Monday, June 25, 2012

Past Finds 3

As you can see by my last blog, I’ve been buying an awful lot of bottles, and digging relatively few.  Well, that can happen when you exhaust all of your good dumps.  Luckily, there are always more!  My good friend David who I mentioned earlier was generous enough to invite me to his “secret” dump which was sadly closed to digging a few months later.  The good part was we were able to dig a few times, and unearth a bunch of gems.  Included in my unlisted RI finds were a Kalkman Pharmacy Inc. Newport, RI in an unlisted style, a H.E. Taber PhG Wakefield, RI in unlisted size (David commandeered my hole after that one), and an unlisted size of a Watson’s Pharmacy Opposite Casino Narragansett Pier, RI.  Oh, and there was also that extremely rare Wakefield Mineral Water Co.  C.A. Flanagan Manager Wakefield, RI that I found.  It is unlisted, but two were known to exist until that day, and mine was an undocumented small size!  David found his fair share of unlisted RI bottles and other great finds, though it’s hard to beat unlisted locals!


A few blogs ago I gave you the lowdown on the Caswell Hazard bottles.  I hadn’t seen any in the longest time, until ebay delivered again.  I found one of the Labor Omnia Vincit bottles from the Hazard Hazard era in an unlisted clear.  Honestly it looked ugly in the pictures, but with clear Caswell Mack and Caswell Hazard versions listed, this one was obviously the rarest of the bunch.  I was able to get it cheap, and while it needs a tumble, it’s a superb addition that David Andrews doesn’t have yet!

Every now and then, with the proper amount of effort, you will get very lucky.  I was happy to learn this lesson during a visit to the Scituate Art Festival.  Upon arriving I noted at least 20 yard sale signs, and kicked myself for not getting up at 6AM.  I browsed the booths and some yard sales with a friend, and was heading to my car when I spotted a jug on a table.  This yard sale was set up back from the road and on a hill, so it was probably less visited.  The homeowner wanted $100 for the honestly cool Rice & Starkweather Providence jug, but being a poor college kid didn’t help.  I then noticed a box of what appeared to be junk bottles.  After removing some, I found myself looking at dirt-covered pontiled bottles!  Sure they had lip chips and such, but I assembled a group and made an offer, which he accepted.  He the proceeded to tell me he had more, and to come back tomorrow. 
            It was to my fortune that when I arrived late after work the next day, he had forgotten to bring the bottles.  He made the quick run to his house, and presented me with a large basket of bottles.  Right on top I was amazed to see two emerald green squat sodas!  One was a J. Harvey Providence, and the other an E. Jenckes with no town.  After finding another superb bottle, I bought the lot for $40.  While the Harvey was listed and had a small lip chip, the Jenkes bottle was a mystery and had an unfortunate chunk out of the lip.  After a lot of research I discovered it was from Providence, RI!  I then noticed the faint sand pontil which made it even better.  Unlisted pontiled sodas are what collectors dream about, and this time the price was right!

Some of you will remember my déjà vu post when I found two etched beer bottles in rapid succession.  Well, go figure, but I seem to be making this a habit!  Jan Boyer invited me to a house call in Wickford from a couple who found a bunch of bottles in a crawl space.  It sounded great, only all the bottles were screw cap junkers.  Except for one, which was an embossed Charles A. Gladding Providence, RI druggist bottle.  Usually common, this one had Gladding’s name in cursive, Charles spelled out (most are abbreviated Chas.), and Oz. and CC measurements on the sides.  It also had an unknown trademark F.F. & Co. on the base.   Jan let me have it and he took a nice local milk.  A week later I noticed a neat medicine bottle on ebay.  It was a W.S. Bennett & Co. Prescription Druggists Warren, RI.  Bennett was the only druggist with an embossed bottle from Warren, so I was excited to win this unlisted version.  Upon receiving it I noticed it looked a lot like that Gladding bottle I had, and sure enough, it was exactly the same shape and height!  It even had that trademark on the bottom, which I’ve never seen again.  I was later able to identify the trademark as Fox, Fultz & Co. of Boston who were listed in the Boston directory as bottle makers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Past Finds 2

As I get closer to the present, my unlisted finds are becoming more numerous, so I’ve decided to continue with just the highlights and spare you all the countless variations of soda and medicine bottles I’ve found…save a few.

The past bottle shows at the Richmond Antique Center have produced some nice RI bottles, which I attribute to the free setup which attracts a host of newcomers.  Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mike, a digger from Pawtucket.  He had been digging near the river, and had a few hundred bottles to show for it.  He later showed me his site, and the amount of digging he had done put my ventures to utter shame.  While a lot of the bottles had damage, he had kept a few medicine bottles that most collectors would discard, and that was good since a lot were unlisted.  I bought a few unlisted versions of G.T. Dana Pawtucket, an unlisted size Fisk & Co. Druggists Pawtucket, and a new bottle from Martin’s Drug Store Pawtucket
Bill Rose also brought a bunch of damaged unlisted medicines, so I obtained an O. Sumner Providence unlisted as rectangular, an unlisted size of C.J. Luce Providence, and some cool soda bottles.  The Moose Head Beverage Co. of Providence had moose heads embossed on their bottles.  I got an unlisted art deco style and unlisted in green quart in a trade.  They are some of the only “creature” bottles I’ve seen from RI.

Another brand new drugstore bottle surfaced on ebay and was a cheap buy thanks to the lousy picture.  After finding it was beat to heck, I got a small refund, and was able to properly enjoy it.  The bottle reads  From Moore’s Drug Store 377 Broadway Providence, RI.  It was slightly different than the average drug bottle, having a M in a square in the corner of the slugplate, and Ounce measurements on one side, but no CC markings.  The base was also embossed Marvel, which has nothing to do with the comic books.
Update (9/12):  I finally found out that there was a Marvel Bottle Company out of Plainfield, NJ which started in 1899.  

I fondly recall the days when I first started collecting.  I was like a vacuum, sucking up any bottles that crossed my path.  As storage became an issue, I had no choice but to specialize, so RI bottles it was!  In that category there were many subcategories, including local bottles.  This is pretty much my area of most intense concentration, which includes the towns of Wakefield, Narragansett Pier, and Peace Dale.  The first bottle collector I ever met, David Gates, is the authority in this area, and I have spent many an hour drooling over his currently unmatchable collection of local bottles.  You could imagine my excitement when I spotted a local he didn’t have on ebay.  Not only was it unlisted, but was easily one of the top 5 local bottles.  It was a square medicine embossed Frank Watson Registered Pharmacist Narragansett Pier & Peacedale, RI.  Now Watson’s Pharmacy bottles from Narragansett are very rare, and the only Peace Dale medicine reported may not even exist.  Simply put, I had to have this bottle!  I sniped it with an unreasonably high bid which I luckily paid less than half of.  You could imagine my befuddlement when it came in the mail full of these odd wooden pieces!  I noticed it had some sort of puzzle in the neck online, but seeing it in person was different.  I labored over an hour extracting the darned things, and was able to recreate the model of a sawhorse and tools from the pieces.  Amazingly I didn’t damage the bottle in the process, and it cleaned up mint.  David still bothers me about it every time I see him.

I’ll end off with one of my biggest collection acquisitions of RI bottles.  During of the Little Rhody Bottle Club’s summer shows, Russ Archambault, a collector of RI, particularly Woonsocket bottles, decided to sell all of his non-Woonsocket bottles.  It was a sight to behold.  A light amber quart Burke Bros. Providence blob soda stuck out like a sore thumb.  It was an unlisted variant, as were most of the bottles I bought.  There was an E.P. Anthony Druggist Providence, which is terribly common, but not when it’s 8” tall.  I had the great fortune of buying the original metal slug plate used to make this bottle on ebay, and had it with me at the show.  I put it against the bottle and it fit perfectly!  That was a pretty special moment.  I also got a large J. Fred Gibson Co. Providence, an unknown B.E. Dewey Apothecary from Pascoag, RI, and an unknown Kenyon Smith & Co. Exchange St. Providence.  There were also some great soda and whiskey bottles including:  Unlisted acid etched wine for Sullivan Bros. Providence, unlisted J.J. Maguire & Co. Providence quart whiskey, an unknown P. Lynch Nasonville, RI soda, unknown Geo. Denniston Kinsley’s Wharf Newport, RI soda, and many more!

The most significant find was barely in one piece.  It was an early straight-sided Coca-Cola bottle.  It listed four towns, including Fall River, Taunton, New Bedford (all Mass.), and Newport, RI.  It may only be ¼ Rhode Islander, but that didn’t matter to me!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Past Finds

Welcome back!  I’d like to start up where I left off, at that exciting dig in Shannock.  There was actually more to the story I neglected to mention.  Before venturing into the river, I talked to a tenant in one of the old mill houses.  He had the fortune of being there when the old dam was taken out, and had some bottles from the excavation.  Nothing struck my interest until I saw an unembossed beer bottle.  Well, not exactly.  It was an acid-etched bottle that read Narragansett Brewing Co. Famous Export Lager Prov. RI.  Acid etching was a cheap method of marking bottles but was rarely used and is most commonly found on wine bottles.  Soda and beer bottles are scarce, so it made this one of the rarest Narragansett bottles.  He was curious of the value, and I said given the heavy wear and scratching, I thought it was worth around $10-15.  I was pretty surprised when he then offered it to me for $5!  We became fast friends and had many a pleasant chat on the river while I dug away.

Sometimes you find a really uncommon bottle, then déjà vu!  It happens again like something from the Twilight Zone.  While browsing the Richmond Antique Center, I came across another acid etched RI beer in a display of bottles.  This one was an Eagle Brewing Co. Prov. RI.  I actually passed up the $12 tag, and then came back the next week.  I figured how often do you see acid etched RI beers?  Almost never!

I remember one particularly exciting ebay auction a few years ago.  Someone had amassed an impressive collection of Bristol, RI pharmacy bottles.  There are very few known, and given how lots on ebay usually sell cheaper than separately listed bottles, I put in an aggressive bid and won the lot.  I was initially disappointed by the numerous chipped bottles that were not mentioned, but after getting a partial refund I was able to appreciate the lot.  There were a total of four new J.H. Young variants, which was the only listed Bristol druggist online at the time, and three new druggists.  There was a Morris, Bedell, and my personal favorite, W.H. Buffington.  With that addition I involuntarily became the authority on Bristol druggists.

Until two years ago, the only bottle show I had attended was the Little Rhody Bottle Club’s annual show.  So when Al Otis invited me to come to the Merrimack Bottle Show in Lowell, Mass, I gladly tagged along.  Upon arriving, I was pretty overwhelmed.  It was significantly bigger than the Rhody show, and while it was heaven there was almost too much to process.  I wasn’t even able to see all the tables, and left with two boxes of goods.  Among them was an unlisted Providence medicine, A.J. Hopkins & Son.  It’s an unassuming square bottle, but I remembered that A.J. Hopkins put out a quack medicine that was listed on the website.  His Magic and Improved Magic Healing Powders were both rare bottles. 

I’ll finish up with a rather iconic RI medicine bottle.  The massive chemical company Caswell & Hazard of Newport and New York produced some of the nicest colored RI medicines around.   Particularly well-known are their square cobalt bottles embossed with their motto “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Hard work conquers all).  There are three generations of this bottle, in order of succession: Caswell Mack, Caswell Hazard, and Hazard Hazard.  The newest generation, Caswell & Massey, is still around and there are rumors that they put out the “LOV” bottle too.  They are actually quite common, with around 10 cobalt blue examples surfacing on ebay each year.  The scarcer colors, including amber and clear, are harder to find but cheaper.  I somehow acquired three amber examples but was too cheap to competitively bid for one of those blue ones.  One day I just decided to lay down the cash and bought one for a reasonable total of $37.50.  I was pleasantly surprised when it came in the mail and found it to be an unlisted smaller size!  The embossing was also very bold, which was a bonus since most examples have weak impressions.  I still have a long ways to go to catch up to David Andrews, but I have a start…

Friday, June 1, 2012

Early Finds 2

This week I will continue my documentation of my early finds, which there are turning out to be quite a few of!  Luckily I have a list of them, so I don’t have to wade through my 3,000 strong catalog of index cards. 

Bottles from East Greenwich are of the scarce nature, but thanks to some luck, I have about half of the known examples. There are two blob sodas I still lack, the famous O.H.P. Rose Bitters which I was very lucky to acquire cheaply, and a handful of pharmacy bottles.  One bottle I gleaned from Jan Boyer’s mega yard sale I mentioned in the last entry was a Cundall, Earnshaw & Co. Pharmacists East Greenwich, RI.  The website lists Earnshaw and Cundall bottles separately, so it is interesting to see they worked together at one point.  I was later able to acquire a different size of this bottle on ebay, and aside from the stately Earnshaw Drug Co. bottle, it’s my favorite E. Greenwich medicine. 

My first rare RI bottle from the Little Rhody Bottle Club show was a hair bottle.  Granted, it had a hole in it so it was free, it was an unlisted size of Mrs. S.E. Hemingway’s Alopecial for the Hair Providence, RI.  Alopecia refers to loss of the hair, so this was probably advertised as sort of cure for baldness.  Like J.M. Curtis’s Cure for Baldness, these two products sadly did not work, hence their scarcity.  I borrowed a picture from Don Fadley's excellent site Hair Raising Stories to do this bottle justice.

Early on in my days as an ebay novice, I would get lucky sometimes searching for key words, of course I had to be even luckier with my very stingy bids.  One of the bottles I came across was a Dr. Seth Arnold’s Eye Water.  Dr. Seth Arnold was a very successful quack medicine peddler from Woonsocket, and is best known for his Balsam and Cough Killer.  While a common preparation, it was not known that he put out an eye water.  I’m willing to bet there are more unknown Seth Arnold bottles out there…

For those of you who collect RI whiskey bottles, you know how elusive they can be.  When they do turn up, they are usually one of the common companies like Palmer & Madigan or something rare enough to put some hurt on your bank account (like the $1,100 Simmons & Spencer Schnapps).  One bottle in my good friend Jan’s collection I had been eying for a while was an American Bottling Corp. New York & Prov. RI amber cylinder.  A shoulder embossed bottle, it’s not very impressive, but is a rare bottle.  After it didn’t sell during one of the club’s summer shows, he came down from $20 to $10, and I happily took my new acquisition home.  I noticed David Andrews found one of these before, but his does not have the NY location :-)

One of the most exciting digs I partook in was in the quaint mill village of Shannock, RI.  The town decided to do away with the crumbling lower dam and restore the river to its former glory.  Noting all the 1840-50s houses on the river, I was over there in a heartbeat.  I still remember stumbling upon a spot of the riverbed the 5-foot drop in the river’s depth uncovered.  It was literally blanketed with bottles, and I pulled a rare local pharmacy right out of the sand.  Next to it I was fortunate to find an unlisted whiskey.  It was a S.H. Cole Liquor Dealer Pawtucket, RI.  It’s nice to find unlisted variants, but this was a completely new find, and this half pint is now properly listed online.

Early Finds

I was recently browsing through the New Finds section of the Little Rhody Bottle Club’s website, and while still fun to read, it was hard not to notice there were no updates since 2002.  David Andrews has done a superb job with the website, but in the past few years had to deal with a number of important issues which limited the time he was able to put into the site.  He still diligently adds new bottles to the site when he has the time.  Since I have been rather “busy” digging, browsing shops, and perusing ebay, I figured I’m finding enough new RI bottles to revive this blog.  You probably found this from an email link, and hopefully in the future it will be linked with the Little Rhody Bottle Club website. 

When I decided to start this blog, I realized I had a significant “backlog” of unlisted bottles, so I’ve decided to go through them and pick out the highlights.

Back when I was homeschooled and in a 4-H club, I got one of my first unlisted RI bottles.  A mother of a fellow homeschooling family gave me a few bottles they had found in the wall of their 1890s house during a renovation.  One of these was a Knowlton’s Pharmacy Olneyville, RI.  I loved the name and shape.  I was even foolish enough to put it through the dishwasher in an attempt to get out the stubborn dirt.  Well, thankfully it worked, and David Andrews added it to the website two years ago.  

Another addition was a yard sale find, and it goes in another category altogether.  I noticed this 1970s bottle embossed Star City Glass Co. Coventry, RI.  It was the only bottle marked from RI that I know of that was made in a RI bottle-producing plant.  It’s covered with all of the employee’s names and their jobs, making it a great piece of history.  I’m not sure where it would go online, but I’d start with Miscellaneous…

Another obscure niche of the RI bottle world involves dose cups.  There is one listed on the website, and about 23 are known to exist.  I don’t have a true RI dose cup yet, but got pretty close.  As a kid I visited Jan Boyer’s epic-sized bottle yard sale.  I came across a glass cup embossed Rhode Island State Board of Health.  It’s definitely something you don’t see everyday!

Another significant first was a nursing bottle.  A lady gave me a Knapp Patent Vented Graduated Nursing Bottle Patd. 1869 at a summer festival.  It was missing most of the lip, but I thought it was awesome.  While perusing Michael Polak’s bottle value guide, I was excited to see that the Knapps were mentioned in his nursing bottle timeline.  Drs. H. & A.M. Knapp of Providence, RI patented the graduated nursing bottle.  This lead me on a quest to find an undamaged one, and eventually, I found one on ebay.  It was clear however, while mine was aqua and apparently older.  So I now have both versions waiting to take their place in the Miscellaneous section.

As a kid I loved to go to the Kinney Azalea Gardens in Kingston, RI.  I still enjoy the beautiful gardens and the many winding trails through an amazing assortment of flowers.  My curious nature led me to discover a small farm dump on the outskirts of the garden.  A gardener had piled shards of glass on a rock, and knowing the owner well, they let me scratch around out of sight along the stone wall.  After finding the usual commons and ABM material, I found two nice RI bottles.  One was a very rare A.H. Spicer Successor to Lewis & Spicer Westerly, RI.  David Smith, the authority on Westerly bottles, had one in his collection, but it had not made it to the website.  A gardener later complained about my mutilation of some roots, but it was worth finding the second example known of a local medicine.