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Uncle Sam
Antique bottle collecting is one of America's greatest hobbies.

Membership is open to anyone interested in antique bottles and related items or in the history of the firms that used these bottles. Our monthly newsletter, Bottles Along the Mohawk, includes articles of historical interest, stories chronicling the hobby and history of bottle collecting, program listings, show listings, club news, and much more.

Membership in the MVABC puts you in contact with others who share your interests. We invite you to join us! Annual dues are $12 for individuals and $15 for families.

Members enjoy a variety of programs, assistance with identification of bottles, an annual club dig, an annual Show and Sale (always held on the first Sunday in May), the newsletter, many opportunities to buy, sell, or trade bottles, and most importantly, the camaraderie of fellow collectors.

Meetings are held at 7 PM on the second Monday of every month. All meetings, except those for May, June, and October, are held at the New York Mills Community Center, Main & Church Street, NY Millls. Map...

Club Officers
President: Kathy Capozzella
Vice President: Dave Mount
Treasurer: Peter Bleiberg
Secretary: Debra Rehm
The Mohawk Valley Antique Bottle Club was founded in 1994 as a not-for-profit organization supporting collectors of historical bottles, antique glass, and related items. The goal of the MVABC is to promote the collection, study, preservation, and display of historical bottles and related artifacts and to share our knowledge and research with other collectors and with the public at large.

Membership is open to anyone interested in antique bottles and related items or in the history of the firms that used these bottles. Our monthly newsletter, Bottles Along the Mohawk, includes articles of historical interest, stories chronicling the hobby and history of bottle collecting, program listings, show listings, club news, and much more.

Membership in the MVABC puts you in contact with others who share your interests. We invite you to join us! Annual dues are $12 for individuals and $15 for families.

We are affiliated with the national organization, the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC) and support the National Bottle Museum, located in Ballston Spa, NY.

Members enjoy a variety of programs, assistance with identification of bottles, an annual club dig, an annual Show and Sale (always held on the first Sunday in May), the newsletter, many opportunities to buy, sell, or trade bottles, and most importantly, the camaraderie of fellow collectors.

Meetings are held at 7 PM on the second Monday of every month. All meetings, except those for May, June, and October, are held at the New York Mills Community Center, Main & Church Street, NY Millls. Map...

  • Bethesda Springs
  • William Blaikie
  • Holland Farms
  • Liberty Farm Bottles
  • Jenny Lind
  • Lithia Mineral Spring
  • Louis Bierbauer Brewery
  • Millville NJ Glass Factory
  • Mt. Pleasant Glass Works
  • Oneida Community
  • John H. Sheehan
  • Shipman Ink
  • Thurston Hotel
  • Turlington Balsam of Life
  • Uncle Sams Dairy
  • Utica NY Bottle Wars

Bethesda Springs

Spring House

Back in 2005 I somehow got in touch with John Martin Schoeknect in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He was an art teacher at Morgan Butler-Middle School there.  He was also dedicated to preserving the history of Waukesha. He wrote a book entitled " The Great Waukesha Springs Era" which tells the story of about 60 mineral springs there from 1868 to 1918, This history included a long tale about the Bethesda Spring. John was very generous and sent me a copy of his wonderful book, which I will use to outline, as good as I can, the history of the Bethesda Spring.

It all began in 1834 when the United States sent a crew to survey the north country. Near the mouth of the Fox River some of the men took sick and an Indian guide informed them of a spring of great value to them. They followed his direction and soon found a spring where no less than 100 Indians were drinking, bathing in and carrying away its waters. That was the first recorded mention of the springs in Waukesha.

Spring House

John wrote " there is not a single man who changed the course of Waukesha history more than Richard Dunbar.  He gives a history of Col. Dunbar which is not of great interest here, but he notes that he was told that he had incurable diabetes and only had six weeks to live. This was around 1868. His condition made him very thirsty so he drank a lot of the Bethesda Spring water.  In reading some of the Col.'s words I find that he was the first to call the spring by that name and he said: “I called the Spring Bethesda, because the Lord was merciful to me in leading me to the healing font.  The word Bethesda signifies the House of Mercy and was the name of a pool at Jerusalem, which had fine porticoes, piazzas or covered walks around it". (John, verse two and four) He also added " I drank of the modern Bethesda. I was healed of an incurable disease, one that baffled the skill of the most scientific men, at home and abroad." The first accounts of Dunbar's cure appear in 1869. The spring was first
unnamed until Dunbar returned from New York and bought a home in Waukesha. After a few years he won out on the name. Soon the water filled wooden barrels began leaving the city. The skeptics were soon as cured as the Colonel.

Dunbar built a wooden structure over the spring. On September 2, 1878 a cornerstone was laid for a large hotel near the spring. Besides wooden barrels, the water was sold and ceramic containers and bottles. One newspaper article mentions that "at the Bethesda Springs, last week some 50 barrels were being filled with water; also some 10 cords of boxes said to contain 9,000 bottles to be filled for shipping." Business increased and on January 9, 1872 the paper reported that Dunbar was shipping 10 times the amount and it was being shipped to every state and to Europe. In June of 1872 Mrs. Abraham Lincoln came to relieve the depression she felt after the death other husband. All was not always good at the spring as there were some vandals to destroy statues, etc. There is a lot of detail that I will skip over, lots of detail not necessary to the story. Col. Dunbar died on December 15, 1878. His widow carried on until 1881 when she sold the spring to a group of men headed by Honorable Winfield Smith of Milwaukee. The business changed hands a few times. In 1889 the bottling operation was conducted on a gigantic scale. The company ordered 40 carloads of bottles from the Streeter Glass Company for four months of that year. Five thousand quarts of water were bottled each day. Each carload consisted of 125 cases of quarts or pints, each case-holding 50 or 100 bottles. John's book shows many pictures of the Bethesda products, ginger ale included, but mainly spring water. There are also pictures of the spring-house and others, like the bottling plant. In 1900 the water won honorable mention at the Universal Exposition of the French Ministry of Commerce and Industry. On July 15, 1997 the company closed.

That was a quick story of the history of the Bethesda Spring. Now I will pick up the rest of the story in New York State, as I know it, but before I start that I will tell you about a more modern Bethesda Bottle that I recently acquired from Neil Moore.  It is a ½ gallon rectangular bottle with a full label on the front and an embossed image of the spring house in Waukesha, Wisconsin on the reverse.  The label is of the old-fashioned type that shows the many medals awarded to the spring and those dates. The name Bethesda is in the large letters and in an arc across the top area. Below is a picture of the spring house and on each side of that is a story of the spring and a list of the chemicals it contained. The lower part of the label reads: PURE-NATURAL MINB8AL SPRING WATER, bottled and sealed at Bethesda Spring and Bethesda Mineral Spring Company, Bethesda Park, Waukesha, Wisconsin.  The metal screw cap shows the spring house and the words. Bethesda Spring, Waukesha. (See photo.)

There is a 2 gallon pottery jug that I got years ago from Jerry Strubel. It was made by the West Troy Pottery and has in blue, across the front, BETHESDA WATER.

There is also the C. R. Brown Bethesda Spring Water, Saratoga Springs, New York that I have. The story of that bottle has already been told. I will try not to repeat myself as I complete this story.

We know that the water was shipped to every state and that Brown, probably through the dealer CJH Bostwart of Troy, New York, tried bottling the water in his converted quart bottle for sale locally. The 2 gallon jug is also proof that the water was sent and used, at least to some extent, here in New York.

From the pictures I've seen in John's book, one could collect a lot of those bottles too. There is no end to the possibilities! It appears that C. R. Brown was smart enough to sell his Crystal Spring Water Company and try to sail the then very popular water.

2 gallon water jug - made
by West Troy Pottery

Only known example of aqua
quart Bethesda Spring water bottle

1/2 gallon water bottle
c early 1900s
Howard Dean Collection

William Blaikie

The name William Blaikie is a familiar one to local bottle collectors.  Blaikie started an apothecary business in Utica in 1853 and the firm was still thriving in 1910 at the time of his passing.  Because the business lasted for more than half a century, hobbyists have an easy time finding Blaikie bottles for their collections in numerous different sizes and embossings.  Blaikie was an astute businessman and in addition to his own business, for many years was President of the Savings Bank of Utica.  These accomplishments alone are worthy of recognition, but Blaikie was well known in the community for other honorable reasons.  Mr. Blaikie was the first humane society agent in Utica and at one time was President of the Utica Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children.  Local newspapers wrote many stories about Blaikie’s good deeds to animals and children, both when he was alive and for years after his passing.  The tabloids documented the many actions done by this good soul whose name was synonymous with kindness to animals.  A few excerpts from some interesting stories written about Blaikie are shown below.   The news items were copied from Utica newspapers found on the website www.fultonhistory.com.

“Years ago William Blaikie, Utica pharmacist, was the Society's top booster. On seeing an ailing horse-car horse in Genesee St., he used to run out into the street, stop the car, unhitch the bewildered animal and leave the passengers distraught.  He also kept a sidewalk watering trough for dogs in front of his store. And inside—it's now the Watford Drug Company—they'll show you a roundish hole in a floor level cupboard which Mr. Blaikie put there.  It is big enough to admit a fleeing cat; too small for a pursuing dog.”  (From the Utica Observer Dispatch, “Dec 28 or 29, 1947)

“Then, one day a New York City gentleman (Henry Berg) who had in 1866 fought the horse-car and slaughterhouse lobbies to found the SPCA took time off from visiting in-laws in Utica and dropped in the drug store.

There he sold Mr. Blaikie on becoming the city’s first humane office; also one of the first such officers in the country.  He handled the job in his spare time.

Time and again he would interrupt waiting on a customer to run out and stop a street car whose driver was beating his horses. 

“Then there was the canal boat.  Mr. Blaikie used to drop around and look for welts on the backs of the mules or for abrasions where the tow rope cut across their shoulders.  Things got so that when the captains neared Utica they unhitched all the mules with sore backs and didn’t put them on until they got beyond the city.  It was a little like today’s heavy trucks driving around the weighing stations.”

Anyway, Mr. Blaikie outfoxed them by going to Whitesboro and got a few arrests that way.  Usually he just took the captain to the police station; once, though, he brought the mules along too as material witnesses.”  (From the Utica Observer Dispatch May 2, 1954)

"There was a time when Mr. Blaikie became famed and loved throughout the city through his interest in children and animals.  It was a long time ago that he first manifested a courageous contempt for the man who beat his horse or whipped his child.  He has never gotten over it, and today at the venerable age which he has acquired he is just as quick to enlist in the war against cruelty as he was fifty years ago.  Surrounding him in the noble work are men and woman who have large hearts.” (From The Utica Journal -  Sunday, March 4, 1906)

“The society began because of James Steven’s worry about animal protection, Gustayus Swan's concern about prevention of cruelty to children and William Blaikie's concern about animals. Their three groups united as Stevens-Swan in 1910 and for years handled cases for both children and animals.”  (From the Observer Dispatch  -  Monday, May 30, 1987)  An act to consolidate The Utica Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children, The Gustavus Swan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children of Rome, NY and The Stevens Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Rome, New York became a law May 24, 1910 with the approval of the Governor.  The name of the new Society was The Stevens-Swan Humane Society of Oneida County. 

“One of the interesting chapters of his life was his connection with the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War. He was a leader in the movement in this section of the country.”   (Utica Herald-Dispatch, Monday Evening April 11, 1910

Consequently, William Blaikie was a first class citizen who set a good example for other citizens and was an inspiration to all in regards to the treatment of children and animals.  Bottle collectors would do honor to Blaikie’s memory if they bear in mind that his name was honored more for his benevolence toward animals and children than for being the founder of a successful drug store. 

Holland Farms dairy barn

Holland Farms

Herman H. Piersma was born in the Netherlands and came to the United States as a young man. For a few years Herman lived in Chicago, where he worked for the railroad. Around 1900, Herman came to Oneida County and worked on a farm in Marcy where he met and married his wife, Minnie DeJong Siedsma; also a Dutch immigrant.

On February 28, 1911 Herman, Minnie and Jacob Piersma bought a 112 acre dairy farm on Cider Street in Oriskany. The property had an abundance of green hilly pastures and ample woodlands. The farm had a large white house, big dairy barn and other buildings. The house was built in 1830. Herman and Minnie farmed and raised eight children: 5 boys, Pierre, John, Sidney, Jacob and Herman; three girls, Nettie, Dora and Elsie. The crops were corn and hay for the livestock and vegetables for the family.

Herman (Pete) Piersma on his farm

In 1928, Herman's son John bought a milk route and a 1927 Dodge G-boy truck for $960 and began delivering milk and ice to boats traveling the Erie Canal between Amsterdam and Sylvan Beach. His first milk bottles were round quarts, embossed JOHN PIERSMA/HILL CREST DAIRY/ WHITESBORO, N.Y. His brother Pierre bought a milk route in New Hartford from a Mr Roman and delivered milk. Pierre had bottles made that were embossed, PIERRE PIERSMA/REGISTERED/NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. Pierre at one time worked for Dairylea in Utica.

With hard work and John's entrepreneurial spirit, his milk route was a financial success. Later, the same year, John decided to build a processing plant to pasteurize and bottle their milk. This required a sizeable financial investment and when John's father went to the bank to cosign for a $1000 loan, he exclaimed, “My son, my son, what are you doing?”

Front of tall round pyro quart bottle c1942
Peter Bleiberg collection

Back view of tall round pyro bottle c1942
Peter Bleiberg collection

Building the large processing plant on the Piersma Farm proved to be a good decision, and with the help of his hard working family, the business flourished. Because John was proud of his Dutch ancestry, he decided to name his dairy, “Holland Farms.” In 1930, they started using round bottles that were embossed, PIERSMA BROS./HOLLAND FARMS/ORISKANY, N.Y. By 1933, John and his wife Evlyn, each had their own truck and delivery routes which served downtown Utica and the surrounding area .

After the death of Herman H. Piersma, his son, also Herman H. Piersma, but better known as “Pete” to most people in Oriskany, was willed the farm. A stipulation in the will stated that John could bottle his milk on the farm, but had to buy the milk from his brother Pete.

By 1950, Holland Farms had four people delivering milk six days a week to residences, businesses and hospitals. A few years later a retail dairy store was opened in Oriskany and still later, one in Clinton. In 1956, John Piersma and his wife opened Holland Farms Dairy Bar and Bakery “on the triangle” in Yorkville; one of the first retail outlets for dairy products. When construction started on the Commercial Drive overpass in 1966, Holland Farms relocated to its current location on Oriskany Boulevard in Yorkville.

In 1955, Pete bought 50 acres of land on the other side of Cider Street and expanded the farm. This move provided more acreage for corn and hay sorely needed for the growing Holland herds.

About 1974, Pete sold his cows when he lost his brother Sidney who was his helper. Following the sale, Pete and his nephew Richard Piersma bought the bottling plant from John and they continued bottling milk for Holland Farms under the “Holland Farms” label. Pete and Richard also bottled milk under their “Holland Dairy” label.

In 1980, John Piersma decided to semi-retire and his two daughters, Marolyn and Suzanne took over the business. However, John never fully retired, but enjoyed his work at Holland Farms and Kiwanis, flying his plane off 4 th Lake in the Adirondack's and helping anyone who needed his expertise.

In 1995, John Piersma the founder and owner of Holland Farms Dairy died, but his successful enterprise continued under the stewardship of his two daughters.

With the growth of supermarkets, less and less people used home delivery for their milk and many small milk processors went out of business. Most farmers started selling their milk to large corporate processors like Dairylea. A few dairies opened small retail milk stores which sold bread and other assorted groceries which enabled them to stay in business; but, many stopped processing and bottling their own milk.

When Pete and Richard stopped bottling milk in 1996, Holland Farms had already been in the retail milk and bakery business for many years. Holland Farms had established a high-quality reputation for their baked goods which gave them an advantage over smaller milk stores. Adding a fresh deli, coffee and other items helped even more and the business evolved into one of the most successful retail operations in the area. Presently, Holland Farms employs about 60 people.

Today, the farm is still on Cider Street in Oriskany where Herman (Pete) Piersma lives and at 91 years old, enjoys relatively good health. On a sunny day, you might see Pete standing in his yard, watching a herd of young Holsteins grazing on the sloping green pastures that are surrounded by stands of large beautiful maple trees; much like they were a hundred years ago.

Pete is retired now, and rents out his farm. The barns and other buildings are all freshly painted and in good repair. The cattle, hay, and chores are well taken care of and even though, at times, Pete may long for the days when he did a lot of the farm chores himself; he claims he doesn't miss milking all those cows by hand.

Liberty Farm Bottles

Member Brad Blodget of Worchester, Massachusetts (one of our several out of state members) recently found a rare old milk bottle from his hometown.  Brad and a group of local milk bottle collectors from his area took a day off and visited the homes of two of the members to see their collections.  They also had lunch together between visiting the two homes.  While at one house, Brad asked his friend where he kept his Worchester milk bottles?  He was told they were on the very bottom shelf.  It was difficult to see the bottles on the bottom shelf, so Brad had to lie on the floor on his side (ripping his trousers on a shelf in the process).  He inspected the dusty bottles one by one.  The bottles were several rows deep.  Patiently he moved them around which enabled him to see all of them.  He was familiar with the bottles he saw and then, “WOW,” there was a bottle he had never seen before.  A mint embossed quart from LIBERTY FARM/ WORCHESTER which dated back to 1901 - 1908 (very early for a milk bottle).  What a rush – instant euphoria, a feeling that collectors get when one finds something they didn’t even know existed for a category they collect.  This phenomenon doesn’t happen often enough but when it does – WOW!   

Brad informed me the Liberty Farm bottle is steeped in history.  One of the early owners of the farm was an abolitionist.  Liberty Farm was the home of Abby Kelley Foster, outspoken abolitionist and early suffragist along with her husband, Stephen Symonds Foster.  The original brick house built in 1810 is still standing at 116 Mower Street in Worchester and is a historical landmark.   

This story has a happy ending because Brad was able to trade a bottle he owned for the Liberty Farm bottle.   It was definitely a good day for member Brad Blodget. 

Editor’s Note: Brad told me this story over the phone about acquiring the bottle and the historical significance of the glass artifact.  The story was so interesting I felt I should share it with the other members.  Thanks brad for sharing your story and the history of this great bottle with us.

A few days after talking to Brad on the phone he sent me a handmade drawing of the slug plate from the Liberty Farm bottle and some more information about the bottle.  It read as follows:

Here is a freehand repro of the slugplate on the REQ (round embossed quart) from Liberty Farm/A.H. Durland/Worchester (Mass).

The bottle is a Thatcher dated on the bottom, 1907.  It was manufactured before the manufacturers to uniformly emboss their bottles with a seal in order to be legally used for the sale of milk in Massachusetts.  This particular bottle has an acid etched seal: W07.  This indicates that the bottle was officially sealed at Worchester.  The “W” of course stands for Worchester; the little  is the official seal of the city of Worchester (Worchester has always called itself “the heart of the Commonwealth)” and of course the “07” is for the year.

I presume you read the history of Liberty Farm of Worchester on Google.  The farm was in 1885 from the Foster family by C.D. Thayer.  Starting in 1901, Thayer leased the farm to A.H. Durland who ran the milk route.  The lease ended in 1908 when Thayer sold Liberty Farm to Frank Clarkson who parceled up the farm for sale to developers.  Today, all is gone except the old farmhouse, which is still privately owned and is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Jenny Lind –– Swedish Nightingale sang in Utica in 1851

Daguerreotype of Jenny Lind, by her Swedish classmate Poly Von Schneid, made in New York 1850 See photos on next page.
An aqua Jenny Lind calabash flask. These flasks were made in eastern glass factories around 1850 – 1880's, so some have pontil scars and some do not.

Jenny Lind was born October 6, 1820 to an impoverished and unmarried mother in Stockholm, Sweden. Her parents were both musicians, and young Jenny began singing at a very early age. As a child she began formal music lessons, and by the age of 21 she was singing in Paris. She returned to Stockholm and performed in a number of operas. Throughout the 1840s her fame grew in Europe. In 1847 she performed in London for Queen Victoria, and her ability to make crowds swoon became legendary.

The American showman Phineas T. Barnum, who operated an extremely popular museum in New York City and was known for exhibiting the diminutive superstar General Tom Thumb, heard about Jenny Lind and sent a representative to make an offer to bring her to America.

Jenny Lind drove a hard bargain with Barnum, demanding that he deposit the equivalent of nearly $200,000 in a London bank as an advance payment before she would sail to America. Barnum had to borrow the money, but he arranged for her to come to New York and embark on a concert tour of the United States.

Barnum, of course, was taking a considerable risk. In the days before recorded sound, people in America, including Barnum himself, had not even heard Jenny Lind sing. But Barnum knew her reputation for thrilling crowds, and set to work making Americans excited.

Lind had acquired a new nickname, "The Swedish Nightingale," and Barnum made sure that Americans heard about her. Rather than promote her as a serious musical talent, Barnum made it sound like Jenny Lind was some mystical being blessed with a heavenly voice.

Jenny Lind sailed from Liverpool, England, in August 1850 aboard the steamship Atlantic. As the steamer entered New York harbor, signal flags let crowds know that Jenny Lind was arriving. Barnum approached in a small boat, boarded the steamship, and met his star for the first time. As the Atlantic approached its dock at the foot of Canal Street massive crowds began to gather. According to a book published in 1851, Jenny Lind in America, "some thirty or forty thousand people must have been collected together on the adjacent piers and shipping, as well as on all the roofs and in all the windows fronting the water." Barnum had succeeded in drawing enormous crowds to Jenny Lind before she had even sung a single note in America.

During her first week in New York, Jenny Lind made excursions to various concert halls with Barnum, to see which might be good enough to hold her concerts. Crowds followed their progress about the city, and anticipation for her concerts was growing.

Barnum finally announced that Jenny Lind would sing at Castle Garden. And as demand for tickets was so great, he announced that the first tickets would be sold by auction. The auction was held, and the first ticket to a Jenny Lind concert in America was sold for $225, an expensive concert ticket by today's standards and a simply staggering amount in 1850.

Everywhere she went there was a Jenny Lind mania. Crowds greeted her and every concert sold out nearly immediately. She sang in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Barnum even arranged for her to sail to Havana, Cuba, where she sang several concerts before sailing to New Orleans. After performing concerts in New Orleans, Jenny Lind sailed up the Mississippi on a riverboat. She performed in a church in the town of Natchez to a wildly appreciative rustic audience. Jenny Lind's tour continued to St. Louis, Nashville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and other cities. Crowds flocked to hear her, and those who couldn't hear her marveled at her generosity, as newspapers ran reports of the charitable contributions she would make.

At some point Jenny Lind and Barnum parted ways. She continued performing in America, but without Barnum's talents at promotion she was not as big a draw. With the magic seemingly gone, she returned to Europe in 1852.

Editor's Note: It has been said that Jenny Lind was more popular than Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Sinatra and Michael Jackson. American glass makers put portraits of popular people on flasks to make their bottles more desirable. The type of flask used for the Jenny Lind flasks are called calabash type or shape. McKearin had Jenny Lind flasks listed in the Group 1 Portrait Flasks category and were numbered 99 – 107. All of the information and photos in this article were taken from the internet.

Lithia Mineral Spring

Photograph from the collection of Mrs. Orvetta Palmateer that shows the spring house as it looked in May 1905 as a stove store. The building also was used as a confectionary store and a newsstand. The spring was capped off approximately in 1932. The building is also no longer there.

We are fortunate to live in an area where so many great bottles originated.  It is easy to put a bottle on the shelf these days without really knowing anything about its history.  With all of our modern technology and avenues for information, you would think that the history of anything is only a few mouse clicks away.  Well this is certainly not the case for this elusive Saratoga-type mineral water from Gloversville, NY.

In Tucker’s "Collector’s Guide to Saratoga-Type Mineral Water Bottles" it is listed as N-19: Lithia Mineral Spring Co. (arch)/Gloversville.”  It is only known to come in aqua and pint size.  In the many years that Jim & I have been collecting, we can only account for less than a dozen examples and some of those are damaged.

The only direct knowledge we could find on this is from a copy of an old brochure advertising “Gloversville Lithian Spring Co. Gloversville, Fulton County, NY.”  According to this, the spring was discovered in April of 1872 and was located in the then village (now the city) of Gloversville, NY.  More specifically it was located near the current intersection of Cayadutta St. & Main St. in the city.  The brochure goes on to state, “The Spring originates in the black shale rock, a portion of the same formation in which the Saratogas waters are found.  The Gloversville Lithian Water is perfectly free from earthy sediment and impurities, a quality which very seldom belong to mineral waters and which renders them innocuous to a sensitive physique, and more useful in dissolving the superfluous salts of the system.”  They certainly were very eloquent writers in those days!

Very scarce aqua pint Lithia Mineral Spring co. Gloversville Bottle

Lithia & Lithian were most certainly derived from Lithium and the Greek word “Lithos” meaning “stone.”  Lithia Water was well promoted in the 19th century as medicinal cure-all.  And why not?  It was cheaper than making a preparation and it flowed freely from the ground.  Lithia water was very popular throughout the United States with companies such as “Buffalo Lithia Water” from Virginia, The Lithia Spring Co. of Atlanta Ga., and of course Saratoga boasted of several Lithia springs.  The popularity of these springs were so great that usually a hotel or housing facility was constructed nearby so visitors could receive “treatments” of the waters.  In Gloversville, the Alvord House was situated nearby.  In a newspaper ad of a November 1885, the Alvord House stressed the importance of its location to the mineral spring.  It appears that they only bottled the water for consumption, as there are no references that we can find for bathhouses or inhalation buildings.

Gloversville’s most prominent businesses revolved around the leather and glove factories.  There is reference made that several of these factories would send for the medicinal water and it was used liberally by the employees.  According to a July 1952 Gloversville newspaper article, the property where the spring was located was on the old Gregory estate.  The spring provided a living for a man named John Sturn.  There is also reference to a Mrs. Evelyn Dollar who sold the waters as a sideline.  (Her husband George was a cabinet maker).

It appears that the Spring Water business was fairly short lived or at least never flourished with the same success of some of its neighboring areas in Saratoga, Sharon and Richfield Springs.  It appears that even though the spring was still flowing, any advertising and major marketing attempts ceased in and about the late 1880’s.  The spring house was then used to house several different businesses.  It was a post office and headquarters to Andrew Hanson & Son, seller of stoves.

Louis Bierbauer Brewery

Beer Bottle
Aqua, Louis Bierbauer 12 Oz Blobtop Beer Bottle
Beer Bottle Close-up
Aqua, Louis Bierbauer 12 Oz Blobtop Beer Bottle, Close-Up

An 1872 – 1873 Canajoharie, NY Business Directory, listed Louis Bierbauer Sr. as having a brewery on Mill Street and his residence at 85 & 89 Mill Street.  His son, Louis Bierbauer Jr. lived at 29 Reed Street.

Louis started brewing ale and lager beer in Canajoharie in 1856.  It is probably no coincidence that his brother Charles Bierbauer started the first lager beer brewery in Utica, NY at 93 Third Street in 1855.  Both brothers had come to America from Germany to seek their fortunes making lager beer for our young country.  While earlier breweries made ale and porter, there were few lager beer breweries.  It has been said that one of the gifts the German people brought to America was the art of making lager beer.  While ale and porter were drunk at room temperature, lager beer was enjoyed cold.  Americans fell in love with the cold crisp taste of lager beer and lager beer breweries prospered. 

Charles Bierbauer’s Third Street brewery was so successful that in three years he needed a larger facility to brew his beer.  Bierbauer sold his brewery and relocated to Edward Street in Utica and built a much larger brewery.  Charles Bierbauer named his new brewery the West Utica Brewery.  For many years C. Bierbauer produced the bulk of the lager beer sold in Utica. 

For some reason, in 1879 Louis Bierbauer needed an experienced brewery worker who knew the old world method of brewing lager beer.  A capable young man named Francis Xavier Matt worked at his brother’s brewery in Utica.  Louis asked his brother if he would allow F X Matt to come to Canajoharie to work in his brewery.  Matt was only 20 years old at the time, but had worked at breweries in the Black Forest area of Germany in his teenage years.  A year after Matt relocated to Louis Bierbauer’s Brewery, he became the brew master. 

Back in Utica, Charles Bierbauer died in 1885 and his widow Barbara and adopted son George were unable to continue running the brewery and put it up for sale.  A group of people bought the West Utica Brewery and renamed it the Columbia Brewing Company.  This venture only lasted two years when it failed and the company was sold at public auction at the sheriff’s office.  In 1888, another group of people bought the brewery and all the equipment that went with it, including the horses, wagons and sleighs.  The brewery was named the West End Brewing Company.  One of the people who organized the West End Brewing Company was F.X. Matt who returned from Canajoharie after eight years.  Matt was the first Vice President and served as the Supervisor of the operation.  Later, he would become Treasurer and then President of the firm.  More importantly, Matt was the spark plug that made the West End Brewing Company one of the most successful breweries in America.  Still in business today, after 121 years; the brewery is now named after Mr. Matt.

Both the Charles Bierbauer and Louis Bierbauer breweries were successful companies.  Charles Bierbauer’s West Utica Brewery was probably larger than the Canajoharie firm, but then Utica was a much larger entity and had a large number of German immigrants who would have been partial to lager beer.  Something, common in the early years of these breweries and in general was that they sold most of their beer in casks or kegs.  There are no bottles known to local collectors from the Charles Bierbauer West Utica Brewery and only a small number of bottles known from the Louis Bierbauer Brewery.  While these two Bierbauer breweries left behind an interesting narrative of yesteryear for area history buffs, they left very few bottles for antique bottle collectors.   

Lithograph, Louis Bierbauer Brewery - Fred Capozzella Collection

Millville N.J. Glass Factory

Grafton, W. Virginia Glass Works. A carry-in boy works at the "lehr" (annealing oven) c1908

Reviewing the biography and work of American poet Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967) reveals one composition that is all entrancing to bottle collectors.  Much of Sandburg’s work eulogized Americans working in factories and on the farm.  He liked commonplace people and wrote about them.  Some people didn’t like his free style of poetry, but he would reply, "Simple poems for simple folks."  Sandburg was awarded many honors for his writing including two Pulitzer Prizes for two of his books although some Americans found his politics and philosophies controversial.   

Sandburg’s family was rather poor; his father was a blacksmith for the railroad.   Sandburg quit school after graduating from the 8th grade which was typical for the time for young children whose families were not well to do.  After quitting school to help support his family, Sandburg worked for a dairy delivering milk, did construction work as a brick layer, delivered ice, worked on a farm harvesting wheat, was a potter’s and painter’s assistant and even shined shoes for a while before becoming a hobo.  As a drifter he traveled the railroads and earned money for food by washing dishes in various hotels along the way.  When Sandburg was 20 years old, he volunteered for the Army during the Spanish American War but, did not see combat.  After the war Sandburg spent four years attending Lombard College, but never graduated.  After college, Sandburg worked as a journalist for a Chicago newspaper. 

Having to go to work at the age of 13 must have had a great deal of influence on Sandburg’s writing.  His first book of poems, In Reckless Ecstasy, published in 1904 contained a poem titled Millville.  This poem was a commentary on young boys working in a glass factory.  This was before child labor laws and many children worked in factories and mills to help support their families.  Antique bottle collectors appreciate the poem Millville because of the very accurate and vivid description of a glass factory; not because young children had to toil long hours in a factory.  Fortunately, today we have child labor laws and other programs to make sure American children can attend school and enjoy their youthfulness. Read the poem "Millville"

Mt. Pleasant Glass Works

The following is from an article in the Onondaga Gazette J.M. CLARKE, Editor, BALDWINSVILLE:Friday Evening, April 10, 1857

Mt. Pleasant Glass Works – Saratoga, N.Y. - Some business matters calling us eastward,   to the place above mentioned, we propose to   give a description of it, for the benefit of our readers.   

Mt. Pleasant is situated in Saratoga co. about thirteen miles northwest of Saratoga Springs. It is at the summit of one of the Kayaderosseras mountains and is quite a pleasant little place, though it has no particular importance save what is given it by the Glass Works” located there.  We might remark here in passing, that in the ascent of this mountain, one of the finest views in the State, can be obtained.  As you cast your eyes eastward, you can see the “Green Mountains” stretching along to the northward, while a beautiful perspective of hill and dale, plain and valley, cultivated fields and patches of woodland, fill up the middle ground; the village of Saratoga lies nestled as it were among the hills, its numerous church spires glittering in the sunlight; the water of the Saratoga lake, flashes and sparkles like a silver mirror wrought up to its highest degree of polish, the whole forming one of the most beautiful natural panoramas on which we ever gazed. There is nothing on earth which fills us with such complete delight as those pictures of beauty drawn by the hand of nature, especially when that of art has been used in joining and blending the several parts, so that the combination exactly meets our idea of the perfection of both.  Such a scene is one on which our eye could ever untiringly rest.  But to retire to our subject - “The Glass Works” to which we have referred, are owned by Mr. Gideon R. Granger, who formerly resided in Horton Settlement in this town and a nephew of his.  They employ in and about the “Works” something near forty hands. The manufactory is in operation during nine months of the year, more or less according to circumstances.  The glass is blown into pint and quart bottles, all of which is purchased by one firm in Saratoga, and used in bottling up the celebrated medicinal waters for which that place is so famous. 

As some of our readers may not be aware the process by which glass is made, and the manner of converting it into bottles as aforesaid, we will here give a brief history of the method pursued.  The sand, soda, lime &c., which forms the compound out of  which it is made, pre-sifted and thoroughly mixed in the proper proportions, and then conveyed to ovens where it is heated for several hours by a fire kindled beneath, being frequently turned, in the mean time, by long iron shovels which are prepared for that purpose.  It is then conveyed into the “pots”, which are placed in the furnace, to undergo the melting process.  These pots are made out of a sort of clay that is imported from Germany, and requires much skill and experience in preparing them for the contemplated use.  After the composition is emptied into these vessels, the whole is submitted to a heat of such intenseness that “Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace” would give but an imperfect ides of it.  In order to show how this amount of heat is obtained, we will offer a word of explanation as to the preparation of the fuel.  After being cut and drawn to the works, it is split up fine like oven wood, and then “kiln dried.”  That is about a cord of it is placed in a huge oven, (a fire being kept burning below it) and kept there until the wood will burn almost as readily as powder.  Six of these ovens are constantly employed in thus fitting fuel for the furnace. 

After it is thus dried and properly placed, the melting operation proceeds in this way.  There are two openings in the furnace for the insertion of wood.  They are about seventy feet apart.  A man takes a single stick of this wood (occasionally two) and walks to the opening and inserts it; he then turns about and walks to the other opening, picking up another stick as he goes and shoves that in, and thus continues to walk backwards and forward for the spate of six hours, when another takes his place.  We made an estimate of the distance traveled over by this man during his “trick” and found it exceeds twelve miles.  The distance thus passed over in twenty-four hours would, of course, be forty miles.  Now let it be remembered, that this furnace is kept burning uninterruptedly night and day, Sundays not excepted, for at least 250 days, and we have the distance of 12,000 miles walked over in supplying the furnace with fuel, or nearly half the circum- ference of the globe.  The reason why the wood is put in, this sparing and regular manner is, in order to get an equal as well as an intense heat.  The furnace when thus lighting up, forms a brilliant and magnificent  light.

When the composition is sufficiently melted, which takes from ten to twelve hours, next comes the “blowing” operation.  To do this each “blower” is furnished with an iron tube, between three and four feet long and about three-fourths of an inch in diameter.  He then inserts one end of this into the melted glass which is about the consistency of thick buck wheat batter though of a different texture, and takes what he judges will form a bottle.  He then commences rolling the tube in his fingers, and after a little roll of the composition on a smooth stone that is before him until a rough draft of a bottle is made to appear.  He then places the glass bottle connected with the tube into a cast iron mold that is fixed in the floor on which he stands and which mold is of the exact shape of the bottle to be made and he puts it in the mold drops his foot and puts his mouth to the top of the “tube” and blows vigorously.  He then lifts his foot, the mold opens and the bottle is made except the nozzle.  He then thrusts the bottle back into the furnace and heats it slightly, withdraws it, and by a dexterous jerk, disconnects the bottle from the “tube.”  He next takes a small portion of the glass and forms a ring around the top of the neck, and before it hardens places it in a steel die, and turning it round a few times rapidly, the crease and protuberances are which finishes the bottle.

It is then taken and placed in an oven where it is properly tempered, then it is packed away with its fellows, and sent to its destnation.

We might write much more that would be interesting on the subject, but as we have already exceeded all reasonable limits, we will here close.

Editor’s Note: I discovered this newspaper article on www.fultonhistory.com. As subjects, the Mt. Pleasant Glass Works and the Granger family are very popular with historians and glass collectors.  This informative commentary dated 1857, is a rare first-hand account about making glass at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Works. 
Because a copy of the scanned original newspaper page would be difficult to reproduce in a manner that would be sharp and readable, I made a facsimile from the scan.  Because a few spots on the newspaper page were illegible and a small piece on the bottom of the page was gone, a few words were missing.  This made it necessary to make an assumption of the few words that were absent.  The assumptions were made by reading the words before and after those missing.  Consequently, the facsimile may only be 99% accurate. 
Still, this excellent article which I don’t believe was ever copied before in modern times, depicts in detail the operation of the glass factory on the mountain.  It is often said that man is and always has been fascinated with the sparkling substance called glass and the way it was made.  This article alludes to that point.
The first part of the article mentions how the scenic view from the mountain is one of the finest in New York State.  Although I have been on the mountain five or six times with friends digging for shards from the glass works, I never concentrated on the beautiful view and was instead enchanted more by the history of the glass factory and the glass artifacts that were made there.  Today, this glass is often referred to as “mountain glass.”



Mt. Pleasant Glass (Mountain Glass)

As the article above stated, Oscar Granger’s glass factory produced about 7 million bottles a year.  The furnace was in operation only 9 months of the year because of the intense heat from the fire. The vast majority of the items made on the mountain were pint and quart mineral water bottles for the Congress Spring Company, which later became the Congress & Empire Spring Company.  The glass factory was thirteen miles from Saratoga Springs and was built especially to make these bottles.  Both the bottles shown here are embossed CLARKE & WHITE/NEW YORK.  The quart bottle also has the letter “C” on it.  The letter “C” is an abbreviation for Congress Water.  The pint does not have the “C,” but most do.  In 1857, the year the above newspaper article was written these Clarke & White bottles were being made.  John Clarke and William B. White were the owners of the Congress Spring at the time.  The water was shipped all over the country and the main depot for shipping was New York City.  Both bottles are dark olive green, crude, whittled and have many seedy looking bubbles that are typical for mountain glass.  Although mineral water bottles were the main product, the factory also made medicine bottles, flasks, ink bottles, decanters and free blown items. 


Oneida Community - The Nineteenth-Century Utopian Society of John Humphrey Noyes

OC Jar Photo

Aqua O.C. (Oneida Community) canning jar c1870, 8 inches high and 3 ¾ inch diameter.  The jar has a crude applied lip with a concave base.  The Mansion House Museum has a stunning example of a similar shaped jar, but with graphite pontil mark and a lot of whittle marks, c1855.

OC Bottle Drawing

Drawing of an O.C. (Oneida Community) aqua canning jar with wire bale c1910.  Even these later style jars are very scarce.

The old Oneida Community was a religious and social society founded in Oneida, New York, in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes and his followers. In the beginning, most of them were Vermonters, almost all were New Englanders.  The Oneida Community was founded on Noyes' theology of Perfectionism, a form of Christianity with two basic values; self-perfection and communalism. These ideals were translated into everyday life through shared property and work. 

Noyes' solution was a society where the interest of one member became the interest of all - the enlargement of the family. They called themselves Perfectionists and, being logical and literal, they proceeded to substitute for the small unit of home and family and individual possessions, the larger unit of group-family and group-family life.

The Oneida Community built a communal dwelling house called the Mansion House, now a museum, appointed administrative committees and set up a pattern of daily living which the community followed for the next thirty years. 

The economic base of the Oneida Community was agricultural and industrial.  They had approximately forty acres of partially cleared land on which to farm and an Indian sawmill in which to produce lumber.  The self-supporting enterprise canned fruits and vegetables; made traps and chains; made traveling bags and straw hats, mop sticks, sewing silk and, last of all, they found out how to make silver knives, forks and spoons.  

The unhappiness of some inside the Oneida Community and the animosity of outsiders to their radical sexual practices combined to bring about the end of the commune. They wanted to create a heaven on earth.  For 33 years they believed they would succeed as a utopian commune infamous for “free love.”  The free love was called complex marriage.

In June 1879, fearing criminal charges for sex-related crimes (statutory rape), Noyes fled to Canada.  In August 1879, Noyes wrote a letter to the society telling them to end complex marriage.  Soon after, the Oneida Community’s men and women began pairing off into monogamous marriages. And in January 1881, the religious community dedicated to helping members achieve perfection was reborn as a manufacturing corporation dedicated to providing income for stockholders who had once been utopian dreamers.

During the early 20th century, the new company, Oneida Community Limited, narrowed their focus to only silverware. The animal trap business was sold in 1912, the silk business in 1916, and the canning discontinued as unprofitable in 1915.

Editor’s note:  It has been said that the Oneida Community was the most successful commune that ever existed in America.  People came from all over the world to see this society.  The above piece was written by combining material from several articles on the internet.  For further information on this historical subject or to see these articles – Google “Oneida Community” and read more.  Through the years, the Oneida Community sometimes had canning jars made with their initials “O.C.,” embossed on them.  The jars were used to can fruits and vegetables which were used not only for their personal use, but also as a commodity to sell to the public.  Today, O.C. canning jars are scarce and sought after by local collectors as well as canning jar enthusiasts.  The Mansion House has been continually inhabited since 1862 and is a National Historic Landmark near Sherrill, N.Y.  It features a museum, overnight lodging, residential apartments, and a restaurant.  Again, a lot of information about the museum is available on the internet.  People visiting the Mansion House will see the century old trees scattered around the grounds that have meandering paths leading to the peaceful, beautiful gardens that grace the property.  

OC Manor
Oneida Community Mansion House

JOHN H. SHEEHAN, Entrepreneur and Pharmacist – Utica, New York By Fred Capozzella



Our area has been welcoming immigrants for well over a century. Here, they have found a place that offered them a new start and opportunities that were often not available in their home countries.

Many of them began businesses that enriched the community and years later, provided collectors with exciting memorabilia, relics of a time when local industry and business provided jobs, while company leaders were active in any number of philanthropic, church, and historical organizations.

One such immigrant was John H. Sheehan, born in County Clare, Ireland, in 1838. He moved to Troy, NY, with an unmarried sister in 1844, possibly after his parents passed away. When she married, he moved to Utica to live with an older brother, in 1846, and completed his education here.

By all accounts, he was an ambitious young man. In 1852, at 14 years old, he went to work for Uriel H. Kellogg, a druggist and grocer and remained in that firm until 1857, when he joined Dickinson, Comstock, & Co., also druggists and grocers. He worked in the drug department there and soon became a partner.

In 1865, he married. Sources indicate his wife was either the daughter of Peter Vidvard (dealer in wines and spirits), Josephine Vidvard, or the step-daughter of the Mr. Vidvard, Josephine Schaler. In any event, he joined his father-in-law’s firm in 1868, about the time Dickinson, Comstock, & Co. became Comstock Brothers, Successor to Dickinson, Comstock, & Co.

That firm became known as Vidvard and Sheehan. Both bottles and stoneware jugs exist and are sought after by collectors. By 1879 he formed his own wholesale drug and liquor business, at 155 Genesee St.

Charles England and Philip Sweeney became his partners in 1884, creating John H. Sheehan & Co. After that building burned (1886) he moved up the street to 167 Genesee St.

Over the years, he seems to have trained, worked with, and/or mentored many area druggists. Collectors of Utica drugstore and medicine bottles will be familiar with Daniel Sullivan, Charles England, Eugene McCaffrey, William Nugent, and E. J. Martin, to name a few.

A bit of a mystery surrounds 1891. In that year only, we have Sheehan and Kelly (for Martin W. Kelly). Some bottles exist, apparently perfumes.

He retired in 1908 but kept an office, from which he managed his real estate holdings, which seem to have been extensive. He was active in the Fort Schuyler Club, the Yahnundahsis, St. John’s Church, and the Oneida County Trust Company. His wife passed away in 1920 and he followed in 1924.

Since he was either a partner in or owner of several firms, we should not be surprised to find a substantial amount and variety of collectibles, from bottles and stoneware, through Victorian Trade Cards, postcards, and other ephemera. In addition, souvenirs, such as ink wells, are also to be had.

Several of his children are also known to collectors. One son, John P. (1868-1945), was a physician and liquor dealer, best known from his Sheehan’s Malt Whiskey bottles, in several sizes. He was also a malt rectifier and dealt in drugs, medicines, and paints. He was educated at Georgetown University and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, but seems to have been primarily a merchant. He was involved with the Sheehan Fruit Syrup Company, along with his brother Edward J. (1870-1919).

One of his daughters, Agnes Emily (born in 1882), married Leslie W. Brown, better known to collectors as L. Warnick Brown, of the very successful tobacco company. There are many highly desirable items extant from the L. Warnick Brown and its predecessor, Warnick and Brown tobacco companies. These include ephemera, tobacco tins, as well as paper-wrapped “bricks” of pipe tobacco.

A pint and quart SHEEHAN'S CANADA MALT WHISKEY bottle; both are light amethyst. The pint is very scarce and the quart fairly common. This aqua DANDELION BITTERS bottle was dug in a Utica dump. A 1906 Utica City Directory listed John Sheehan as the manufacturer of a Dandelion Bitters under his own name. The backside of this bottle would have had a paper label. Could this have been a Sheehan Dandelion Bitters bottle? Small JOHN H. SHEEHAN & CO Drugstore Bottle


Judge John J. Walsh. The Irish Pioneers of Utica. Unpublished manuscript. 1979.
The Encyclopedia of Biography of New York. Dates from about 1922.
Daniel Wager. Our County and Its People: Oneida County Biography. Part III Family Sketches. 1896.

Shipman Ink

Frank Starczek, Bruce Shipman, his wife Janice and his sister Glenis
Howard Dean wrote an interesting article on the Shipman Ink Company about 10 years ago. I decided to do a little research to see if I could add to his findings on the subject.

A recent search of the Utica City Directory has turned up some new information on C.D. Shipman Ink Company. At this time, we find Shipman listed in the directory from 1886 – 1889 at 28 Liberty Street. It seems that Shipman had a very short career as an ink manufacturer in Utica. There are also some examples of ink manufacturing by Shipman in Mohawk, NY.

Several advertisements in Utica newspapers and Utica City Directories indicate that in addition to all kinds of ink, Shipman also manufactured mucilage and laundry bluing. Shipman offered bluing in bottles; kegs and barrels. I am not aware of any existing mucilage or bluing bottles from Shipman.

Of the five pottery master ink bottles, 3 are marked “UTICA, N.Y.” and 2 are marked “MOHAWK, N.Y.”

An 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (made 2 years before the first listing of Shipman at 28 Liberty St) details a shoe factory at 26, 28 and 30 Liberty Street. My research revealed that Charles D. Shipman was born November 18, 1838 and died July 1, 1915 at the age of 77.

Our club was honored to have Bruce Shipman, his wife Janice and his sister Glenis attend our March meeting. The Shipman's are descendants of C.D. Shipman. They also plan on joining our club. Frank Starczek is standing on left.

If anyone has additional knowledge on this company, please contact Frank Starczek at: fjstarz@aol.com

Shipman's aqua cone ink with label – Frank Starczek Collection

Pottery Shipman's Master Ink bottle with Label. John Hinkel Collection

Rare aqua turtle ink bottle embossed “BLACK INK” on top and “USE SHIPMAN'S INK UTICA, N.Y.” on side

Advertisement from 1889 Utica City Directory (page 47) – was Shipman a chemist or pharmacist?

A copy of a testimonial for Shipman's Inks taken from a Utica newspaper.

A copy of an advertisement taken from an 1886 Utica City Directory.

Thurston Hotel

Thurston Hotel c1910

Today, there is a Thurston’s Restaurant and Bowling Alley in Frankfort, NY and a little research revealed this establishment has a very interesting history.  The restaurant was originally a three story hotel that dates back to the 1850’s.  A serious fire destroyed the second and third floor of the building in the 1960’s.  After the calamity, only the first floor was refurbished.   

According to a newspaper article that appeared in the January 22, 1926 issue of The Otsego Farmer, Cooperstown, NY, the saga of this historic hotel goes back to 1854. For the 1926 article, a newspaper reporter interviewed an old-timer from Frankfort who told some interesting tales; some of which I shall try to briefly detail in the following paragraphs. 

The narrator commented that in 1854 the County Fair used to be held in Frankfort and a man named Ike Piper ran the hotel and retailed whiskey at 3 cents for a half pint glass.  At a later date the hotel was owned by an Edward Adams who manufactured “small beer, now called root beer that was sold throughout the Mohawk Valley in quart jugs.”  This makes one wonder if the jugs were actually vessels with handles or if they were what, today we refer to as stoneware bottles.  Also, did Adams have his name incised on the jugs?  Wish we could see one!

Aqua ½ pint Whiskey flask embossed:

Then in 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War a Mr Alumnum Hensler owned the hotel which was at that time called the Mansion House.  Hensler was a patriotic chap and enlisted in the Army as a Captain.  He became a recruiting officer and was authorized to recruit area men to serve in an artillery company.   He used the ball room on the top floor of his hotel for his headquarters and training facility. 

After training, Hensler and the recruits went into battle and unfortunately, Captain Hensler was killed in action.  After Hensler’s death his widow used the building as her home until 1890 when she sold the structure to John Dowd.  Dowd a successful real estate agent from the Utica area converted the building back into a hotel and named it the Cottage Hotel.  In 1902, after conducting his business for some years Dowd sold it to Frank A. Thurston for $3,500.

In 1903, Frank Thurston completely remodeled the hotel, including the third story which was not previously used and renamed it the Thurston Hotel.  The hotel could accommodate 40 boarders and had a dining area that could seat 100 people.  There was also a livery stable and garage attached to the property.  This era was probably about the time the ½ pint Hotel Thurston flask was made; although Thurston was the proprietor of the hotel until 1922.   After selling his hotel, Thurston went into the feed business. 

The next owner was a man named P. F. Welicka who came from Amsterdam, NY and paid $11,500 for the hotel but only ran it for three years.  In 1925, Welicka sold his business for a sum said to have been $23,000 which yielded him a handsome profit. 

During Prohibition, one of the most colorful events in the hotel’s history occurred on October 7, 1931 and the following day the Utica Observer Dispatch ran a story with headlines that read: “MOB ATTACKS PROHIBITION AGENTS – Troopers called out to protect Officer; Automobile Damaged.”  According to the story, agents went to the Thurston Hotel and purchased alleged alcoholic beverages and then arrested Mrs Vincent Stokes who was the proprietor of the establishment.  

When the agents were searching a frame building behind the hotel, a large crowd of about 100 people gathered and became unruly.  A couple hundred pint bottles of home brew and eleven gallons of wine were found in the building.  The group, part of which came into the building being searched, crowded the agents to the point where they couldn’t smash the bottles of alcoholic beverages.  Other people in the group threw stones and smashed the windows in the agent’s car, while others let the air out of the tires.  The overwhelmed agents had to make a call to the State Troopers to rescue them.

There were several owners during the last 35 years of the hotels’ existence.  The hotel and restaurant was often advertised in the local papers and was a popular location for all kinds of large events. 

On November 22, 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a fire destroyed the two top floors of the Thurston Hotel.  The Thurston Hotel fire drew very little attention because the media were focused on the President’s assassination.  The owners decided to only redo the first floor of the building and a bowling alley was added.  

Consequently, the appearance of this majestic structure that was more than 100 years old was changed forever.  Despite the tragedy, the Thurston Restaurant and Bowling Alley lives on; along with some of the folktales associated with it.  In addition, at least one old whiskey flask bearing the name of the Hotel Thurston still exists. 

Editor’s Note: Most of the above information came from newspaper articles I found on the website www.fultonhistory.com and the current owner Alicia.

Turlington Balsam of Life

Turlington’s Balsam of Life bottle with a flared lip and a pontil mark circa 1800 – 1840 and was probably American made.

On May 4, 1824, a twelve-page pamphlet was released in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the title: Formulae For The Preparation Of Eight Patent Medicines, Adopted By The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.  This College was the first professional pharmaceutical organization established in America (founded 1821).  The brochure of a dozen pages was its first publication.

The dissertation concerned medicines of English origin – Anderson’s Scots Pills, Bateman’s Pectoral Drops, Dalby’s Carminative, British Oil, Hooper’s Female Pills, Godfrey’s Cordial, Steer Opodeldoc and Turlington’s Balsam of Life.  These patent medicines chosen by the Philadelphians were not newcomers to the pharmaceutical scene, but were from 50 to 200 years old.

Turlington’s Balsam of Life (named in the brochure) was a medicine patented in London, England.  Robert Turlington made an application for Patent No. 596, on January 18, 1744, and a patent was granted by King George II in May, 1744.  Turlington’s (“A specifick balsam, called the balsam of life”) contained 27 ingredients of herbs and chemicals and was supposed to cure “the stone gravel, cholick, vomiting and spitting of blood, and other weaknesses and decays.”  The elixir had gained fame as a cure-all in England and throughout the American Colonies.

Turlington claimed the “Author of Nature” has provided “a remedy for every Malady.”  “Men of learning and genius (have) ransacked the Animal, Mineral and Vegetable World” to find them.  He claimed his research had perfected his Balsam and it was “a perfect Friend to Nature, which it strengthens and corroborates when weak and declining, vivifies and enlivens the Spirits, mixes with the Juices and Fluids of the body and gently infuses its kindly Influence into those Parts that are most in Disorder.”

In a 46 page Turlington brochure dated 1755 – 1757 and given “gratis with each bottle,” testimonials occupied most of the pages.  People from many walks of life swore that they had received various benefits from the “Balsam of Life.”

Even Turlington’s 2-page “Bill of Directions” given with each bottle contained a “Short List of Persons who had received Relief by Turlington’s Balsam of Life.”  The 129 persons listed cited such benefits: Capt. Samuel Barker, of Suffolk, discharged gravel and stones surprisingly large.  Mrs. Esther Ladd, near Putney, in Surry, was cured of a complication of distempers.  Mr. George Longtofft, of Yorkshire, cut his great toe almost off and was cured.  James Lee of London was cured of the dry gripes.  Mrs. Elizabeth Beers, of the City of Philadelphia in the province of Pennsylvania claimed she was cured of rheumatism and dropsy.

Turlington’s Balsam of Life bottle with a sheared lip and a pontil mark circa 1800 – 1860 and was probably American made.

Alas, competition reared its ugly head and many balsams like Friar’s Balsam appeared on the pharmaceutical market.  Some even used Turlington’s name.  In 1754, Turlington, in an effort to combat the counterfeiters, began to market his balsam in distinctive pear-shaped bottles.  Naturally, he thought his new bottle would put an end to “Persons who buying up my empty bottles, have basely and wickedly put therein a vile spurious Counterfeit-Sort.”

His small new bottle bore the embossed legends “BY THE KING’S ROYAL PATENT GRANTED” on the face and “TO ROBT. TURLINGTON FOR HIS INVENTED BALSAM OF LIFE” on the reverse side.  One side stated “LONDON” and the other side “JANUY 26, 1754.”

This new move by Turlington hardly made the copiers miss a step, for shortly thereafter they were reproducing the balsam and the glass bottle as well.  Some of the reproductions omit the TO between GRANTED and ROBT. and others have shortened JANUY to JANY.  Still other pear-shaped bottles appeared with only THE KINGS PATENT on one side and TURLINGTON’S BALSAM on the other.

The original Turlington’s Bill of directions was signed by Robert Turlington.  Some years later the directions were signed in the name and with the handwriting of Hilton Wray and the bottles were sealed with a seal bearing his coat of arms (three martlets) and the coat of arms of Robert Turlington (three leopard’s heads).  Sometime after 1754 the directions mention that the Balsam of Life was being prepared and sold by Martha Wray (Turlington’s niece) and Hilton Wray successors of Robert Turlington, the patentee.

Accounts seem to substantiate the fact that the use of English packed medicines in America was not common before 1700.

Advertisements for Turlington’s Balsam were noted on June 7, 1750, in the pages of the Boston News-Letter and in 1766 the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Virginia, April 4) announced the receipt of the following shipment from England: “Large and genuine assortment of Drugs and Medicines…Glauber and Epsom salts, camphire, saffron, antimony, saltpeter, borax, alomel………Florence and palm oil…Bateman’s Drops, Anderson’s pills, Stoughton’s, Turlington’s Balsam of Life….”

In Philadelphia (1768), Thomas Preston announced to his fellow citizens that he had just received a supply of Anderson’s, Hooper’s, Bateman’s, Daffy’s, Stoughton’s and Turlington’s remedies.

It appears that English medicines could be obtained and not only at apothecary shops but were handled by postmasters, printers, grocers, tailors, hair dressers, goldsmiths, cork cutters, booksellers, colonial physicians and by the post-rider between Philadelphia and Williamsburg.

Paper labels were seldom applied to the glass bottles. They were generally wrapped and sealed in one of the advertising broadsides which praised the product.

Colonial doctors had no qualms about prescribing packaged medicines. An English doctor who settled on the Virginia frontier often recommended Turlington’s Balsam as well as Bateman’s Drops and others.

On September 29, 1774, John Boyd of Baltimore in advertising a fresh supply of English drugs available in his “medicinal store” also warned his customers that perhaps these English medicines would be hard to obtain in the near future.  At the time of Boyd’s advertisement, the first Continental Congress in session was soon to declare that all imports from Great Britain should be halted.

As early as the 1750’s at least two of the patent medicines (Daffy’s and Stoughton’s Elixirs) were being made in the colonies and packaged in empty bottles shipped from England.

In the 1780’s Jonathon Waldo, a Salem, Massachusetts, apothecary shop owner noted in his account book that the imported brand of Turlington’s was “very dear” at 36 shillings a dozen while “his own” Turlington’s was selling at 15 shillings for the same quantity.

Turlington’s Balsam of life bottle with a smooth bottom, c1880 -1900, probably American made

Wholesale drug firms catalogs of the early 1800’s specified two grades of patent medicines for sale, “English” and “American,” “true” and “common,” or “genuine” and “imitation.”

In the early 1800’s, Robert Rantoul (a Beverly, Massachusetts druggist) began making and bottling Turlington’s Balsam.  Records state that he imported Turlington bottles in two sizes from London.  His formula book notes: Jany 4th, 1804, filled 54 small Turlingtons with 37 oz Balsam “and” Jany 20th, 1804, filled 144 small Turlington’s with 90 ¼ oz balsam and 9 Large Bottles with 8 ¼ oz. 

By the 1820’s, American bootlegging of English patent medicines was in full swing.  With little regard to the originator’s rights, Americans were spending days in compounding the ingredients, cleaning bottles, corking, labeling, stamping (with clever replicas of the English government stamps) and wrapping prominent British nostrums.

In London, Bow Churchyard, Cheapside, was the English center where medicinal exports to America were warehoused.  Dicey’s (William Dicey, John Cluer and Robert Raikes) had a large warehouse in this section as well as Robert Turlington, King’s Arms, No 14, Birchen Lane, near the Royal Exchange.  Turlington in 1775 was not only selling his Balsam but was also vending Daffy’s, Godfrey’s, Stoughton’s and many other medicines.

The standard cost for most English medicine bottles was about $5.50 a gross.  In the 1820s, Thomas W. Dyott of Philadelphia started making bottles and by 1830 succeeded in cutting the price of bottles to under two dollars a gross. 

The Free Will Glass Manufactory (1835) made Turlington’s Balsam, Godfrey’s Cordial and Opodeldoc bottles.

“The Glassblower’s List of Prices of Druggist’s Ware” (1848), a broadside preserved at the Smithsonian Institution, lists Turlington’s Balsam, Godfrey’s Cordial, Dalby’s and Opodeldoc bottles, among other American patent medicine bottles.

Turlington’s Balsam of Life was an important and widely popular medicine in America in the late 1700s and the 1800s.  Adventurers, explorers and traders usually carried a bottle somewhere in their gear.  History notes that Turlington accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition in 1804.

In 1952, two pear-shaped Turlingtons were excavated by a Smithsonian Institution River Basin Surveys Expedition on the site of an old trading post known as Fort Atkinson (Fort Berthold II), located about 16 miles southeast of Elbowoods, North Dakota.  The North Dakota Historical Society found a third Turlington nearby. The Hidatsa and Mandan Indians were served by this post for a 30-year period from mid-1850 to mid-1880.  These Turlingtons were of cast glass, light green and American made.

A Turlington made of English lead glass was unearthed in a grave in an Indian burying ground in 1923 near Mobridge, South Dakota.

Turlington’s Balsam remained on the American medicinal scene until about the end of the 19th century.  American pharmaceutical glass manufacturers continued to offer various English patent medicine bottles until about 1900.

Emil Hiss’ Thesarus of Proprietary Preparations and Pharmaceutical Specialties published in Chicago in 1899 termed Turlington’s, Godfrey’s and Bateman’s medicines as “extinct patents.”

In 1824 the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy committee instead of finding the formula complex (twenty-seven ingredients) described by Robert Turlington, proclaimed Turlington’s as a Compound Tincture of Benzoin, with balsam of peru, myrrh and angelica root added.

Recipes for early English patent medicines are still available.  Turlington’s Balsam remains as an official synonym of U.S.P. Compound Tincture of Benzoin.  Your dentist may use Benzoin in treating gum infections.

Today Turlington’s Balsam of Life is manufactured by the firm known as Beaton, Clark and Company, Ltd. in England.


The drawing above was said to be copied from the 1755 brochure that came with every bottle of Turlington’s Balsam of Life.

Photo at right is a Turlington’s Balsam of Life bottle with a thin flared lip that was dug in a grave from an Indian burying ground in 1923 near Mobridge, South Dakota.  The bottle is clear flint glass and British made.  Note the embossing is the same as the drawing from 1755 brochure shown at left.


Uncle Sams Dairy

Until recently, local collectors were aware of three different Uncle Sam's Dairy, E. J. Parry bottles from Utica, N.Y. Two of them, a quart and a pint had the embossing as the Pint-A bottle shown below left. The third was a quart pyro (painted label) bottle with Uncle Sam on one side and an eagle on the other. The pyro quart has "Utica, NY" on it, but the embossed bottles do not.

At our 2009 show Jon Landers found the Pint-B bottle shown above on member Jim Bum's sales table. Jim believes it was from a group of bottles he bought from member Frank Tomaino. Jon bought the bottle at about noon, so the bottle had sat there for three hours. As can be seen, the Pint-B bottle's embossing is more detailed and really looks more like Uncle Sam.

Consequently, there are at least four different Uncle Sam's Dairy bottles from Utica. If a quart bottle embossed like Pint-B were to be found, it would not be a big surprise; but would be a nice find. All four bottles are very scarce. Member Jim Cookinham is known to have dug both the quart and pint examples embossed like the Pint-A bottle below right.

Pint-A Bottle

Pint-B Bottle

Utica N.Y. Bottle Wars

Copy of an advertisement from an 1888 Utica City Directory.  The USBW did was not listed in the 1889 Utica Directory.

If history lovers were to leaf through Utica, NY newspapers from the 1880’s and the 1890’s, they would discover articles about local bottlers who were arrested for possessing bottles that did not belong to them.  During this era, a New York State law forbade establishments from using any bottles that did not belong to them.  People caught violating this statue were given a severe penalty.

Bottles were very expensive and they were manufactured to be reused many times.  If a business didn’t get most of their bottles back from customers, it resulted in a real crisis of not having enough bottles to refill.  Most bottlers had their names embossed on the front of the bottles and often the reverse side had, “THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD.” 

An article appeared in the Utica Morning Herald on Monday, July 8, 1889 that was entitled “A Case of Bottles.”  Part of the article read as follows “Early Saturday morning several cases of bottles used in putting up mild beverages were carted to the police station by Detective Latham and Officer James Evans from the bottling establishment of Avery N. Lord and C. W. Sharp. This raid on the bottles was made at the instigation of the Utica Steam Bottling Works, who claim that Sharp and Lord have a practice of picking up their bottles from saloons and converting them to their own use. Accordingly the proprietors swore out a warrant against Messrs. Lord and Sharp with the result stated above. It is claimed that the accused have in their possession, bottles belonging to other bottled beer dealers. Other search warrants have been issued, and the case will come up for trial in city court today.”

A rubbing from a very scarce aqua 12 oz blob top bottle from the USBW.  The bottle was dug by master digger Dave Mount.

Two years later, the August 5, 1891 issue of the Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen had an article titled “Expensive Bottles” and read as follows, “Some time ago John Byrnes of this city had Avery N. Lord of Utica arrested for taking possession of some beer bottles that belonged to him.  The case was tried before Justice Powers and was settled by Lord paying $30.  Later Lord obtained a search warrant and finds a quantity of his bottles in the possession of Byrnes.”

Still, another article appeared in the Utica Observer on Saturday, September 19, 1896 that was entitled “BOTTLERS IN COURT – A CASE UNDER A SPECIAL LAW FOR THEIR PROTECTION” and read as follows,    “Policeman Hill this morning went to the bottling works of Avery N. Lord on 66 Broad Street, with a search warrant and seized a wagon load of bottles bearing the name of William Ennis, another bottler.  Lord was arraigned in court, charged with violating the law which prohibited one bottling works from using the property of another.”  The complaint was made that Lord had repeatedly refused to exchange or give the owners bottles not his own.  There had been considerable complaints of this kind in Utica for several years and it was proposed to settle it with the case of Lord.”
On September 21, 1896 two days after Lord’s arraignment an article titled “The Bottlers’ Troubles Corked With $35,” appeared in the Utica Observer and read as follows, “The trouble among the bottlers seems to be settled- temporarily at least.  Avery N. Lord of Broad street who was arrested Saturday charged on complaint of William Ennis with violating the special law forbidding the reception and use of the bottles of a competitor, appeared in court this afternoon.

He was without counsel and after hearing the charge he pleaded guilty.  Judge Stans imposed a fine of $35, which Lord promptly paid, remarking as he did, “There will be no more trouble.”

Some Pawns Of The Bottle Wars - Bottles from four of the bottling establishments that were involved in the bottle wars in the 1880's and the 1890's in Utica. From the left, an aqua 12 oz blob top AVERY N. LORD/ UTICA, N.Y.bottle, an aqua hutchinson C.W. SHARP/UTICA, N.Y. bottle, a clear 12 oz blob top BYRNES HOTEL/ROME, N.Y. bottle, and an aqua hutchinson WM. ENNIS, UTICA, N.Y. bottle. The back of the three Utica bottles have the words, "THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD" embossed on them and now we know why this phrase was used. All four of these bottlers also used other sizes of bottles for their businesses including many quarts. These bottles were photographed outdoors on a mirror which resulted in the blue background.

When the reporter wrote “The trouble among the bottlers seems to be settled-temporarily at least,” he probably didn’t how accurate his statement really was because that was not the end of Avery N. Lords’ court problems.  Lord was arrested again around the first of July 1898 but this time his wife and son were also arrested.  The Utica Daily Press had an article under “City Court Cases” that read as follows, “Avery N. Lord, Mary E. Lord and Charles N. Lord were yesterday arraigned in City Court charged with refilling and selling stamped soda and mineral water bottles.  Thursday the police visited Lord’s bottling establishment at 66 Broad Street with a search warrant and seized a wagon load of bottles bearing the names of others in the business.  There is a law providing a penalty for keeping such bottles and complaints were entered against the parties by Charles W. Sharp and Patrick McGuinness, J. Frank Rogers appeared for the defendants and the case was adjourned until July 6.”

This cut throat bottle war lasted for many years.  Although Avery N. Lord’s name seems to appear in more newspaper articles for being arrested than the other bottlers, the examples shown above reveal that other bottlers also confiscated competitor’s bottles.  John Byrnes, a Rome bottler was very much a hypocrite.  After having Lord arrested for having his bottles, a raid on his warehouse brought to light that he was doing the same thing. 
In Utica, Lord was the top bottler as far as sales volume was concerned and if his business didn’t get a few of their bottles back, it wouldn’t cripple the operation to the extent it would if a small bottler lost a quantity of their bottles. 
The Utica Steam Bottling Works was only in business for about a year and a half.  When they were short of bottles, saloon owners must have tipped off the partners of the USBW that Lord and Sharp were picking up their bottles when they retrieved their own.  Evidently, this must have caused the owners of the USBW to have search warrants made out to raid the warehouses of Lord and Sharp. 

This incident didn’t solve all the problems that faced the USBW and in the retail business, usually the strong survive and the weak do not.  A December 11, 1889 issue of the Utica Daily Observer had a very short article about the USBW that read as follows, “The Utica Steam Bottling Works, formerly operated on Seneca street, near Fayette, by John Schimmel and D. A. Dishler, have been purchased by Avery N. Lord and combined with his establishment on Broad street.”  

Looking back, we see that the early bottlers treasured their glass containers, but today, collectors cherish these bottles even more than they did.  Collectors will find that quite a few bottles have survived from the Avery N. Lord,  C. W. Sharp, Ennis and the Byrnes bottling establishments; but very few are left from the Utica Steam Bottling Works.
National Bottle Museum
The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors
Oneida County Historical Society
Mohawk Valley Antique Bottle Club, PO Box 4483, Utica, New York 13504
Contact us: mvabc@mohawkvalleybottleclub.com