Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Figural bottles that were filled with bitters now make collectors happy


This bottle, shaped like a bust of George Washington in his uniform, held Simon’s Centennial Bitters. It sold recently at a Glass Works auction for $748. COURTESY PHOTO

This bottle, shaped like a bust of George Washington in his uniform, held Simon’s Centennial Bitters. It sold recently at a Glass Works auction for $748. COURTESY PHOTO

Figural bottles were being made by the ancient Egyptians by 1546 B.C. That’s more than 5,000 years ago. But collectors couldn’t find many to collect until the early 1800s, when manufacturers started using them to sell whiskey or bitters medicine to an individual customer. Before that, most whiskey was ladled out of a barrel into your pottery container during a visit to the distillery. When bitters medicine was created from herbs, roots, bark, alcohol, drugs and other ingredients, it was sold in bottles to encourage sales to individuals. (There were few stores.) It made people feel better, but it was mainly because of the alcohol and drugs. Traveling medicine shows sold the bitters, which often was the only “medicine” available in a town with no doctor. Many likenesses of George Washington, the “Father of our Country,” were made to sell in 1876 because of bicentennial celebrations of the founding of the U.S. Simon’s Centennial Bitters was sold in a bottle shaped like a bust of General George Washington on a pedestal. His name was molded on the bottle around the bottom of the bust. It was made by Bernard Simon of Scranton, Pennsylvania and created using clear, aqua or amber glass. Later reproductions were made in amethyst and other colors. Many were made in the 1930s, probably because of renewed interest caused by the bicentennial celebration of Washington’s birthday.

Q: I have an ironstone washbasin and pitcher with a wheat design on them. They have a circular blue mark, with the words “red cliff” around the top and “ironstone” around the bottom. In the center is the number 4 (washbasin) and the number 10 (pitcher). I cannot find this mark listed anywhere. I would love to have any information available.

A: Red Cliff Pottery was a decorating and distributing company in business in Chicago, Ill., from 1950 to 1980. It was owned by Fred Clifford. Pieces were made in old shapes by Hall China Co. and decorated at Red Cliff with designs copying old ironstone patterns, giving customers a chance to buy something that looks “vintage” without paying vintage prices. This semicircular mark was used on table and ovenware beginning in February 1950. The pitcher might be worth about $10-$20.

Q: I bought two Mexican Feathercraft pictures of birds in Mexico City in 1952 and am wondering if you can give me an idea of their worth. The bodies and tails of the birds are made from brightly colored feathers and their beaks and legs are painted. The trees in the background are also painted.

A: Featherwork pictures, jewelry and items of clothing were made in Mexico as early as the 1500s. Spanish conquerors took Mexican featherwork back to Europe, where it was popular until the 17th century. Early indigenous artists used the brightly colored feathers of tropical birds. Some more recent featherwork pictures are made from feathers that have been dyed to achieve the bright colors. Twentieth-century featherwork pictures, which are about 13 by 28 inches, have sold for $100-$150.

Q: I have a double-drawer NCR Register No. 3967906 with serial number FR843814- ZZ, and it’s missing a key for lock number E97116. I’ve searched a lot of websites and can’t find information on this model. Also, I’m trying to get a key and have found them on several sites, but I’m not sure how to compare lock numbers to find the right key.

A: The serial number beginning “FR” indicates your cash register has been “factory rebuilt.” The number “843814” indicates that it was rebuilt in 1953, and “ZZ” shows that it originally was made in 1948. The letter “E” on the lock indicates it’s the control lock. There are businesses that make replacement keys. One source for keys and other replacement parts is www.brasscashregister. net/keys. You can find information about collecting and dating cash registers at the website for the Cash Register Collectors Club,

Q: I’d like to know the age and value of a Hopalong Cassidy pocketknife I have. It reads “Hopalong Cassidy” in big red letters, and it pictures Hopalong Cassidy standing up, with gun drawn, and his white horse in the background. The blade is marked “U.S.A.” What can you tell me about it?

A: Hopalong Cassidy first appeared in short stories and books written by Clarence E. Mulford in the early 1900s. The Hopalong Cassidy character represented on your knife and other collectibles is William Boyd, the actor who portrayed Cassidy in movies beginning in 1935 and on TV beginning in 1952. Your knife was made by the Colonial Knife Co., which was founded in Providence, R.I., in 1926. It is now a division of Colonial Cutlery International in Warwick, R.I. Your knife probably was made in the 1950s, after the TV show debuted. Its value is less than $15.

Tip: An auction staff member examined a blanket chest that might be in a coming sale. He found a hidden compartment filled with valuable historical documents. That’s another reminder to search for secret compartments in antiques.

— Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. Write to Kovels, Florida Weekly, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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