Chalmers Catawba bottle realizes $19,600 at auction

A Chalmers Catawba wine bitters bottle graded 9.8 for condition and considered one of the top five western bitters known, sold for $ 19,600 in an Internet and catalog auction that ended Jan. 18 by American Bottle Auctions ( The bottle was the top lot in a sale that saw around 325 rare and vintage bottles sold and grossed more than $275,000.

The bottle — trademarked Sutters Old Mill, Spruance Stanley & Co., Proprietors — had an applied top and boasted loads of whittle, in a brilliant bluish aqua color. “This one had a solid strike and we can’t imagine a better example,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “This very same bottle sold in one of our earlier auctions, and it set a record price. It’s the real deal, the very best.”

It was the 49th Internet and catalog auction for American Bottle Auctions, which specializes in rare and vintage bottles mostly made between 1850 and 1900, the period most desired by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were employed. Nearly 5,000 people registered to bid, but only a fraction of that total (around 300 people) actually submitted bids. Of those, 175 were winning bidders.

“The market right now is as strong as I’ve ever seen it,” remarked Mr. Wichmann. “Every sale we have seems to be better than the one before it. This auction was certainly one of our best ever. I attribute that to the tremendous variety of merchandise, and the response to that merchandise by our bidders. Historical flasks and bitters did especially well. They’re sitting atop the bottle market now.”

Following are additional highlights of the sale. All prices quoted include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.

A “For Our Country/Eagle” pint flask, over 150 years old, with sheared lip and pontil, in a color best described as tobacco green with striations of olive, soared to $14,560. The bottle was graded 9.8 and depicted a 20-star flag surrounded by six ribs. Also, a Baltimore Sunburst half-pint (circa 1840-50), graded 9.8, in a light to medium pinkish copper color and a superior high-quality example, hit $11,200.

A spectacular Bridgeton New Jersey-Washington bottle with sheared lip and jagged tubular pontil, graded 9.8 and with an outstanding medium to deep amber coloration near the base, climbed to $10,080. Also, a flawless Miller’s Extra E. Martin Old Bourbon trademark, probably the most desired of the Cutter fifths, with strong embossing and an overall beautiful patina to the glass, rose to $8,960.

A Washington/Baltimore Glassworks portrait pint flask showing the Baltimore Monument and a bust of George Washington (circa 1830-50), with rolled lip and pontil, graded 9.3, medium green and somewhat crude, with surface irregularities, breezed to $8,400; and a Corn For the World quart flask with embossed corn and the Baltimore Monument on the reverse, graded at 9.8, commanded $7,840.

A trademark Lightning quart jar, with Putnam 328 on the base and a replaced top and painted lid, boasting overall nice whittle and emerald green in color (one of only six such jars in this shade), graded 9.8, coasted to $7,280; and a J.H. Cutter Old Bourbon (E. Martin & Co., Sole Agents) banded pint flask, with a popular crown on the shoulder and a single roll top, graded 9.3, gaveled for $5,376.

A National Bitters (with Patent 1867 on the base) bottle, with an applied top and, remarkably, still with the original label, rare for its beautiful and brilliant ruby red coloration, graded 9.9, climbed to $5,152; and a Jesse Moore (Hunt & Co., Sole Agents) western whiskey fifth bottle with gorgeous pint banded flask, wonderfully embossed but with some condition issues, graded 9.7, topped out at $3,808.

A Pineapple bitters bottle, unembossed, with applied top and smooth base, green with some yellow and graded 9.8, hammered for $4,928; a Henley’s Wild Grape Root Bitters bottle with tooled top, in a highly whittled aqua-teal variant and filled with bubbles, demanded $4,256; and a Bryant’s Stomach Bitters bottle with applied top and sticky ball pontil, brilliant emerald in color, fetched $4,032.

A National Bitters (Patent 1867 on the base) bottle, with applied top and colored a brilliant yellow with a touch of green (almost transparent yellow toward the top, becoming a more vibrant hue near the base), graded 9.8, sold for $4,032; and a Harkness Fire Destroyer extinguisher (circa 1865-85), with ground lip, 6 ¼ inches, unusually colored in sapphire blue and pure oxblood puce, brought $4,032.

A trademark Lightning half-gallon jar, showing Putnam 368 on the base and with the original closure, in a stunning olive color and graded a respectable 9.8, went to a determined bidder for $3,808; and a Dr. A.W. Coleman’s Anti-Dyspeptic and Tonic Bitters bottle, 9 ¼ inches, made in Mobile, Ala., and in a beautiful green hue, graded 9.3, an example of one of the earliest bitters made, brought $3,808.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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