Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pioneers and Pale Ales

This spring, while setting a cam trap at a serene Mono County scene, I found a bottle in the sand.

bobcat with glass mtn
Unstill Life with Great Basin spring sunrise, bobcat and Mountain of Glass

It was an old, brown-glass, 22oz beer bottle.

And I like beer.

pre- 1890s beer bottle
22oz beer bottle from circa 1880-1890s

Consulting the google revealed that John Wieland established the San Francisco brewery in 1856, and it was the City's largest - even larger than Anchor Steam - until it burned down during the 1906 Earthquake. The Wieland family re-built, shut-down for Prohibition, re-opened after repeal, and finally closed the last brewing plant in San Jose in the 1950s.

pre- 1890s beer bottle
Cal Bottling Co.    John Wieland's    Extra Pale    S.F.

And each of these re-openings and moves resulted in bottle and label changes.

Allowing me to date my find quickly to pre-1906, Wieland's era of molded bottles with blobby tops, seams, bubbles and raised embossing.

Then I noted a well-formed ring/groove circumventing the inside of the blobby top.

But the google found answers for it, as well.

The culprit was William Painter, a Baltimore metal smith and inventor of the "Baltimore Loop Seal" - a version 1.0 attempt at a removable pressure-proof "cap" for beer and soda bottles.

Painter's disc-like "cap" could be "popped" into the ring/groove in the top during bottling to seal carbonation into beer and soda bottles.

It rolled into production in the late 1880s.

And was obsolete and forgotten by the late 1890s. Thus narrowing my bottle's date.

A date range further confirmed by the letters on the bottom that read "SF&PGW," and indicate it was made by San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works, which was in operation from 1876-1902.

But it was William Painter himself who engineered the obsolescence of his Baltimore Loop and caused the sea change in capping technology. In the 1890s he invented the "crown cap" bottle cap that we all know, love and still use today. Worldwide. Over 120 years later.

John Wieland - Pioneer brewer.

William Painter - Pioneer in bottle caps and KISS.

Cheers to you, guys. Happy 4th of July.

Thanks for leaving your "notes" inside that bottle.



  1. I used the Historic Glass Bottle ID website to id a embossed "Searby's Florida Water" bottle I found in the forest at the Dipper Ranch. Florida water was a type of light perfume. There was a Searby who was a pharmacist in San Francisco until 1906 (stores burned down in earthquake). I've spent many an afternoon wondering why an old bottle of Florida water was in that forest - may have to do something with the old stage coach road or logging road on hill above it and trying to stay fresh while traveling? What do you think brought beer drinkers to a remote location in Mono so long ago? Hunting, mining, lost?

    1. I think it was left by hunters. There are rock blinds on that crest, and in those days in that area there were "commercial" hunters that fed the miners. And, of course, a San Fran beer coming across the nearby Tioga Pass to end up in a hunter's camp makes sense, too.

  2. Oh, man, that is SUCH a cool find. It's strangely beautiful. It also makes me think of all the sunshine that piece of glass has absorbed through the years. The east side sun is no joke.

    1. And the cold it has felt - that area hit -12 last winter alone.

  3. ...that bobcat with his mountain backdrop...a fine photo!

  4. Cool find! I was wondering what made that a good camera trap location. Besides the dynamite vista, what was it that made you put the camera right there?

    1. In this case I chose the location for the view. I'd previously cam trapped bobs, coyotes, foxes and like in the general area, could see tracks here and there in the sand, so set that scene in hopes to get lucky on day shots of wildlife. Though far from perfect, I like the shot. It has a mood to it.


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