Blue Gum Bitters – Stockton, California


Blue Gum Bitters

A nice takeaway from the 2015 Downieville Antique Bottle Show

13 September 2015

Apple-Touch-IconAFrank Ritz pulled me aside at the 2015 Downieville Antique Bottle Show to show me some bitters that he brought for sale. Most were pretty difficult to find squares that I already had examples of. As he pulled each example from a box, a fine example of the case gin shaped Blue Gum Bitters was a surprise. It will now proudly join my collection. The western guys seem quite impressed with this brand and bottle.


Quick show photograph of the Blue Gum Bitters, embossed “B. G. B.” with a Tilley’s Summum Bonum Bitters glass shard that Bill Ham gave to me.

Read: Tilley’s Summum Bonum Bitters – West Haverstraw, N.Y.

So how do we know that B.G.B stands for Blue Gum Bitters? Well, we need to look at Bitters Bottles and then Bitters Bottles Supplement by Carlyn Ring and Bill Ham. The supplement was updated to note a clear example with the amber. The original book has the illustration and a killer label that is represented below. Here is a compilation listing from both books:

B 126

B 126  L … Blue Gum Bitters
B.G.B. // f // f // f //
9 x 2 1/8 (6 1/2) 3/8
Square case gin, Amber and Clear with amethysts tint, LTC, Tooled lip
Blue Gum tree is another name for Eucalyptus tree. A Western brand.
B 126L bl

Label (black and white reverse) from Bitters Bottles

When I look over at Western Bitters News I see a post about a dug Blue Gum Bitters. Pretty cool.


Dug Blue Gum Bitters – Courtesy Western Bitters News

I also see that one sold on eBay this year.


Blue Gum Bitters that sold on eBay


Two men demonstrate the girth of a 25-year-old eucalyptus tree on the L. J. Rose ranch in Rosemead, circa 1900. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

Blue Gum Bitters Co.

All I can find is reference for Blue Gum Bitters and a Blue Gum Bitters Co. in Stockton, California from about 1886 to 1890. It was usually being displayed at some type of exhibition like “Two cases of Blue Gum Bitters at the Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute”. One listing notes a B. A. Hester as the exhibitor in Stockton, California. Historical city directory information gives us a Basil Alfred Hester from England who was the Keeper at the State Insane Asylum for many years. Did he also put out Blue Gum Bitters? Probably not. I’ll keep working on this one.

MechanicsInstitute July2010_1

1879 Fourteenth Industrial Exhibition, Mechanics Institute card detail


1886: The Blue Gum Bitters Co., Two cases of Blue Gum Bitters – Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute of the City of San Francisco, Exhibitors
1887: Article Exhibited: Blue Gum Bitters, Exhibitor: B.A. Hester, P.O. Address: Stockton – Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly … of the Legislature of the State of California
1887: Hester, Basil A., keeper State Insane Asylum, res 419 Channel –
1888: Blue Gum Bitters, Blum Bum Bitters Co., Stockton, California – Report of the California State Agricultural Society, Agricultural Exhibitors
1889: Brothers Harry and Tom Sheehan sole agents for Blue Gum Bitters notice (see below).

Brothers Harry and Tom Sheehan sole agents for Blue Gum Bitters notice – Oakland Tribune, Friday, February 1, 1889

1896: Blue Gum Bitters Co. listing (see below).

Blue Gum Bitters Co. listing – Oakland Tribune, Monday, May 4, 1896

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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