As I write, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US stands at 400.
Schools are closed, bars and restaurants are closed, theatres are closed. Since the only effective way of avoiding getting infected with the dreaded bug is avoiding all contact with humans or anything that other humans might have touched (the virus can live on surfaces for 72+ hours so you should quarantine all incoming glass purchases for 3 days, minimum), suddenly there’s a lot more time to talk glass. And coronavirus.
Here’s the coronavirus:
Remind you of anything?
This is a Father Time glass from Philip Freiler of Elgin, IL. Note the similarities between the background on this image and the virus. Note also that Father Time was the companion to the Grim Reaper and that Freiler’s death occurred shortly before the Spanish flu pandemic killed in excess of 17,000,000 people between 1918 and 1920, which is the year that Prohibition began. Clearly this glass is a message from the past. The Spanish flu was obviously a Government-engineered virus designed to distract attention and allow the eighteenth amendment making alcohol consumption illegal to be rammed through Congress. This time around, it’s a Government-engineered virus designed to distract attention and allow bills making gun ownership illegal to be rammed through Congress.
If this conspiracy theory goes viral (no pun intended), remember, you read it here first….. but the essential truth is that everyone is very distracted at the moment.
These past few weeks have been notable for the number of interesting glasses selling in buy-it-nows and special deals offered by sellers. The latter have becoming an increasingly popular way for sellers to keep stock moving on eBay.
The Grave’s and the Old Comstock shown below both sold in $25 buy-it-nows. The Grave’s is a rare San Jose glass. The Old Comstock is a previously-unlisted UT glass from Salt Lake City – a rare find.
The Uneeda was a little pricey at $59.99 but a nice bold label makes for a great display glass. The Pete Cooper is another unlisted glass and a classic pre-pro design; it was grabbed in a $45 buy-it-now.
The Foust lug at left was snapped up for $175, which is a good buy for a LUG, even though a relatively common black-on-white Foust. The one on the right was an even better deal – it sold in a seller private offer for only $117.50. Last but not least is a 1901 Louisiana Purchase Expo glass with superbly detailed graphics – binned in a private offer for $36.
Hunted in the Wild award goes yet again to eBay old-timer nuffbarn, who found the A.D. Germanus glass below at an antique show. This is a rare Portland glass that I’ve never seen listed on eBay. If it looks familiar, it’s one of the first drawings in Barbara Edmonson’s Historic Shotglasses. Thanks to Brad for sending in the pic!
Some stats for the number crunchers: in the past four weeks, 170 pre-pro glass auctions listed on eBay. 57 closed without bidders; average price of the glasses that sold was $30.70.
Here’s hoping you all stay hale and healthy and our thoughts should all be with those on the front lines of healthcare, often with little or no effective protection from the virus.
Q: How do you turn a super-rare, once in a lifetime pre-pro shot glass find into a run-of-the-mill glass in just a few seconds?
A: Take the original wrapper off.
Back in the day, numerous manufacturers were producing the cheap thin-walled shots that we know so well by the tens of thousands and in various different sizes (see a brief history). Some glass houses additionally offered the option of custom-labeling them with a vitreous compound designed to mimic acid-etching. The Huntington Tumbler Co. of Huntington, WV referred to this a “snow enamel etching”. After the label had been applied and adhered to the glass, the glasses were individually wrapped in a thin piece of paper and then boxed up by the dozen or stacked one inside the other (don’t try this at home – it’s only safe to do if the glasses are all the same size), packed in straw, and sold by the gross.
Fast forward 100+ years and there is precious little evidence of the original wrappers or documentation regarding how the glasses were prepared for shipping. The recipients were usually saloon owners, hotel bars, liquor dealers, or individuals who had received them as rewards for a mail order; presumably they were immediately unwrapped and placed on a bar or in a curio case for display. In my 35+ years of collecting, I’ve only ever seen two examples of a glass with its wrapper still pristine and intact (although I’ve had several near misses), which makes them rare beasts indeed.
Why are wrapped glasses so rare? There a two main reasons. The first is that the wrappers were thin and not designed to provide protection for a century or more. Boxes containing the wrapped glasses were often left forgotten in damp basements where water may have dripped on them, causing the cardboard boxes and paper wrappers within to rot (the glasses didn’t fare too well from such exposure either; the mineral deposits left behind may change the crystal structure of the glass and cause cloudiness). Wrapped glasses stored in a dry place were also at risk from the natural aging process. Over the years, the thin coverings may become very brittle and prone to disintegrate when handled (as in the example above).
Assuming that a wrapper does survive, then it’s at great risk of being removed and discarded by dealers and collectors. It’s easy to understand the dilemma when faced with a wrapped glass. Collectors want to display their glasses, and the display value of a glass wrapped in a grubby and most likely crumbling paper wrapper is close to zero. Heck, let’s just get rid of the wrapper and put the newly-minted glass on display. Totally understandable (I’ve done it myself with one of the Newvilles -see below).
Dealers, on the other hand, just want to figure out what’s under the wrapper ASAP and then photograph it for listing on eBay. Again, who can blame them. Hopefully you get the idea, wrapped glasses are, um, RARE (pay attention dammit!!!!).
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been buried in work and had completely missed the fact that both listings had included a photo of a wrapped glass until being given a heads up by a pre-pro regular (in case you’re wondering, the background in the image above shows a display case holding the seller’s CA goldrush pipe collection). I immediately contacted the seller.
Warren (warren8426), who is based in Stockton, CA., recounts that “these glasses were found by an Estate Sale company in Pebble Beach, CA. They came from a huge mansion on the 18th hole on the Pebble Beach golf course. They found a straw suitcase in a storage room that had about 30 wrapped shot glasses and 10 trays. I missed that sale. They sold 7 trays for $50 each and maybe one shot glass for $20. I met them at their next sale and arranged to buy what was left.” He was kind enough to send me photos of one of the trays that he had acquired, plus group photos of the glasses that he had managed to track down.
Needless to say, I purchased one of the wrapped “No. 1″s from him and two of the wrapped “O.K.”s, which more than doubled my lifetime collection of wrapped glasses.
Right now, you’re not doubt wondering what the value of a wrapped glass is vs. an unwrapped glass. Since they’re super-rare, you’d think that they would come at a premium price but that’s sadly (or not sadly, depending on your perspective) not the case. There are one or two specialist collectors I know who would give their eye teeth to get their hands on a wrapped glass, but they’re the exceptions – because it always comes back to display value for the majority of collectors. The display value of a wrapped glass is practically zero, but the value of an honest-to-God, minty-mint glass lying hidden beneath the wrapper is so much more. Personally, the history and hidden mysteries of a wrapped glass are priceless. I still have a couple of eye teeth left if anyone has one or two for sale….
Returning to the glass that I mentioned having removed from the wrapper (above). Back in 2002, a couple of mint-condition Newville Pure Rye Whiskey glasses from C. B. Wagner of Carlisle PA. were listed for sale by eBay seller pneumatic. Bob Rowe, the seller, is local to the area. The Newville glasses are classic pre-pro with a highly attractive design and a gorgeous gold rim. Bob was offering them in their original wrapper, along with a corkscrew, a couple of letterheads from C. B. Wagner, and a copy of Wagner’s liquor license (the Harper label in the grouping below was offered in later listings).
I’m not sure of the exact details of the find since they came to me from a collecting colleague in MA who had heard from a collecting colleague in AZ, who had heard it from his wife’s friend’s hairstylist – or something like that. The gist of the story was that Bob had discovered over 100 of these glasses in an attic in Carlisle, all neatly wrapped, stacked by the dozen, and packed in straw. I tried contacting Bob a little while ago through eBay for clarification but have yet to receive a response. I ended up buying several from him, two of which are shown below.
Bob has sold at least 30 of these glasses on eBay to date but I’m sure he has several more on hand. Bookmark him because he continues to list them periodically as buy-it-nows for the outrageous sum of $28 (the last one to list was back in November). Be warned – you’ll be forced to take the corkscrew and letterheads also. If you’re a serious collector, buy two and take the wrapper off one of them, just for the pure joy of seeing a gold-rimmed glass in truly mint condition. Yes, I know it’s destroying a little piece of history, but I think that there are enough these particular wrapped glasses still in circulation that it may be okay.
I’ll close by saying that in the past 30 days, 248 pre-pro glass auctions closed on eBay, 92 went unsold. The average price of glasses that did sell was $44.44. Happy hunting!
At the beginning of the month, the server that www.pre-pro.com sits on had the silicon equivalent of a brain-fart and scrambled its filing system which, in technical terms, is very, VERY bad. Since I had been lead to believe that the site was backed up automatically every week, I wasn’t too worried about the fact that it would be offline for a few hours while it was being moved to a new server (many thanks to Bruce Silva, Jack Sullivan, and several others who pinged me to give me a head’s up that the site was down).
When the site rose like a phoenix from the electronic embers, it appeared to be missing a few feathers and the timestamps all read 2014. A few frantic tech support calls later, it transpires that the site exceeds the auto-backup limit by several tens of gigabytes and had never been backed up, so it had been reset to the date when I first signed up with the hosting company. Urgh.
Long story short, it’s taken a while to get things up and running again; apologies to all for the inconvenience. I reloaded all prior “New and Shotworthy” posts today so they all have today’s date (I’ll try and fix that), but they are ordered by original posting date.
In the past 28 days, at least 186 glasses listed, of which 108 went unsold. The average price of those that did sell was $43.94. The numbers are perhaps misleading in that they obscure the fact that good glasses are flying off the e-shelves as fast as they can be stocked, and I’m not sure that this is purely a Christmas-related blip in the data stream. Coming months will tell.
The more interesting offerings included a Hayner Harvest Home, which is the rarest and most valuable of the known etched Hayner variants. It has sold for up to $350 in recent years. diggerdaveb picked this one up in an auction lot from Glass Works Auctions; it sold in a buy-it-now for $195.00 after sitting for several months in his webstore; I’m surprised no-one picked it up earlier given that it is also a George Truog original design.
Los Angeles Brewing Company gave away a number of sampler glasses that are a little too big to be considered a shot and a little too small to be considered a beer, all of them featuring historically-significant California Jesuit missions. There were at least two series of mission glasses. The glass below is from one of the rarer series and fetched a respectable $224.50.
I’ll finish this update with two Jack Daniel glasses. JD has a world-wide following and I regularly get emails requesting glasses from the pre-Prohibition era. There are few to be had, however, and the price on any original JD glass is creeping forever upward. They sell for nose-bleed prices that casual pre-pro collectors might consider insane, but I honestly believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to valuations on anything JD.
The first is a plain-Jane, heavy, one-shot paneled glass from Hopkinsville, KY. It was listed with an opening bid of $500 by buzzardroost07 and sold a week later to 2***a without a contest.
The “Old Time” glass was listed by lakerdude33 as a $800 buy-it-now together with a beaded “Gunter’s Landing”. Not surprisingly, the bait was taken within a few days. Either make for a nice Christmas present for a Jack Daniel aficionado!
eBay lapsed into its usual Summer doldrums over this past couple of months, but, with Labor day now firmly behind us, we finally have some interesting glass and trends to talk about.
First, I’d like to thank Brad Allin for sending in pics of a glass that he hunted and shot in the wild:
Brad mentioned that he cornered this glass in an antique mall, making it a rare beast indeed, as those of you who trawl antiques stores and shows on a regular basis can testify.
It’s from J H Costello & Co. of Boston, MA. My information on Boston dealers came from Howard Currier and is very limited, but they were in business in 1889 and perhaps through to Prohibition. I’ve only seen this glass once before – on eBay (where else?!). eBay bidder atcoins bought it back in 2009 for $1.99 and then flipped it 8 years later for $51.00.
Speaking of eBay…..
I’ve been beginning or ending SOTW for many years now with some stats on how many glasses have sold, how many went unsold, and what the average sell price is. The average sell price is a reasonably good way of estimating what your collection is worth, assuming it’s average. If the average sell price is $26 and you have 49 glasses in your collection, then it’s probably worth around $1,274.
With that being said, the past 28 days saw 186 pre-pro glass auctions close. Of these, 65 closed without a buyer, and the average price of those that sold was $40.15, which continues the healthy uptick in prices we’ve seen in recent months.
The more interesting part of this is that glasses that I’ve had on my eBay radar for months, and, in some cases, years now, are flying off the virtual shelves. eBay lets you add 300 items to a watchlist, and mine has been filled with active listings for months now, and I’ve had another 100 or so on an overflow list. In the past month, the overflow list has evaporated and I’m back below the 300 eBay watch limit, all because glasses that were viewed as overpriced a couple of years ago are being scooped up in buy-it-nows.
Case in point. I had drafted a post that featured a couple of unloved glasses that have relisted so many times that I’d actually had to modify the parameters in my sales database to record their activity. One of these was a Livingston Thompson from the Thompson Straight Whiskey Co., of Louisville:
It’s a nice enough glass, but, for reasons unknown, has always had difficulty attracting buyers. This particular example was offered by oxygenman, first listing for $49.95 some three or four years ago. It subsequently relisted at least 147 times, with the listing price dropping to a low of $29.95 and rising to a high of $100. It finally sold for $75.00 on September 26. The seller got a premium price for the glass, but one has to think that he/she took a net loss after factoring in the seller and endless relisting fees.
My pick of the week/month has to be the “Old Woodcock” which listed for $198 and attracted only a single bid. Old Woodcock was a Thomas O’Keefe brand – the distillery was based in Oswego, NY. O’Keefe arguably left us two of the top 100 etched pre-pro picture glasses – the Monteagle and the Beaver Run. Once you’ve seen a mint example of either “in the glass”, so to speak, it’s difficult not letting the goal of acquiring one become an obsession.
$198 may seem a lot to pay for a pre-pro glass, but the enamel glasses – especially with pastel highlights and gold curlicues – are as rare as hens teeth. Remember these glasses were all hand-enameled by skilled artists, which made them expensive to produce, even back then when labor costs were minimal. Very few were made and even fewer have survived the 100 or so years since. The old lady pictured above may seem a little frayed around the edges and she’s definitely past her prime, but she’s still a rare find and $198 seems like a bargain given that she would have sold for $400+ not so very long ago.
Very occasionally, someone gets an idea into their head to create a “fantasy glass” and put it on eBay to make a buck or two. eBay’s motto is “Caveat Emptor” after all, and there’s many a gullible punter trawling the web eager to be fleeced. Mercifully, the fakes have been easy to spot so far and the collecting community is small (= low financial incentive), so we’ve been blessed with knowledge that if a glass is billed as being pre-pro and it looks pre-pro, we can be fairly confident that it is indeed the genuine article.
Those of you new to the hobby may not realize that the thin-walled glasses that were so commonly used as vehicles for advertising in pre-pro years are extremely difficult to make in modern times. The glass-blowing machines used to produce these glasses by the gross and that were so prevalent back in the early 1900’s no longer exist. The corporate owners of the Jack Daniel brand tried to reproduce them to create a commemorative glass back in the late 60’s and, in so doing, proved just how difficult it is to make convincing thin-walled whiskey tasters in bulk.
So, if you’re an enterprising faker, what do you do? If you’ve been out trawling antique malls and hunting pre-pro shots in the wild, you’ll know that there are many thin-walled blanks available and just waiting to be picked up for $2-$3. These are the genuine article and they are just crying out for a fake label to be applied.
All of which brings me to the topic of this latest post.
This “Raleigh / For Men of Brains” glass was listed on July 29, 2019 by diggerdaveb for an opening bid of $29. Digger Dave describes it as follows:
“This is a rare deep wheel cut Raleigh Whiskey advertising shot glass from the pre prohibition era of the early 1900s. From Einstein Bros of Cincinnati, Ohio who registered the Raleigh Whiskey brand in 1905….This awesome glass has a picture of Sir Walter Raleigh cut into the glass!
RALEIGH FOR MEN OF BRAINS with Sir Walter Raleigh all wheel cut engraved into the glass on front….thin wall shot glass….2 3/8″tall….Sparkling near mint condition with only one teeny tiny nick on the top inside edge of rim. You can hardly even see it and can barely feel it with your fingernail. No other nicks or damage. Shiny clean. About the finest possible example of this very scarce pre pro picture glass! I have never seen or heard of another one like it…Raleigh Whiskey was registered in 1905 by Einstein Bros of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is interesting to note the Einstein name and “Men of Brains” motto connection…”
diggerdaveb usually lists glasses as a buy-it-now, so seeing it list as a regular auction was unusual for him, which is interesting in itself, but what the heck is it? As he notes, “I have never seen or heard of another one like it… “. Me neither. I’ve seen and/or owned tens of thousands of pre-pro glasses over the years and I’ve never seen one like it either, so what the heck is it?
It’s difficult to tell for sure from listing photos, but I would very much doubt that it’s a wheel-etched glass. The design is too intricate – wheel etching was typically used to create souvenir glasses to order, such as the “Don’t Drown The Hog” glasses. The most intricate design I’ve seen is on a “Free Trade” glass, as shown below, but it’s still pretty crude by comparison with the Raleigh above.
One possibility is that it’s a laser-etched glass, and since I’m pretty sure that there were no lasers around in the early 1900’s, that raises the possibility of it being a fake.
diggerdaveb comments that “It is interesting to note the Einstein name and “Men of Brains” motto connection…”
Albert Einstein was a young man working in Switzerland during the pre-pro years. Although he developed his theories of relativity during this period and received a Nobel prize in 1921 for discoveries relating to photoelectric effects, it seems doubtful that he was a household name yet. Would your average whiskey-buying punter link the Raleigh glass with Einstein? Probably not, but maybe a faker thought it was a clever poke at collectors. Or maybe it’s just coincidence.
In reality, I think the Raleigh is a hot-needle etched glass or debossed glass, such as found on the steamship and Spokane silver grill shots shown below.
This is a very uncommon way of creating an glass inscription. Although it’s ideal for labeling glasses intended for routine daily use (the needle-etched labels do not fade or wash off over time, unlike the common white-frosted labels) the labels do not stand out well against a background. It takes some effort to be able to get a good photographic image of them for this reason, and they do not stand out well in display cases.
So, to return to the title of this post, is the Raleigh glass Fab or Fake? It’s probably neither. I doubt that it’s a fake, although I’d have to be able to examine it in person to judge. It’s an interesting inscription and it would have been a winner as white-frosted label, but it mainly has curiosity value as a needle-etched glass.
Here’s an interesting little tale that begins back in August, 2014, when the glass shown below first listed on eBay.
It’s an etched barrel glass in rather sad condition with abundant evidence of wear, including a badly scuffed and worn inscription. It’s hard to figure out what the glass is from the listing photo, but it reads: “I. Michelson / & Bros. / FINE LIQUORS”. It was offered for sale by seller id candles-01, with an opening bid of $19.99. Given the condition, it’s not surprising that the glass went unsold and it did not relist that year, at least not on my watch.
Just to give you a little history – I. Michelson & Bros. were located in Cincinnati, OH., with the company name dating the glass to between 1904 and 1916. The company produced several different glasses; I hadn’t seen this variant before, but that’s not unusual given how few pre-pro glasses are “listed” (i.e., featured in the old and new testament of Barb Edmonson’s shot-glass bible).
Fast forward to June 19, 2019 and the glass relists with a different photo under the seller id jp-tech. Note that the wear pattern is identical. Wear patterns may get worse over time but they do not reverse, so they are as unique as fingerprints.
This time around it listed with an opening bid of $65 and it was jumped on the next day by bidder id i***d. Six days later, it was sniped in one by c***k and sold for $87.78.
So what the heck happened in 5 years that turned a $5 glass (an estimate based on origins and condition) into a $87.78 glass?
The auction title pretty much sums it up “UNLISTED Shape PRE-PRO WHISKEY Shot GLASS – I. MICHELSON & BROS 1904-16 TEXAS !!”
What happened was that Jack Sullivan wrote a blog post about the Michelsons that posted in April 2015. In his post, he noted that Abraham Michelson exited the firm around 1894 and set up on his own as A. Michelson, Wholesale Liquor Dealer, in Austin TX, which is presumably where the TX connection comes from.
The seller notes that “This glass was found just outside of Round Top, Texas during the last Warrenton/Round top antique weekend event so thats why I’m saying this glass is probably from the Austin, Texas area.”, which is not exactly a reassuring provenance given that antique dealers travel the length and breadth of the country hopping from one show to the next during the course of the year.
Note that Abraham died from diabetes in 1903, which predates the “UNLISTED Shape PRE-PRO WHISKEY Shot GLASS – I. MICHELSON & BROS 1904-16 TEXAS !!” glass by a year.
Did I. Michelson & Bros. sell hooch in Austin in later years? Probably. Did The Hayner Distilling Co., and The Rieger Co., and The Schweyer Co., and hundreds of other national wholesalers sell hooch in TX? Probably. Are Hayner glasses TX glasses? I don’t think so.
I know others may have contrary opinions, but imho a glass tracks back to the home base of the distiller and wholesaler, not the vendor. A TX glass is, by definition, inscribed with the name of a TX town or city, or with a brand name that is owned and registered by a TX distiller, wholesaler/rectifier, or vendor.
Suddenly there’s a lot to talk about and time has a way of slipping by, so I’m switching to mini-post mode in the hopes of catching up in between a seemingly endless series of work deadlines.
In the last SOTW, I was reflecting on the fact that there has been a seismic shift in shot-glass values, with traditionally high-end glasses selling for about half of their previous hammer prices, whereas the solid lower-end glasses have been steadily building value in recent months. I was using Russ Beem’s glasses as a case in point, and his latest (and seemingly his last?) set of glasses to appear on eBay further underscore this continuing trend.
The image of the Old Maid glass above is a little out of focus, but gives you a reasonably good sense of its appeal. This is a text-only glass, so that places its value in the $10-$30 range. It’s from the Orene Parker Co. of Covington, KY., a company that gave us one of the classic pre-pro glasses that every serious collector should own (they’re common and easy to come by – get one if you don’t already own one, and hold out for mint condition).
I’ve seen examples of the rarer glass above sell 10 times since 2001, with the price fetched averaging around $25, which would be consistent with a text-only glass valuation.
If you don’t have one of these glasses in the display case already, you need to find one, because it’s probably in the top 1% in terms of desirability. It’s a deceptive glass – it really doesn’t look like it’s worth bidding on when it pops up on eBay, but once you see one in vitro (so to speak), you’ll come to appreciate the boldness of the font and the way it captures the essence of pre-pro glass collecting.
Deciphering the old-timey fonts used on pre-pro glasses can occasionally prove to be a challenge, even to seasoned collectors, but I had to laugh at this eBay auction title. The well-known yellowstone shot glass was billed as a “Dr. Nowstone”. Wait, I don’t think I have a Dr. Nowstone in the collection – mental note to snipe that one….
For those of you interested in such things, eBay has lapsed into its traditional summer lull. A total of 135 glass auctions closed in the last month. Of these, 66 failed to attract a bid. The average price of glasses sold was $37.81.
Most glasses of interest in the past few weeks have been offered by water_works, a long-time collector better known to eBay regulars under his bidder id rwbeem. Russ has filled his showcase with many fine glasses over the years but is currently trimming his collection. Most notable among the recent offerings were a Red Top Rye highball and a “Standard of the World”.
Red Top Rye glasses are highly sought-after and the spinning top is etched in red, so it was a fair bet that the glass would sell in the three figures. rwbeem picked this off eBay for $271 back in January 2015; this time around it changed hands for a still-respectable $172.50.
The “Standard of the World” does not look like much, but it’s from Richmond, VA. VA is one of those states with a loyal collector following, and anything pre-pro from there can produce some “interesting” bidder action (think blood spatters and gore). This particular glass first shows up in my database in October 2016, when hottshots, who was selling off junkmoney’s collection, got an impressive $350.oo for it. This time around, it sold for $155.38. I’ve never seen another example of this glass – so far as we know, it’s a sole survivor from S G Atkins Co.
Yours truly picked up a couple of Russ’ offerings also. The Pelham Club below is from Boston, a city notable for producing some outstanding picture glasses (second only to San Francisco in that respect; by way of example, look at the Sphinx Rye or Owl Whiskey from Walsh & Co.) and also for being an East coast city that, along with New York and Philadelphia, few collectors find sufficiently interesting to compete for glasses from here.
The Pelham Club has an interesting eBay pedigree. glasspicker sold it to bluroc back in October, 2010 for $172.50, and bluroc passed it on to lakerdude33 for $175.00 in December, 2012. Lakerdude33 listed it at $150 in September 2014, and rwbeem picked it up as a Best price offer. Lakerdude33 tried to get it back again this time around, but oldwhiskey had the higher bid at $77.99.
As you’ll have gathered from these auctions, the price on the good glasses has dropped significantly in recent years as the field of pre-pro collectors has been whittled down by deaths and people cashing in their collections. Interestingly, the price on solid shots at the other end of the spectrum has about doubled and is rising steadily, which can only be a good sign since it shows a growing interest and appreciation in these old advertising glasses.
I recently had cause to consult Dale Murschell’s website, Cumberland glass, only to discover that it had been redirecting to a mattress coupon site for a year or so now. Dale authored the self-published book “George Truog and His Art” and his website had brief histories of the once-great glass companies working in Cumberland, MD. back in the day. Dale also had a piece on Truog’s Maryland Glass Etching Works. George Truog (GT) designed the inscriptions on many of the older, fancier, and more desirable shot glasses, so he remains of interest to the pre-pro collecting community. Rather than let his article slide into the mists of internet time, I’ve recreated his history of GT’s company here.
MARYLAND GLASS ETCHING WORKS
by Dale Murschell
George Truog (1861-1932) founded the Maryland Glass Etching Works of Cumberland, Md. in 1893 after arriving from the Seneca Glass Factory in Ohio. He had worked in Cumberland previously, at “The Cumberland” Glass Works. His company was in the glass decorating business which used acid to surface etch glass. The factory was on N. Centre street where Buchanan Lumber company was located (now occupied by TWR Communications). George was very artistic and his office and factory portrayed his characteristics with a rock garden, fountain and fish pond outside as well as an inside fountain and aquarium. This grandiose atmosphere was an indication of a business doing very well. He had been born in Italy, and spent his younger years in Switzerland.
His business was decorating the outside of tumblers, pitchers, vases, and lemonade sets, among other things, with words, flowers, animals, or other designs. Early methods of inscribing or decorating glassware included embossing, engraving, sandblasting, acid etching, imprinting by stamp, and hand painting. Embossing required an expensive mold, while cutting and engraving did not allow ease of making letters. Stamping with color pigment could be rubbed off, hand painting was time consuming, and pyroglazing with enamel had not been developed yet. Although some painting had been done on glass, it was not stable. George Truog’s acid etching was there to stay. He was able to be superior to his competition he would advertise that his etching was guaranteed to not come off. He would advertise that etched glassware was merely a sideline with all other factories, but was his specialty because etched glassware was all he made at his factory. He was able to compete with foreign trade in Bohemia because of his excellent designs. Bohemia was the world center for decorated glass. His wares were sent everywhere in the Western hemisphere. His method was to have the design engraved in a metal plate. A resist, normally bee’s wax, was coated on the plate. The excess wax was removed from the high points of the plate, which was the desired design. A tissue was then used to transfer the wax design to the glassware. When the tissue was removed, the wax stayed on the glassware, leaving the desired design with no protective wax. The glassware was then exposed to acid, which attacked the unprotected glass. When the etching was deep enough, the glassware was removed from the acid, and the wax and acid were washed off, leaving only the desired design.
In the early years, he used sales agents like Fred Seeman of St. Louis, MO, and William Snyder of NYC. Later, he sent out his own advertising. This advertising was done by George, printed from steel engravings, all designed and engraved on steel by himself. In 1905, he sent out complimentary cards containing a picture of his daughter, Rita, with the slogan “My Papa’s Compliments and mine, too”. The cards also contained George’s elegant signature. George also advertised in various glass trade journals.
Many of his customers were distillers and brewers, although he also did The Lord’s Prayer, America, and a lot of other patriotic slogans. He did popular sayings and flower or animal designs. An article in the Pottery and Glassware Reporter indicates the product line included glassware, blown and pressed tumblers, stemware, bottles, table sets, and lamp chimneys.
Many of the items produced, which George had a personal hand in, would contain the initials “GT” or “G Truog” or “George Truog”. The “GT” would sometimes be in a leaf or a word tail on the right side. Sometimes the initials would stand alone below the etching. Sometimes the G would be over top of the T. The full last name was mostly on larger things like vases or pitchers.
The blanks for these items were most likely obtained from “The Cumberland” glass factory in the early years, which was a few blocks away on N. Mechanic St. As “The Cumberland” changed to National Glass Co. and then Wellington, George became associated with Potomac Glass Co., which also was very close to his factory. With George’s help, Potomac carried a line of acid etched glassware. George obtained design patents, which were assigned to the Potomac Glass Co. like design patent 44,043, a flower design on a drinking vessel, issued April 10, 1913. There are three pages of etched designs in the Potomac Glass Co. catalog, but the designs are different than those offered by the Maryland Glass Etching Works.
While George Truog was doing well with his own business at the turn of the century, he undertook building one of the finest homes in Cumberland. It is of Swiss or Italian design and is located at 230 Baltimore Ave. It reportedly cost about $50,000 at the time. The building was used as a funeral home for the past 60 years. With a downswing of his business, the huge cost of the grandiose house, and a marital court defeat, George lost his factory and his home in 1909 to the courts. George continued to make etched items, either by himself or with just a few helpers, in one room shops, for the next 20 years. By 1918, he was confined to a wheel chair. George was living in a one room apartment on Holland Street.
The last few years, (1927-1930) George had a shop at the Bennett Transfer building with 8 or 10 girls doing the work. This was his final effort in trying to regain his past business stature. Unfortunately, the marketplace for etched glassware had changed. With prohibition, there no longer was a demand from distillers and brewers. The demand for Victorian type decorated tumblers had waned, and the desire to develop another thriving business was defeated, even though the product was still top grade. When George could not keep his business going, he gave up and went to Wash. DC, where he eventually died. George had donated his 5 foot tall body to the University of Maryland.
George Truog’s overall downfall in life was probably caused by his lavish living including the house that he built. For about 15 years, George Truog was able to really enjoy life. His business was producing what was probably the best quality product of its time, and he was apparently making good money. But by 1908, his customers either found alternative approaches to having their glassware decorated, or they found a cheaper source to get adequate goods. In any case, the superiority of the market share of the Maryland Glass Etching Works diminished, and so did the life of a great artistic man.
Etched tumblers decorated by the Maryland Glass Etching Co. These examples all contain George Truog’s initials.
When it comes to growing a collection via the internet, eBay undoubtedly offers both the biggest selection and a seemingly never-ending supply of interesting glass.
I’m constantly surprised by the number of previously-unknown glasses that show up on eBay on a regular basis. Sellers will often note that they are “unlisted”, which I take to mean that they were not cataloged by Barbara Edmonson during her compilation of HSG and OASG. HSG and OASG were — and still are –remarkable works, but the two books together listed around 3,000 unique glasses. The shot glass database here at pre-pro.com currently lists 4,653 glasses, only about 50% of which appear in either HSG or OASG. The sales database currently lists 7,621 unique glass variants, less than half of which are in the shot glass database, so now there are something on the order of 10,000 glasses known and cataloged, with new ones appearing for sale on a weekly basis.
Many collectors either do not have the time, resources, desire, or patience to hunt glasses on eBay, however, which raises the question of where else one might go looking for glasses on the web. Unfortunately there are few alternatives. Etsy (an eBay subsidiary) regularly has a handful pre-pro glasses for sale (try searching for “antique shot glass“), but few turn out to be bargains. John Crary always has a few glasses listed on his North Country Bottle Shop website, but they tend to be a mix of pre-pro, post-pro, and medicines, so ask before buying. John regularly cycles these glasses through eBay also. As I’ve mentioned before, Glassworks Auctions occasionally has pre-pro glasses on offer, although their main focus is bottle and jugs.
I periodically search the web for other sources of glass, but there are precious few. Sites maintained by, or affiliated with, antique malls occasionally have a glass or two for sale, but these are few and far between and difficult to find amid the general websearch clutter.
Some of the more reliable alternative sources of pre-pro glasses (aside from the sales pages here) are brick-and-mortar auction galleries, many of which feature live online bidding through LiveAuctioneers. This past week, The Ohio Company Antiques and Art presented an auction entitled “Bottoms Up! Whiskey adv., snuffs, &more” which featured a collection of 160 pre-pro shot glasses plus a highball or two.
As small collections go, it was an interesting one. Although I’d seen most of these glasses before, it did feature some uncommon ones, including several glasses from Texas and rarer George Truog novelties. Texas glasses can be hard to find.
The auction was unfortunate in that most of the glasses appeared to be, erm, in “less-than-pristine” condition, although I suspect that that was more a reflection of the presentation than the glasses themselves. Glasses photographed on a contrasty background have to be carefully washed and dried with a lint-free cloth, because even a speck of dust can diminish desirability. I picked up one of the lots; I’ll report back here on condition once it eventually arrives.
The most interesting offering was what appears to be a larger rocks glass from Jos. Werner & Co. of St. Louis. This is not one that I’d seen before and looks to be an older glass. The hammer price for the lot (including 23% buyer’s premium) was $67.65.
The lot that I was most curious about was one featuring a Bristol Distributing Co., VA. dose glass and a Casper CO, NC. whiskey glass, both of which sell high on eBay.