Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I was lucky enough to dig this applied top 1/2 pint example of the Kane, O'Leary flask from an oval-shaped, brick lined outhouse. The flask was unearthed in Northern California during the Spring of 2009. Here is a photo of the flask after an evening bath.

Not your average, everyday sighting. Here's three unique variations of this rare Western Flask:

To my knowledge, these are the three most recently discovered examples of the Kane, O'Leary & Co. Flasks. From Left to Right: Tooled-top 1/2 pint in Yellow, Applied Top pint in Amber, 1/2 pint in Reddish-Amber. Each were found within the last couple of years, from different locations.
And just how many years had passed until these fairly recent examples surfaced? 5 years? 10?? 25???
The "Biggest" of the Kane, O'Leary Brothers (below):

Applied top 1/2 Pint Flask and Applied Top Fifth with similar embossed patterns:

In closing, the above pictures were all taken in poor lighting conditions with my I-Phone...Perhaps a few of ya'll have some higher quality images you won't mind adding to the mix. I'd also enjoy hearing some of the stories on the other Kane, O'Leary & Co. digs....


  1. The Kane O'Leary flasks and fifths contained Old Judge Bourbon. You tend to find them in areas that also have the later Old Judge containers eg: Newmark Gruenberg, and Rothenberg.
    I dug a very light orange-amber 1/2 pt Kane O'Leary flask about 9 yrs ago. They are certainly extremely rare, as I had never even dug a piece of one over the yrs. A few yrs ago, in an entirely different district, I dug the companion fifth. That hole had over 50 intact black glass ales, but only two other fifths, a curved-embossing Chenery Souther, and a slick.
    The Kane O'Leary bottles are rare in my opinion because they were only at the Bush St address for two yrs, 1881-82. About 30 yrs ago, up in the Sierras, I dug a spectacular broken Kane O'Leary fifth in light light olive-amber. It would've smoked all known examples to this day.

  2. You bet these are rare and congratulations on your find of this very killer Western flask! All my years of digging in some of the best 5th areas and I can only report two busted 5ths and one busted flask.

    This is a somewhat puzzling bottle to me because it was more widely distributed than many but yet still remains very rare with few examples known. I'd imagine that's likely due two a short period of distribution and in limited quantities making for a very rare bottle. Years ago along the Mendocino Coast four beautiful half pints with applied tops were dug from a saloon privy on an ocean bluff. About 10 years later and in the same region a 5th was discovered by a carpenter standing straight up inside the wall of an 1860s house along with two "R.T. Carroll" 5ths and a couple of wines keeping it company.

    30 years past and only recently was another 1/2 pint applied top flask was discovered, which I believe makes only a total of 5 known. Tooled top 1/2 pints I'd guess around a dozen or more. I know of three of the pints which all have applied tops as well.

  3. Contrary to what you would think, the funny thing about the Kane O'Leary flask is that the applied top version is actually slightly commoner than the tooled-top. This is probably due to it being an early 1880s bottle vs a mid 80s more transitionary bottle. My count on the 1/2 pts stands at: 7 applied-tops and 6 tooled-tops. As far as the pints go, I can only account for one of each, applied and tooled.

  4. AP;
    Perhaps we should compare notes here. I've personally handled 4 of the half pints with tooled tops not including the one pictured here and have heard of others. Two were dug together on the North Coast, one in Sacramento Valley and the other is unknown as to where it was found. All were fairly plain looking, in good condition and some what light in color. Considering the early age of these bottles it's kinda odd that some are tooled and all the 5ths are applied.

    Of the four applied top 1/2 pint variants I've seen all were medium amber, crude and in good shape. Of the pints I know of, one has a large crack, one with a potstone radiation and the other is mint. It's interesting to note that the 5th featured a full colored highly graphic patriotic
    label with a picture of president Garfield. He served the second shortest term in office after being shot in July of 1881 and dieing eleven weeks later.

  5. Only some of the 1/5's have Garfield on the labels. Most have an Old Judge label....


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