With 65 dealer tables this is Canada's biggest bottle show offering a huge selection of antique bottles, pottery and related collectibles for sale. The poster says “No crafts, reproductions or early admission.” But there are some reproductions. Some reproductions are historic in their own right, and I'll point them out in this post.
I arrived at the venue approx ten minutes before the doors opened, and couldn’t find a parking spot in the adjacent lot, so I had to park across the street. This is the line up outside at 9:50 am. It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day and the first nice Sunday we've had in a while - a great day for a bottle show.
I got this photo outside the front entrance of the hall – the show needs better signage. Click the pics below for a closer look. All the images expand.
If one day I win some money in the lottery I will come to the next Toronto Bottle Show and spend $50,000 buying the single nicest piece from each of the sixty five dealers present. And so when i ask vendors to hold up their best item, this is what I'm thinking; i wonder 'would that collectible stand the test of time?'
Sean Murphy held up his new favourite squat soda water bottle, JAMES CORDERY / LONDON. This one dates from 1891 to 1894. Sean has been divesting of crocks and bottles to focus on acquiring the best Ontario sodas. There are about ten really hard to find Ontario squat sodas dating from the middle to late 1800s that he doesn't already have, and for which he keeps an eye peeled at every show he attends. This is a smart quest. Sean has set an achievable goal to assemble an historically significant collection.
What flavour was the soda pop in this small bottle? That is a question for the ages; in truth it could have held any flavour, or many flavours – like so many other squat sodas there's no clue to the maker's flavour on the glass. Period advertising is often the only way modern collectors can know the historic producer's signature blends.
Above is Sam Stuart with a large collection of relics from the Ontario Forest Board. Not much to say about Sam here except that he was selling a rock for $25 because it was in fact a 10,000 year old hand tool. Sure I got a picture and I could put it here, but it just looks like a rock. See the rock that is in fact a 10,000 year old hand tool on Flickr.
Scott Jordan an Paul Marchand with a drugstore sign from the early 1900s advertising Dr. Thomas Eclectic Oil which I wrote about here in 2008, remarking on its popularity as a found antique (while reminding readers that its pretty much worthless as a collectible). Unlike the actual bottle, a well preserved drugstore sign advertising the product could be quite valuable. Sadly I neglected to record their price at the show - it was just held up on a whim for the camera.
These guys are from Ottawa and they are pillars of the Eastern Ontario bottle collecting community and long standing members of the the Bytown Bottle Collectors club who are having a show next week, April 24th 2016 in Ottawa. This show is only ten percent smaller than the Toronto show on paper. The Four Seasons Show in Pickering has sixty five tables and Ottawa has only sixty.
These guys always have really old, highly obscure and super interesting medicines which is what Scott collects. Look here at the lovely paper label amber Ryckman's Kootenay Cure, which is very much like Dr Thomas Eclectic Oil in that it's a patent medicine, also known as a nostrum (from the Latin nostrum remedium, or "our remedy") is a commercial product advertised (usually heavily) as a purported over-the-counter medicine, without regard to its effectiveness.
Ryckman’s Kootenay Cure was manufactured in the mid-1890s by a Member of Parliament with mining interests in the Illecillewaet district southeast of Revelstoke. Samuel Shobal Ryckman (1849-1929) was one of several MPs drawn to the Kootenay in 1892. He said that on a visit to one of his gold mining claims near the headwaters of the Incomappleux River, an old miner gave him a recipe for a rheumatism cure. The potion, which also cured blindness, deafness, indigestion, gout, eczema, skin disease, hives, sores, liver and kidney disorders was made from plants found in the area. Soon the S.S. Ryckman Medicine Co. was cranking out cases of the Kootenay Cure, and filling newspapers with testimonials about its amazing properties. It sold for $1 per bottle, or a half dozen bottles for five dollars. Scott Jordan was asking $125 for the well preserved specimen today.
John Dunbar holds up a lovely Dutch onion.
John Dunbar has been collecting since he was kid and one of his oldest and most prized possessions is this dark green onion bottle. John acquired the collectible from a frequent visitor to Surinam. It would have had a cork and lead foil at one time, and contained French or German wine on its voyage south - depending on the company it could have been refilled with rum for a return voyage.
Early in the day I encountered Janet Gilbert and her husband Mark Gilbert who came seeking bottles, jugs and crocks with the name 'Swan' for the creation of a family museum.
They had pics of antiques they knew existed, and so they asked dealers 'have you seen these items?'
The family museum project is to be shared with Cluff heritage so if you have any leads on either name items, Janet is buying. We know Swan Bros were grocers in Toronto who left their name on some jugs and crocks. Some history appears on online at Worthpoint.
Was Henry Swan one of the Canadians who marched to Fort Erie to put down the Fenians?
Glen Moorhouse was making coffees in the snack bar when Janet Gilbert bought me a free cup to thank me for replying to her email last summer wherein I put her in touch with the Four Seasons community. That action and her subsequent follow-ups with club members led to her appearing today and buying her name sake antiques.
Periodically throughout the five hour long event there are random draws for Show Money which is dispensed to non-members to spend wherever they please. I dream about winning and look for my favourite objects on every table..
The town of Port Perry came up in conversation again as I interviewed Rick Adams and his wife Gail who drove down from Huronia, all the way down to Pickering to showcase Ontario heritage with stoneware items like this uniquely misshapen giant six gallon pickle crock. Click the pics - they expand!
The piece is stamped S. SKINNER & CO / PICTON C.W. - the C.W stands for Canada West and that's what makes it so darn historic and valuable to collectors. That means it was made before Confederation in 1867 which is when the province of Upper Canada was renamed Ontario precisely because it would be too confusing to have the province of Upper Canada or Canada West occupying the bottom middle of a nation called Canada.
Saving history - this errant piece of Ontario pottery was discovered in Alberta a few decades ago, and Rick had to pay extra to ship it back to its home province. As for the lid... Was there ever a lid? Would it be also be misshapen like the crock? Did it have a lip and make a seal? The item is really sturdy and weighs over ten pounds. Rick was asking $1500.
Douglas Dopko was at the 2016 show selling his digger stash - on the table were over a hundred bottles of every description, most of which he had dug up himself in old dumps as a young man.
These vessels on his table were otherwise contained in four heavy Tupperware containers behind him, and his objective was to bring home lighter crates. By the time I arrived at his table, the pair of veteran diggers had already sold $200 worth of stuff and every piece is a story. They told me about the biggest dump they ever encountered, a ravine dump between two farms they picked through in the 1970s and early 1980s.
After some scouting around in their glass, I found the best piece on their table was not a dug item at all but rather this Captain Morgan Gold Label Rum bottle which has the date on which it was consumed, Friday the 13th of February 1952 scrawled on its paper label. That was a rum day for someone.
Bob Harris, always a highlight of my report, lit up the entire 2016 show with his antique coal oil lanterns.
Update on Bob - right after last year's event, when I teased him in my Dumpdiggers report about bringing a tackle box full of antique fishing lures to a bottle show – he tells me he sold everything inside and including the tackle box just a few days later. I’d like to believe it was because it was advertised so well in the Dumpdiggers' 2015 Toronto Bottle Show blog post which features him holding up that smashed tackle box, but we'll probably never know.
This year Bob and his wife brought kerosene lamps, or are they 'coal oil lamps'? The oldest ones used whale oil I suppose, but of course Bob didn’t have any that ancient. These are from the last great age of oil lanterns when they were mass produced glass and metal fixtures in the house, present in every room, and in every dept store home furnishings catalog.
The models all had names like Princess Feather and Bullseye and Canadian Drapes. Interesting enough to send me on a research binge for a few minutes is that 'Princess Feather' is a respected design theme its own right. Its a design motif most present in quilting. I'm going to do something I never do in this post and that's borrow an image from another blog. The image to the left is from Karen's Quilting blog' and in her write up she refers to circles made by connecting eight 'princess feathers' around a central flower blossom. So the takeaway for me is that a 'princess feather' is an actual 'swoosh' feather design that may or may not be derived from a feather on a Heraldic banner. At any rate what we see on Bob's lantern below is a much more exaggerated swoosh. The princess feather below is a vertical feather curl almost like a fiddle head.
Bob tells me the oldest Princess Feather kerosene lamps didn’t have the central flower blossoms you see on reproductions. To the right is a repro that is a valuable antique in its own right. The piece is over sixty years old, still functions and is a beautiful decorative furnishing that looks great by the window.
The lanterns came in five different sizes and Bob had three sizes of Canadian Drapes oil lamp varietals, including the smallest which he was proud to report still has its original chimney, or at least a glass chimney that fits the lamp base which he identified as 'vintage' by its peculiar style of decorative crenelations at the top of the chimney, see below.So after all that I asked, ‘Bob when did they stop making these things?’ And he said ‘They’re still making them! You can buy a new one today in Walmart’, which I guess speaks to the efficacy of the design. Although these items on the Harris table were priced to sell at between $100 to $150, I think he went home with most of them. But who knows, it doesn’t mean they wont sell later!
Tim Maitland and his father Jim Maitland almost always have the biggest milk bottle spread of the show with hundreds of vintage silkscreen vessels set out in front of them at their table.
But today Tim held up a 16oz cobalt blue 'coffin poison' bottle marked POISON / CARBOLIC ACID / USE WITH CAUTION instead of a rare dairy bottle.
The letters 'OCP' embossed on the bottom denote the vessel belonging to, or originating from (or as being subjected to legislation and enforcement governed by) the Ontario College of Pharmacy.
Carbolic Acid poisons resulted directly from the efforts of the Ontario College of Pharmacy (OCP) to oversee the sale of that chemical. Around 1910-12, it became provincial policy, as per the regulatory initiatives of the OCP, that Ontario pharmacists had to put up carbolic acid in these specially designed bottles. They come in 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 16-ounce sizes. Besides being embossed with "Carbolic Acid" on their fronts, they also have "O.C.P." (for Ontario College of Pharmacy) embossed on their bases. Other provincial pharmacy boards in Canada also adopted their official use. So what the heck do people do with carbolic acid anyway? The nearest I can figure is that it was a common antiseptic and was used in the fight against dysentery and infection in hospitals and clinics.
John Findlay brought some Brewerainia to the bottle show. He chose to hold up a hard to find Dawes Black Horse Ale and Porter tavern sign. The image on this sign is one of three different scenes known to exist in this size / format and examples of all three are on display in the Black Horse museum in Lachine, Quebec. When we chatted at the show, John mentioned that he's heard rumours of another (fourth) scene that exists. "At this stage, I believe it to be nothing more than a rumour. None of the numerous breweriana collectors and dealers that I've spoken with over the years are aware of it." John said, "If, however, a fourth scene does exist, I know for a fact that an example of it is NOT on display at the museum and, to the best of my knowledge, it doesn't appear in any online catalogues. If it does exist," John concluded, "it would be a truly rare piece and I would love to see it!"
Tavern signage also includes glass signs (signs made of glass) and grocery store posters. But the classic tavern sign that John was holding was made for hanging in establishments selling Black Horse beer. It would have been prominently displayed to impart the brand name and logo to induce consumers to order the product. $400
Dressed in orange and surrounded by orange collectibles were Michael Rossman and his wife Janice. They're the 'Orange Crush couple', and I have written about him and his valuable book Orange Crush - Krinkly to Mae West at least once before. Here's a link to the 2011 Toronto bottle show where you can see his offerings on display. The couple didn’t bring any Crush bottles this year; they only brought Crush paraphernalia and Michael's $45 book. Already before i arrived at their table he'd sold three copies and some keepsakes.
The couple also brought early carrying cases and serving trays and period advertising under glass. They also had a superb six glass set of Orange Crush drinking glasses from the 1960s. I should have bought that Orange Crush Frisbee for $20 - its retro cool.
Gary Spicer is 25 years a diver. He started in the St. Lawrence when it was so murky you couldn’t see twelve feet in front of you. Now with Zebra Mussels its clear as day down there apparently, but there's nothing left to find. Gary had two valuable pieces perched precariously at the top of his display. Beer bottle collectors were all stopping by to gaze at the stone vessel that dated from around 1853, and for which he was asking $850. In the photo above Gary holds his STARR BROTHERS / BROCKVILLE soda that dates from between 1860 - 1872. This vessel, he claims is the only known example, and Gary is an expert on bottles and relics from Eastern Ontario. He has been known to speak to citizenry about local bottles that are the legacy of their commercial trade. In 2013 he was featured in a local newspaper celebrating Brockville's heritage
Terry Matz is Canada's foremost torpedo bottle collector, but this year he chose to display a teapot. Near the end of the day I drifted over to Terry’s table to see what he'd brought for me, and same as last year he had a rare item glazed in either Rockingham or Bennington that was a museum quality piece.
Indeed, Terry's teapot is similar to a piece found in the Royal Ontario Museum which they describe as "A variant form, the unmarked beaver and maple leaf teapot here does not conform to any excavated sherd or lids, though the piece as a whole is remarkable similar. While it could be a style of the post-1883 period, its relative heaviness and clumsiness suggest its an earlier Welding version (c. 1875 - 1880) and a predecessor of the excavated form. Canadiana R.O.M." And same as previous years this item was not for sale - Terry was offering his insights on the historically significant item as gift to knowledge seekers and Dumpdiggers blog readers.
Ron Demoor came in from Delhi Ontario to pick up a very special eight sided cobalt blue pint
Over the years I've covered Ron's table and shown his Sproatt torpedos, and even singled him out as having the most valuable bottles at the show.
This year he was a buyer. He bought the eight panel cobalt blue soda seen left that was made between the years 1850 and 1862 - Henry Sproat(t) is listed in the red book as 'Ginger beer maker' . You can gaze upon the H SPROAT torpedo soda bottle here in Tim Braithwaite's collection courtesy of Early Canadian Bottle Works, Darren's website .
The oldest or first H. Sproatt Toronto bottles have only one (T) in Sproat. This is found on the quarts, Squat pints and torpedo bottles. The quarts and squat H. Sproat bottles all have graphite pontil marks on the bottom of the bottles. The smooth base ones have the corrected H. Sproatt and have a smooth base. This was a spelling mistake by Lockport, N.Y. glassworks that made these bottle.
I ventured to guess the piece was worth about $2000 and Ron nodded, but I'm not sure he heard me or understood that I was asking. or now that I think on it, its more likely doesn't want to make public exactly what he'd just paid for the piece.
Below is Tom Hollman and Ross Wainscott sitting behind a table full of fruit sealers.
Tom had a good show selling Beavers and other sealers. Here he is holding his rare plum coloured The Burlington with its matching plum coloured lid for $675 bucks - a steal for this rarest shade of rare preserving jar.
The 2016 Toronto Bottle Show was great fun as always and thanks for everyone who deigned to pose for my camera.
At the end of the show I conscripted Carl Parsons and a perfect stranger to pose beside the front entrance sign. The pic didn't really turn out the way I wanted; it didn't lead, but its a good image for the close. Thanks all - Good work Club Members.