Tea Kettle Old Bourbon

Provenance: Richard Siri Collection

Tea-kettles are great picture whiskeys cherished by collectors. They are the predecessor to the Tea Cup Extra Old Bourbon bottles. You can see our museum example on an adjacent shelf.

The Tea Kettle applied top bottles are typically found in amber and yellow-amber hues with some of the rarer ones having a green tone. You can see a second museum example here. Tea Kettle Old Bourbon (amber with green tone)

Our primary museum example was blown in aquamarine glass and is considered unique as it is the only undamaged example known. A repaired example can be found in another well-known collection. John Thomas reported that for a long time, only pieces had been found in digs until a complete example was found in the 1970s in Virginia City, Nevada.

In 1871, Shea, Bocqueraz & McKee was formed in San Francisco. They were Importers and Jobbers of Wines and Liquors and were the successors to Sullivan & Cashman and Shea & Hussey Co. The partners were John Shea, brothers Antoine and Leon Bocqueraz, and Robert McKee.

James Shea, was born in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland. James left Ireland and arrived in San Francisco by way of Cape Horn. Antoine and Leon Bocqueraz were immigrants from Europe and Robert McKee had a history dealing with San Francisco liquor concerns. They were located at the corner of Front and Jackson Streets and were the Sole Agents for Golden and Tea-Kettle Bourbon in the western states and territories. Interestingly enough, they were located next door to Myer J. Newmark and Max Gruenberg who were whiskey wholesalers and competitors. See our museum example, Old Judge Bourbon – Newmark, Gruenberg & Co.

Advertising for the Tea Kettle brand occurred from 1873 to 1875 or so. The bourbon was very popular in silver mining camps and quite a few examples have been found in and around Virginia City, Nevada. Thomas reported that one hole in Virginia City yielded 127 Tea Kettles. Many period advertisements also came from Pioche and Carson City, Nevada, also important silver-mining towns.

Pioche was dangerous and was the target of many Indian raids, claim quarrels, and crime. The town at its peak in the mid-1870s had 6,000 to 10,000 residents, 72 saloons, and 32 brothels. The local paper wrote, “Some people do not hesitate to fire off a pistol or a gun at any time, day or night, in this city.” It was reported that nearly sixty percent of the homicides reported in Nevada between 1871 and 1872 took place in and around Pioche. Local lore says 72 men were killed in gunfights before the first natural death occurred in the camp. This legend is immortalized by the creation of Boot Hill, now a landmark in the city. One suspects that Tea-Kettle Old Bourbon may have fueled and influenced much of the more sinister history in this town.

Primary Images: Tea Kettle Old Bourbons imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio

Support Image: Second Tea Kettle Old Bourbon in amber with green tone from the Richard Siri collection.

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

Support Images: Tertiary Tea Kettle Old Bourbon images courtesy Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions

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