Columbian Bourbon

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

You can’t miss this great looking amber fifth embossed with a profile of Christopher Columbus sitting on our museum shelves. With pronounced raised copy, the Columbian Bourbon is typically found in amber and clear glass. The amber examples are pretty rare and come with a tooled top. The clear examples come with both an applied top and tooled top. There is actually an example of a clear bottle where the Columbus profile is facing right.

Like the popular Christopher Columbus Day parade each year in New York City, many cities in the United States celebrate the anniversary of his discovery of America. We see this in San Francisco in 1903 when the The Garibaldi Guard Mutual Aid Society held a parade that started at Garibaldi Hall with a brass marching band led by the Girabaldi Guard members who were dressed in their handscome scarlet uniforms. The parade made its way along Broadway, Dupont and Filbert Streets, Montgomery Avenue and Kearny Street where it ended. From there, the ceremony moved to Glen Park where a grand program had been arranged consisting of dancing and booths for playing tombola, a lottery-style board game which originated in Southern Italy. The highlight of the event was keynote oration by Fiorenzo Cavagnaro.

Newspaper accounting say that Mr. Cavagnaro’s address was most forcible and that he was vociferously applauded as he spoke on the trials that beset Columbus in his voyage to the new world. It is really no wonder that the Columbian Bourbon is embossed with the Christopher Columbus bust. Beneath the embossing is the proud initials, ‘F. Fiorenzo, San Francisco, Cal.’

Fiorenzo Cavagnaro was a prominent wine and liquor merchant in San Francisco. He was born sometime around 1854 in Italy. We see listings for Fiorenzo as early as 1875 where he is listed as an artist living at the Roma Hotel. In 1880, he is listed as being associated with the Italian Benevolent Society at 423 Washington. Throughout the 1880s, Fiorenzo worked his way up the liquor business ladder working as a salesman for the wholesale liquor house of Buneman & Martinoni in 1887. He then was a junior partner with Ginocchio, Belgrano & Co. By 1900, he is the proprietor of the Pioneer Wine Vaults located at 608 Montgomery and had a second retail outlet at 542-546 Clay near City Hall. The firm was also the agent for Italian Swiss Colony of Asti, California

Fiorenzo Cavagnaro died on July 20, 1904 in Genoa, Italy where he had traveled for the benefit of his declining health. His body was returned to San Francisco in care of his brother Francisco who started out as a shoemaker. The funeral was attended by delegations from the Masons, Druids and other organizations of which Cavagnaro had been a member. This probably explains the rarity of the bottles.

Fiorenzo Cavagnaro and his wife Magdalen lived in the historic McElroy Octagon House on Gough Street with his family from 1893 until his death. Magdalen and her family continued to live at the Octagon House through 1907. “During the time we lived there,” their daughter, Mrs. Cristina Farlatti recalled, “it was a comfortable old home full of charm and beauty. The grounds were filled with the choicest of old urns.” At that time, there were ten or so octagon shaped houses in San Francisco which stood out from the more common rectangular houses. The house still stands today after a long history which included being severely damaged during the 1906 earthquake. Eventually it was rebuilt and moved to a new location.

Support: Whiskey Bottles of the Old West by John L. Thomas

Support: Amber and Clear image example courtesy of Jeff Wichmann and American Bottle Auctions

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