ANOTHER "GREAT FEATURE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
saratoga Mineral Waters From Yankee Country bottles
Jack Stecher - Saratoga Collector
ebay By George Waddy nasa
Jack Stecher has a license plate that reads Safe Cure. Then, what in the name of Congress & Empire is Jack Stecher doing in an article about Saratoga-type mineral waters? I guess the truth is out - yet another closet (or bottle cabinet) is open - Jack Stecher is a specialized collector of mineral water bottles from the central and western sections of New York State, in addition to being a scholar and advanced collector of H.H. Warner products from Rochester, New York. Jack refers to his collection as off springs, since most of his favorites - those hes especially sought out - are not from Saratoga, New York or from Vermont (the two geographical areas that traditionally attract the greatest interest).
A perennial favorite with Eastern collectors, the fall show in Keene, NH and Mr. Jack Stecher in the midst of it all!
As a matter of fact, Jack has written a two-part article on what he has dubbed the Thruway Springs after the numerous springs that form an east-west line across central New York along the route that is now the New York State Thruway, I-90, from Albany west to Buffalo. A great reason for a fascination with the Saratoga-type bottles from these springs becomes quite evident when one discovers that they are all early endeavors, mostly all are deeply or vibrantly colored, and absolutely all are scarce to darn-near-impossible-to-find. The article Jack wrote appeared in the newsletter of the Saratoga-type Bottle Collectors Association and is loaded with good historical background on the springs.
I first met Jack Stecher in 1969, at what was only the second of a still-continuing string of successful Rochester, New York bottle shows. Eastern pioneer collectors may remember Bristol 50 Acres, where the first two shows were held. It was there, or a year later, that Jack displayed Cobalt Sodas - An American Heritage. Seeing a display of pristine sodas in my neophyte days showed me what real bottle collecting was all about - early, scarce bottles, with terrific aesthetic appeal, and in as nearly mint condition as the market provides. I also learned that the display was a clear reflection of the collector. (Thats a compliment without trying to sound too patronizing.) Jack was one of the collectors who were the engine that made the early Rochester Club go, a contributor to the hobby who sets an example for others.
The sodas are gone, as it happens with most of us as we refine or re-define our interests and reform our tastes. In their place, and surpassing that interest are exemplary collections of Warners bottles and go-withs and fine groups of bitters, spring water bottles, and select western New York bottles.
Were here to emphasize the mineral water bottle, so we might as well start at the top! The favorite mineral water bottle in the Stecher collection has to be the Byron Acid Spring Water (Tucker #N-5). One could have an eclectic collection of a specialized grouping in a number of categories and develop an affinity for a Byron. These bottles are sort of a squat quart with a stubbier neck than most Saratogas. They are crude and have an iron or graphite pontil. The colors generally range from a nearly aqua-pale blue green to a deep teal color. A damaged example is known in a deep emerald color, and one example is also known in olive amber. These colors are all quite possibly from then Lockport Glassworks, but we cant be quite sure. The Stecher example is a deep teal green, a bottle Jack says he went to the wall for in an auction. But what seemed to then be a record price for a Saratoga-type mineral water now appears to have been a very realistic value, if not a bargain! Your author has had a mint Byron as #1 on his want list for over 25 years.
The "favorite" mineral water in the Stecher collection: a deep teal green squat quart with an iron pontil, embossed- "BYRON ACID / SPRING WATER."
Other Thruway springs that readers may be more familiar with are the Oak Orchard Acid Springs; the Syracuse Springs; the Deep Rock Springs from Oswego, New York; and the Sharon Springs. All come in pints and quarts in a variety of colors and can be pursued with a degree of success at shows in the northeast or through the major auctions.
More obscure Thruway springs include variations of Richfield Sulphur Water (N 26-28), the very rare Cherry Valley Phosphate Water (N-8), and the nearly unique examples of the Chittenango White Sulphur Water (N-9). While the Richfield bottles are available on rare occasions, it is almost impossible to find a Cherry Valley bottle without major damage, and the Chittenango is most likely in or near the top ten most rare of all Saratoga types.
Your author has commented on the wonder of the Oak Orchard Acid Springs bottles in these pages before. Let it suffice that, once more, we emphasize it is rare to find available varieties of bottles from one spring with greater character and as broad a range of color. On the other hand, we have not discussed the Avon Springs bottles which are equally fascinating - and much more rare! The Stecher collection has fine examples from both of these superb springs.
The Avons Jack holds include a quart Avon Spring Water in olive green (N-3) and a pint in emerald green (N-4). Like most of us, Jack will also talk of the ones that got away. Jack recalls a quart Avon Spring Water with small letters, a bottle with which your author is not familiar. Jack didnt buy it and Ive never seen one. Where is that bottle out there in bottle world? One Avon that Jack once owned was a pint Congress Hall variant (N-7), which moved on to another collection in a moment of weakness. But we all do that.
How does one become interested in Saratogas. My own pedigree of influences is nothing compared to Jacks. He recalls:
... going to Saratoga with my mom and dad when I was in my early teens. They went there every August to attend the races. Dad would visit Geyser Park each day (before going to the track) to drink the water - Mother couldnt stand the taste. They stayed in Ballston Spa with a long-time friend who operated a tourist home - just down the block from the Verbeck House (which for a time serves as the National Bottle Museum and the home base for the Saratogas Collectors Society). Being a teen and not particularly interested in horses, I would walk around downtown Ballston. That is where I first visited Mrs. Wooley, admiring her collection of spring water bottles and enjoying her historic tales. Im not sure what happened to her bottles, but suspect that they wound up with Tom Nolen or Bob Pattridge. During those years, I was also introduced, by a mutual friend of my parents, to Bernie Puckhaber, who further piqued my interest in Saratogas.
Mr. & Mrs. (Audrey) Jack Stecher in a non-collecting moment.
All roads seemed to lead to Mrs. Wooley in the early days I, too, remember finding her while on an antique raid during the middle 60s. I bought a couple of Saratogas from her, although I feared then that I may never recover from spending $12 and $16 for a bottle. Mrs. Wooleys antique shop had numerous nice bottles for sale and those who showed real interest often were invited to see her collection of bottles from Saratoga.
Another influence on Jacks early collecting was the early shows at Canfields Casino in Saratoga Springs, sponsored by Tom Nolen. This is the only show we recall where the show chairman had an open bar in the back room for dealers at the show. It wasnt abused, but it was unique. Also unique were the rare Saratogas that routinely appeared at these shows, But I was more interested in Warners at the time, Jack recalls with more apparent nostalgia than regret. Jack and I discussed the time Tom Nolen came to the show with original cases filled with Congress & Empire Springs quarts. Then there were the exciting on-site auctions with Tiny Langdell and the incessant woodpecker-like rattling of the gavel he seemed to use in order to rouse-up bidders. Jack says he passed up a few great bottles at these events. But we all do that.
(Twenty five years ago, at one Saratoga show, your author bought a green pint Richfield Springs, an aqua quart Avon Spring Water, and the incredibly elusive Chittenango White Sulphur Water quart. There really were a few good ole days.)
What other prizes lie within the Stecher collection? The top bottle must be the olive-amber quart Round Lake Mineral Water with dark striations throughout the body (S-48A). The Round Lake is on everyones ballot as a top-ten mineral water - for rarity and desirability. An example with a unique color variation and special character is top shelf indeed!
What additions to the mineral water grouping would be the most welcome? Jacks first choice is a pint or quart Avon Spring Water also embossed Congress Hall. Also at the top of the list is the Chittenango White Sulphur Water in the rare quart or in the currently-only evidence by a few unearthed shards pint size.
Are there other non-mineral water favorites on the Stecher shelves? Of course. The first one Jack mentions is a Dr. Hills - Invigorating & Strengthening Bitters - Farmer, N.Y. in red amber. The favorite barrel from among the 21 variants is a forest green Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic. Your writer has visited with the Stechers and their bottles and will venture that from among the myriad of H.H. Warner bottles there are numerous other favorites. But those bottles are a whole other story for a whole other time.....
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