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washingtonWASHBOTbottles

ebay by Bob Parsons nasa

For years there were two figural bottles in the shape ofa bust of George Washington in my cobalt glass collection.According to their labels and base embossing they once containedBlack Cherry Liqueur a la “Charles Jacquin et Cie,Inc.” ofPhiladelphia. I haven't a clue as to where or when I acquiredthem, but I've got 55 assorted Bust of George Washington figuralsnow including two of the 1876 originals. My wife coined them“Washbots” which she says is short, practical and kindof catchy. Fine with me, I never argue.

(left to right)Clevenger Type I, Clevenger Type IV and 1876 original.

Hunting for top guns on the subject of Washbotshas been an uninspired exercise for me. I ran ads and invitationsseeking information about Washbots in several antique andcollectibles publications including the AB&GC for eightmonths. I begged a couple of glass libraries to get into thesearch. So far, not one Washbot spokesperson raised his or herhand. Worse, there was just one response from another`courageous' collector. Hello, out there! It's nice to bedifferent, but not lonely. On the plus side, the ads did produceseveral nice bottles, interesting information, and a couple smartbottle persons admonished me that many experienced collectorsfancy original Washbots primarily as bitters bottles. Touché.

The bottom investigation line is that I foundlittle more than a stingy admission of Washbot existence mostlyin the form of an occasional folksy magazine article aboutfigurals which barely game them a nod.

Nevertheless, several varieties of theoriginals have been notable in bottle auctions of late,(Hagenbuch, Heckler—$550 to $1700.) McKearin's gives themneither mention nor number but Knopf's “Glass 2”collectors guide and Richard Watson's book on bitters bottles doreveal a little about Washbot history and how to distinguishoriginals from reproductions. They are not obscure and dealersregularly move a variety of these attractive bust of GeneralWashington bottles.

TheWheaton's

Everything starts somewhere and I'm willing tostick my neck out where few seem to have stuck theirs before.Corrections and feedback are welcomed as part of the learningprocess. So ...

According to Albert Christian Revi in hisexcellent book “American Pressed Glass and FigureBottles,” a gentleman by the name of Bernard Simon ofScranton, Pennsylvania designed and patented a bottle on December14, 1875. Revi says: “his patent enumeration'sdescribe the bottle as representing a soldier in the ContinentalArmy.” Revi, of course, didn't suggest thatthe bottle was pressed glass because it's BIMAL, and one look atit pretty much tells the collector that the soldier is toodressed up to represent the lowly rag-tag infantryman whose feetgot frozen at Valley Forge.

1976 CommemorativeBoxed Presentation by Jacquin.

Knopf and Watson as well as several auctioncatalogs offer that the bottle was first on the market in 1876when it was called a “Bust of Washington Bottle.”And why not? It certainly resembles several of artists GilbertStuart's portrayals of our beloved first prexy as a soldier.Also, the year of its' introduction, 1876, was our RevolutionaryWar Centennial when we still honored General Washington, as a hero.

In his apparent search of thepatent files, Revi mentions that another Bust of Washingtonbottle was patented by one Edward Newman of Philadelphia on April11, 1876. He describes a bottle which I gather was a pours fromthe bottom specimen and says: “From the patentphotograph we can assume that it was produced in dark coloredglass—probably blue or dark amber—and most certainly incrystal.” With due respect to Revi, that may be apretty big assumption to make from just a black and whitephotograph and apparently not having seen an actual productionpiece. Except for the patent information passed on by Revi, Icould find nothing about Newman's Washbot. Even if this was dueto my own flawed research, I am nevertheless persuaded to believethat Newman's bottle never went into serious production and thatit's circulation was minimal. I hunch that only a very few existand that collectors who own them certainly possess a very rareWashbot. Please write if you are sitting on information aboutthese Newman bottles.

RareClevenger Type II's.

Back to the Simons Washbots. It's not news tobitters bottle collectors that the exceptionally clearinscription around the front part of the base of what might becalled a modified pedestal reads: “SIMON'SCENTENNIAL BITTERS” and opposite thison the back are words: “TRADE MARK.”The embossing clarity of these words is that feature whichprimarily distinguishes this original Washbot from some laterreproductions where the words are not at all clear and sometimeshardly discernible.

The originals were all cork stoppered and mosthad a faint aqua tint. Less common are those in shades of amber.Regardless of color, the originals generally had two types oflips or collars: a single ring and a double ring. (Figure 1) The single ring varieties are found with variances inring thickness up to 1/16 of an inch. The double ring varietiesalso have lip variances. Sometimes there are two distinct ringsof equal size, sometimes the rings are close and appear to mergeand sometimes one ring is smaller and less pronounced than theother. These lip differences are probably best attributed togaffer technique at the time of lip application. The variationsgive the serious collector something to shoot at for braggingrights.

While the originals exhibit minor differences,I would like to believe that mine are fairly typical. Bothmeasure a little over 10 1/4 inches tall and 5 1/4 inches wideacross the general's chest. The one with the very faint aqua tinthas a single ring collar. It bears no pontil mark, and exhibits atwo part mold line which traverses sideways through the arms,shoulders and head. Washington's features are not particularlysharp and what looks like a protruding left ear is really themold maker's cavalier treatment of his wig or hair. The base isalmost round, but a close inspection reveals an oval measuring 41/8 inches in length by 3 7/8 inches wide. The embossed letteringis very crisp, the glass is smooth and free of all but a fewnatural bubbles for character.

The amber one is characteristically very muchlike the tinted one but it has a double ring collar with thelower ring being somewhat less pronounced. The base in not oval,but round with a 4 1/8” diameter. Both bottles weigh 22ounces empty and the volume is 30 fluid oz. when filled to thebeginning of the neck. One of several very similar molds likelyproduced all of the original 1876 Washbots. So much for the “realMcCoys.”

The Challenge of Reproductions.

Obviously biased by possession and pride, Ithink my Washbots “reproduction” are moreexciting than the originals. “More exciting”may mean cheaper, but they are certainly more colorful. Thereare, admittedly, no hard production numbers to prove it, but somevery special Washbots made in the 1940s and 1950s, at the oldClevenger Brothers Glass operation, have been more elusive andharder for me to come by than the 1876 originals. I don't get toevery bottle show and most of my canvassing is done in theNortheast, but if you doubt the scarcity of some of thesebottles, start looking for yourself.

My friend, Tom Haunton, a dealer in SouthJersey glass, showed me three of these Washbot reproductions(Photo) from his private cache at the Keene show three years ago.Frankly , I hadn't cared much about them at the time. He allegedthem to be Clevenger productions and I later fount that theycertainly looked exactly like those pictured and described in a1940's Clevenger catalog. I was hunting for something differentso I bought all three.

They were pristine, heavy jobs almost 20ounces, in bright cobalt, deep amethyst and rich amber. Unlikethe originals, the bottoms had deep kick-ups with great openpontils. The pontils have convinced some careless collectors thatthey are older than they really are, since their overallcharacteristics are much like the 1876 originals....with twonotable exceptions: As cautioned before, the lettering around thebase was blurred and the collar had a blob top treatment ratherthan a ring or rings. Since there seems to be no evidence thatanyone ever dignified these special reproductions with a formaldesignation before, I'm willing to take a chance here andidentify them as “Type I” Washbotreproductions. (Figure2) They're attractive andrather special, I think.

So special in fact that in more than threeyears of fairly deliberate search by myself and several dealerbird-dog friends, not to mention three doses of advertising, I'veonly been able to turn up and acquire two additional Type IWashbots. One is a bluish green and the other two aresurprisingly crystal clear. Significantly, during this sameperiod, I have seen at least eight originals at shows and inauction. (A single ring lip variety at the Saratoga show lastyear was offered at $625., one just like it went for $650. in theApril, 1997 Heckler auction, and I bought an amber one fromGlassworks last year.)

(left toright) Wheaton, Clevenger Type I, Jacquin.

Ever ponder what some buyer down the road mightpay for a carefully crafted uncommon bottle which never containedanything and was apparently just a deco historical piece? Thelate bottle specialist Bob Heath once told me that along with theClevenger E.G. Booz and Jenny Lind calabash repros, all producedwith prominent pontils, these Washouts were sometimes selling(offered?) for more than $100. Perhaps. But I still worry that`pontil-mania' could cause some true age camouflage.

Don't go away. Now comes a Type II Washbotreproduction. A total surprise to me. For two years I owned justone of these; a bright intense green specimen. Everything aboutit was the same as a Type I. Almost. The base was still pontiled,but it was flat with no visible kick-up. More noticeable, the lipwasn't a blob top. Rather, I'd call it a “dripflange” if there is such a thing. (Figure. 3) I was at first inclined to dismiss it as a singularaberration of the Type I. Not until I ran into another one justexactly like it a year ago, in light blue, at the Balcksmith'sMall in Ogunquit, Maine did I think both of them ought to bedistinguished as a type by themselves. One of something could be anexception to the rule, but when there are two, one naturallysuspects there are more. Why not? So a Type II has boldly emergedwhich must be even less common than the Type I. Recently a dealercall from Connecticut got me my third one. Light green.

Four differentJacquin's.

If you aren't lost yet, a third ClevengerWashbot, Type III, comes on the scene. It is decidedly theproduct of an entirely new or very much altered mold with obviousand prominent differences from the previous Types. It has thesame 10” height, but it has no pontil. The bottom reveals asubdued concave shape and the neck is straight with a finelytooled ring lip. Most importantly, the pedestal type base lookslike it has been “filled in,” (Figure 3) and the glass has a strangely crude and roughappearance. It was pointed out to me that when some of the TypeIIIs were viewed sidewise, Washington's foulard or neckpieceseems to have been “flattened away.” (Onebottle wag told me this might be a gaffing lapse where the blower“ran out of wind.” Anyway, they are differentand I think they deserve to be recognized in a special category,mostly because I have Type IIIs in amethyst, green and amberwhich look exactly like those offered in a Sixties Clevengercatalog.

The last of the “Clevenger types”,or a Type IV, is captioned “Small WashingtonBottle” on page 14 of that same catalog. At 8 1/2”tall on a 3 1/4” diameter base it is best described simplyas a smaller version of the Type III. I have nine of them invarious shades of amber, amethyst, green and blue. One is clear,two have purposely sheared lips. You can still buy them off theshelf today at the Clevenger facility in Clayton, NJ. (Seephoto).

Still more Washbots

The Charles Jacquin et Cie.,Inc. ofPhiladelphia and Cote D'or, France is probably responsible formore bottles being made in the shape of a Bust of Washington thanall other sources combined including the originals. Literallyhundreds of thousands of Washbots were made for Jacquin by theMaryland Glass Company of Baltimore from the mid `40s up to thelate `70s. One order alone in 1975 was for 500 gross. Most weredeep cobalt, a favorite production color for Maryland Glass,(Noxema, Bromo-Seltzer, Phillips, Clairol, Ear Fiddles, Eveningin Paris, Wyeth, Art-Deco pieces) but some of the older ones inmy collection are light to medium blue and one appears to be a “dug”bottle. Just how many Jacquin Washbots survived or avoided thedump is unknown,but many varieties,some common, some scarce, populate the flea markets and antiqueshops today.

I have a fully labeled Jacquin, sans the liquidcordial, in its 1976 commemorative box which was hard to come by.While Jacquins do not currently proliferate, neither are theyscarce. They are usually available in the $15. to $30. pricerange. Some of the first ones fetch more Dealers mostly considerthem “table fillers.” I have 17 Jacquin Washbots andonly two of them are duplicates. This makes a statement forcollectors who like to deal with mold numbers and varieties atmodest prices.

The 1876original Simon's Centennial Bitters (front and side view).

I am personally indebted to Dr. Paul Stefan,Vice President of the current Jacquin Distillery (“America'sOldest Cordial Producer”) who graciously supplied mewith a great deal of technical and historical information on theJacquin Washbots. While company records do not go back 50 yearsand Maryland Glass and its' successors went defunct some twentyyears ago, there is good reason to believe from base embossingthat Jacquin Washbots originated just after WWII, in 1946. So,after the Simons bottle in 1876, the Jacquins, seventy yearslater, seem to have been the first to again celebrate a bust ofGeorge Washington in glass.

One of Jacquines is a fully labeled corkstopper specimen which reads “Washington Bottle - DeluxeCherry Liqueur, 30 Proof, 4/5 quart.” It has bothFederal and Maryland Tax stamps. Embossed on the base, besidesthe single word “JACQUIN,” are three numerals:“117” which Dr. Stephan says is a mold number,“R44” which is the “Rectifier”number assigned to Maryland Glass by the Federal Government andonce required to be embossed on any bottle whenever it was to beused for alcoholic beverage. Dr. Stephan says the“46” is the year the bottle was made. And lastly,along with the “R” number one will always find thefamiliar government required legend: “Federal LawForbids Sale or Re-Use of this Bottle” on the backbetween the shoulders. Federal Regulations regarding the bottlingof alcohol changed in 1966 and subsequently both the legend andthe R44 were dropped from Jacquin Washbots.

The first Jacquins were cork stopped with twodistinct neck and lip styles to accommodate them. (Figure 3) Later, screw caps were introduced with an assortment ofcaps both metal and plastic, plain and fancy. Jacquin Washbotswere obviously the result of many recreated and similar molds asjudged by the diversity of mold numerals on their bases.Production volume undoubtedly caused molds to wear out, but allWashbot replacements had the same overall characteristics anddimensions. Apart from the neck and lip shape differences as wellas various embossings, the most significant departure from otherWashbots was in the base treatment. The pedestal effectdisappeared and the bottle looked for all the world like aClevenger Type III (Figure3 again.)

The oldest Jacquin(c.1946) Probably the first reproduction after the 1876 original.

I think the Jacquin bottle came out before anyof the Clevenger offerings, but one might suspect some moldswapping or selling was going on between Maryland Glass andClevenger were it not for these instructions given to MarylandGlass by Jacquin on May 21, 1975: “You are to constructmoulds for this item at a cost of $18,505.(!)...You will notconstruct any George Washington type liquor bottles for any othercompany, and the Jacquin firm will have the exclusive use of theaforesaid mold.” These words of warning sounded enoughlike patent language to ward off copycats, but other makers werelikely safe with similar Washbot offerings so long as theyweren't used for the purpose of dispensing liquor.

Finally, Jacquin put their famous black cherryliqueur and even some creme de menthe into nip sized ABM Washbotsjust 3 1/2” tall. Always in cobalt, they did this with acork stopper and later with a plastic screw top and they wereperfect miniatures of their big brothers. I have several and evenone with some good stuff still in it. I have seen these littlecorkers with full labels and the tax stamps priced at more than$50.

Almost, but not quite last in the Washbotreproduction story are Wheatons. The Wheaton Glass Companyliterally flooded the market as a producer of deco figuralbottles during their heyday some twenty and more years ago now.Wheaton reproduction pieces are still abundant and a circa 1977product listing, given to me by my research friend and author,Doris Christiansen, reveals that Wheaton did not overlook afacsimile of the Washington Bust bottle. If you are engaged inthe flea and antique market hunt, then you know that they areundoubtedly the next most common Washbot to the Jacquins. Theyare fairly easy to acquire in the $10. to $15. price range.

Wheaton reproductions are identified quickly bythe usual “contrived” pontil mark and thewords: “Wheaton, N.J.” embossed on the base.They are 9” tall with lots of wording such as “Simmon's(sic) Centennial Bitters” and “Mt. Vernon,Virginia 1832” and “General ContinentalAmerican Army”. They are listed as being available infive light colors namely: green, amber, blue, amethyst and ruby.I have never seen a ruby colored Wheaton Washbot, but I do have ablue-green one which is not listed. The standard colors arefairly common and their shades can make an interesting collectingchallenge.

BobPasons and Washbots

at theNational Bottle Museum Show in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Saving the biggest for last goes to theItalians. This Washbot is an ABM whopper. At 11 3/4” tall inlight green the House of Banfi of Farmingdale, N.Y. ordered anItalian wine maker to fill the bottle with a 1974 vintage winewhich from the label was called “Barsotini.”This replica of a bust of Washington has better definition andclarity in the general's features than any of its' predecessors.Some of the general's upper vestments are tastefully highlightedin gold as is an eagle just above the base. And on the base, alsoin gold, are the dates “1776” and “1976.”This Washbot is only 22 years old, but I have never seen orheard of another.

In summary, it has been for our collectingpleasure...first Simon, and maybe Newman, then Jacquin, laterClevenger, Banfi and finally Wheaton who got into the Washbotproduction act. So if you are looking to have some fun collectingbottles something different without cashing in the family jewels,first try some Washbots reproductions. You can go for theoriginals later. All are challenging available, colorful,historical, gaining in value, and best of all, different fromwhat the collector down the street may be chasing.

Many of the author's Washbots areon display at the National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa, NY. BobLinden is a retired banker, history buff and a past contributorto AB&GC.....


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