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saratogaMineralWaters From Yankee Country bottles

JackStecher - Saratoga Collector

ebay By George Waddy nasa

Jack Stecher has a license plate that reads “SafeCure”. Then, what in the name of Congress & Empireis Jack Stecher doing in an article about Saratoga-type mineralwaters? I guess the truth is out - yet another closet (or bottlecabinet) is open - Jack Stecher is a specialized collector ofmineral water bottles from the central and western sections ofNew York State, in addition to being a scholar and advanced collector of H.H. Warnerproducts from Rochester, New York. Jack refers to his collectionas “off springs,” since most of his favorites- those he’s especially sought out - are not from Saratoga,New York or from Vermont (the two geographical areas thattraditionally attract the greatest interest).

A perennial favoritewith Eastern collectors, the fall show in Keene, NH and Mr. JackStecher in the midst of it all!


As a matter of fact, Jack has written a two-part article on whathe has dubbed “the Thruway Springs” after the numeroussprings that form an east-west line across central New York alongthe route that is now the New York State Thruway, I-90, fromAlbany west to Buffalo. A great reason for a fascination with theSaratoga-type bottles from these springs becomes quite evidentwhen one discovers that they are all early endeavors, mostly allare deeply or vibrantly colored, and absolutely all are scarce todarn-near-impossible-to-find. The article Jack wrote appeared inthe newsletter of the Saratoga-type Bottle Collectors Associationand is loaded with good historical background on the springs.
I first met Jack Stecher in 1969, at what was only the second ofa still-continuing string of successful Rochester, New Yorkbottle shows. Eastern pioneer collectors may remember “Bristol50 Acres,” where the first two shows were held. It wasthere, or a year later, that Jack displayed “CobaltSodas - An American Heritage.” Seeing a display ofpristine sodas in my neophyte days showed me what real bottlecollecting was all about - early, scarce bottles, with terrificaesthetic appeal, and in as nearly mint condition as the marketprovides. I also learned that the display was a clear reflectionof the collector. (That’s a compliment without trying tosound too patronizing.) Jack was one of the collectors who werethe engine that made the early Rochester Club go, a contributorto the hobby who sets an example for others.
The sodas are gone, as it happens with most of us as we refine orre-define our interests and reform our tastes. In their place,and surpassing that interest are exemplary collections ofWarner’s bottles and go-withs and fine groups of bitters,spring water bottles, and select western New York bottles.

We’re here to emphasize the mineral water bottle, so wemight as well start at the top! The favorite mineral water bottlein the Stecher collection has to be the Byron Acid Spring Water(Tucker #N-5). One could have an eclectic collection of aspecialized grouping in a number of categories and develop anaffinity for a Byron. These bottles are sort of a squat quartwith a stubbier neck than most Saratoga’s. They are crudeand have an iron or graphite pontil. The colors generally rangefrom a nearly aqua-pale blue green to a deep teal color. Adamaged example is known in a deep emerald color, and one exampleis also known in olive amber. These colors are all quite possiblyfrom then Lockport Glassworks, but we can’t be quite sure.The Stecher example is a deep teal green, a bottle Jack says he “wentto the wall for” in an auction. But what seemed to thenbe a record price for a Saratoga-type mineral water now appearsto have been a very realistic value, if not a bargain! Yourauthor has had a mint Byron as #1 on his want list for over 25years.

The "favorite"mineral water in the Stecher collection: a deep teal green squatquart with an iron pontil, embossed- "BYRONACID / SPRING WATER."


Other Thruway springs that readers may be more familiar with arethe Oak Orchard Acid Springs; the Syracuse Springs; the Deep RockSprings from Oswego, New York; and the Sharon Springs. All comein pints and quarts in a variety of colors and can be pursuedwith a degree of success at shows in the northeast or through themajor auctions.
More obscure Thruway springs include variations of RichfieldSulphur Water (N 26-28), the very rare Cherry Valley PhosphateWater (N-8), and the nearly unique examples of the ChittenangoWhite Sulphur Water (N-9). While the Richfield bottles areavailable on rare occasions, it is almost impossible to find aCherry Valley bottle without major damage, and the Chittenango ismost likely in or near the top ten most rare of all Saratogatypes.
Your author has commented on the wonder of the Oak Orchard AcidSprings bottles in these pages before. Let it suffice that, oncemore, we emphasize it is rare to find available varieties ofbottles from one spring with greater character and as broad arange of color. On the other hand, we have not discussed the AvonSprings bottles which are equally fascinating - and much morerare! The Stecher collection has fine examples from both of thesesuperb springs.
The Avons Jack holds include a quart Avon Spring Water in olivegreen (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, abottle with which your author is not familiar. Jack didn’tbuy it and I’ve never seen one. Where is that bottle outthere in bottle world? One Avon that Jack once owned was a pintCongress Hall variant (N-7), which moved on to another collectionin a moment of weakness. But we all do that.
How does one become interested in Saratoga’s. My ownpedigree of influences is nothing compared to Jack’s. Herecalls:
... going to Saratoga with my mom and dad when I was in my earlyteens. They went there every August to attend the races. Dadwould visit Geyser Park each day (before going to the track) todrink the water - Mother couldn’t stand the taste. Theystayed in Ballston Spa with a long-time friend who operated atourist home - just down the block from the Verbeck House (whichfor a time serves as the National Bottle Museum and the home basefor the Saratoga’s Collector’s Society). Being a teenand not particularly interested in horses, I would walk arounddowntown Ballston. That is where I first visited Mrs. Wooley,
admiring her collection ofspring water bottles and enjoying her historic tales. I’mnot sure what happened to her bottles, but suspect that theywound up with Tom Nolen or Bob Pattridge. During those years, Iwas also introduced, by a mutual friend of my parents, to BerniePuckhaber, who further piqued my interest in Saratoga’s.

Mr. &Mrs. (Audrey) Jack Stecher in a non-collecting moment.


All roads seemed to lead to Mrs. Wooley in the “earlydays” I, too, remember finding her while on an antiqueraid during the middle ‘60’s. I bought a couple ofSaratoga’s from her, although I feared then that I may neverrecover from spending $12 and $16 for a bottle. Mrs.Wooley’s antique shop had numerous nice bottles for sale andthose who showed real interest often were invited to see hercollection of bottles from Saratoga.
Another influence on Jack’s early collecting was the earlyshows at Canfield’s Casino in Saratoga Springs, sponsored byTom Nolen. This is the only show we recall where the showchairman had an open bar in the back room for dealers at theshow. It wasn’t abused, but it was unique. Also unique werethe rare Saratoga’s that routinely appeared at these shows, “ButI was more interested in Warner’s at the time,”Jack recalls with more apparent nostalgia than regret. Jack and Idiscussed the time Tom Nolen came to the show with original casesfilled with Congress & Empire Springs quarts. Then there werethe exciting on-site auctions with “Tiny”Langdell and the incessant woodpecker-like rattling of the gavelhe seemed to use in order to rouse-up bidders. Jack says hepassed up a few great bottles at these events. But we all dothat.
(Twenty five years ago, at one Saratoga show, your author boughta 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 topbottle must be the olive-amber quart Round Lake Mineral Waterwith dark striations throughout the body (S-48A). The Round Lakeis on everyone’s ballot as a top-ten mineral water - forrarity and desirability. An example with a unique color variationand special character is top shelf indeed!
What additions to the mineral water grouping would be the mostwelcome? Jack’s first choice is a pint or quart Avon SpringWater also embossed Congress Hall. Also at the top of the list isthe Chittenango White Sulphur Water in the rare quart or in thecurrently-only evidence by a few unearthed shards pint size.
Are there other non-mineral water favorites on the Stechershelves? Of course. The first one Jack mentions is a Dr. Hills -Invigorating & Strengthening Bitters - Farmer, N.Y. in redamber. The favorite barrel from among the 21 variants is a forestgreen Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic. Your writer hasvisited with the Stechers and their bottles and will venture thatfrom among the myriad of H.H. Warner bottles there are numerousother favorites. But those bottles are a whole other story for awhole other time.....


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