Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spring Finds #1

Many years ago I dug a small farm dump near my house.  It was certainly a sad dig through many rocks and shards of pontils and nicely colored fragments.  One of the few whole bottles was a mysterious one.  It was marked Antiseptic / Sure Cure on the sides and had a WHS monogram on the front.  I tried to research it a few years ago with little success.  I was quite surprised when digging at a farm dump the next property over (more recently), I found another one!  I renewed my search which again proved fruitless.  The mystery was finally solved by medicine bottle expert Matt Knapp, who was able to track down an old advertisement for William H. Sheldon’s Antiseptic Sure Cure, which was sold by Oliver Johnson & Co. of Providence, RI.  I’m still at a loss at the odds of finding two unlisted RI cure bottles within a few months! 

I was happy to see a Wm. K. Reynolds Providence, RI pharmacy bottle show up on ebay.  It has a neat design on the front, and when I found that it was an unlisted “ size, it was even better!

Out of all the Rhode Island beverage companies out there, I think I have the most diverse assortment of bottles from the Standard Bottling Co. of Pawtucket, RI.  I have a small army of blob and crown top sodas from them, and a few uncommon examples.  They include an etched amber beer bottle, a seltzer, and now an etched wine bottle.  Most etched wines are fairly simple in design, so to see the company’s American flag trademark on the front makes it stand out from the crowd.

Ok, after a small break I’m back to more Otis collection bottles.  A nice Joseph Demers Pawtucket, RI blob had an unfamiliar look to it.  It turns out to be my first example with "and" embossed between the address numbers.  The period after Joseph also made it unlisted.

When it came to bottling in Rhode Island, the name McKenna was a prominent one.  From the prolific McKenna brothers to McKenna & Conaty, and lastly McKenna & Nolan Providence, RI.  This was certainly the least prosperous partnership between one of the McKennas and James P. Nolan.  It is first mentioned in 1903.  In 1911 they created their own baseball team.  They disbanded by 1913, but Mr. Nolan continued bottling by himself at the same location.

"Not Quite Mine" pt. 2

A couple years ago I started a Facebook group called Bottle Collectors.  I never had high hopes for it, but hoped a few collectors would find their way to it.  I was quite surprised when it had over 100 members a year later.  Currently there are over 600 members providing a constant stream of great pictures and knowledge.  My jaw nearly fell off when I saw a recent bottle that was posted.  After securely reattaching it, I gazed in wonder at the sight before me.  A super early and crude utility style bottle was embossed T. Addeman Prov. RI.  I was so excited because this is one of the most important documented bottles from Rhode Island.  Firstly, it is definitely a contender for the earliest embossed bottle from RI.  It probably dates from the 1840s, but could be late 1830s.  The only challenger would be the Dr. Wadsworth pontiled torpedo soda.  Secondly it is olive green, and there are only two other RI bottles in that color (CAP Mason Alpine Hair Balm, Simmons & Spencer Schnapps), but those aren’t pontiled.  This example even has a label!  It was a blacking bottle.  I would easily call this one of the Top 5 RI bottles, along with the Ira Harvey teepee and CAP Mason Alpine Hair Balm.  

I recently found a rare Hopkin’s Magic Gold Dust medicine bottle.  Well I started to ask around, and it turns out that they aren’t as rare as I thought!  A fellow digger in Maine found a rectangular one, and one had turned up on ebay (which I unforgivably missed).  The ebay example was the most exciting discovery.  It is very early looking and has a fancy design. 

One bottle I found in Digger Odell’s Indian Bottles & Brand book was Checini’s Indian Sebago the Great Blood Purifier.  Research confirmed that Louis Checini of Providence issued a trademark for the words “Indian Sebago”.  RI Indian medicine bottles are right up there with the cures, aka very rare!

Fellow collector David Gates has an impressive collection of RI bottles.  One of his “dark horses” is a small bottle that would qualify as “miscellaneous”.  Rustoff by the Rustoff Company Providence, RI.  It must have not worked well because I have only seen two so far.

A particularly bittersweet loss involved an unlisted RI whiskey bottle.  When a McGough Bros. Canal St. Providence, RI bottle surfaced on ebay, I was all in.  Apparently someone wanted it more than me, and I lost by $1 in the final seconds. 

A nice colored squat soda that is kind of known to be but not listed as a RI bottle is S.J. Esten.  In 1865 Samuel J. Esten was located at the rear of 95 North Main St. in Providence.  He was listed as manufacturing soda and mineral waters.  He was the successor to Isaac H. Penno who made Penno’s Mineral Water.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Makes a Bottle Unlisted?

After adding my last post, I realized I had never really explained the story behind these unlisted bottles.  It is a topic worthy of discussion, so here is a quickly assembled but hopefully helpful explanation of how a bottle is qualified as unlisted.

Rhode Island is one of the only states that collectors have attempted to document all of the known bottles from (excluding milks and ACL sodas).  Even as the smallest state, this proved a monumental task, and since work began in the 1970s, new bottles are still being found every month.
When collectors first began cataloging RI bottles, a fairly simple record was kept.  The embossing was taken down, the size, shape, and color was recorded.
As the years progressed, it became clear that more details were needed.  When a rectangular medicine bottle from one company came in four different rectangular shapes, the description of the shape needed to be more detailed.  Punctuation also needed more scrutiny.  Rather than implying that it was correct, one had to carefully check every comma and period.  There are many old listings online that might actually be the same exact bottle as the next one in the list.  The only way to know for certain is to find that bottle in the flesh or track down the person who owned it when it was cataloged. 
The Antique Bottles of Rhode Island book has not been updated in many years, so when one visits our webpage you will find the amount of bottles listed has nearly doubled since the book was published.  Even with this increase, I still have a couple hundred bottles that are unlisted.  For example, there is only one Augustin Vitale blob top soda listed online.  You could imagine my surprise when I kept finding variants until I had a total of six different versions.  There are also certain types of bottles that have been neglected, which mainly includes ACL sodas and seltzer bottles.  Last I checked, I think five ACL sodas had made their way onto the LRBC website.  However, there are close to 100 RI ACL sodas out there.  The same goes for seltzer bottles. 
Now, are these unlisted versions rare?  Generally, they are no rarer than a similar listed bottle from the same company.  Quite often size variations, particularly in soda and beer bottles, do not quality for unlisted status.  Quite often the height of a hand-tooled blob top could vary by as much as 1/2" depending on who fashioned the lip.  Medicine bottles are a little more precise.  Usually a >1/4" difference in height can mean it is unlisted.  It never hurts, though, to compare the bottle in question next to a listed bottle of nearly identical height. 
All of the embossing variants of blob and crown top soda bottles were often out of the bottler's hands.  The glass companies often used whatever molds they had, so required terms like Registered could have been embossed on the upper/lower shoulder, below the slugplate, on the rear shoulder, or on the rear heel, depending on the mold.  The engravers making the slug plates often had differing skills in spelling and punctuation, hence many subtle variations.

Now all of this can get quite tedious, even for an advanced collector like me.  By far my favorite type of unlisted bottle is one that is completely unknown.  This would be a bottle from a company no one has heard of before.  There are two main categories of these "brand new" finds.  The first is a bottle that is clearly marked from RI.  For example when I dug a Leonard's Electric Pain Lotion Providence, RI, I was very excited.  No one had previously documented a Dr. Leonard, and to sell a product like this in the 1800s one needed to issue a patent. 
The other, more difficult to identify category are bottles that are not marked from RI.  Often times you need to do a lot of research or find a labeled example to confirm it is from RI.  For example, I had a Quick Stop for Headaches embossed medicine bottle in my collection.  While it was neat, I had no idea where it was from.  While I was researching the name, I came across an advertisement for Mattison's Quick Stop for Headaches Providence, RI.  E.F. Mattison was a patent medicine manufacturer, and this happened to be his most successful product.

I hope that explains a lot, and didn't put you to sleep!  If you have any questions feel free to contact me.  Also, if you have a RI bottle that is not listed online or in this blog, I would be most grateful if you could send me a picture of it.  Thanks again for reading!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Otis Collection pt. 5

Welcome back!  A lot has happened since my last post, including my official purchase of the rest of the Otis Collection, which was close to 500 bottles, plus the ones I already bought.  I have a bit of catching up to do, so I will stick to that for now!
With this post I can finally finish up my new finds from the Otis collection.  As my financial situation allows, I will continue to purchase small amounts of his unlisted bottles.  For now, here’s the rest!
Another nice and early blob top was from J.H. Branaghan Pawtucket, RI.  Branaghan was a successful dealer in liquors, as evidenced by the large variety of bottles made by the company.  This aqua blob top is easily one of the first Branaghan bottles ever produced. 
Another J.H. Branaghan bottle is of a newer vintage but still very appealing.  This handmade crown top has the embossing in a shield design which was used extensively by the Burke Bros. of Providence.  The bottom is embossed Mfrs. Bottle Co. Boston, a company which also produced the Burke bottles. 

One of the most handsome handmade crown tops from the bunch was a J. Keron Herbola Central Falls, RI.  This green aqua bottle features a nice tombstone shaped slugplate on the front.  J. Keron’s Herbola drink started him on a successful career which would lead to the creation of the Kerona Co.  These Kerona bottles are some of the most common RI soda bottles around.

Well, I must confess that this next bottle is even more handsome than the last.  The successful Caproni Bros. also produced a wide variety of soda and beer bottles.  An amber handmade crown top Caproni Bros. Spruce St. Providence, RI is a swell bottle.  Its large size and unapologetic bulging beer bottle style neck give it a commanding presence.

An uncommon and unsurprisingly unlisted blob is from the American Wine Co. Pawtucket, RI.  A large bottle is listed, but not this average-sized blob.  RI companies dealing expressly in wine are uncommon, but a few like the California Wine Co. enjoyed considerable success.

There was one bottle I missed during the collection selloff I mentioned in the last two posts.  I wasn’t the only one scouring the collection.  A friend of mine picked up a blob soda and never put it down again.  I figured it had to be a nice one, but I didn’t know how nice.  I read the bottler’s name, but quickly forgot it when I saw the town.  It was a G.A. Wagner Berkeley, RI.  At the time I didn’t even know that there was such a town.  Some searching showed it was a small mill village in the town of Cumberland.  It is exceedingly rare for a small town like this to have an embossed bottle.  Usually the only bottles from small towns are milk bottles. 
Well, he enjoyed it for a few weeks then listed it on ebay.  The opening bid was high but reasonable for a blob this rare, and I happily got it for the minimum bid!