Monday, March 18, 2013

The Otis Collection pt.1

About two months ago fellow collector Al Otis decided on a different path in his life which involved selling his bottle collection.  It consisted of over 600 different RI bottles, including many unlisted and one of a kind examples.  It was one of the top 5 collections of RI bottles, and I was definitely interested.  Being a poor college graduate, I regretfully could not purchase the collection even though the price was very fair.  In a bittersweet yet expected turn, a friend of his bought them to sell individually.  I was over in a heartbeat to set some aside.  It was pretty overwhelming, but I tried to get the rare and unlisted bottles.  While 68 bottles sounds like an inconsequential fraction of the 600 bottles, I was able to acquire what I believed to be the most important bottles I could afford.  Here are some of the finds:

An unlisted Caswell Mack & Co. Chemists New York & Newport was hard to pass up.  There are no listed rectangular versions of this bottle, and this one is fairly crude.  Dating from ca. 1863-1880, these Caswell Macks are some of the oldest bottles from the Caswell/Hazard/Mack/Massey empire.  

Another bottle known for its many varieties, a Barbour’s Westerly & Watch Hill R.I. was a nice find.  This small size had a different style font and underscore than listed versions.

I was very excited to discover that an already rare pharmacy bottle was an even rarer unlisted version!  It was a Potter’s Pharmacy (embossed owl on mortar) 246 Cranston St. Providence, RI.  The listed example has an address of 206 and a different looking owl.  The 206 address was an older location than the 246.

One of my top 3 bottles from the purchase was this brand new cosmetic bottle.  A Zenobia Toilet Specialties, Bronson Chemical Co. Providence, RI.  This is the only cosmetic bottle of its kind from RI, and the color and shape make it exceptional.

While in poor condition, it was exciting to see an unlisted version of a Downing Brothers Druggists Newport, RI.  All the listed versions are embossed B.F. Downing Jr., even though his brother worked with him for most of the duration of the company.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Not Quite Mine

I’d like to dedicate this entry to the unlisted RI bottles that I missed, got outbid on, or saw in a friend's collection.
A fairly recent member to join the club, Steve Plante has quickly become a prominent collector of Rhode Island ACL soda bottles.  His favorite way of “digging” for bottles is to go out kayaking and pull them out of rivers and ponds.  I had overlooked this particular method until about five years ago when I discovered how easy it was to find bottles in the water, especially on hot days.  One of his recent finds was a completely unlisted QuaKo Acme Bottling Co. Providence, RI.  While an embossed Acme Bottling Co. bottle exists, this brand is pretty significant.  Quako originated in Philadelphia, so why a small bottling company from Rhode Island started to bottle it is fascinating. 

A while ago I saw a nice looking unlisted Wright & Hay Pharmacists Newport, RI medicine on ebay.  The same seller had a pharmacy bottle from Woonsocket, RI listed as well.  This bottle had a decent lip chip and would normally sell for $5 on a good day.  However, two feuding Woonsocket collectors had “unfinished business”, and drove the price to an insane $406.  One of the bidders also went after the Newport bottle, so I had to back out.  Oh well!

Another beer bottle that really should be listed is the Eagle Brewing Co. (embossed eagle and shield) Providence, RI.  This is hands down the finest looking crown top beer bottle from RI.  I have an acid etched blob from this company, and there is an embossed example listed, but there is no mention of an eagle!

A few years back a good friend of mine bought a box of freshly dug bottles from northern RI.  For $10 it was a stellar buy, because he got a Sullivan Bros. Providence Hutchinson worth about $1,500.  Another bottle in the box was (believe it or not) even rarer than the Sullivan!  It was a J.S. Hazard & Co. Westerley (spelling error), RI gravitating stopper soda.  While not as sought after as RI hutchinsons, gravitating stopper (patented in 1867) sodas are tough to find, and there was only one known from RI.  Now there are two!  Note- Other J.S. Hazard squat sodas are fairly easy to come by.

A fairly unusual source of finding unlisted RI bottles is the Red Book of Fruit Jars.  This excellent reference book is the fruit jar bible.  The majority of jars don’t have a location on them, but a base embossed F.H. Perry & Co. Prov. RI fruit jar caught my eye.  The lid has an 1882 patent date on it.  Because it is base embossed, it doesn’t have tremendous value, but it is certainly something I am looking out for!

There is no picture of this jar yet!

One of my favorite local bottles is owned by my friend David.  A few years ago another friend of mine found a The Gladstone Spring Water Co. Narragansett Pier, RI demijohn.  This massive bottle is the only RI mineral water demijohn in this size.  I can only hope there is another one out there sitting in someone’s basement!

Winter Finds #5

This week I’ll finish off my finds from the last bottle club meeting.  A Mason B. Wood Druggist Watchemoket, RI was my next find.  Watchemoket was a small town that later became part of East Providence.  The shape is pretty appealing; it is round with a flat front.  This style was patented by the Whitall Tatum Co.  This cute druggist bottle was listed, but not in this size (3-1/2”). 

Another highlight of the collection selloff was an A.J. Hopkins & Son Improved Magic Healing Powder Providence, RI.  As far as I know, it’s been close to two decades since one of these has surfaced.  Since the picture on the LRBC website is black and white, there is a small possibility that the bottle was aqua like mine, even though it looks and is listed as clear. 

This entry is a particularly rewarding one.  The origins of this bottle go back 10 years.  I bought my Denham’s Homeopathic Pharmacy bottle as a kid with a bunch of other bottles.  When I got older I tried to research it online.  I didn’t get a single hit.  I figured it was probably out of state and put it back in my display.  Well last week I tried my new and improved search.  I found a Henry J. Denham.  To my great surprise I found an article stating that he opened a homeopathic pharmacy in Providence in 1875!  A few more articles further backed up this theory.  That makes this bottle quite the rare find.

One of the dark horse categories in RI bottle collecting is seltzer bottles.  A few are scattered throughout the online listing, but there is probably close to 100 different companies out there.  I usually don’t bid on them because they can sell fairly high and the shipping is absurd, but when a few came up for sale within driving distance, I chanced it.  My favorite out of the four I won was a nice early E.P. Anthony Mineral Waters Providence, RI.  As one of the most successful pharmacists in Providence, he must have had a soda fountain in his pharmacy which often featured seltzer bottles.  This early (circa 1910s) example is significant because it links a pharmacist to the beverage industry.

My newest ebay find was a nice Hazard Hazard & Co. Chemists NY & Newport medicine bottle.  An unlisted square style, I have one size already, and now I can add this 5” size to make a pair!  The Hazard Hazard name was the second newest incarnation of this company, lasting from about 1887-1893.