by Robin R. Preston
Meet The Collector: Ken Schwartz
“I collect western shots and any that have pictures, bottom label or colored. It’s getting hard to find ones I don’t have. I’ve got about 1,000. Not a misprint. If you ever get to the west, it’s worth seeing my collection, not just shots, but western whiskies, advertising, a bunch of other stuff.”
My introduction to Ken Schwartz came by way of an e-mail through the website, www.pre-pro.com. On first read-through, my eye tracked right over the first line and hung on the 1,000, and I was about to shoot back a chest-thumping reply about my own burgeoning collection, when I noticed the reference to “western, pictures and bottom labels.” I quickly clicked on “Cancel” and reconsidered.
Ken Schwartz is well-known in bottle- collecting circles, less so among shot collectors, even though he is one of the hallowed circle of contributors to Barbara Edmonson’s classic reference works, “Historic Shot Glasses” and “Old Advertising Spirits Glasses.” My next contact with him was via snail mail, in the form of a five-page photo collage that he’d reproduced on a color laser printer [Figure 2]. At the top of the first page, Ken had scrawled: “Robin, this is my collection. Room is 1200 sq. ft. – Ken Schwartz.” “Jaw-dropping” does not even begin to describe my reaction, but sufficient to say, I was impressed. This was most definitely a collection to see in person should I happen find myself in his part of the country.
Ken Schwartz lives with his wife in Redding in Northern California. I finally had the opportunity to visit him and his remarkable collection when I flew out to Reno to attend the 2006 FOHBC National Bottle Show. I made the short trip from Reno to Redding in the afternoon following the show and then headed out to Ken’s house bright and early on Monday morning. Ken had provided detailed directions. After having seen the laser-print images of his
Bottles and Extras
WANTED Pre-1910 Western Whiskies & Go-Withs
You are invited to visit the worlds most complete collection
of Western Whiskies. (Only 1/4 of the total collection appears in the photo.)
Ken Schwartz P.O. Box 990956 F i g u r e 1 : I n s i d e r (530) 365-5046 e a r c o v e r f r o m t h e 2 0 0 7 F O H B C N a t i o n a l B o t t l e S h o w p r o g r a m R e d d i n g , C A 9 6 0 9 9
Figure 1: Inside rear cover from the 2007
FOHBC National Bottle Show program.
collection, I was expecting a sprawling, ostentatious McMansion, with a free- standing museum prominently positioned in back. In reality, he lives on a winding country road in a ranch home that’s indistinguishable from its neighbors — so much so that I drove straight by without realizing that here sits a shrine. After finally cluing in to the fact that the house numbers were climbing out of range, I executed a hasty U-turn and backtracked, pulling into his tidy driveway some 100 yards back.
property? The door was answered by Ken’s wife, Teenie, who welcomed me into their living room. She’s also an avid collector, not of bottles and whiskey-related items, but of period hatpins, beaded purses and flower vases. The pins are everywhere: jeweled treasures arranged in bouquets to show them at their best. There is also evidence of old whiskey - a sign here, a tray there, a stray bottle. Ken quickly appeared and lead me through the hallway to his study.
I rang the doorbell, and waited, wondering where the museum was: perhaps hidden by a stand of trees at the edge of the
His work room is small – too small to swing a hand trowel, let alone a digger’s probe. A geriatric computer running