Vol. 3, No. 3, Saturday July 8, 2006

by dick bales
The Internet has been compared to the wall of a public restroom--anybody can write anything that he or she wants to on it, and therefore, you can’t always believe what you see written there. My twin brother is a reference librarian for a university in Virginia, and he constantly bemoans the fact that college students today want to do all their research on the Internet.

        He explains in his classes that only a tiny fraction of the world’s information is online, and much of that is questionable. How do you know what is true, what is someone’s opinion, and what is simply make-believe?

eBay, the Internet, and Glass Research

I spent almost six years researching and writing a book on the cause of the Great Chicago Fire. My bibliography includes hundreds of sources, and none of them were (or are) on the Internet. An Internet website is only as good (and reliable) as the source of the information on that site. When you don’t know who put together the website or where he or she got the material that is on the site, how useful is that information? What they say on that television program, "The Antique Roadshow," also applies to the Internet--provenance is everything.

But having said all this, I hasten to add that the Internet does have a superlative research use. It is without peer in providing a quick means of checking facts. Indeed, the Internet is the ultimate library reference desk. For example, I am now working on a book about the infamous Chicagoan, George Wellington "Cap" Streeter and the history of his "Streeterville." Streeter was in the Civil War, and I am currently trying to reconstruct his career as a member of Michigan’s 15th Infantry. When I wanted to verify the date of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, I could have gotten out of my desk chair and consulted a reference book. But instead, I did a quick search on Google and found the answer in seconds.

The powers of the Internet can be extremely helpful to one who buys shot glasses on eBay. For example, this Fox River Club Whiskey shot glass was listed in March of this year. This was how it was described in the eBay sales ad: "Etched on front ‘Fox River Club Sour Mash Whiskey’ and the initials ‘JMB & Co’ within a circle at center. (J M Braun & Co., Appleton, Wisconsin?)"

The seller of this glass was from Wisconsin, the Fox River is in Wisconsin, and so I suppose it was reasonable for the seller to think that the glass also hailed from the Dairy State. But the Fox River meanders south through Northern Illinois, and so I wondered: Could this glass be an Illinois glass?

Our pre-pro website has an entire section on "Researching Glasses and Distillers."
On the page entitled "Researching a Glass--A How-to Guide," Robin offers this advice on looking for shot glass information: "Use Google or some other search engine to comb the Internet for possible clues."

And so I did just that. I went to Google and first typed the words, "Fox River Club Whiskey" in quotation marks and got nothing in response. But as you know, when this happens, one should then enter fewer words. So I next typed only, "Fox River Club."

What I found is reproduced here; it was part of some kind of social club newsletter of years ago: As you can see, it states in part: "Martin Jacques, wine and beer saloon, headquarters for Fox River Club whisky, 3387 Ridge Ave., Chicago." (It appears that the reason the Google search for "Fox River Club Whiskey" yielded no result is because "whiskey" is spelled "whisky" in this ad. This is something to remember when looking for shots for sale on eBay.)

The eBay seller thought that the letters "JMB" stood for "J. M. Braun." But it is more likely that the letters were "BMJ" and that they stood for "B. Martin Jacques." This glass is not a Wisconsin glass at all; it is an Illinois glass.

My Internet research took only a few minutes, and I finished it several days before the auction ended. I have a special interest in Chicago glass, and I would have liked to have added this "BMJ" shot to my collection. But the eBay hammer fell at $111.38, and I saw no reason why I should pay this much money for a fairly nondescript glass.

But I later wondered: Did someone pay more than one hundred dollars for what is little more than a text-only glass because he collects Wisconsin shots and wanted to add it to his collection? If so, it is likely that this person paid a premium dollar for a white elephant.
(ed's note: the winner of this glass is a well-known Wisconsin collector who contributed many of the glasses found in OASG).

The moral of the story is this: Anybody can write anything on the Internet. This is especially so when someone is describing an item for sale on eBay. When considering a glass purchase, and you are buying it because the seller suggests that the glass is appropriate to your collecting interest, first do what Robin suggests - use Google or some other search engine to attempt to discover more information about the glass being offered for sale.


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