Barrel Series – Turner Brothers New York & San Francisco


07 July 2012 (R•081414 with information from Ann Huberty Duncan who is a direct descendent of the Turner Brothers) (R•091516 – Ferraro example) (R•042019 – 3 part advertisement) (R•091219 – Advertising Cover)

Apple-Touch-IconAThe Turner Brothers New York is an exciting figural barrel that comes in some wonderful amber and green colors with tonal shifts left and right. There are also variants with the embossing copy positioning and size of the typography. You can notice these variances in the examples I have posted further below. There is also a Turners Brothers square bottle that had a label for Turner’s Forest Wine Bitters. Some think the barrel contained whiskey while the square contained bitters. What is great about the Turner name is that it ties directly into New York and California.

The six (some say five and this is incorrect) Turner brothers were manufacturing soda water, ginger wines, berry wines, and medicinals in Buffalo, New York as early as 1847. By 1853, they had opened a branch depot in San Francisco and were listed as syrup and cordial manufacturers.

The Turner Brothers advertised in the October 1858 Nevada Journal newspaper that they were the manufacturers of Turner’s Ginger Wine, Forest Wine Bitters, syrups, cordials and an unrivalled Vegetable Bitters. Sometime in 1865, the Turner Brothers sold the business to the firm of McMillan and Kester. Thereafter McMillan & Kester started advertising that they were the proprietors of the Turner brands. (source Rick Simi – Western Bitters News)

Here below is an advertisement from the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel from November 29, 1862. The top third advertises Turner’s Forest Wine Bitters. The middle portion advertises Turner’s Ginger Wine while the bottom third is being used for Turner’s Essence of Jamaica Ginger. The products were sold Wholesale by Turner Brothers, Corner Washington and Franklin streets, New York, Niagara street, Buffalo, N.Y. and Corner of Broadway and Front streets in SanFrancisco.

The Turner progenitor was Duncan Turner who emigrated from Dumbartonsire, Scotland  to Canada and then New York City in 1818. His wife Mary Shepard Clark had previously emigrated to NY from England 3 years earlier.

In 1819 Duncan and Mary moved to rural Delaware County, New York where other Scots had established farms. Mary and Duncan had six sons and one daughter. (Malcolm, Margaret [known as Ellen], James, Thomas, Archibald, Robert, George). They established themselves as tenant farmers in an undeveloped area that still had Indians living nearby. All the children were born in Delaware County, N.Y., but, unfortunately, baby Margaret died at age 1.5 years in 1925. She was buried in the Kortright Parish Church cemetery, Kortright, N.Y. The only source for the death of Duncan Turner in 1834 at age 50 has been the Turner obelisk in a Brooklyn cemetery. According to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Mary Turner (widowed) and her sons were living in Buffalo, running a spirits, wines, and cordials factory. By the mid 1850s, the brothers had also established additional factories in San Francisco and New York City. Robert ran the San Francisco business; James was in charge of the factory in Buffalo, New York; and Malcolm was president of the Turner Brothers factory in New York City. George, Thomas, and Archibald were partners.

After selling the wine, spirits, cordials business, the Turner Brothers established the Turner Brothers Bank headquartered in New York City, sometime in the mid 1860s during the railroad expansion and boom. Later, Malcolm Turner traveled to Europe to establish overseas bank branches in Germany, Paris and London. As managers of the overseas branches of the Turner Brothers’ Bank, Robert and Rebecca Turner lived in Europe in the early 1870s.

Later, due to having overextended their investments in the railroad boom. the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, and the U.S. Panic of 1873, the Turner Brothers were forced to declare bankruptcy in 1876. Archibald and Thomas Turner sold their partnerships prior to the declaration of bankruptcy and thereby saved themselves from insolvency. Archibald later became president of several banks in NYC.

The Turner Brothers (note there are 6) are each depicted on this Civil War era scrip note payable in Buffalo or New York City. The portraits are extraordinarily realistic and were engraved by W.L. Ormsby. The note also bears the New York Bank Note Co. imprint who did the actual printing. – PCS Currency

Turner Brothers 1883 advertising cover. Manufacturers of Ginger Wine, Bitters, Syrup, Cordials, & Native Wines. Illustrations of New York City, Buffalo and San Francisco offices. – Joe Gourd Collection


Niagara Street, between Virginia and Carolina, the Turner Bros building (originally built as a sarsaparilla, gingers and bitters manufacturer in 1852) – Buffalo Rising

Full page Turner Brothers advertisement in Colville’s San Francisco Directory 1856-1857 – San Francisco Public Library


Use Turner’s Regulator for Health trade card, Turner Bros & Co., San Francisco, Cal

TURNER BROTHERS listingThomas’ Buffalo City Directoty

T 67 L  Turner’s Bitters, Circa 1858 – 1870 L . . . Turner’s Bitters TURNER BROTHERS / NEW YORK ( ) // c // 9 7/8 x 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 Barrel, 10-10 Amber and Green, NSC

TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK, figural barrel, labeled bitters. Yellow shading to apricot puce. Smooth base, applied disc top. Hammered with whittle and a seedy crude example in a great color, shading from yellow amber in the top 1/3 of the bottle to apricot puce. 9.75”. Meyer Collection (Galleria Auction 2006)

TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK, figural barrel, American Bottle Auctions – Grapentine III Auction 43 – Pure olive green, Applied top, smooth base, loaded with bubbles and overall whittle and crudity. – Meyer Collection (Notice the companion TURNER BITTERS square)

TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK, figural barrel, a very strong example in reddish amber – Meyer Collection (American Bottle Auctions)

A TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK figural whiskey bottle, America, 1860 to 1880. Barrel form, golden yellow with an olive tone, applied square collared mouth – smooth base. – Norman C. Heckler & Co.

TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK whiskey figural bottle, America, 1860 to 1880. Barrel form, golden amber with a red tone turning more yellow in the upper portion of the bottle, applied square collared mouth – smooth base. –  Norman C. Heckler & Co.

TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK figural glass whiskey bottle, America, 1860 to 1880. Barrel form, black amethyst, applied square collared mouth and smooth base. Bright, clean example with strong embossing. Rare color.


“TURNER BROTHERS / NEW YORK”, (Denzin, TUR-13), New York, ca. 1860 – 1870, yellow amber with good olive tone barrel, 10 1/8”h, smooth base, applied mouth. A tiny flake is off the top edge of the lip. Crude pebbly glass, lots of air bubbles. Acquired from Glass Works Auctions, October 20, 2003, lot 114. – Glass Works Auctions #112 – Bob Ferraro Collection – Session 1

Two men drinking and playing cards with a TURNER BROTHERS NEW YORK square bitters – tintype

Read More on Figural Barrels

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Figural Barrel Series – Hall’s Bitters

Greeley’s Bourbon Whiskey Bitters – aka Vertical Greeley’s Peach colored Bourbon Whiskey Bitters added to Color Run

Greeley’s Bourbon Bitters – A Great Boston Bitters Barrel

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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1 Response to Barrel Series – Turner Brothers New York & San Francisco

  1. Warren Friedrich says:

    I have an article that was written about the Turner Bros. manufactory in San Francisco at Broadway and Market sts. The S.F. newspaper reported on their works in early 1860. At this time the Turner Bros. were importing 40,000 bottles a month from back East to fill their products with.

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