guess that these bottles were blown at the Pacific Glass Works. I think the Hotaling(t-49) almost certainly was blown at Pacific, just because it is in service exactly during the "burn-down period (1868-70)" of S.F. Glass Works. In my simplistic thinking, the glass colors match so closely with this J.F.(t-46var.1) they are being made at the same place.
Digging in Utah has produced some interesting information, or conclusions about dates of distribution of bottles. Digging some of the early mining districts, particularly the famous mines in these districts, has provided clues to the actual dates certain bottles were used. The dates that mines were in operation and that miners occupied boarding houses for these mines is documented quite precisely in the early Utah Mining Gazette and S.L. Tribune. If you know that a certain mine was active for just 6 months in 1870, the bottles you find there can be dated with some precision. Privies and dumps can be used for an unknown amount of time, throw backs make it even more confusing. There have been 40 to 50 examples of glob top J.F.'s found in Utah, only 1 of which was this earliest variant. It was found near Ophir, Utah, in a small district called Lion Hill. The pocket mines of silver chloride at Lion Hill were shallow and worked out quickly in 1870-71.
Most of the 'variant 1' examples have come from the San Francisco bay area. Probably 25-30 known in dark amber shades, I only know of a couple in green. A digger in Austin, Nevada about 15 years ago dug a very nice, and very green example. I tried to get it from him, but no way -no how. Then he shows up at the Downieville Show with it and for whatever reason I hesitated. That one got sold, leaving me standing around like a penny waiting for change, and still looking for a green one.

J.F.Cutter(t-46var.2) examples have been found through out Nevada, California, northern Utah, and probably Oregon. This is the embossing pattern with the "flat-topped" A's, as opposed to the pointed A's. Different mold, but used approx. the same time as the variant 3's (1871-75). Possibly the brand's sales had grown to such a degree that molds were being used at both glass works. The "flat A" bottles are found along side the "pointed A" variant, in fact the variant 3 or "pointed A" bottles seem to have even a longer period of usage (1871-77), so it is not a replacement mold. Colors of this variant-2 seem to tend more to the medium amber, orange amber shades. I have not seen a green example of the variant 2. Not near as much color range as the variant 3 bottles. I would say usually not as much whittle and crudity either. Rated as common, probably 50+ examples known.

J.F.Cutter(t-46var.3) examples have been found in generally the same areas as variant 2 bottles. As mentioned, they actually seem to be in service for a bit longer than the flat "A" variant. This bottle comes in a spectacular range of color. With the exception of aqua, literally every color that you have ever seen an embossed western glob is documented in this bottle. If a collector is so inclined, it wouldn't surprise me to have 10 or more different color hues represented with this variant 3. Some spectacularly whittled examples have been seen, and also many examples are known with a somewhat large tapered top. The bottle has to be considered very common, probably over 150 known examples by my guess. Still, with many collectors striving to put together runs of color and variety, the nicer examples are not that easy to locate. If you are trying to purchase a very green example of this fifth, good luck with that. You are probably going to pay the ordinary J.F Cutter rate (x 10).

I have noticed that certain glob fifths have an abundance of color range, the max. color era seems to be 1872-74, others not as much. Think of bottles that touch into this era; Teakettle(t-167), J.H. Cutter, Circle(t-43), J.F. Cutter(t-46var.3), others. The argument could be made that there were so many examples blown of the these common bottles that I just mentioned, that certainly there will be more colors found. Less common, but equal in colors, Blakes-Pond,Reynolds(t-114), Taylor-Virginia N.(t-151), Gold Dust(t-154), J.Moore(t-90), and of course the big kahuna, Clubhouse(t-119). I have always given special homage to a western glob fifth or flask that is found in what I consider the three base line whiskey colors; dark amber, yellow amber, green amber. Go for that triple on the early fifths and flasks, it really is a great look! If you can nail a trifecta on the (t-119), well, game over--you win! I have digressed .... sorry.

I know there is confusion on the first three J.F. Cutter variants. I am just listing them as they are listed in Thomas' book Whiskey Bottles of the Old West, to avoid possibly even more confusion. The variant 1, "old stove pipe", and variant 3 "pointed A" are the same mold. The variant 2, "flat A" is a completely different mold. Maybe variants 3 & 2 should have been switched in sequence. Maybe the variant 1 is just a J.F. with nice big top, in your thinking. However you want to collect them, I am just trying to help identify them for you.

The J.F.Cutter(t-46var.4) is not confusing. This is the last of the J.F.'s. Probably blown from around 1877 to 1884, give or take a year on each side. We don't find the variant 4's in Utah. The early mining period in Utah was from 1868 to approx. 1875-1876. As popular as J.F. Cutter Extra was in Utah, if the variant 4's were in service prior to 1876 we would be finding them. This bottle is easily identified by the "curved leg R's", the design on the base, and it is a more slender bottle than the other 3 variants. It appears to have a longer neck. I don't know what the standard was in filling these bottles with bourbon, half way up the neck, to the applied top, somewhere in between?. Maybe they actually measured the liquid in ounces (25.6 ounces = 1/5 gallon), I kinda doubt that. I haven't put it to the test, but I believe that the variant-4 J.F.'s probably hold an ounce or two less than the first three variants.
These variant-4's have been found widely distributed through out the west, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arizona. Probably other states. Just not in Utah. This variant comes in some super colors, for a later 70's -80's bottle. There are a few green amber and greenish amber examples around. I have seen yellow amber examples, dark amber ones, all the colors that the variant 3 is found, except for maybe that light "apple green" color that the v-3 is known in. There are a lot of these variant-4's around, guessing again probably 150+. Generally speaking the variant 4 sells at a price slightly lower than the others, unless we're talking greenish hues. I don't know why this var-4 has a bit of a stigma attached, maybe because collectors and diggers think it is a newer bottle. Not that much newer!!Thomas indicates that the "older bottles do not have the design on the base", ... true enough... and "only the older, crude examples come with the glob top" .... not quite accurate, all four variants are seen with a glob top.... I have not seen a J.F. Cutter(t-46) with a tool or transitional top that I can remember.
So there is the J.F. Cutter fifth info. I will post some more pictures as they come in, also some ads and other information in another post or two. Go out and dig a whittled, green variant-1. I'll give it 5 star write-up!!!

Here is a photo of the "elusive one".
Lou Lambert sent this in, calls it lime green. Nearly transparent, with a slight green tint. I have seen two broken ones this color over the past 30+ years. Blackie Owen dug one in Alta, Utah and had it glued together. I guess you could say it is one click further along on the "green-o-meter" scale than the normal "apple green" or whatever adjective "green" you want to call a green J.F. We need to develop a color coding system for these bottles. This same color is found in large circle Millers. I've never seen a whole one, just a couple of broken examples dug here in Utah. SICK!