Mills’ Bitters – A. M. Gilman – Sole Proprietor
08 January 2015
Jeff Wichmann recently sold an excellent example of a Mill’s Bitters lady’s leg figural over at his newly formed American Bottle Auctions For Sale page. You don’t see or read about these too often. I wonder why? The top picture is from a past Glass Works Auctions event. Jeff Wichmann his bottle up as follows:
Mills’ Bitters (M-93). Applied band, smooth base. These western bitters are one of the few lady’s leg bottles produced for the west. Gilman having wholesale liquor dealing in his blood came from Louisville to work with a Cincinnati firm selling the Mill’s Bitters. It’s not known where these bottles were made, a number of them have been found in Arizona. They are almost always stained and need cleaning is as the case with this one. By 1880, P.J. Cassin purchased the rights to the brand and had a sample made with his name on it. This is another cleaned version and overall it came out nicely in a light yellow which most of them are. There is a small abrasion on the applied band, we’ve been told it is an in-making flaw, please check pictures. It also has a scratch or two but we’d grade this a 9 without the lip distraction. Perfectly presentable, the Mill’s Bitters aren’t offered very often and this is about as good as they get. Made in 1874 only.
“Just received, 150 CASES MILLS BITTERS.”
Here are a few of Jeff’s pictures:
The Carlyn Ring and W.C. Ham listings in Bitters Bottles are as follows:
M 92 MILLS BITTERS / P. J. CASSIN / SOLE PROPRIETOR // c //
5 5/8 x 1 3/8 (2)
Round, Amber, NSC, Tooled lip, Extremely rare
Lettering reads base to shoulder.
M 93 MILLS’ BITTERS / A. M. GILMAN / SOLE PROPRIETOR // c //
11 1/4 x 3 1/4 (6 1/4)
Round lady’s leg, Amber, ARM, Applied mouth, Very rare
San Francisco liquor merchant around 1876
Several examples dug in Tuscon
M 94 MILLS’ BITTERS / A. M. GILMAN / SOLE PROPRIETOR // c //
? x 2 1/4 (4)
Round lady’s leg, Amber, Extremely rare
Lettering reads base to shoulder.
No whole specimen known to date, only known example is from shoulder down.
Jeff said in his bottle description that the bottle was “made in 1874 only” and “Gilman having wholesale liquor dealing in his blood came from Louisville to work with a Cincinnati firm selling the Mill’s Bitters. It’s not known where these bottles were made, a number of them have been found in Arizona”.
What is exciting here is the advertisement below from a Houston newspaper in 1860. “Just received, 150 CASES MILLS BITTERS.” The merchant was H. J. Trube at the corner of Franklin and Travis Streets. A few blocks from where I sit right now. Fascinating, I tell ya’. Obviously someone was making this bitters in the late 1850s at least. Maybe A. M. Gilman or probably Mills himself, whoever that is. There were a lot of bitters coming in to Houston in a big way during this time period. Many from Louisville and Cincinnati as you can see from the previous posts below. I bet this bottle was made and sold there though A. M. Gilman is typically listed in San Francisco from 1862 to 1878 or so.
Uh Oh, here is a problem. The clipping below says that A, M. Gilman has failed in his liquor dealing business in 1862 in San Francisco.
Here A. M. Gilman resurfaces selling Champagnes in a big way in 1874, addressing at 308 California Street in San Francisco. No mention of Mills Bitters. Odd. Looking more like the A. M. Gilman Mills’ Bitters was made from about 1858 to 1862. Not so fast.
Here is an advertising envelope cover and letterhead top (pictured below) from A. M. Gilman, Importer of Wines & Liquors, Sole Agent for Mills Bitters. He is at 308 California Street in San Francisco. The date is 1878. Mills Bitters has resurfaced. This is probably the subject lady’s leg bottle. So what was sold in Houston? It was probably pontiled and there are shards or full examples well hidden in the ground beneath me, I bet. Probably says Mills Bitters, maybe without the A. M. Gilman name.
Here is another 1878 clipping noting a Mills’ Celebrated Aromatic Stomach Bitters. This 1878 date is looking more appealing as the date for this bottle.
As reported in Bitters Bottles, P. J. Cassin takes over the brand and renames it Cassin’s Mills Bitters. This would be the M 92 example from Bitters Bottles drawn above. Bitters collectors know about Cassin and maybe his great looking bitters bottle. Certainly has that ‘French’ look.
I am only guessing now, but maybe A. M. Gilman worked for the Mills Brothers in Cincinnati. They made the Morning Call Bitters. Possibly he brought the brand to San Francisco in 1859 or so. In 1864, A. M. Gilman is listed as selling patent medicines at 409 Front Street in San Francisco. Another possibility was that Gilman was never in Louisville or Cincinnati. I certainly can not find him in a directory. There is alot still on the table here.
1862: A. M. Gilman & Co., liquors, 414 Front – San Francisco City Directory
1862: A.M. Gilman & Co. liquor business fails (see above notice) in San Francisco.
1864: A. M. Gilman, patent medicines, 409 Front – San Francisco City Directory
1865: A. M. Gilman, merchant, office 409 Front, dwl Cosmopolitan Hotel – San Francisco City Directory
1868-1869: A. M. Gilman, wholesale dealer liquors, wines, etc, office 322 Washington, dwl 628 Harrison – San Francisco City Directory
1876: A. M. Gilman, Liquors, Billiard Saloon, Lick House – San Francisco City Directory
1877-1878: A. M. Gilman importer and wholesale wines and liquors, (see advertisements further above) 308 California Street, dwl Palace Hotel, San Francisco – San Francisco City Directory
Read More: Lady’s Leg Series – Zingari Bitters
Read More: Holloway’s Bitters from Syracuse