Sunday, May 31, 2009

Something's wrong with Kentucky....

Not the state of Kentucky, but the bottle or more specifically the information surrounding the Kentucky Gem.

Call me obsessive, but I like to attach a place to a bottle or shot glass. For me, the detective work is as much fun as the quest to acquire a new piece. I've had a couple of requests to publish a photo of this example and I thought that it would be fun to insert a clip of the Sanborn Fire map showing the actual location of the business.

I've had access to the Sanborns (all 660,000 maps for all 50 states) for a couple of years. I'm always fascinated by locating the actual location where my treasures originated and am also captivated by the fact that a lot of these liquor wholesalers "sold the sizzle rather than the steak". Many of the "big names" were actually operating out of the basement of a neighborhood saloon.

And so the search for the home turf of T.G. Cockrill & Co. began. The first hurdle presented itself when I opened the S.F. map page. Darned; the earliest map listed is 1886 (with subsequent revisions through 1893). According to Thomas, Cockrill started up in 1872 but left "the business" in 1873, when he was elected Chief of Police. He remained a silent partner until 1879 or 1880, when the endeavor folded . Well that's a fine how do you do... Always looking for that pony hiding in the closet, I figured that this shouldn't pose a major problem since S.F. had remained relatively disaster free during this era and the occupancies and addressing should have remained pretty much intact. Off I went in search of 518 Front St.. There it was, big as you please; a Telegraph Supply House. And visions of EC&M's and Cal. Electric insulators danced through my head... Focus, you dummy I told myself. Back to reality, I noticed a Cigar Manufactory on one side and a dealer in Salt hides on the other. Across the street, the number 521 stared at me. But wait, Thomas stated 518 - 521 Front Street. It was at that point that I began to wonder - how can you be in two places at once, when you're not anywhere at all.

And so, the plot thickens. Logic says that a startup company would not be sufficiently capitalized to maintain three buildings, with two on the north side of Front St. and one more on the south side. Finances aside, it makes no sense to occupy the middle portion of a block on both sides of the street. And so I leave it to you, my fellow collectors, to help solve the mystery.


  1. Kentucky Gem,

    I can tell you that 518 Front Street was the location of L. Gross & Co for selling and manufacturing Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters, during 1870-'71.

  2. Warren; Look west, across the Street, @ 523 - 525. Wholesale Liquors. Wonder who that was and also wonder how JT came to arrive at the 518 - 521 addresses.

  3. That's a "Gem" of an example you have there ! Thanks for the pic and post.
    I'll add a little info to assist w your mystery...
    Front St and the adjoining streets were literally a "who's who" of whiskey dealers during the start-up/early era of embossed fifths 1869-90. Some of the names easily recognized by bottle collectors are name such as E. Martin who was at 408 Front for a time, Naber Alfs & Brune at 413 Front 1879-88, Kirkpatrick & McCue at 604, and even ole Jno C. Morrison was at614 Front St for a bit from 1867-70.
    Here's where it gets real interesting.... Looking at the page you posted on the 1886 Sanborn Map, you can see two bldgs that are identified as wholesale liquor dealers & rectifying on the West side, one on the SW corner at 525 Front. That one is none other than Shea Bocqueraz & McKee, who were at that location during their entire partnership 1871-87. Their next door neighbor at 523 Front(the other bldg also marked on the map "wholesale liquors & rectifying" is none other than the Cassin Brothers ! Yep, ole F & PJ Cassin were at that address in that bldg from 1867-80. When the Sanborn was drawn in 1886 it was occupied from 1881-93 by a Wm Shultz, who was also a liquor dealer but must have only used labels on his bottles, as no embossed bottles have been found with his name on them. The Cassin Bros had moved twice since then, finally ending-up in 1886 at the SW corner of Battery & Washington.
    Getting back on track to your mystery.... I believe Thomas had Cockrill listed on both sides of the street because he was on both sides of the street, but at different years and with different partners ! He was at 518 Front in 1867 as Bradley & Cockrill. He then moved across the street to 521 Front in 1869 and the company was still known as Bradley and Cockrill until 1873 when it became T.G. Cockrill & Co. (still at the 521 Front St address) and this lasted until 1880. Six yrs later when the Sanborn map was drawn, T.G. Cockrill and his 2 silent partners were long gone out of that bldg. and it was being used as a Ship Chandelry & Oils business.
    Quite an interesting block though, to see the TeaKettle whiskey, Cassin's Bitters, and your KY Gem 1,2,3 in a row on the same block overlapping the same yrs of distribution for their bottles ! Wouldn't it be nice to have been able to go on a shopping spree there and do a little quality control and rid them of all the nonconforming colors and sloppily made bottles !!


  4. And... just as an interesting side note. You'll notice how close all the other dealers tried to set-up to AP Hotaling !! Most of these guys in the 70s and early 80s were just around the corner one direction or the other, almost within shouting distance of Anson's bldg on Jackson St. Kinda reminds me of the present-day McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell strategy....


  5. KY Gem: That spot on the map you posted keeps getting better and better. I just noticed going through some of my whiskey paper an 1873 ad that shows E. Chielovich on the NW corner of Front and JAckson (right across the street from Shea Bocqueraz & McKee). So walking down Front street in 1873 we would've had all in a row on the same side of Front: E. Chielovich (this was during his J. Moore period !)walk cross Jackson St, then Shea Bocqueraz & McKee (TeaKettle), F & PJ Cassin (Grape Brandy bitters), and TG Cockrill & Co (KY Gem) !! Pretty incredible....

  6. The Cassin's and Shea (of Shea Bocqueraz and McKee) were related thru marriage in Watsonville, CA. in the 1850-60's. James Shea was naturalized in the 1850's under the name of Sheehy. I am his great granddaughter.


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