Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

In the world of antique bottle collecting, most advanced western bottle collectors will include the Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters as being up there with the best of the best. For those lucky enough to have one, the owners are well versed at the incredible bottle they proudly display on their shelf. An amazing addition to any collection east or west, these highly embossed western bitters bring both an aesthetic brilliance as well as a historically significant bonus to any advanced bottle collection.

Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters has an incredible history in the West. It is the only true “historical” or commemorative bottle as it celebrates the most significant event in the Western United States history, the California Gold Rush. Gold was discovered in Coloma, California at Sutter’s Old Mill in 1848, and this bottle clearly depicts this site in the glass. Blown in 1873, the majority of these bottles were shipped to Nevada, and supposedly to Utah. There are approximately 12-15 examples of this bottle known in any condition.

A pioneer vintner who operated from Coloma, California, Robert Chalmers had over 100,000 bearing vines by 1870. Aside from wine and brandy he also experimented with the sale of bitters beginning in 1872. It was still being sold in 1882; however, the bottles were likely produced in the mid-1870s. The embossed trademark of Sutter’s Mill, the initial location of gold discovery in California, helps to make this bottle highly desirable for collectors. 

The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listing in Bitters Bottles is as follows:

C 119 CHALMER’S / CATAWBA WINE BITTERS ( au ) / TRADE ( cu ) MARK ( cd ) / motif oval with cabin in
woods / SUTTERS ( cd ) OLD MILL ( cu ) SPRUANCE STANLEY & CO ( ad ) / PROPRIETORS // c //

11 ¾ x 3 ¼ (6)
Round, Aqua, LTCR, Applied mouth, Very rare
San Francisco, California
Chalmers bought the Alhoff Vineyard. Spruance & Stanley were the proprietors of the bitters in 1872-73 when the vineyard discontinued growing Catawba grapes.
Also manufacturers of African Stomach Bitters.

There is an even rarer Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters bottle without the “Sutters Old Mill” embossed copy. Only one intact example is known. The bottle is cataloged as C 119.5.

Support: Eric McGuire and Ferdinand Meyer V research. Peachridge Glass image archives.

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