N. Grange Flask – The Genuine

N Grange Flask

N Grange Flask - Frank Collection

Wow was I fortunate to see and hold this wonderful, large Genuine Grange Western Flask. This happened late last year during a trip to see the Robert Frank Collection in Lompoc, California.

Let me tell you, in a room full of great bottles, this baby really jumps out and says ‘look at me’. The form, color, embossing and condition is immaculate.

Looking aound on the internet, I see that Jeff Wichmann with American Bottle Auctions published an article ‘Rare Western Whiskey Found‘ on his old web site that I have reprinted below:

A rare and remarkable flask was dug the last weekend of January. The Genuine or N. Grange flask was dug out of an outhouse from somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The N. Grange Flask is considered to be one of the top western flasks known. There are two variants of The Genuine Flask. One variant has a monogram with the letters S.F. with a slug plate (as shown here). The other reads Sole Agents For The Pacific Coast. It is believed that there are now four of the second variant and maybe just 2 or 3 of the Pacific Coast variant. Another difference is that it is believed the second variant is the only one that comes in a greenish hue while the first variant has only been seen in straight amber. Since there is only a small slug plate at the bottom of the second variant to differentiate the two, it is believed it was made after the first variant in a new mold for some reason. It’s not often you see a completely new variant of a bottle that is so rare.

Numa Grange lived in San Francisco as early as 1860. He started his wine and liquor outlet in late 1870 on Sansome Street. He moved in 1875 and finally ended his business in 1877, according to the late John Thomas. It is believed these large fifth size flasks were made in the mid 1870’s, sometime during the period of locating at Sansome Street. Mike Dolcini,  a Sacramento digger found a pure green example of the second variant sometime in the early 1990’s. It was found in downtown Sacramento next to another example with a horseshoe lying on top of it, or should we say in the middle of it.

These are such rare flasks; many people have never seen one. This example is a greenish yellow. Different in almost every way, even the top is a bizarre shape with a kind of double roll collar, usually reserved for citrate bottles. It’s hard to imagine what was going on in the head of Numa Grange when he had these flasks made. Why the large size?  What’s with the top and how come there are so few examples? It should be noted there is also a western fifth with the Grange name on it. It is scarce and has the Sansome Street address.

There’s no doubt that The Genuine is one of the top western flasks made in the west.  Value? Well, a perfect example in green sold in excess of $50,000. Another has changed hands at $40,000. These are considered not only one of the top western bottles but one of the top bottles made in the west, period.

This is the first Genuine flask to come out of the ground in many years. With the few in existence and the fact that they are never dug, you can be pretty sure you won’t see a new find of this bottle for quite some time.

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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One Response to N. Grange Flask – The Genuine

  1. Mike Dolcini says:

    I believe that the example shown is the bottle that I dug, here in Sacramento. The story is long and convoluted and I won’t go into it, but basically the dig resulted from a cold door knock that was made to a later Victorian undergoing remodeling. The current home siting on the property was built in 1896, replacing a pre-1860 smaller one. The pit was shallow as I recall, only about 4′ deep. It has always been my belief, supported by years of digging, that the best bottles come from pits less than 6′ in depth. Robert has a beautiful specimen of the “Genuine” in his collection, a key bottle for western whiskey aficionados.

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