Laurel Crown Old Bourbon

Provenance: Richard T. Siri Collection

Here is an extremely rare western whiskey bottle with a short shelf life. You see, the proprietors tried to copy another successful brand and got caught.

We first see the Hoelscher name associated with the Philadelphia Brewery in San Francisco in the late 1850s. They are located at the corner of Second and Folsom Streets. August Hoelscher and John Wieland were the proprietors.

William H. Hoelscher, August’s son, was listed as a salesman with Locan & Co. in 1863 and 1864 and by 1865, had joined his father at the Philadelphia Brewery, where he worked a number of years. In 1870, William Hoelscher and Conrad Mausshardt went out on their own and started a wholesale liquor business.

Hoelscher would buy Conrad out and start his own liquor company on January 1, 1877 with his brother Arthur. The new company, Wm. Hoelscher & Co. trade-marked their Laurel Crown A No. 1 Old Bourbon and Laurel Crown OK Old Bourbon in February 1879. The company also used the brand names “Meridian,” “Monarch Old Bourbon,” and “Monarch Pure Rye.” Their whiskey and bourbon would be shipped over from Kentucky.

Unfortunately, William Hoelscher chose to infringe on the look and brand of the popular J. H. Cutter whiskey and its reputation. The case went to court and he lost and had to discard his bottles, probably in San Francisco Bay where a few examples have been found over the years. Nowadays, only seven or so complete bottles exist, probably for this reason.

See the museum examples of J. H. Cutter Old Bourbon and J. H. Cutter Old Bourbon (Circle Cutter).

Hoelscher also put out the Hamburger Tropfen Bitters with a fancy monogram in clear glass. It is cataloged as H 16 in Bitters Bottles. The brand only lasted a few years and was most likely sold in unembossed bottles for some time.

Hoelscher died in 1880 and his wife, Elise, was forced to manage the company, which she did quite well. It was incorporated in 1902 with Elise and three sons, William, Victor, and Arthur as directors. The I. De Turk brand was purchased in 1909. The name of the company remained the same and it continued until prohibition. After prohibition, the company was resurrected by the family. It is assumed that William H. Hoelscher had the subject bottles blown prior to his death, in 1879 or early 1880.

Primary Image: Laurel Crown Old Bourbon bottle imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support Image: LAUREL CROWN / OLD BOURBON / W.H. & CO. MOTIF OF CROWN BARREL / WM HOELSCHER & CO. / SOLE AGENT / S.F. OK ON REVERSE SHOULDER. THOMAS 89. 1879-80. These are very rare bottles and as late as 2002 at the second writing of the Thomas whiskey book there were believed to be seven known. We certainly don’t see these floating around. The brand was trying to capitalize on the Cutter brand by imitating the look of their bottles. Notice the whiskey barrel. The curved “R’s” may be the largest on any western bottle. – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions

Support: Whiskey Bottles of the Old West by John L. Thomas, 2002

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