Bottles and Extras
maximum for that one given its rarity.
The most valuable glass of the valuable group turned out to be the “Bear Grass Old Bourbon”, from Braunschweiger & Co., of San Francisco [Figure 9]. Ken, like other collectors I know, records details of prices paid for glasses on their base using white adhesive labels. I turned the glass over and grimaced. I agreed that this was a one of a kind and I gingerly replaced it in its secure home.
By now, I’d become bewitched by the sea of glass. There was just so much on display and I lamented how pitiful my own collection seemed in comparison. For reasons unknown, the real lookers quickly drift from memory, leaving only the stains of the faded Wolf Distilling, the cracked Gilt Edge and the Old Durham Whiskey whose label had to be summoned by a clairvoyant. Ken fully understood the emotion, and recalled the urge to smash every last shot and bottle in his shrine after visiting his contemporaries and seeing the scope and quality of their collections.
It’s actually difficult to find words that adequately describe the scope and comprehensive nature of Ken’s collection. He focuses primarily on California and Oregon, but he’s not averse to filling out a display case with the more desirable picture glasses from the eastern states. Notable among them is a Fleming’s Old Export (Pittsburgh), a Castle brand from Simons Co. and a Winner Rye from Magullion, both of Boston, and a Dakota Bell from Diemert & Murphy of Moorhead, MN [Figure 10a-c].
My eye was also drawn to the many older glasses. Chief among them was an exquisite Harvest Home from Sadler & Co.and an Atlas Bourbon from Mahns & Kaltenbach [Figure 11a-b], both San Francisco companies.
Ken has several signed Truog originals, including the Crow Whiskey and Atlas Bourbon mentioned above [Figures 7 and 11], a Rothschild No 6 from Philadelphia, a Buente Shipping (featured in the last edition of Random Shots and now known to come from St. Louis, Mo.), a World’s Fair Whiskey from Grommes & Ullrich of Chicago and a superb Crown Jewels from Mette and Kanne (St. Louis) [Figure 12a-c]. New collectors will be heartened to note that even world-class collections can find a place for the most common of all glasses; Hayner cylinders, red-etched Woodland Whiskeys (Crigler & Crigler of Covington), and a Schweyer & Co. (Chicago).All of these glasses can be obtained in lusciously mint condition for $25 or less, and their artistic appeal rivals that of glasses costing fifty times more.
But the core of Ken’s display is west coast and it is in these glasses that the tremendous depth and rarity of glasses in his collection is best appreciated. Some of the finest include the four different Old Judge variants, two in white, two in color (Rothenberg, San Francisco). Then there are three different Ell-Ell variants (Lemle-Levy, San Francisco), two from The Castle (Stange, San Francisco) and two variants of an El Monte from Reynolds, also San Francisco. Needless to say, Ken also has managed to accumulate a remarkable number of glasses with enamel labels or with labels under glass. My favorite has to be the Puck Rye and a label-under with clear Prohibitionist sentiments. As the tippler drains the glass, he’s faced with a prisoner’s uniform and a hangman’s gallows and the grim warning that they are to be found “At the bottom of every whiskey glass”. Some of the best of the best of Ken’s glasses are gathered on the third page of this article.
Ken’s collection also includes a treasure trove of information in the form of letterheads, paper advertising and bottle labels. These are neatly organized in a dozen or so binders that are stacked precariously on a trunk just inside the door. I was anxious to see what I might plunder for use in the online databases and started thumbing through the plastic sleeves. A world-class collection of glass deserves to be supported by an ephemera collection of similar quality and I was not disappointed. Ken has accumulated an impressive number of billheads and letters from many of the Old West liquor dealers, many of which were photographed for inclusion in the updated version of John Thomas’ Whiskey Bottles of the Old West.
Ken explained that the binders were very popular with guests at his annual open houses, when he and his wife host groups of 50 glass addicts and their spouses in conjunction with the California Antique Bottle Club Show, held each January at the Shasta County Fairgrounds in Anderson, Calif. (see below for information on Ken’s open house to be held at the end of this month).