Nonpareil

Provenance: Stephen Hubbell Collection

Our museum example of a Nonpareil handled jug is interesting for a number of reasons. We know it contained whiskey so we can place it in the Spirits Gallery, but on what shelf, and with what grouping? John L. Thomas in Whiskey Bottles of the Old West categorized the spirit bottles in his book in two sections; the “Fifths” and “Flasks.” He put the Nonpareil in the Flask section and called it a “Handled Whiskey Jug,” saying there just wasn’t any other place to put it. At any rate, it is a gorgeous bottle that always comes in red amber glass with an abundance of crudity and character. Typically the handles are missing which is understandable. It is one of the only western handled whiskey jugs of this era.

The handled jug is embossed ‘NONPAREIL’ which is French meaning unparalleled, as in unequaled quality and excellence. The embossed words ‘TRADE MARK’ flank embossed antlers on a stag head. Beneath the head is embossed copy reading ‘KOLB & DENHARD, SAN FRANCISO.’ As noted above, it is handled. The bottles were probably produced in Europe, as many other “German Connection” fifths. The bottles are exceptionally rare, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen known.

Kohl & Denhard

Edward Abraham Kolb and Herman August Denhard entered into a partnership in San Francisco, California, for the purpose of selling wholesale and retail liquors. The exact date of the inception of Kolb & Denhard has thus far been elusive, but it was about 1889. The concern was originally located at 420-426 Montgomery Street in the heart of the downtown San Francisco business district.

Shortly thereafter they embarked on an advertising campaign in the California Wine and Spirits Review, which ran for nearly ten straight years pushing their flagship Non Pareil brand. A mold was commissioned and the bottles were blown, filled, and marketed. Kolb & Denhard weren’t bashful about their pricing structure. After all, if you wanted Non Pareil, you had best be willing to pay for it. The fifths listed for $2.50 which in this era was high when most whiskey sold for a dollar a bottle. During this period, their three primary brands were Nonpareil, Old Joe Tracy, and Old Tom Parker.

Edward Abraham Kolb married Emma C. Denhard in San Francisco on July 5, 1888. He was a native of Wisconsin, born Sep 1864. He died in Palo Alto, California, on January 22, 1904. Kolb’s wife, Emma Denhard, was the sister of his partner, Herman August Denhard. Emma died in 1944.

Herman August Denhard was born in San Francisco, California, on October 12, 1871. Herman left the partnership on April 22, 1902, and Edward continued the business as The Kolb Company. Herman Denhard died in Sacramento on March 12, 1925, from a “decompensated heart”.

Edward Kolb was quite an active individual and was an award winning gymnast. He excelled in wrestling and a number of other physical sports. All the while he was the consummate sportsman and loved hunting and fishing. Kolb later became involved in boating as well, serving on the board of San Francisco Bay area yacht clubs. It has been stated that his super active lifestyle contributed to his early demise, being just forty years old when he died.

During their relatively short partnership Kolb & Denhard produced several embossed bottles which included the handled jug that contained their Nonpariel Whiskey. The brand was trademarked on June 28, 1890 (California Trade Mark No. 1852). Also inferred as part of the trademark was a cut of the head of a heavily antlered deer surrounded by a bunch of grapes. The shape of the bottle, the inclusion of grapes and Kolb’s strong background in viticulture implies the bottle may have contained a wine or brandy, however, there is no record of anything but whiskey being associated with the Nonpariel trademark.

The bottle is not a product of a California glass works and is typical of a type being produced in Europe throughout the time that Kolb & Denhard were in partnership.

See Old Tom Parker (E. A. Kolb Co.) on an adjacent museum shelf

Primary Image: The Nonpareil handled jug imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support: Primary research provided by Eric McGuire and Bruce Silva and Western Whiskey Gazette.

Support: The storefront of Kolb & Denhard at 422 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. – Photo courtesy of mblockroy11 at Ancestry.com

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

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