Durham Whiskey

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

Our museum presents an extremely rare Durham Whiskey bottle in deep red-amber and the condition is excellent. These bottles are recognized by the prominent embossing of a Durham Bull.

The Durham Whiskey bottles occur with and without a round glass “foot” that is centered on the opposite side of the bottle, opposite the embossed bull and copy reading “DURHAM WHISKEY.” The foot allowed the bottle to be set on its side, making it less vulnerable to tipping over. The bottle, as noted above, also occur without the foot. Both examples are extremely rare and come in shades of yellow amber, medium amber, and dark amber. Full and broken examples have been found at Angels Camp, along the Feather River, in Santa Rosa, and in the San Francisco Bay area.

Elia Chielovich was a native of the Kingdom of Dalmatia and born about 1825. He was in California at least as early as 1856 and married Jane Jewel in Sacramento in 1858.

Chielovich is simply listed as a merchant in the 1860 San Francisco, United States Census record. By 1867, he formed E. Chielovich & Co. in San Francisco in the business of wholesale wine and liquor sales. Among other ventures, he was an early investor in Sitka gold mines, which was not a successful venture for him. Chielovich first introduced Jesse Moore whiskey into the western states in January 1872, at the time when Henry Brown Hunt was admitted to the firm.

The partnership continued until August 18, 1875, when Henry B. Hunt withdrew from E. Chielovich & Co. and formed a partnership with George H. Moore in the style of Moore, Hunt & Co. In doing so Hunt took the Jesse Moore brand with him. Therefore the J. Moore bottle of E. Chielovich & Co. would have been produced between the years 1872 and 1875. E. Chielovich & Co. continued with the new partner of Bozo Radovich, until 1877 when Radovich withdrew and started his own liquor company. Chielovich then accepted Lazarus Radovich as a partner in 1878. He also opened a branch store in Reno, Nevada, by 1878, as noted by a listing in the Nevada directory for that year.

The cessation of the firm of E. Chielovich & Co. was, to say the least, a contentious affair. Elia Chielovich entered relative retirement shortly thereafter and continued to reside in San Francisco until his death on May 31, 1901. The western produced Durham Whiskey bottle sold by Chielovich is well known to western collectors and, as in the non-western version, they are found with and without the unusual extra ‘base’ or ‘foot’ found on the side of some examples. The footed variant was produced first and the mold was later modified to return the bottles to the standard whiskey shape. The Durham name, as used with whiskey, was trademarked by the Richmond, Virginia partnership of William Ellison and Luke Harvey on October 8, 1878 (Federal trademark No. 6710). It quickly gained notoriety in various sectors of the United States. The brand was still being sold after the turn of the century.

Support: Research by Eric McGuire. Yellow Durham Whiskey example courtesy of American Bottle Auctions. Yellow-amber example courtesy Western Whiskey Gazette. References from Whiskey Bottles of the Old West by John L. Thomas.

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