Thursday, August 27, 2009


Time for the real Clubhouse Hall of Fame.
Oh, and congrats to the newest owner of a CCH. Dave B.
Dave lives just up the road a piece, I like to say in the Park City suburbs.

Dave, I hate to tell you this.. but guardianship of one or even two CCH fifths is not automatic inclusion to the H.O.F. Don't fret too hard, I'm out of luck as well. The member list of the CCH HOF is pretty darn short!!

President and Founder: JOHN C. MORRISON JR.

A true Argonaut, Morrison arrived in San Francisco on June 4, 1849 aboard the Steamship Panama. There were a number of soon to be important people aboard the Panama. William M. Gwin became U.S. Senator, Fred F. Low served as Governor of California, and of course most important of all was our boy Jno. C. Jr.
Morrison bounced around early San Francisco as a commission merchant and during the early 1860's he formed partnerships with several different people and operated various wholesale liquor establishments. In March of 1866 he dissolved the partnership he had with A.J. Bryant and hung out his own shingle at 614 Front St. In 1866 he registered the Dunham's Old Bourbon with the State of California. Later he trademarked 4 other brands with the State. His "Stag Whiskey" is the brand most often seen in advertising. It was registered on March 8, 1870. By this time Morrison was located at 316 Sac. Street.
On June 21, 1872 Morrison trademarked the Club House Whiskey brand.
J.C. Jr. also had a risk taking appetite for mining stocks. It got him into trouble in the 1860s but in the 1870's he hit it big. VERY BIG! He was a major owner of stock in the fabulous Consolidated Virginia and California mines in Virgina City, Nevada. Morrison invested $269,000 of his own funds in the development of the Dividend Block on the north side of Pine Street.
He is listed as a liquor dealer at the 316 Sac. St. address through 1878, however his obituary states that he joined the firm of Moon, Scalley & Co. in 1873. After 1877 his is simply listed as a "capitalist". A man with money! He had a love for horses, particularly Roadster horses. He died May 17, 1881 at the age of 58.
Interesting sidebar, on Jun 4, 1874, they held a 25 year reunion honoring the Pioneer Steamship Panama passengers. There were 23 former passengers in attendance at the gala event held at the Grand Hotel. Gwin and Low were there, along with the pomp and ceremony politicians love to surround themselves with. But we all know now who would someday be the most famous person to attend. Besides, he probably brought the booze.

Secretary and Publicity Manager: JOHN L. THOMAS

John Thomas, whiskey bottle historian. Author of several books on western whiskey bottles including the standard work WHISKEY BOTTLES OF THE OLD WEST first written in 1969 and updated in 2002.
John's favorite old glob was undoubtedly the Clubhouse. He owned two of them over the years and possibly guided others to top collections of his era. He has been accused of promoting the Clubhouse a bit too much and helping it along to it's status of the #1 fifth. Maybe, I believe it can pretty well stand on its own with most collectors.
It does have one grievous problem, that holds it back just a bit with some old school collectors... The words SOLE AGENTS do not appear on the fifth. Sorry John, but they don't!!!


Saline Valley. One of the great digging stories of all time is attached to this beautiful example. Even reported in the Old Bottle Magazine in 1971 I think. Paul Bagwell and wife June were another bottle digging couple in the Bishop, Ca. area. Paul dug a number of good bottles, Eastern California was 'good ground' if you collected whiskey bottles. He liked to scout out areas off the beaten path, particularly small "charcoal burner" camps. I have been told that Paul liked to identify likely spots on the mountain side by the glint of broken glass in the sunlight. He would drive as close as he could and hike in the rest of the way. Sometimes a narrow wagon road or mule trail might lead into these small camps. The silver/lead ore of the area demanded a huge amount of charcoal for smelting purposes. Small two or three man charcoal burner camps dot the mountain sides near the mining regions. These burner camps were usually only manned for a few weeks, then the burners moved on to find more wood to burn.
Paul and June drove to a camp he had spotted one morning in 1971. Just another small camp that might have a few bottles, probably all broken in the rocks on that steep mountainside. He was digging away in the the trash layer in and around the burners flat and not finding much. He mentions in the article that he found several stemless pipe bowls with the initials P.B. on them. Hmmn, good luck maybe. No bottles coming out. June spent an hour or so enjoying the clear view down on the valley. Read a little from a book she brought along, had a bite to eat. Went for a little hike down the hill.

"Paul, are you finding anything?"

"Not a thing, not much here. Maybe we should try somewhere else."

"Paul, I found a bottle ....."

"What did you find, dear?"

"Oh,  this green whiskey bottle that was stuck in that big sagebrush down below the flat."

"Green whiskey bottle, ok dear, does it say anything on it..."

"Paul, here, look at it, it says California Club H..."

"What! - - @^#%@&@##$#@#@##!!!!!!!!!"

The scene could never be effectively put to story. It would have been a sight to see. I have been told that for a few days Paul thought he had been "had" "duped" with a fake bottle,  someone had put June up to the big scam. Nope, it was the real deal! A survivor! A charmed bottle! Stuck in the brush on that steep mountainside.
Just a few years later Paul died of cancer. The bottle was purchased by M. Boone, a high flying bottle promoter of the day from Las Vegas. Booner was the king of whiskeys for a minute or two, then flamed out and sold out. He had just sold the Club House and a few other bottles when his place caught fire and burned to the ground! Everything in it was lost, including quite a few good glob top whiskey bottles. The 'charmed bottle' was long gone! Safe in the hands of another collector.

Beer label town. Lou and Dorthy were involved with the Bishop Bottle Club. They were fairly green as to digging, and sought the advice of some of the early Bishop club members. Adele Reed and others.   The many towns around Beer label town had been dug pretty hard, even by the early '60s. Beer label town had not. It was a tough town... flash flood central. Holes were very hard to locate. Lou figured it out, and absolutely loaded up on fifths. err-beers. When word of the Club House came out, they were inundated with offers. Dorthy was very opinionated, she hated waking up and finding Thomas and his little VW in the driveway. Doc. Rittenhouse, so on, all the players of the era gave her heartburn.  She hit it off with Allen Wilson. Allen traded them some very nice bottles, figural bitters, for the Club House. I have spoken at length with Lou and Dorthy, and they always felt good about the deal they made with the Club House. Allen was excited to go to Bishop and pick up the bottle. He told me he got there the same time as Lou and Dorthy were coming home from a dig. Lou opened the garage door, and brought in a couple of bottle boxes from that days dig. In the corner of the garage, on the cement floor, was a line of bottles that were still dirty - some with remnants of ghost labels. Embossed fifths, Blakes, Cutters, McKennas, and more than one of each! The amber fifths didn't warrant a cleaning I guess, green ones only need apply. Allen told me he nearly sh-- his pants when they reached into the boxes of that days dig and added three more embossed fifths, err beers, to the dirty line up. Lou and Dorthy have been gone for a number of years, wonderful people!

The postman rings twice. Boraxburg is located pretty close to beer label town. The origination or historical context of the clubhouses are completely different. The famous bourbon was actually sold and consumed in Borax in 1873/74, Morrison actually had a saloon there that he supplied as was the custom of several of the early S.F. wholesalers.  Several other broken ones have been found here. Beer label clubhouses were filled with beer from Boca Brewery, other breweries. Empty bottles were in high demand as the bottled beer industry took off in the late 1870's. Empty whiskey bottles were a perfect container for the beer. Bottles from defunct companies, partnerships etc. found their way to bottle recyclers and then to breweries begging for anything that would hold beer, then shipped into the notorious beer label town, and other towns.
Back to the postman - - - the old story was, that Frank led a group of diggers from the Reno Club into Boraxburg in 1970. A club dig as it were. After an hour of digging, the Club dig was over for Frank, he had two of them. I spoke with a early collector that knew Frank well and he told me that the story was total B.S. He said Frank was "an 'ornry old coot and wouldn't want to baby sit no bottle club diggers". He sounds like his old friend from Utah, Irlam B. Owen. I believe A.P. interviewed Frank back in 1997 or so, he might have the rest of the story. He was a postman.

Sell a house, buy a boat. Do you know the way to San Jose? Darrell kept his Club House longer than any finder. I had a visit with him at the National Show in Pomona. He had spent the spring fishing in Mexico. Nice! Still digs like a steam shovel.

Is there a nicer guy around. Think Reno Show and I think Don and Bonnie McClane. Don dug his in 1964. It later went to bottle dealer Eugene Fachin, then possibly to Bill Wilson, then to Doc Ritz, and finally to Robert Frank. Don told me that it came out of a deep 10ft privy.  Two bottles in that big hole. A little unembossed blue med, and the CH.

Took 3 sets of hands to hoist A.P.'s Three diggers partnered up on this find in the early 1980's. A J.F. Cutter fifth was found right along side the CHouse. A.P. has been back to the exact spot, but all that was left were some 1920's bottles and trash.

Phil's finder. This bottle has been in captivity for a very long time. 'Al' has passed away years ago. Phil has the name, but 'AL' works for me. Check out the post titled "THE CLUB HOUSE CLUB" for the crazy story on this one.

We have two additional slots saved for -
1. S.F. construction site digger/finder - Bob Shaw / Louie P. example
2. Mystery man that found the last one - Anderson /Bray /Frank / Bone example


one Honorary Membership to the CLUB HOUSE HALL OF FAME
goes to-

Owning two won't get you in, but having three different Club House fifths in your collection will.
They were not all there at the same time, but both green examples were there, one since has left. Later, the amber example dug by Darrell D. entered the Schwartz collection.

That is the total membership!
Quite an elite group. Go out and make digging history!


  1. Very well put SoleAgent ! I'm assuming you are the vice secretary??
    Any consolation slots available for broken examples....??
    haha !

  2. A.P.
    A vice?, I have plenty of those.
    I want to be a real member. Now everyone knows what it takes. Dig one!!

    I guess we could form a second tier of membership... the Diamond Club/Shard finders.
    The surviving HOF members Darrell & Don would only laugh at us.

  3. Sole Agent
    Well... we could certainly call it the Secretary of Vice if that fits better!
    We're probably all wanna-be's when it comes to getting on the CCH HOF list ! It would be awesome to dig your own Clubhouse...

  4. SoleAgent: I will add a little to your already fascinating account of Allen and the Lobeski Clubhouse. I interviewed both of them in either 95 or 96' and Allen told me that on one occassion when he went to Lou & Dorothy's home to buy whiskies, that after making a deal on all the whiskies in the garage, Lou told him, " oh, I have a few more boxes in the attic. Take those too". Those boxes had his 'junkers', like a few GH Clarks Samuel Mores and a few other embossed non-Cutters that I can't recall at the moment ! It must have been a 'whiskey bonanza' for both of them back in the day ! I think he may have gotten a Woodburn from them also. I need to check my records...

  5. SoleAgent: For all those old-school Blackie disciples, I have one thing to say. "Imported ONLY By" is just as good or even a notch cooler than "Sole Agents" , and I think that's exactly the message ole Jno C Jr was trying to convey !!

  6. Another interesting side-note to the Bagwell green Clubhouse..... Years ago, I was told by a friend of theirs that not only were they amazed it was a Clubhouse but that it was intact. The distance down the hill from the cabin flat and the bottle's location was quite a ways and entirely rock. For the bottle to have survived it's toss, landing, and tumble to it's final resting place, it was deduced by all that the slope must have been snow-covered at the time, thus cushioning the CCH's entire cascade down the hill. You think that was amazing, there was even more luck, or fate if you will, involved. For the bottle to survive the ensuing 103 winters, it would have to be pointing neck downhill, so it would'nt fill up with rain water,snow melt and then freeze-crack in the winter whent the water froze and expanded. Well, it was neck facing downhill to boot ! This green Clubhouse had fate on its side from the moment it was blown at the glassworks ! To me, this is one of the most fascinating stories I've heard of a great bottle being found.


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