An old coffee can full of arrowheads.  Gumball charms.  A shoebox of quartz crystals. I came to shot glass collecting late, but I've been a collector as far back as I can remember.  When I was a child my dad, working at the time for the Missouri Highway Department, would bring home fossil shells from roadcuts.  Every job he worked on held some fascinating object.  In New Mexico, it was Indian pottery and obsidian.   The gold rush country in California yielded pieces of Chinese rice bowls and sun colored glass.  Ancient metates (stones for grinding grain) were still in place in areas of the dam site.  Excavating the foundation meant rerouting the river in order to remove the gravel and boulders.  I heard stories of employees being told to either work or be fired, as gold appeared as bedrock was reached.  One engineer showed me a bottle full of nuggets he had picked up.

My collecting was on hold while I was in the Navy.  After my discharge I moved to Albuquerque, decided I liked purple glass, and started buying bottles. There wasn't much to be had, here and there at tourist and antique shops.  I read the classifieds religiously, but was usually disappointed by what I found.  One day I saw an ad for a large collection so I went to check it out.  I got to the house and was stunned by what I saw.  The seller had gone to many of the old fort locations in the southwest and detected for uniform buttons.  As he came across bottles he would pick them up and bring them back.  The garage was stacked floor to ceiling with glass, all covered with a nasty black fuzz, from buffing brass buttons and insignia.  He wanted to sell it all at once.  I decided to consult my fiancÚ.  She said under no circumstances did she want dozens of boxes of filthy bottles in our apartment.  So, I did what any collector would do, I bought the whole collection.  We spent weeks going through it.

There were no bottle shows at that time in New Mexico; I finally made it to my first one when we moved to the Seattle area in 1985. I felt a rush as I walked in and saw the sales tables, the displays, and the people.  People with the same affliction as me!  One display in particular caught my eye.  On a large, butcher paper covered table were an assortment of tumblers, dose glasses and similar items.  Some appeared to have writing on them, and as I got closer I could see whiskey brand names.  I liked small, obscure, ornate old stuff, and here was something I could sink my teeth into.  The glasses belonged to Mark Nelson, premier Washington Territory collector. 

He had an S. Hyde glass from Seattle on his table, but all I could do was look at it.  I was unemployed and too broke to buy anything.  It took awhile, but I finally got it [ Figure 1 ].

Figure 1

 

 

Hyde was a wholesale and retail liquor dealer who listed in the years leading up to Washington state Prohibition.

Photograph copyright Ken Schwartz, 2006: from the Ken Schwartz collection

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