A. Nicholson Pittsburgh (Reversed on Reverse)
A. Nicholson Pittsburgh
NOSLOHCIN A. HGRUBSTTIP
Arthur & Francis Nicholson, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Blue Aquamarine Porter
Provenance: Chip Cable Collection
This exciting “A. Nicholson Pittsburgh” bottle is exceptional with its crudity and bubbles. It was made circa 1848 by brothers Arthur and Francis Nicholson who were bottlers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. What is interesting is that the mirrored typography on the backside of the bottle is reversed, an obvious mistake by the mold maker.
Embossed on the face of the bottle is ‘A. NICHOLSON’ in an arc over a straight line ‘PITTSBURGH.’ The reverse side is a backward mirror image of the front reading ‘NOSLOHCIN A. HGRUBSTTIP.’ All copy is a sans serif typestyle. The cylindrical form is that of a porter bottle. The bottle is hand-blown with an improved pontil and has an inverted tapered applied mouth.
Our second museum example is embossed ‘A. NICHOLSON’ PITTSBURGH’ on the face and has a two-inch tall embossed script ‘A N’ on the reverse. The bottle is 7 3/4″ tall, has an inverted tapered mouth and an iron pontil. See Museum Example.
Our third museum example is an embossed quart reading ‘A. NICHOLSON PITTSBURGH’ on the face in straight line copy. The bottle has an applied inverted tapered mouth and an improved pontil. See Museum Example.
Arthur Nicholson was born in Ireland on May 12, 1816. His brother Francis was born a year or two later. Both brothers emigrated from Ireland, settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1840s. Pittsburgh had grown to be one of the largest cities west of the Allegheny Mountains and was vital to the Atlantic coast and Midwest. A look at mid-1800 Pittsburgh city directories shows a city of prospering businesses and commerce, including glassmaking and breweries.
Arthur would be naturalized in June 1847 when he became an American citizen. That same year, Arthur Nicholson & Co. was formed as a porter establishment—meaning they were bottling and selling porter and mineral water. Before soft drinks, there was a significant mineral and soda water industry in the United States, populated mainly by regional manufacturers. Water quality was a considerable concern in the antebellum days of cholera epidemics. Mineral or soda water was considered safer than well or other flowing water.
The difference between “soda water” and “mineral water” during the 19th century was often vague. Soda water was generally considered flavored artificial mineral water with the purposeful addition of carbonation and various compounds and flavoring. Mineral or spring water, as it was also called, would generally be natural waters from spring sources that were typically highly mineralized with carbonates like alkaline, sulfurous compounds, and or various salts, which often carbonated naturally. The confusion sometimes arises when mineral water is used as a generic term applied to various natural and artificially carbonated, non-artificially flavored waters, including many utilized for their perceived medicinal qualities. Please visit the museum Spring & Mineral Water Gallery.
In the 1848 Pittsburgh Daily Post, Arthur Nicholson would publish the following petition for a tavern stating that “Arthur Nicholson, of the 1st Ward, City of Pittsburgh, who has provided himself with materials for the accommodation of travelers and others, at his dwelling house in the Ward aforesaid, and prays that your Honors will be pleased to grant him a license to keep a public house of entertainment.” There were accompanying testimonial’s stating, “We, the subscribers, citizens of the aforesaid ward, do certify, that the above petitioner is of good repute for honest and temperance and is well provided with house room and conveniences for the accommodations of travelers and others, and that said tavern is necessary.”
The Nicholson brothers were listed as A. & F. Nicholson in the 1850 Fahnestock’s Pittsburgh City Directory as bottlers located at 1 and 2 Union Street, north of Diamond Street, with Arthur Nicholson operating a tavern at the same address.
In 1850, Arthur Nicholson posted the following two newspaper accounts indicating some unusual events with the business that would lead to the demise of the bottling establishment that same year or shortly thereafter.
Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 25, 1850: “Notice. All persons are hereby cautioned against using Porter or Mineral Water Bottles marked “A. Nicholson” for Catsup or other purposes. Also, auctioneers are requested not to sell them. A. Nicholson, Diamond.”
Pittsburgh Daily Post, November 20, 1850: “ALL A MISTAKE” that A. & F. Nicholson have sold out to Burker & Co. their Porter Establishment.—They have not sold out to Burker & Co. or any other persons; but are prepared as usual to furnish their customers with everything in their line on the shortest notice,—Burker & Co, failing to come up to A. & F. Nicholson’s wishes. A. & F. Nicholson.
Not too far away, the very successful Buffum & Co. was operating at No. 90 First Street. They were bottlers and manufacturers of porter, ale and cider, sarsaparilla, mineral water, and pop. See the museum example of Buffum & Co. bottles.
Arthur Nicholson would operate his tavern until his death on June 27, 1857. The 1859 Pittsburgh directory lists his wife Margaret running the tavern as “widow of Arthur.” During these years in the 1850s, Francis was listed as a very successful innkeeper.
Primary Image: “A. Nicholson Pittsburgh” (error) porter bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio. Chip Cable collection.
Secondary Image: “A. Nicholson Pittsburgh” “A N” monogram porter bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio. Doug Shutler collection.
Secondary Image: “A. Nicholson Pittsburgh” straight-line porter bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio. Chip Cable collection.
Support: Reference to Soda & Beer Bottles of North America, Tod von Mechow
Support: Reference to The American Pontiled Soda Database Project
Support: Reference to A Very Short History of Pittsburgh For Pittsburgh, geography and geology have been destiny by William S. Dietrich II, Pittsburgh Quarterly, 2008 Fall
Join the FOHBC: The Virtual Museum is a project of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC). To become a member.