Vol. 7, No. 3, Wednesday March 29, 2013

by dick bales

"Real or Fake? The Goldman’s Pure Rye Shot Glass"

The May 5, 2013, “Shot of the Week” includes a discussion of a Goldman’s Pure Rye shot glass and whether or not the glass is real or fake. The question is intriguing, and certainly warrants a closer look.

In 1928 and 1929, The Atlantic magazine published a series of articles relating to the so-called “Minor Collection”—a collection of documents relating to Abraham Lincoln, which included three letters detailing the relationship between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. Before publishing the letters, the editor of The Atlantic first received assurances from writer Carl Sandburg that the letters were authentic. Unfortunately for Sandburg’s credibility, the letters were fake, and the April 1929 issue of The Atlantic featured historian Paul Angle’s methodical debunking of the letters.

Angle used both external criticism and internal criticism in analyzing the letters. External criticism relates to the letters themselves—for example, was the ink of the type used in the middle1800s? Was the paper proper to that time period? Internal criticism concerns the content of the letters. These two types of criticism can be similarly applied to an analysis of this shot glass.

External Criticism
Robin writes in his column that the glass is a bit heavier than the traditional thin-walled glass; however, he adds that because he owns other “heavy” pre-pro glasses, this factor alone is not a determining one.

But what may be determining is the crudeness of the lettering. As can be seen in the glass, there is considerable “bleeding” around the “What’s it/Goldman’s” lettering. Furthermore, the letters in “Pure Rye” are of varying widths. For example, look at the “E” in “Pure”—the vertical portion of the letter “E” is unnaturally thicker than the letter’s three horizontal bars. Compare the “R” in “Pure” to the “R” in “Rye.” The two letters are so dissimilar, they might as well be of two different fonts.

Internal Criticism
The Goldman name is genuine. A 1905 entry relating to “Ben J. Goldman Co.” appears in the pre pro website’s Robert E. Snyder Whiskey Brand Database. Furthermore, the advertisement shown here refers to “Goldman’s Pure Rye.”

But consider the image on the glass of the woman holding a parasol, standing next to a table. This picture certainly has no relationship to the text of the glass.

Does this mean that the glass is fake? Not necessarily. The pre-pro database contains many glasses where the image seems to have been unthinkingly dropped onto the glass with no consideration as to its appropriateness. Consider, for example, the John Deis Co. glass shown here.

Nonetheless, the image on the Goldman glass just seems wrong in that the picture’s size and shape don’t fit the glass. The standing woman and the tall table together create a narrow, vertical illustration that leaves empty space on either side of it.

Furthermore, the glass on the table appears to be a stemmed wine glass, not a whiskey glass. A wine glass appearing on a shot glass advertising rye whiskey is not only incongruous, it is unthinkable.

So is the shot glass real or fake? Paul Angle was able to conclusively prove that the Lincoln letters were forgeries. Unfortunately, there is no glass-related smoking gun here. It would be tempting to state that the glass is a phony, but until either the creator of the glass confesses (glass is fake) or someone uncovers a similarly labeled whiskey bottle (glass is real), the answer to this question must remain, “We don’t know for sure.”

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