Antique Bottle Club News
Member Club F.O.H.B.C.
Written by Allan C Holden
By the time this letter reaches you, the spring, 2017 Kalamazoo Antique Bottle will be underway. All of the Big-Top's tents will be pitched, the lions and pachyderm unloaded, the high-wires strung and drawn taut, and the pitchmen ready to hustle bottles of elixir. I, for one, could use a $1.00 bottle of the good Doctor Parker's Body & Soul Invigorator right about now!
Entering into this first week of April, there is a lot of stuff piled onto my plate! Just to name a few; this newsletter, taxes, Easter egg hunt (hiding eggs), hospitality buffet, the show, and all this while running a store. Hopefully Monday I can come up for air!
The White's company, the one that made our raffle prize metal detector, has been lagging behind in sales for about six years. The company has enjoyed such a great and long reputation that they could coast along with their existing products for some time, but in this highly competitive industry, it doesn't take long before you start falling far behind.
All it would take to turn their sales slump around would be to create a new and better product, which they finally did! The new White's Treasure Master (our raffle detector) is one in a series of three new detectors coming from Whites, and they are all very good metal detectors.
In years past, when they introduced a new product, their distributors would pull together the dealers for regional seminars. No question, this cost the company some money. They were a lot of fun, but very educational.
This time they really missed the mark by not aggressively convincing their dealers of how good these new machines truly are. I had to discover 'how good' all by myself. And my lesson came only after I sold a couple of the new detectors! When I was demonstrating them, I found myself fumbling around, not real sure of what I was doing. It is very hard to look like a "Pro" when the demonstration doesn't look smooth. Finally, very frustrated, I sat down and started teaching myself. That was when it struck me, "This is a very nice metal detector!"
The marketing strategy, which had always kept White's ahead of the competition since 1950, was 'to build a better detector.' After his father's passing, Kenneth White Jr took a completely different approach relying on "advertising and promotions." Well, today, especially with the Internet forums, that just won't cut it!
The online guys, most of whom are found on 'You-Tube,' are making apples-to-apples comparisons. I feel at the price-point of these new White's detectors, they have some real winners . . . but do they think so? I'm not so sure!
I recently received a dealer newsletter in which Whites claimed spring sales are brisk. They also apologized to all the dealers for production shortages. So why would this surge in sales happen? They credited the results of the November election! For certain they sell themselves short.
In their advanced planning, long before they knew what the sales numbers would be like, they hatched a plan, and I landed in the middle! An Easter Egg Hunt!
So, in this first week of April, I have a newsletter to do, taxes to do, the Hospitality Suite, Bottle Show, and Lord knows what I am forgetting! They sent me 5 Easter Egg Hunt tokens which I have to put into plastic eggs and hide somewhere! Then starting April, 5th, I have to take phone calls and provide hints to Easter Egg Hunters!
My distributor volunteered me first, than he called to see if it was OK. I told him I was just too busy and said "No."
Next day in the mail, all the Easter Egg tokens show up!
I just hope I survive this week without cracking my shell . . . no yolk!
When we have the greatest of great meetings, they always seem to end up at Bimbo's! It was interesting to see that some of the club members who were at the library couldn't make it for pizza, and some at the pizza parlor were unable to meet with us at the library. I say all that because my sign up sheet may be inaccurate.
My list shows the following names: John Winkler, Ed Nickerson, Kelly Bobbit, Mary Hamilton, Bill Drake, Scott Hendrichsen, Ron Smith, Kevin Siegfried, Tim Hayes, Jeremy Winkworth, Chuck Parker and Rob Knoll.
We enjoyed 5 large pizzas .
. . with no fragments to gather
up. As I wrote this, I puzzled in
my tiny brain, what story
mentions gathering fragments?
Well, as we move closer
towards Resurrection Sunday,
the answer is found in . . .
17: And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
18: He said, Bring them hither to me.
19: And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20: And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21: And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
John Winkler displayed a green round-bottom wine bottle. I love these little bottles, but I think they may be still in use. They are really a puzzling little bottle until you learn they are like an unpeeled banana! Yes, they 'will' stand up in a wicker holder! In my mind's eye, I picture a waiter in an Italian Restaurant, towel draped over his arm, pouring into a wineglass. Another thing I remember about these bottles is how popular the empty wicker-wrapped wine bottles were for candle holders!
John also displayed a small cobalt blue ear drop bottle with a bulb syringe cap. It isn't real old, but is a neat drug store item. Drug store collectibles are becoming increasingly popular.
I deceive myself into thinking that I will remember who-brought-what to display without using my name tags. It should have been easy, because only a couple people brought in bottles . . . but I blew it yet again.
We saw a Hoyt's German Perfume scented trade card! What a novel idea for a product sampler! I do remember back in the 60's or 70's scratch-and-sniff paper products! I saw that an e-Bay seller has one of the Hoyt's scented cards for sale and he claims it is still scented! Who today is going to doubt that the scent is correct?
This is my favorite time of the year to dig! But like with metal detecting, you want to focus on the places that are hard to reach after the foliage comes back up. Farm dumps and river bank dumps are easier to find right now!
Scott Hendrichsen showed off some recent finds! He had a very nice clay ink bottle. He also displayed a Lawton Druggist bottle, but my picture is a little hard to make out. I think it reads Gillis & Hamilton Druggist, Lawton MI. Scott also displayed a Kalamazoo souvenir glass mug with gold leaf lettering and trim.
Kevin always brings in the neatest stuff! This time he showed us a very strange light with a tag which reads "Michigan Sanitarium Of Kalamazoo." Honestly this light looks like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie! It has a wooden handle and a large tin shade. I can just see some poor guy strapped to a chair while someone is quizzing him with this bright light shining in their eyes asking, "Where did you put the body, after that?"
This light has a light bulb in it from around the 19-teens, and the entire tin shade is riveted together. Even the Michigan Sanitarium tag is riveted on. I would call the build quality "Institutional."
Kevin also brought in a can of "Bug Ban!" Here is where I wish I could walk and chew gum at the same time. I get busy taking pictures, then I miss too much of the meeting. It looks like this Bug Ban works with pellets you put into a special light bulb.
When I was trying to research the Lawton drug store bottle, I found an ad for "Tangle Foot" from 1910. The ad claimed that in one year Tangle Foot killed 50 million flies. Can you imagine how many flies we would have today had they not started in 1910? Yep, it was fly-paper and they are still in business! The Tanglefoot Company is making wraps to kill wood- destroying insects from climbing up tree trunks!
The next find from Kevin was something I have been telling everyone about since I saw it. It is a beautiful depression glass grapefruit juice squeezer. As a boy I went to Fort Myers, Florida, during Easter Break to stay with my grandparents. For a good deal of my life I was home schooled by a German immigrant! That is where I learned to love grapefruit and fresh squeezed orange juice. We could go out and pick them fresh every morning! Since I went through a fight with cancer, my doctor said, "No more grapefruit juice!"
It is not that grapefruit is bad, but it raises trouble with some medications. Of course when you have something you love withheld, the more you want it! It is like when I turned my shop over to the auto repair guys. I keep finding stuff I want to fix-up and paint!
When the group got over to Bimbo's Pizza, I was very concerned about finding a place to park. At the meeting, I had to park on the west end of Bronson Park! I was afraid that our president may have some trouble walking too far with his back issue. Thank goodness for handicapped parking!
Bimbo's is updating their pizza building counter area so there was some construction noise, but we were all glad to see them thriving!
Rob Knoll met us at the pizza party with the most common old bottle in America, a hobble skirt Coke. But wait, this one is different! This bottle was sporting a rare cap! It had a bottle cap which I had almost forgotten about. It was one of the easy open caps with a baseball-cap style brim!
Having been involved in metal detecting for as long as I have, I never dreamed that someday we would get excited about a bottle cap . . . but it is pretty cool.
We went over the final details regarding the bottle show. We sort of came face to face with something I saw coming for a while now. For as far back as I can remember, Chuck has been handling a huge amount of the work which is nearly impossible now. It isn't just Chuck; we are all starting to slow up for one reason or another. What we had to do is spread out the assignments between other members.
I say all this to say we owe a great deal of thanks to Chuck and Connie for so many years of dedication.
Also I feel we can be very thankful to Kevin Siegfried for stepping up to pull the details all together!
When you consider the span of time we are assigned to live our lives, we can be thankful for those who have shared the time with us. True friendship is a valuable treasure that cannot be purchased.
Probing for Treasure Part II
Let's pick up where we left off in the January newsletter. We talked about building a good probe and how to use that probe to locate and date old outhouse pits. When dating a pit using the method of 'reading stove ash residue,' we learned that the white creamy wood ash is most often in your oldest pit. In most cases, wood ash dates your pit before 1890 or even 1880. By the late 1880's, many homes, especially in the city, had updated to coal-burning furnaces.
To the old-time bottle collectors, only the pre-1900 hand finished bottles are worth considering, but we are starting to see that change! By the year 1900, the Automatic Bottle Machine (A.B.M.) was invented. After that, the glass blower and his assistants did not have anything-at-all to do with the bottle making process.
Bottles blown in a mold will have a seam line on the bottle. If this seam extends up the side of the bottle and just over the shoulder, the bottle is from 1860's to 1870's. If the seam runs half way up the neck, it is a late 1870's to 1880's. If the seam runs up but stops at the bottle's lip, it is 1880's to late 1890's. If the seam runs all the way up and over the top lip, it is a machine made bottle.
No longer are all machine made bottles considered undesirable. Many soda, beer, and dairy bottles from the 1900's are sought after by collectors. I sold an A.B.M. half pint dairy bottle on e-Bay for $375.00!
Another way to date bottles is by the mouth or lip of the bottle. One of the first bottles I dug was an extremely rare umbrella ink and it had three big things going for it! It had a sheared top, which dated it to 1840 or before. This type of lip was formed by cutting or snipping the glass free of the blow pipe with a special pair of shears. This pocess left the neck and lip with a stovepipe look.
There are two other great features on this beautiful old ink bottle. One is a pontil scar on the bottom. That is where the glass blower attached a glass rod to the bottom of the bottle to be used as a handle. He used it to hold the hot bottle while he sheared the lip.
When he was finished, the rod was broken away from the finished bottle leaving what we call a pontil scar on the bottom. The third desirable feature was the bottle's rich dark olive-green color. It was caused by using a sand that contained high iron content when making the batch of glass.With this type of bottle this color is very rare.
Once the privy is located, many times you can probe just beneath the top soil at a sharp angle, then push the probe towards each wall of the original hole. When your probe hits the undug wall, you will feel it. Once you have determined where each wall is located, you know which sod to remove. Here is where you get right to work! I bring in a 10-feet square plastic tarp and, after carefully cutting the sod in one-foot squares, I place them on the tarp in the same order that they came out of the ground.
Once the sod is removed, I slide that tarp out of the way and place another tarp in its place to pile dirt on. Usually, I will put a tarp on both sides of the pit so that I won't have to do a lot of twisting as I change positions while digging. The best place to start digging is in the center of the pit. Occasionally you will find bottles there, but most often they rolled off into the corners. Of course, you know what was piled up in the center--- right?
We dug 4 pits in Decatur and I was taking a break with my digging partner. The lot was right next door to a grocery store so I grabbed us a couple sodas and some candy bars. As we stood on the dirt pile and looked over the dig site, my friend fumbled his candy bar as he was removing the wrapper and it fell into the freshly dug soil. He picked up the candy bar, brushed it off, then said "It's just dirt," then ate it!
He is right you know-- it is just dirt. Some people freak out when you tell them what you are doing, but it is just dirt. I do wear gloves and carry antibiotic ointment when I go. I also bring water for drinking and water for washing. It is best to have at least three or more tarps.
Also, it is a good idea to bring along some 5- gallon pails to haul bottles and dirt in. If you find lots of bottles, you will need to import dirt to make up for the space the bottles took. I also like to use a small probe to gently feel around with when I am in the hole. Other handy tools are a hand-held garden claw to dig the corners out and a saw to cut roots.
Another thing to bring is newspaper to wrap the fragile bottles in. If you are digging in winter, you want to wrap the bottles before they even leave the hole and have someone place them into an insulated cooler. When they come out of the warmer ground into the freezing air, they have been known to shatter! As I said in part I of this series, don't give up too early. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that, "There was only one bottle in that pit --- a $3,000 bottle!"
After you finish your dig, fill your hole, and if this is your first dig, you will likely be very whipped by now!
Don't be tempted to cut corners! After you start filling the hole, jump in from time to time and stomp around, compacting the soil. If you don't, you will have what looks like too much dirt when you are finished--- but you won't, Especially if you removed several bottles. In that case, you need to add dirt.
I make it a practice to never start a pit that I cannot finish in a day. I have friends who can dig 3 or more in a day, but you can never know how long one will take. It depends on the depth of the pit and how many bottles are present. Also, tree roots can slow things up big time.
Some of the toughest pits that I have dug have been the most rewarding. With a wood saw, tree roots can be mastered. I like the Stanley Short Cut saw because it is fast and easy. One time I dug out an iron-framed treadle sewing machine! What a pain that was! Another pain was an old bicycle frame! I had a digging buddy who did a pit in Plainwell that many privy diggers would have passed up on because it was a 1900's house. My friend found two Michigan licence plates from the first year they were made out of porcelain-covered metal. They were in perfect condition with not one chip! He sold them and he got hundreds for them!
I asked my good friend, Mark Churchill, what were the most bottles he had ever removed from one pit and he told me 200! Now that pit required a lot of fill dirt to be brought in! Usually you will find bottles, but also watch for marbles, doll parts, clay pipes, bone handled brushes, coins & tokens.
In a 1974 issue of Treasure World Magazine, there was an interesting story. It was called The $250,000 Privy! It was the story of a Chicago man who so hated his wife and he knew he had stomach cancer. The man was named Felix Conley and he was a successful cattle buyer and shipper. He dug a new privy and worked with his Chicago bank to convert his cash on hand into gold coins. When the new pit was dug, he scattered the coins on the floor of the new hole, then capped it with concrete. Then the outhouse was moved into place. He only told his doctor and the doctor agreed to recover the money after the wife had died.
When 22 years had passed, the doctor fell ill. Before he died he told his son. The old lady lived to be 92, outliving them all! What the writer doesn't say is ----who told him?
A major development company in Philadelphia purchased several complete city blocks in a old crumbling part of town. The local bottle club wanted permission to dig as many of the privies as possible, to save as much of the town's history as they could. Permission was finally granted. However, the window of opportunity that they were granted was very small indeed and the task was overwhelming! That is when they decided to contact other clubs in surrounding states and recruit as many diggers as possible. One of my friends who went told me this story, but I cannot recall who it was.
I believe that they had a month or less to dig. Also, the Kalamazoo diggers could only go down towards the tail end of all the digging. They learned that most of the privy pits were about 6-feet deep, which is normal. In one corner of one of the pits they dug, and near the bottom, they found in a fetal position, a large adult human skeleton! As I recall the building on the lot was once a hotel. Clearly they had discovered an ancient murder! I guess you could call this one a cold case.
This month, our theme will be all about your best bottle show story and treasure finds! I hope I will see you all at the show!
Antique Bottle Club
meet on the third floor
in the conference room.
Meeting starts 7:00 pm.
For questions e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org