John Appel West Pittsburgh Dealer in Groceries Wines & Liquors (Embossed Apple)
Dealer in Groceries Wines & Liquors
John M. Appel, West Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Aquamarine Quart Flask
Provenance: Chip Cable Collection
Our “John Appel West Pittsburgh” flask is extremely rare and unique as of this date. The private mold flask is not charted in American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry by McKearin and Wilson in their 1978 book. It could have been in the Group XV Lettered Flasks section that lists mainly glassworks though there are a handful of similar liquor and grocer flasks.
The 9-1/4″ tall aquamarine quart flask is face embossed on the obverse side ‘JOHN APPEL’ in an arch above four lines of embossed horizontal copy. The first straight line reads ‘WEST PITTSBURGH’ then ‘DEALER IN,’ then ‘GROCERIES’ , and finally ‘WINES & LIQUORS’ on the fifth and last line. The is an exceptional amount of embossed copy for a flask. The reverse side has a large embossed apple with two leaves. The base is smooth while there is a tall neck with a square applied band to the mouth area. The flask was obtained from a previous Glass Works Auctions sale.
John M. Appel was born in Germany on October 10, 1836, while his brother Adam, was born a few years earlier. Like many Germans, the brothers came to America with their parents (Adam Sr. and Catherine) looking for opportunity while escaping pollical oppression and fading economic conditions at home. We first see the brothers in business together in 1860 as grocers in West Pittsburgh on Sawmill Run. West Pittsburgh is across from Point State Park at the junction of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela. Their father Adam Sr. was an innkeeper and tavern owner at Ferry Landing. Officially they were living and working in Temperanceville in West Pittsburgh.
Initially, the West End of Pittsburgh was part of St. Clair Township in the 18th century. In 1800, the northern and western sections of St. Clair broke off into Chartiers and Union Townships. Much of the land in Chartiers was owned by a man named West Elliott who was a gambler as he sold the land encompassing present-day West End in 1835 to pay off gambling debts. The new owners, Isaac Warden and John Alexander laid out the town of Temperanceville in 1837. The deeds to the lots that they sold included a clause stipulating that no liquor be sold on the parcel, or the lot would revert back to Warden and Alexander. Nevertheless, by the mid-1800s, several saloons flourished in Temperanceville. One was John Appel’s Saloon.
Temperanceville grew quickly as businesses sprouted up to support the nearby coal mines, blast furnaces, and iron mills. One was the Appel Bros. grocery business. By the 1870s, Main, Wabash, and Steuben Streets were paved roads, and Temperanceville factories included the Eagle Rolling Mills, Sheffield Iron Works, Haller & Beck Salt Works, Duff’s Sawmill, Wood’s Rolling Mill, Hall’s Plow factory, Lorenz & Wightman Glass Works, and Taylor Salt & Chemical. A coke oven operated at the corner of Main & Woodville Streets. The Little Saw Mill Run Railroad serviced the many operations along the river.
John M. Appel enlisted with Union forces on May 1, 1861, as a private. His muster in date was July 28, 1861, with Company B, 38th Infantry. He mustered out on May 12, 1864. The Appel & Bros. grocery store was again listed in 1863 so the store must have continued to operate during the Civil War. A newspaper Bankrupt Notice was posted from the District Court of the United States, for the Western District of Pennsylvania, for John M. Appel on July 17, 1868.
John Appel would resurface that same year as a saloon owner so we can probably date our subject “John Appel West Pittsburgh” flask to this period. Most likely it would have been made by Lorenz & Wightman Glass Works, a few blocks away. By 1869, John Apple was listed as owning a brewery and by 1870 he was back to being listed as a grocer.
In 1871, John Appel was living in the Seventh Ward of Allegheny City which was a municipality that was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907. It was located north across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh, with its southwest border formed by the Ohio River, and is known today as the North Side. A horrible accident occurred in front of the Appel’s home as their 2-year-old son Otto was run over and crushed to death by a butcher’s wagon. He had been playing at the side of the roadside. Appel’s wife Catherine came to the child and held him while stricken with grief. A few years later she committed suicide when after a fight with her husband, she jumped into a well in the middle of the night. This tragedy eventually led to an inquest and court case with much testimony, where after much fanfare, the death was ruled a suicide as there were no exterior marks of violence on her body, only a broken neck resulting from the fall into the well. Read the Appel Inquest from the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, October 7, 1873.
John Apple would continue to be listed as a brewer and grocer up until his death on June 1, 1902. He was 65 years old.
Primary Image: John Appel West Pittsburgh flask imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio
Support: Reference to American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry by Helen McKearin and Kenneth M. Wilson, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1978.
Support Image: Map of Temperanceville, Part of Chartiers, 1872, G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, University of Pittsburgh Library System
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