Abel is selling some historic Toronto bottles on eBay


Above is a link to Abel’s antique bottle sale on eBay which may only be active for a few days longer (has it already ended?), at which point I will delete it and just keep the pictures here.  I do this as a service to all bottle collectors and the Canadian bottle collecting community in particular. I’m also helping Abel who has been very helpful to me.

I think the sales have already ended but its worth getting a second look at these gorgeous bottles,


G.S. (George Stephen) Ross Toronto C.W. (Canada West) Soda Water Torpedo Bottle

Click this thumbnail picture to visit the eBay sale and see the rest of the pictures and the history.
G.S. (George Stephen) Ross Toronto C.W. (Canada West) Soda Water Torpedo Bottle 

US $2,500.00

( 201380328119 )
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James Walsh & Co. 124 Berkeley St. Toronto Ca Hamilton Torpedo Soda Water Bottle

click the link to visit the eBay sale (ended) and to see all the associated images

James Walsh & Co. 124 Berkeley St. Toronto Ca Hamilton Torpedo Soda Water Bottle
US $750.00

1 bids
US $1,000.00

Buy It Now

This Auction Sale is For One Rare (James) Walsh & Co. 124 Berkeley St. Toronto Ontario Canada Torpedo Soda Water 1859-1876 Bottle Only!

This Great Torpedo Bottle is From The Collection of The Late Dr. R. Dean Axelson.

A Museum Quality (James) Walsh & Co. 124 Berkeley St. Toronto Torpedo Soda Water Bottle is Listed For $1,000.00 in His 2007 Price Guide.

This Bottle is in Mint Condition With no Cracks, no Chips, no Case-ware, no Scratches or Restorations.


Glassblowing with Eric Davy, Funerary Glass Artist in Toronto

Thursday 23rd of June 2015, Dumpdiggers watched Eric Davy Funerary Glass Artist make a custom glass funeral urn in the glassblowers’ studio at the base of the Mississauga Living Arts Center while researching an article for Digital Journal, on how cheaper cremation services increases demand for funerary glass, which hypothesizes that art glass consumption is rising in Ontario and all across Canada because cremation costs are falling and people have more money to properly honour their dead.

The funeral industry is in flux, and custom glass urns made specifically to contain cremated ashes are an increasingly popular alternative to buying a remote cemetery plots as a final resting place for deceased family members.

Hot glass artists are thriving in conditions brought about by innovative funeral service directories and the growth of online companies like Basic Funerals with cremation services which dramatically cut costs and impart a willingness on family members to do more to honour their dead relative.

Not only do bereaved families have extra money in their pockets, I reckon they also feel a greater obligation to commission something to commemorate a great life lived, and a make some form of lasting monument to the person they wish to remember.

This is Good News for Glassblowers Making Funerary Glass in Ontario 

Eric Davy started with a hot glass bud on a pipe that he got from a nearby kilm.  He got this colour block – a bullet of hot glass that’s pure white in colour that will be blown up to become the white inner coating of the from a small kiln at the side of the studio.

A piece begins when the glass blower reaches inside the furnace and into
the crucible that is filled with clear, melted glass and “gathers” a
layer of molten glass on the end of a steel blow pipe.

The glass blowing studio is a very hot place to work – there are two furnaces active and two furnaces waiting to be charged with glass and propane on the other side of the room. At peak operation, all four pieces of equipment could be red hot and making the blowers sweat, even in the wintertime.

Eric rolls the gather on the marver – the steel table that has been swept clean expressly for this purpose.

Eric keeps the piece hot and malleable by subjecting the glass to very hot temperatures inside the “Glory Hole” which is where the glassblower shapes his or her work.
The glass is then heated in the glory hole – all the while the artist is turning the blow pipe and keeping it in constant motion. I imagine this is much like honey on a honey-dripper stick, except much less viscous.

Anyway skipping along its safe to say there are a great many trips back and forth from the steel marver to the Glory Hole because the glass needs to be kept above 1000⁰ F. and Eric knows approximately how much glass he needs to get on the pipe, and what shape the blob needs to be in before he can begin colouring the glass.

Adding colour to art glass, Eric selects blue and red base colours and instructs his assistant Alex to lay out the glass powder on the marver table.  She spreads two rows of colour, red and blue, one right above the other.

Various forms of colored glass powders, frits and bars are used to create varied patterns and designs in the piece. Once the piece has been formed into a diamond shaped cone to Eric’s satisfaction, he rolls the red hot glass on the pipe over the color, picking up pieces with each roll.

And then again he walks back to the Glory Hole where the colored glass is heated to melt into the clear glass. Again, Eric keeps turning the pipe to keep up the constant motion and keep the symmetry of the glass shape as the colour powder melts.
Eric sits and rests the pipe on the steel “arms” of the bench and turns
it with one hand. With the other hand the artist uses tools such as
cherry wood blocks, wet newspaper, wooden paddles and tools made of
stainless steel.

This process requires Eric to have perfect coordination between right and left hands. The artist may be shaping a round piece, an oval, or intend to make a wide open plate or bowl.  In this case Eric is making a funeral urn and sitting at the bench is where Eric determines how to make the glass blob assume the shape in he desires in his mind. The process of heating and turning the blob in the Glory Hole and shaping at the bench will be repeated many times.

Applying Gold Foil to the Funeral Urn For Decoration

One of Eric Davy’s signature colouring rituals is to roll the red hot glass in gold foil which of course melts into the surface and imparts a fantastic finish in the blown piece. Alex Wilson lays out gold foil in a special cabinet and Eric Davy rolls the glass on 4 inch strips of foil on both sides.

Blowing into the Pipe – once the piece has been coloured, the actual glass blowing begins.

starts with a puff on the end of the blow pipe to create a bubble. Then
it’s back to the Glory Hole for more heating and turning. And back to
the bench for more shaping. This cycle gets repeated many times,
depending on the size and shape desired by the artist. Already Eric can see the gold foil has melted and new wonderful colours are manifesting on the surface of the bubble.

Transferring the Project to the Punty. Once the glass bubble shape is satisfactory, the piece has to be transferred to a “punty” – another steel pipe that’s been heating over flames. Alex Wilson takes the punty and affixes a small ‘gather’ of clear glass from the furnace.
As Eric Davy stops turning the piece, Alex attaches the hot punty with the molten glass to the other end of the piece

Moving the piece from the blow pipe to the punty will make it possible for Eric to create the opening of the funeral urn. The punty will be attached to what will become the bottom of the piece.

At exactly the right moment, Eric “raps” the blow pipe and it breaks away, leaving the piece attached to the Punty. This is a tricky step in the process Eric warns, and although he makes it look easy, sometimes this transfer results in the molten glass bubble tumbling off the rod and the pipe and smushing on the floor.

Eric uses giant scissors to open up urn. The interior of the urn is a creamy white which is the colour block that
was shaped into a bullet in the Glory Hole before the first gather at
the very beginning of the process.

Eric returns to the bench and uses a variety of tools to create the mouth of a vase or to open up a vessel. He will use the heat in the Glory Hole to continue to make changes in the shape of the piece while using other tools at the bench.

Once Eric is satisfied with what will be the final product, it’s time to remove the piece from the punty.

Another difficult part of the birthing process, Eric once again relies on his training and years of experience to know exactly how and when and how hard to hit the punty so that the finished piece drops to a soft landing on a towel on a nearby table.

Alex Wilson gets busy with a blow torch making the bottom of the urn – erasing the pontil mark and accentuating the kick-up so the urn sits perfectly flat on its circular base. Next the item is placed hot into the annealer.

The annealer is an oven that keeps pipes and punties hot, and can be used to slowly cool down Eric’s finished work to avoid cracking and any breakage that can happen as the different coloured glass cools at different rates. This is especially true when making Memory Glass with a foreign substance like bone ashes as Fuel Ghoul : Science of Making Memory Glass reports on Typepad.

Alex Wilson, Eric’s assistant  artist picks up the scorching-hot piece using Kevlar gloves,  and quickly transfers it to an annealing oven. This oven is kept at 960⁰F and then cooled down over a period of 14 hours to room temperature. This slow cooling down is to prevent the piece from cracking or breaking.

This is a picture of a finished piece that I used in my article on Digital Journal.

Toronto Basement Waterproofing Company Finds Privy Pits Loaded With Antique Glass Bottles

When downtown Toronto was growing up in the late 1800s, the engineers buried all the little creeks and streams that used to course across the land.  They just filled them in with whatever was handy, and quite often that was garbage – two dozen wagon loads of smelly household trash could be easily diverted from regular pickup to fill a ravine and plug up a creek on the outskirts of town. Finding those plugs is what keeps Dumpdiggers awake at night…

I did a story on a Lost Creek in Toronto and showed how property developers removed rusty metal and glass from the bottom of their excavation at King and St. Lawrence, and how they unlocked a small stream that soon made a large pond on the bottom of the pit. The condo building that exists there today has installed permanent pumps to drain the water away from the north wall and into the storm sewers on the south side of the property.

To the right is a detail from P.A. Gross’ Lithographic Bird’s Eye View
of Toronto (1876), showing Garrison Creek a decade before it was buried
by urban developers. 

Garrison Creek is a famous example of a water system that was forced underground, and you can see here on Vanishing Point Garrison Creek history website that it runs inside a brick lined sewer tunnel under or near the basements of hundreds of homes and under two dozen streets, all the way from its origins near Lawrence and Weston Rd, down old Keele, down through the College and Dufferin area, all the way down to Lake Ontario.

Basement Waterproofing Contractors Thrive in Toronto’s Garrison Creek Flood Plane

The water flow in the city is much different now than it was when creeks were on the surface of the land. Today the autumn rain and melting snow in the spring seems to find little pockets of houses where it floods basements. A reputable basement waterproofing contractor in Toronto can make a killing in the Garrison Creek flood plane.
Right up until the 1970s Canadian home builders really didn’t have the technology or available products to offer a cost effective basement waterproofing solution. The best  home builders did some ‘damp proofing’, and Victorian era landscape architects are famous for making drainage contours and berms to avert a flash flood water courses, but basement waterproofing was heretofore unknown.

Today the accepted practice is to dig trenches and drain the excess moisture away from the cement walls from the outside using specially perforated plastic pipe that has capacity to rapidly drain the water from soil.

The basement waterproofing contractor has a hard job that is filled with back breaking labour, because he or she is usually digging so close to the walls of the structure the work really cannot be mechanized to any great extent. However this discomfort is quite often remedied by numerous discoveries of coins and small bottles and many other valuable things that accumulate near walls over the years.

Coins are commonly found when digging foundation walls at the sides of houses and barns. That’s because the wall has been there for a long time and it has always been handy for leaning against or even sitting up against in any season, and inverted pockets dump coins. Ask any archeologists and they will tell you that they find coins on both sides of any wall with equal frequency.

Bottles are uncovered in privy pits dug below latrines which once existed up against the side of the house. Before there was indoor plumbing, whole families used outdoor facilities and these holes were also the most commonly used trash receptacle for nonburnable refuse like old bottles, broken stoneware crocks, porcelain dolls, tools and dead pets.

Here’s the excavation team showing off their best finds to the homeowner – they were uncovering bottles that were discarded over a hundred years ago.

These guys don’t know they’re digging out a pioneer family’s privy pits, but not that it matters much, as that was over a hundred years ago and the chemical structure of the soil around the bottles has changed as much as the structures on top of the land above.

Post by on Mar 18, 2013

Victoria Dinnick takes Dumpdiggers on a Tour of Gadabout on 19th January 2013

Gadabout Vintage at 1300 Queen St E is owned and operated by Victoria Dinnick, who gave Dumpdiggers a walking tour of her famous antiques store on 19th January 2013.

Inside this front cabinet there are about four hundred small items for sale. There are
cameo broaches, fake gems and other glass baubles, hair accessories, vintage belt buckles, old coins, antique
watches, war medals, silver whistles and odd bits of gold coloured jewelry.

Most Toronto antique collectors probably already know Gadabout, and have met its owner. That’s because Victoria Dinnick makes herself known wherever she goes – she’s a powerful smart lady with a dry sense of humour that leans toward sarcasm.  Victoria is a familiar face in the crowd at auctions and estate sales all over Ontario and Quebec. She regularly participates in the seasonal shows of several antiques and collectibles subcultures including The Old Paper Show, and The Old Clothing Show.

Victoria was a fixture at Harbourfront Antique Mall in the 1990s and still has regular customers that seek her out at sales and make frequent visits to her 1300 Queen St E address. There are some pickers from whom she still buys merchandise, and veteran collectors to whom she sells stuff.  Anyone can email the store Info @ GadaboutVintage. com

Victoria Dinnick started collecting antiques in the 1980s and by the early 90s she was selling her merchandise at Harbourfront Antique Mall, which, if you don’t know was a giant two story antiques superstore here in Toronto – it had twenty or more independent dealers under one roof and was located near the base of Spadina at Queens Quay, right on the lake shore near what was once Ree’s Wharf

Victoria escaped Harbourfront and opened Gadabout, her first antiques and collectibles store in 1997, in the Mirvish Village on Markham and Bloor. She moved to 1300 Queen St East in 1999 and was instrumental in the gentrification of this area which now boast several antique furniture stores, funky cafes, used clothing stores and specialty coffee shops.

Victoria told me there are over 100,000 individually priced antiques and collectibles inside Gadabout – the building is packed full of old stuff for sale, and the prices are 

A curious helper holds a larger then life sized poster of a man frozen in the unmistakable action of putting on his coat.  This young helper with a boy’s name watched me walk about the rows of shoes and bags and past racks of coats and reminded me once that all the clothes for sale in Gadabout have been previously dry cleaned.

Victoria Dinnick and her dog …

Gadabout medicine cabinet shelf has lots of turn-of-the-century patent medicine quackery and many dozen old remedies including morphine pills and other opiates, and lots of bizarre wild concoctions. At a glance I spotted the blue coffin poison which is an item that I know and more importantly I know approx what it’s worth and can use it as a handy measure by which to gauge Gadabout prices.

Victoria stunned me by only asking $99 for this gorgeous large UK cobalt blue coffin poison!

Here is liquid dextrose, a sugary syrup for intravenous feeding in hospitals. 

Lots of the medicines in the cabinet are full of their original contents. Here is Ovolax which is a healthy laxative prepared by John Wyeth & Brother from Chicago. These guys went on to found a huge drug company – see here for more on Wyeth Co

From Germany, here is a cardboard container filled with 100 Red Pearls whcih were taken as a remedy against anxiety and nerves. Yes the red pearls are filled with opiates and this little package is sure to be worth a small fortune today, but Victoria is asking only $35 for the item. * She could triple that on eBay I reckon.

The show continued and got even better when she found a bright red wallet that contained medicated gelatin ‘lamels’ which are strips of morphine infused cloth that act as a local anesthetic? I suppose. This is military grade pain killer for front line soldiers in WW1. The writing is as follows,  MEDICATED GELATINE LAMELS. SAVORY & MOORE, LTD, LONDON / EACH SHEET

 Look inside and you can see what’s left of the strips.

Finally Victoria is very eager to promote her latest discovery – a 1929 Map of Toronto !

Although faint with age, the map is good condition has been professionally restored – its linen backed and has been recently cleaned and repaired. 

Victoria is asking $875.00 for the 1929 Map of Toronto with street index.

Evening in Paris

Gadabout is located at 1300 Queen Street East Toronto, ON M4L 1C4‎  (416) 463-1254
Antique Store, Clothing Store – open most days from 11:30 am – 6:30 pm

It’s a good destination for the intrepid shopper who likes the hunt as much as the find!

Dumpdiggers 1901 Fashion Accessories

Behold, Dumpdiggers Fashion Accessories.  Below is a link to a Men’s necktie on Zazzle.com that shows a vintage map of Toronto circa 1901; the map shows the Toronto lake shore and the downtown core, including the oldest section of the city around King St East and the new downtown core of Toronto that formed around Yonge St as it stretched north to drive its way up the province. Yonge St. bisects the tie in the middle – the designers were very smart to focus on the lakeshore.

What was Toronto like in 1901?
Its curious but that date is significant throughout the British Empire as its the year that Queen Victoria died, and a great many photographs were taken of everything as though people knew they would like to record things just as they were… this map is part of that trend.

It was the end of the Victoria Age and the beginning of the Edwardian Age. The reign of King Edward VII, whose short-lived governance (1901-1910) preceded the modern House of Windsor in England. The “Edwardian” style broadly encompasses the years of 1901 through 1919. The end of the century brought the dawning of a new age and a new attitude toward life. It was an era when social differences dissipated and the mores, customs, and expectations of the citizenry came together Stephen Rowe. The Edwardian era was a historical moment of tremendous technological and social change

This is the Toronto shoreline showing the skyline in 1901 – the image form US Library of Congress

You can read the Toronto City Directory for 1901 here. Its a cool interactive book. Check it out.

Here is a picture of Yonge St on Pretoria Day June 5th 1901 presumably connected to the Boer War?
Checking into Hotels in Toronto in 1901 was definitely more labourous… all those stairs! But look here there were several first rate hotels to choose from in the city at the beginning of the Edwardian Age. Here are four:

And don’t forget Rossin House, The Queens Hotel and of course the King Edward Hotel which is still in operation today.  The Queens Hotel sat on the land currently occupied by the Royal York Hotel, across from Union Station. The Queens was owned by a charismatic millionaire named Dick McGaw who had worked his way up to owner from an entry level position as bellhop 1862. The modern day Royal York Hotel was built in 1929 and was completed as the beginning of the Great Depression.

Most of the city north of Bloor St was not built yet in 1901. Yorkville was a separate community,

Education in Toronto in 1901

Boys went to school at Trinity College on Queen St West, St Georges in Yorkville or Upper Canada College north of St Clair and Avenue Rd.  For girls, St. Clement’s School was founded in 1901 in buildings around and between the apple orchards. The St. Clement’s School facility didn’t become an exclusive school for girls until 1930 something, but today its one of Canada’s leading single education private schools and boasts a dynamic community of
approximately 470 female students, from grade 1 to 13 as it were.

 Here is a picture of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, also completed in 1901
This is the first picture of the school taken immediately after the building was erected in 1901. It soon became the #1 postcard that students would send home to their parents.

The Edwardian Age is one of my favourite periods of growth in Toronto and a great many buildings were erected in the city in thirteen years between 1901 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914.

The 2012 Toronto Bottle Show, Sunday April 22nd, Oriole Community Centre

Rob Campbell

The 19th annual 2012 Toronto Bottle & Antique Show and Sale was  Sunday April 22nd at the Oriole Community Centre at 2975 Don Mills Rd in Toronto Ontario. There were over 40 dealers with approx one hundred items each- that’s four thousand highly collectible pieces of early Canadian glass and pottery for sale under one roof… This place is a bottle collector’s paradise.

Here’s Rene Menard who drove all the way from Montreal to shop at the show this year. He collects French Canadian bottles and loves to pick over the shows and sales in Ontario looking for stuff that came from Quebec.

This year the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club annual Show and Sale was held in the Oriole Community Centre, which is a skating rink at 2975 Don Mills Road in Toronto.  This nice central location was no doubt quite handy for people who were driving into the city from distant markets. But unfortunately the venue was cold and rather dimly lit by overhead sodium lamps. Honestly, I was disappointed by the accommodations and seek to improve the venue in coming years. I’m a member of this club now.

And so it came to pass that that
that the biggest bottle show in Canada was held in a hockey arena. And it was cold in there. Everyone had their coats on.. And over in the corner, Randall Mathieus played his acoustic guitar, which was oddly perfect. He played Stompin’ Tom and Robbie Robertson of The Band. I’m still humming along with his rendition of Up On Cripple Creek.

Admission was $5.00. I paid the guy with the stamp outside and Sean Murphy refunded my
money inside, without me asking for it. He reminded me that club members
don’t have to pay the $5 fee at the annual show. Its a perk.

At 9:30am over two hundred people poured in the open doors, and each attendee was no doubt contemplating a shopping list of items the were hoping to spot, bargain for and acquire. Lots of folks come here to do comparison shopping, and thereby learn more about their own collections. So they began feverishly scouring the tables looking for anything on their list, or anything curious, and when they spot a gem they jump in and interrupt all nonsensical blog interviews. This was my experience during the first few minutes of the show – the hungry dealers give new buyers time and attention over blog interviewers, I find myself on the outside, watching the pickers haggle and trade. To the left is John Goodyear with Ron King who owns a Toronto roof company and who finds beautiful bottles in downtown properties by doing excavations directly related to his job.

The savvy shoppers will often wait until after lunch to buy anything they really like – if they can stand to wait on the deal. They know that prices fall as the day gets older, but they risk someone else scooping their finds. Dealer don’t like packing up unsold merchandise at the end of the show and prefer sales with small profits to the drudgery of transport.  And so a timely bid is often as compelling as a generous offer, you just have to wait for the right time.

After four or five years of documenting the show I know when to back off and wait my turn. My mission is simply to report the scene and to interview the charismatic dealers that I don’t already know. And to say hello again to the folks I’ve interrogated before.  I always ask new guys if they are diggers, and in my head I try to loosely identify the source of their merchandise, as that’s what separates the professionals from the hobbyists in this business.

For most of the show, the center of gravity seemed to be in the back south corner where three Canadian pottery kingpins were all set up to sell their wares.  First was John Goodyear, who is an Eastern Ontario diver and digger and dealer of some repute. The beautiful jugs and crocks pictured above are from his table, and were priced to move.

Malcolm and Newf are the most colourful and charismatic dumpdiggers in Canada. They work well together in bottle shows and bottle holes and seem to find the most and best stuff. And they are honest with other diggers who occasionally get the honour of accompanying them on their extraordinary adventures. One look at their treasure table will humble the proudest collectors, and more so knowing that each piece was discovered somehow, and with these guys that was very likely at the bottom of a deep hole. Click the pictures to expand – the photo below is a snap shot of what Malcolm keeps under glass in his display case.

Malcolm and Newf  used to be the two most active and hardest working dumpdiggers in Ontario, but have since become more savvy shoppers…  I suspect they dig through eBay listings and estate sales more than old dumps these days. Still you cannot deny their volume or quality of proffered wares, and new discoveries.

Right beside this pair was another giant among collectors, the man who is equal parts loved, hated and admired by three quarters of the community, Abel DaSilva. 

Abel DaSilva starts the show standing at rest behind his tables, which are well stocked with decorative glass, rare early Toronto soda pop bottles, Canadian whiskys, stoneware jugs and crocks.  He knows the value of art glass and likes to buy decorative advertising and breweriana.

He meets the people as they come and sells lots of bottles. He takes in their money and most importantly he listens to each customer’s requests.  Abel has a keen ear for remembering details and making himself familiar with what people are looking for … and that’s how Abel DaSilva sells items off of other peoples’ tables in the afternoon. For the first two hours Abel is stationary, amassing credit with his wife June as he liquidates his best bargains.

Then around noon Abel becomes more nomadic and begins to use the information stored in his head. He takes careful notes of what’s left on each of the dealer’s tables around him and what might be had for cheap prices or worked into a three way deal.

The clever man’s sharp eyes and calculating brain help him sift through the visual data and match it to corresponding customer lists stored in his head; he knows the biggest bottle buyers all over Canada.  You can see him in the background of so many of my pictures in the afternoon, working his magic putting together three ways deals and acting as a catalyst to cash transactions. He practices the art of the deal and profits from the combination of knowing what people want and where to get it.

Derek Tatler waits behind his syrup cans.

Derek brought a complete set of BC Sugar, ROGERS’ GOLDEN SYRUP cans, along with a smattering of glass insulators, and a half dozen pieces of pink carnival glass. He also had about fifteen fruit sealers and some of these were dug relics from his own adventures. Derek is one the true Dumpdiggers at the show. Years ago he used to dig farm dumps, and frequent the Rosedale valley holes and pockets along the Toronto Lakeshore. He confessed to having jumped a few fences in his day and some of the recovered booty is core to his primary keepsakes.

This Sunday he brought out some nice doubles that he has in his inventory. He offered to sell me highly coveted fruit sealers and creamers that he keeps in his own display, or rather these units are not in his display for there is no room for doubles, and so they must be sold or traded here at the show.

Derek held up a pint sized fruit jar with correct lid embossed, THE DARLING / IMPERIAL for which he wanted $150, and which he says came from a dig along the Toronto waterfront.. And in his other hand he held a quarter pint creamer embossed W. WILLIAMSON / AURORA for which he was asking $200.

Here’s Marcus Johnson with large Bennington bowl which is a pottery company that was first established in Bennington Vermont in 1785.
The pottery became The Norton Stoneware Co after it began making
stoneware in 1815. Pieces painted by John Hilfinger are considered among
the best, although later when the firm was renamed the The United States Pottery Company in 1852 a UK immigrant named Daniel Greatbach modeled some of some inspirational pieces. To my knowledge Marcus had an unsigned piece. It was something he called ‘splatterware’. Marcus hunts yard sales and finds his best stuff rummaging through sale barns and at live auctions. He’s been picking and collecting pottery since 2002, and is a regular at the Toronto show.

Steve Mouck is an owner and the operator of Lincoln Estate Vineyards which has limited vintages and really more of a boutique grape juice producer in the Niagara peninsula. He specializes in Niagara Falls bottles and tourist related glass whimsies, and like so many other collectors he seeks 19th century salt glazed stoneware from Niagara. He covets the jugs and crocks that were produced by potteries or commissioned by merchants to preserve the harvest. After years of collecting and running a website called Garden City Glass, Steve has amassed a hoard of St Catherines areas glass bottles and pottery.

Mike and Barbara Emre are cleaning house and making room for their retirement by liquidating three or more of Mike’s diverse and extensive collections. As Barbara talked to the customers Mike was able to relate how he had started as a boy collecting pop bottles – the old ones couldn’t be returned for a deposit. That evolved to beer bottles and then to ginger beer bottles and then to early Canadian stoneware pottery.

But Mike also had a large collection of paper label whisky bottles. These are survivors – paper label bottles that were recovered just a few meters away from where they were consumed, usually in an old barn, basement or garage. The labels survived and stand testament to a different age when men and women drank at work, and consumed large amounts of alcohol in bottles hidden around their homes and job sites.

Mike Emre holds out a Hudson’s Bay Scotch Whiskey quart flask in good condition and for sale at $28. This item looks ancient but in truth is only about forty years old. It does speak to the legacy of Canada’s oldest retailer. This is a company that was trading whisky for fur back in the 1600s. However what many people don’t know is that Hudsons Bay Company is still selling whisky in the United States today, and even the labels on the bottles today bear some resemblance to the one Mike is holding here. And that’s probably why Mike was only asking $28 for the piece, which is a great price for a good storyfull bottle that will surely stand out in any display.

Robert Brak and his wife Linda hold a bright yellow tin Wishing Well soda pop advertising sign which they sold later that day to a home decorator for twenty five bucks. A good score.

Linda Brak collects painted label soda bottles and Robert Brak likes his stoneware ginger beers. The two both lived on farms near Meaford when they were growing up, and used to enjoy digging and collecting old bottles as teenagers. They dug a lot of farm dumps and really got hooked, and then hitched in 1974 at which time they relocated to Goderich Ontario. Their passion for digging was put on hold in that region however as they were hard pressed to find any old dumps. Goderich had probably been picked over by some of the diggers in this room.

One of the ginger beer bottles for sale on Robert’s table was the same make and model as was discovered in our Meaford dump expedition when myself and Tim Braithwaite dug there with Ace of Spades in November 2009. We uncovered an A Robertson Mt Forest Ont and ours was flawless – this one has an obvious crack. Which is why I thought his $80 price tag was a little unreasonable, but I reckon he’s a clever tactician starting on the high ground.

At the next table a dealer named Richard Clark was selling a $1600 aqua pint GEM Rutherford fruit sealer with matching lid and top. Click the picture.

Two tables away there were lots of gilt picture frames and old souvenirs. The dealer was referencing the price of gold as if to suggest the value of her gold decorated merchandise would rise and fall with this index. I happen to know a Vancouver gold buyer who warns public that he will not buy gold rim teacups, or gilt frames or anything gold leaf – you can learn quite a bit about gold manufacturing variants in his FAQ .

Ron Hunsperger perches behind a lovely collection of colored SHUTTLEWORTH POISON bottles all priced to sell between $100 and $200 each, depending on colour and rarity. Ron is a poison bottle collector and horticulturalist.

Mr Hunsperger also collects rare varieties of Hosta in his other life in his greenhouse.  He currently has 259 varieties in his gardens, and is therefore one of the largest growers in Canada.

Ron started collecting all sorts of things to keep his mind active and hands busy in his spare time, after work and on weekends. He gave himself projects and hobbies to distract his overclocked brain so he could stop thinking about his work, which was detail orientated. As time goes by, Ron has narrowed his passions down to poison bottles and is parting with unrelated specimens that he knows other people need to complete their collections.

Ron does two shows a year, this one and the Cambridge show which is put on by one of his friends. Before the show began on Sunday April 22nd he bought a rare white milk glass druggist bottle from one of the other dealers in the room. The bottle reads GARLAND & RUTHERFORD / APOTHECARIES / KING ST. HAMILTON  and according to Ron it could be worth between two and three hundred dollars depending on condition.

By some strange coincidence a digger named Mark VanHee who is also known as ‘Trail’ had the very same bottle in his pocket. He had just found this piece in a dump near Hamilton and had come to the Toronto show to learn its price.  These guys are active diggers – I want to write a story about a cave-in they recently experienced which Ace says was the scariest fifteen minutes of his life. Click the small photo left to see Jason Hayter and Mark VanHee, AKA the Ace of Spades and Trail.

 Bob Andrews collects mortuary relics in Port Ryerse, Ontario.

Bob often buys whole boxes of stuff at sales and job lots at auctions, which keeps him busy
sorting, cleaning and restoring historic items all year long. He had a twelve unit wax candle mold on his table. Bob collects all types of stoneware and sells his doubles and anything outside his niche here at the show. Himself and his wife Sue have decorated their house in Roycroft metalware and
Rockingham pottery. Apparently the two styles really complement each
other and provide the motif in which they live. One recent acquisition was
a butter pat cutter that can slice a one pound block of butter in three
sizes – 48 squares, 60 squares or 72 small pats of butter – this is
hotelier kitchenware.
“How do you have it set today?” I asked
“Oh.. we eat Becel margarine” Sue answered, “its made from Olive oil and not cow’s milk.”

Around five years ago Bob Andrews started collecting embalming fluid bottles and other mortuary relics. This rather unusual and slightly morbid new focus came after he acquired a massive J.H. Schwartz embalming fluid bottle. Its very pretty and a natural centerpiece to any mortuary product display. Now Bob finds himself looking for more antiques funeral home related artifacts, especially paper label embalming fluid bottles like the one on the right.

Tim Maitland and his father Jim Maitland were at the north end of the arena, holding court behind six dozen painted label milks beers and soda pop bottles. Back in 2010, Tim Maitland really distinguished himself by holding up a gorgeous yellow and black Maple Leaf Beverages soda from Hamilton. Check it out on Flickr.

Both Tim and Jim Maitland reside in southwestern Ontario and collect bottles from Sarnia, Petrolia, Lemington and other small towns found down along the Windsor flats. Jim collects really early beers. He comes to the Toronto show to buy up the last of the prime pieces he needs to complete his huge collection. In the photo above, Jim holds such a bottle. Here’s a rare amber blob top quart beer with a lightning stopper marked COLBERT / EGMONDVILLE.  The historic vessel is reputed to be worth over $1000, and both men were real happy with their successive trades alongside the necessary cash spent to acquire the piece. This was Jim’s prize that day at the show, and something he can take to show off to Pete Bechtel and the rest of the CCBA – the Collectors of Canadian Brewery Advertising at their annual convention in July.

Steve Peters is another Southwestern Ontario dumpdigger!

Steve collects stoneware ginger beer bottles from St Thomas and he has all manner of jugs and crocks from that part of the world on display in his house.  He used to dig old dumps with Tim Maitland and that explains why they both collect Petrolia bottles, which as you might remember was an oil company town in 1857 after James Miller Williams of Hamilton struck oil and built the first commercial oil well near Oil Springs, Ontario.   

Steve was absolutely jubilant this day, for he too had just purchased a remarkable crown jewel for his St Thomas area collection, and was now feeling very proud of himself. He had just wrestled this beauty away from Scott Jordan who had bought it auction from the late John Meyers estate sale. Steve told me that he paid $2000 for this little pint-sized vessel, which as you can see is marked  ENGLISH GINGER BEER / J CORDERY. This little stoneware bottle was, by all accounts, made in Canada and not ordered in from abroad (Bristol Pottery in England) like so many of the Great Lakes breweries. James Cordery brewed beer in London Ontario in the 1880s before moving to St Thomas in 1890. He set up shop in that small south western Ontario town and soon thereafter went blind. In 1900 he offered everything he had for sale and Mr. Peters actually has a copy of the bill of sale.

Richard St Onge returned to the 2012 Toronto Bottle Show as an official dealer, alongside Bill Cook. The two wise men stood behind a legislature of Coca Cola related artifacts and advertising products. They love Coke items and were the first to remark on their scarcity at the show this year.  Bill also pointed out that there were absolutely no glass marbles this year and he wondered if that strain of collecting was finally heading into obsolescence, with no more collectors.  When I asked him to hold up his best piece he instinctively reached for a fine honey amber 1910 Coke bottle from Chattanooga Tennessee that he had just bought in Atlanta Georgia, which is the home of Coke and of course the largest annual Coca Cola collectibles convention in the world.  The price was $125.

Bob Harris is a member of the Four Seasons bottle club and  veteran digger, multidisciplinary picker and antique aquarium collector.  I caught him at the 2012 Bottle Show holding a highly collectible fish food tin marked NATURAL AQUARIUM FOOD from Grassyfork Fisheries Inc that he had just bought off Jamie McDougall for twenty dollars. Bob loves to talk about aquariums and we have talked before about the jewel in his collection, a fourteen gallon Sherring Bros aquarium made in 1857 for marine research laboratories. This very old artifact is, Bob claims, the very first commercial aquarium ever sold in North America.  What is something like that worth? Bob says he’s been offered eight thousand dollars for the piece and he turned it down. Bob sent me an email today and dutifully reported,  “I should have mentioned that the reason I
know that the fish food tin I bought from Jamie is old, is that the fish
bowl and stand on the tin cover is a representative of the 1930’s style
fishbowl.  I have a few of these bowls in my collection, so it’s nice
to have the tin as a go-with.  The food in the tin is pellet food. 
Flake food was developed in Germany in 1950 by a company called Tetra
Werke.   They are still in business and produce a fish food called,
Tetra Min.  So the tin has to be older than that.  My guess is just
after WWII.  Obviously, nothing was being made during the war.  The
company that made this tin is Grassyfork which is a very large goldfish
fish farm in the US.  By the way, the old fish food was actually made of
crushed dog biscuits.  Nothing scientific about that.

Jamie McDougal was parked beside the front door and became the first stop for every shopper heading north. His colorful shirt captures curious eyeballs. The artifacts on his table were even more interesting; they’re not always beautiful but full of good stories. Like these two pop cans Jamie had on display. At first glance they appear downright ugly. The can on the right looks practically new. But look closer. Pick it up and hold it and you will understand that this aluminum can is completely empty and yet it’s unopened.  That means it was erroneously sealed shut and shipped empty of the contents! How does something like that happen? It occurs more often than you might think, but often times its caught by staff filling vending machines or retailers, truck drivers or … This one unit of product was shipped empty and bought by a consumer and not reported – it survives to exist today as unique variation of a popular soft drink package. How did this happen? It could be the people at the bottling plant were messing around on the night shift. Perhaps one factory worker was making himself some rare collectibles? 

Terry Matz is Canada’s foremost torpedo bottle dealer and runs an antique website called Terry’s Torpedo Bottles which is first on Google for the word torpedo bottles only because Terry comes first in the hobby. Here he is holding a relic from the Boer War, and English rifleman’s torpedo bottle canteen. The leather bound glass vessel is stamped 1st V.B.M.R 59 which he translates for me as First Volunteer Battery Manchester Regiment and the 59 could refer to the individual soldier or the brigade or the artillery piece to which the squad was assigned. The piece has no top? Terry says it would have had a cork top, like any wine bottle of the day. The leather casing has a belt loop and the bottle is meant to be worn on the soldier’s belt. Terry thinks the British Army of the early 1900s decided the torpedo bottle shape was the strongest and best suited to the soldier’s rough and tumble lifestyle.

All of the torpedo bottles on Terry Matz’s primary table are under glass. They start in price at $500 and go up steadily from there. Terry talks fast and I tried to make detailed notes but ended up with scribbles. I know one of these pieces is a McLaughlin Soda from Edmonton? acid etched? for which he wants $1000. The dark green torpedo is marked Peter Conolan from Montreal, and another $1000 bottle in the case is the aqua torpedo embossed WILLIAM FARQUHAR / SUPERIOR AERATED SODA WATER AND GINGER NECTAR

Terry also had a queer plaque that didn’t photograph very well but which is marked HOT SODA WATER, and he laughed ‘who would ever want to drink hot soda water?’, and we both reflected back to a time when aerated water was considered very healthy and drinking it hot would of course lend to its appeal as a medicinal remedy.

Always a popular table at the show, this year Terry was breaking all the records and running something of a milk bottle clearing house on the north corner of the village. He had fixed in the center of his 2nd table a sign, which said All Milk Bottles $1 each and this created quite a buzz.  When the dust settled and he finally got away and had a chance to walk around another curious thing happened… His daughter discounted prices by half again, and her merchandising brought more customers.

The best bottles were up on the tables, and these sold rather quickly at the original price of $1 each, while the remnants below in boxes were soon picked over by collectors looking for variations or good fodder for trades. This was a once in lifetime opportunity for young collectors to clean out a guy who just wants out of ACL milk bottles.

John Hunter was there and introduced himself to me as a fan of this blog. He told me to that Bert Dalmage, a pioneer I had profiled earlier on my blog lived to be 103 years old and only died just recently at the Golden Plow nursing home in Cobourg Ontario.

John dove into Terry’s bottles and while I watched he fetched out and purchased for five dollars several vessels including this ABSOLUTE PURE MILE / BELLEVILLE reproduction amber glass bottle. If this bottle were real it would be worth a fortune. It’s a spectacular color and has a picture of a dairy cow on the slug plate. But alas its a reproduction of what is probably one of Ontario’s best and certainly most stereotypical classic milk bottle slug plates. The bottle is made by skilled craftsmen in China to pay homage to the Canadian bottle collecting industry.

John Hunter likes to dig in rural dumps and has a big collection of glass bottles from all over eastern Ontario. He’ll add some of Terry’s milk bottles to the mix and this yellow vessel will impress anyone that doesn’t know the difference between real and reproduction pieces. 

Melissa Clare is the principle organizer of the annual Four Season Bottle Collectors show and she was having fun calling out the winners of the Show Bucks. At regular intervals throughout the day she would venture over and borrow the microphone from guitar Randall and bequeath $25 Show Bucks coupons, which are laminated cards that promise dealers the money and serve as random door prizes to people who filled out questionnaires ? some forms ? or paid? or… I don’t know.  Somehow people got draw tickets and I’m not exactly sure how because I didn’t get any tickets and was therefore ineligible to win these show bucks.

But young Sandra Spudic was eligible and she won. I noticed her first after I heard her scream! Thats right. I began watching with interest after she let out a tiny burst of excitement (which her friend Erika Wilson echoed even louder) immediately after Mellissa called out the winning numbers. I followed as the duo claimed their prize. Here I learned that they both work together in a nearby historical conservation area, and so that explains their interest in antiques.  Without delaying them too long, I made Sandra promise to report back to me on what she bought with her Show Bucks.

Dwight Fryer is Poison Bottle Collector
Dwight is an international poison bottle collector and his table, (as I always tell him, every year) will the first to profit from the new awakening – when young people go forth and buy into the pastime. These little poisons are ‘condo bottles’ and as such will always be cool collectibles to decorate bathroom medicine cabinets and window shelves. They add personality to morning light.

Dwight told me he’s still buying bottles, mostly coloured poisons and rare blown glass chemical bottles from no less than thirty eight different countries.

Small green poison bottles are among my favourite obsessions. I was admiring this little green German bauble, on which the skull and crossbones are so delicately pronounced, as Dwight Fryer translated the embossing GIFT FLASCHE to mean ‘poison bottle’.

Dwight’s poisons are always very popular with the ladies because they look so cool and could someday again be filled with fantastic potions, or maybe liquid bath soap? These little bottle are cool and perfect to add a touch of personality to sterile Toronto condominium bathrooms.

Here’s another curious piece, a clear glass bottle embossed TAYLOR PRODUCTS / BREEZY / HOUSEHOLD AMMONIA, on sale here for only $10 cash.

Carl Parsons appeared  late at the show and made quite an entrance wearing a lovely beige jacket and stylish brown shirt and pants. I held the door for him outside as he entered, lugging along a rather large and mysterious steel can. The vessel was heavy, and made of thick steel and long ago painted white. The container had a very heavy solid steel lid that was three inches thick with more of its width below top edge of the can, and so it forms a good airtight seal by virtue of it’s great weight.

What was this weird metal can used for?

Inside this heavy metal can, Carl explained, is where early urban dentists would pitch the freshly extracted teeth of their patients, esp the molars with gold or silver filings. For the bottom part of the can was filled with acid and would work to dissolve the teeth around the silver or gold deposits. After a few months or a year in the can, the dentist could easily recover the precious metals.

I went on the 2010 FSBC Club Dig with Carl Parsons. He led the June expedition down into the Rosedale Valley and picked a spot whereupon he couldn’t remember having dug already. We did struck some virgin dump there, but we didn’t find anything valuable. All the same, it was a memorable bonding experience for five diggers that hadn’t previously dug together and didn’t even know each other well. We all had a lot of fun that day, we dug a deep hole and poked about in virgin dump under some easily moved soil.

James Jarzabek and Adam Jarzabek were at the show again this year. James is twelve years old now and already he knows most of the values and prices of his father’s inventory off by heart.

I pointed to a powder blue silk screened LAKESIDE JERSY milk bottle and James told me it was $300 without having to check any price lists. “Why so much?” I asked. And he flipped the bottle over to reveal the backside. ‘Because of the baby” he said. 

Sean Murphy was a fixture at the bottle show, executing the role of the club treasurer and spokesperson for the FSBC from his spacious holdings in the south central part of the floor. Two or three times we agreed to meet up for a talk, but he was always so busy entertaining longtime friends. Some of these guys may have come to the show just to see him, and to conclude a transaction of some description. Sean has lots of nice stuff and he does the research and learns about each piece before trading, selling or adding to his own collection.

In the photo you can his right hand clutching the neck of a large thick glass Coca Cola wall mounted display bottle. This was one of the only Coke pieces at the show and apparently it didn’t much excite Richard St Onge because he didn’t buy it. But once again proving again the strength of these items as truly magnetic collectibles, Abel DaSilva appeared a few moments later and bought the 1970s era relic for $300.

Abel bought the piece despite the sad fact that the bottom had a centimeter wide hole drilled in it to accommodate a pin hole light bulb. This was apparently not how Coke had sold the memorabilia but rather how some enterprising decorator or restauranteur had modified the display advertising. Abel (his buyer) was okay with modifications.

Sean was having a good time and he was thrilled to report his own most recent acquisition. In this next photo he holds a J. KERNOHAH LONDON aqua torpedo soda bottle on which there is a fish logo. Think about that… Who would have bought a soda water with a fish logo on the bottle? What flavour were they expecting?

Ron DeMoor holds up his best treasure, on sale for $5000. This is a cobalt blue, twelve panel H. Sproat soda water . It was found in an recent excavation at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, and smuggled out of the construction site by diggers in the middle of the night. Ron doesn’t know who those people were, nor will he confirm or deny that authenticity of the tale, but he will ballpark the age of the vessel – it was made between 1850 and 1862. Henry Sproat is listed in the red book as ‘Ginger beer maker’ .

You can gaze upon the H SPROAT torpedo soda bottle here in Tim Braithwaite’s collection courtesy of Early Canadian Bottle Works, Darren’s website.

Minutes before I arrived at Ron’s table he sold this lovely paper label, P.C. FLETT CO, APPLE AND GOOSEBERRY JAM stoneware container which is certainly one of the most beautiful jam jars I have ever seen in my life. We find these all the time when digging in the dumps and I have seen a few simple labels but never anything as breath taking as this..

Sandra Spudic found me again and showed me what she bought with her Show Bucks. She spent $15 on two very elegant looking enamel / mirrored tea light candle holders (I’m sure they started life as some form of cosmetics accessories) and another ten bucks on a small fruit sealer with the correct lid (I forget the embossing – maybe Sandra could tell us in the comments) in which she hopes to keep buttons or other small keepsakes directly related to her passion for mending clothes and repairing high quality vintage garments.  Good for you Sandra! Thanks for coming out to the show and I hope we see you out here next year.

John Dunbar didnt sell his Gay Liquid Detergent sign on Sunday.  This joker runs the Antique Mall in Orono and loves for all things related to early Canadian television and steam engines. He buys old TV show props and cereal box mementos as well as railway collectibles and artifacts relating to transatlantic travel on steamships. In addition to this event, John is also a fixture at the Toronto Nostalgia Show. The sign he holds is something that decorator crowd would really appreciate, because of Guy Lombardo, It seems the gay liquid detergent held no appeal to this years bottle collectors.

And Mr Dunbar was one of the last vendors I spoke with before I walked out the door.

You can read all about the previous occasions here,
The 2009 Toronto Bottle Show
The 2010 Toronto Bottle Show
The 2011 Toronto Bottle Show

Besides being a great places to hunt for antiques and collectibles to sell on eBay, the
2012  Toronto bottle show was a great celebration for the continued strength of the hobby. This special
one day affair was open to the public and did therein provide ample opportunity for young and old collectors to meet and ask questions and fast-track their research on their own mystery bottles and storied artifacts. For on this past Sunday April 22 there were indeed over forty experts in the room,
and together they did know pretty much everything there is to know about
collecting antique glass bottles and pottery in Canada.

Up Close and Personal with Ace of Spades

I spent almost three quarters of an hour with the Ace of Spades last week, and his new digging buddy Trails (right), taking pictures and talking shop. It was agreed we would all meet again at the 2012 Toronto Bottle Show, coming up on Sunday April 22nd at Oriole Community Centre Arena, 2975 Don Mills Rd, and that’s supposing we didn’t run into each other sooner on an exciting spring dig.

Dumpdiggers has always admired Ace for his prolific posts on the discussion forum which evidence a natural passion and insatiable curiosity and tireless digging routine. This guy is out there actively uncovering new stuff and gaining a strong following of collectors and historians feeding him tips and good information about his discoveries.  And he’s growing a big collection!

Trails is an architect or in the building trades and as such has access to some old properties that being dredged up for renovation and redevelopment north and west of the GTA.  Ace is schooling Trails on what to look for when scouting properties for dumps, and how to dig bottles from the bottom up.  The science of sinking the shaft and then forking the sides.

KC the White Boxer Keeps an Eye Open

Myself and my white boxer dog KC arrived on the scene just as the boys where sinking a new hole.  Three or four feet down they starting finding semi-precious patent medicines and took that to be a good sign. The bottles were obviously cast offs (something cast off by earlier diggers) but that could mean there is fresh dump below.

The mall patent medicine was actually a Toronto sewing machine oil bottle.

The good stuff is six to ten feet below the smelly earth and the stoneware jugs and crocks which I have seen come up out of the dump are often right down in the morass and sunk below the water line (which rises and falls with the seasons – the same patch of land is dry in August and September. But in April, May and June you can only get down about nine feet before your hole will flood with really smelly black oily earth. That’s the reality of this place. – Ace

Bottle Diggers, a photo by Roberrific on Flickr.

Ace found a number of small collectibles while I was visiting, including this small cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottle that is covered in embossing. This is another great sign because that is a bottle that most diggers would have taken home –  because its blue and has writing, so it has some value – and therefore one can assume that maybe perhaps this patch of dump was missed by the marauders who dug this dump so many years before…

This is my dog KC cruising the grounds around an old dump in the middle of Toronto that is currently being picked over by Ace , who is surprising everyone and actually finding good stuff in the tiny scraps of century old dump that can still be glimpsed in the goody veins below.  KC was real impressed.
Bottle Diggers by Roberrific

Paul Huntley Schools the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors on City Dairy Toronto

Paul Huntley proudly holds his new book, City Dairy Toronto on 21 Jan 2012 after speaking to a particularly passionate group of Toronto bottle collectors.

If you’re not a bottle collector, and you don’t have a ‘collecting bug’ of any kind, then you probably wouldn’t appreciate how satisfying it is to sit and listen to somebody show off their obsession. To study something, anything for twenty years and then write a book is a lifetime accomplishment – and to speak with knowledge and authority about something they know so well, is the treasure of wisdom. Paul Huntley spoke soft words but with great authority as he held up century old milks alongside photos of the original dairies that filled them, and the horse drawn wagons that distributed them. On the 21st of January 2012, Mr Huntley put on a lovely presentation of Canadian dairy lore that was soaked up by an enlightened audience of at least twenty four people, members of the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors (FSBC) club in Toronto Ontario Canada.

The monthly FSBC meeting, the first I’ve attended in three months (I missed Terry Matz talking about his torpedo bottles before Xmas), was at their usual meeting place in the Arbor Heights Community Center in Toronto, which is on Avenue Rd at Wilson Blvd just south of the hwy 401 interchange. Follow the FSBC link above for more information on the club meetings (and then come out to one!). You know what to expect, there’s rare knowledge on display here.

Whenever I do get time to visit these folks, I’m usually the first one there. But this time I was late. Unfortunately I’d taken a nap and had slept until six pm. So I threw on my pants and rushed out the door, checking my email in the car I saw the meeting was scheduled to start at six fifteen.  As I drove up the DVP, I wondered if I should have just stayed home.. Boy am I glad I didn’t! When I pulled into the parking lot to my surprise I discovered it was full of cars. There must be another event happening inside, I reckoned. But no.. To my shock I saw the meeting room was absolutely packed.

When I walked in the door I noticed it was quiet as and everyone was listening intently to the speaker  I’d never seen so many members and many new faces crowded around the tables to hear the shy softly spoken words of Paul Huntley, a historian and Toronto City Dairy archivist. Paul is a published author and I bought his book. He was showcasing some of the highlights from City Dairy Toronto alongside the actual bottles and photographs that have been reproduced inside.

Paul Huntley must have enjoyed speaking to this assembly of passionate people, Canadian bottle collectors, veteran dumpdiggers; they’re a small and tightly focused sub culture that’s obsessed with all things made of antique glass and salt glazed stoneware. Here’s a crowd that eagerly laps up this respected historian’s words and chuckles at his inside jokes, because they truly understand his references to people and places and practices long since forgotten by the rest of society.

The book is filled with rare black and white photos showing the rise of City Dairy Toronto.
In 1903 the City Dairy had just 3% of the Toronto market and by 1915 it dominated over 40% of the market. At one point there were eight six wagons serving 25,000 homes. From its early beginnings through to its acquisition by Bordens in 1930, the City Dairy maintained its distinction of serving more homes than any other dairy in the British Empire.

You know, I can’t help wondering about all the cows – this was surely a great age for Canadian farmers as the City of Toronto would have provided a wonderful large market for their milk, grain and vegetables. I could imagine how lucrative it might be to sell fresh milk to the city everyday. But it would also be very laborious. In those days milk production was done completely by hand, and so the family farm really couldn’t manage more than twenty five milking cows at once, milking them twice a day. Paul’s book details the Massey Farms and the experimental farm as it outlines the early 1900s milk supply chain for Toronto.

City Dairy Toronto
A Yellow Wagon on Every Street

The Table of Contents
Milk Supply for the Citizens of Toronto
Walter Edward Hart Massey
Dentonia Park Experimental Farm
The Milk Commission
A Modern Production Facility
A Scientific Approach to Milk Production
Maintaining A Clean Milk Supply
The First Milk Delivery
The Milk Supply of Toronto
The Most Advanced Plant in Canada
City Dairy Leadership After Massey
Advertising of Fairy Tales
Participation at Exhibitions
A Towering Accomplishment
Milk Delivery
Milk Delivery from Horse Drawn
Ice Cream Creations
Plant Expansion
Kensington Dairy
S Price and Sons Purchase
Milk Pasteurization
Swiss Kephyr Milk
Island Delivery
Drimilk Powdered Milk
City Dairy Farms New Lowell
The Dairy Herd
Record of Employees in the Great War
Division of Bordens
Golden Crest Years
Melorol Ice Cream
Milk Fit for A King and Queen
Toronto Milk Foundation
Life as an Educational Institution


Just as I sat down and opened my notebook I heard the words ‘Thistletown dairy’ (I was reduced to writing on top of my sore leg as there was no more room at the table).  And beside that word I dashed the location Humber River / Albion and Islington. I dont know why I’m writing this here  I have no context for it. Perhaps I thought it might be an adventure destination – to find the Thistletown Dairy. Indeed that does have a ring to it.

Some dairy dates I didn’t know
1889 Capseat Indents in the mouth of a milk bottle were introduced into the Toronto market. This innovation in milk bottle production allowed cardboard caps to sit properly and better seal the glass lip of the bottle.

1915 Pasteurization became mandatory in Toronto – The city passed a municipal bylaw mandating that all dairies sell only pasteurized milk – as a result many Toronto dairies close their doors
1937 The Province of Ontario made all dairies sell pasteurized milk.

By 1929, two large dairies had taken over Toronto and most of the surrounding towns. These were Silverwoods, which was operating in the east end of the city, and Bordens which had locked up the west and was expanding south around the lake.

More things I learned from Paul Huntley,

Silkscreen milk bottles are often called ACL meaning Applied Colour Labels and the really early ones date form 1937 and 1938 . Applied colour labels were gaining popularity .re and some very collectible early ACL milk bottles are decorated with scenes from the Royal Visit to Toronto in 1939. Are there any such bottles made by City Dairy – I suspect there must be otherwise why would he bring it up? But I didnt see any.

ACL City Dairy milk bottles changed in appearance again in 1939 with the dawn of World War II. Some Applied Colour Labels (ACL) carried scenes of ships, tanks, planes and little boys watching them.? no pics

Soon after that, the Milk Foundation was created to help sell milk. This must have been similar to the milk marketing board we have today – they used a collective fund to help advertise milk’s health benefits. Look below at an early advertisement for pasteurized ice cream that’s ‘pure’ and wont spread tuberculosis.

I learned that square milk bottles were introduced after the war alongside the rise of refrigerator technology. the small square shapes were better for shipping handling and they fit inside cramped refrigerator iceboxes better. I made a note of the fact that Paul believes the grey horse was especially sought after by milkmen for early morning milk delivery routes – the grey horse shows up in the dim morning light better, and is therefore safer. Tin tops were not usually found on milk bottles outside the United States. Little tidbits

Were amber bottles used exclusively for Buttermilk?  Sean Murphy asked, and Paul Huntley answered yes to that question. The most quintessential examples of these amber ‘buttermilk’ bottles dates from between 1900 – 1910 .

Paul’s next appearance is at the East York Historical Society on Feb 15th. Here he will be speaking on City Dairy and Dentonia Dairy as many folks in the society have shown interest in that topic. Paul told me that he always hopes he will meet some people that can relate there own personal stories and memories of the dairy. Wednesday February 15 2012 at  2:00 PM

 image added courtesy of Early Canadian Bottle Works (ECBW), Paul Huntley Collection

Dont miss Paul Huntley speaking at

East York Historical Society

Show and Tell Discussion

The History of the City Dairy of Toronto
Speaker Paul Huntley will discuss the history of the City Dairy from its creation including the Massey Farm known as Dentonia. He will also bring some dairy memorabilia and copies of his new publication on the City Dairy. Bring any questions, photos, maps, memorabilia or information you would like to share and take part in the discussion.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2 pm
At S. Walter Stewart Library
170 Memorial Park Avenue at Durant
Sponsored by the East York Historical Society and
The Toronto Public Library, S. Walter Stewart Branch
Free admission

Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Meeting

The second half of the meeting was business as usual. There’s lots of planning and preparation being made for the annual FSBC Show and Sale in April – this time there is a new location . And there was talk of having a party on Saturday night for the dealers to swap stories and trade bottles and

for the

Carl Parsons had some wonderful ‘cures’ or early wacky patent medicine bottles in front of him on the table. I snapped some shots of them as he was making change for my raffle tickets – the monthly FSBC random draw is an exciting event and a staple in the experience of vsiting the club meetings. Carl always talks up the quality of the bottle being raffled (its a secret) but I find they are never as good as the ones he has on display in front of his notebook at the table.  Look below at the amber ‘East India Cure’ and the queer yellow glass Extract of Smart Weed.

Sean Murphy: Show and Tell 

The best part of the bottle club meetings is hearing each member talk intelligently and usually very passionately about a piece of pottery or a glass bottle they have recently discovered, or treasured for some time. There is a theme for each meeting’s show and tell and its fun to see the variations on that theme as presented by each collector operating inside their own particular niche.

Before Sean spoke there were three other collectors who presented their materials but being shy they would no doubt prefer not be chronicled here. Sean is however no stranger to my blog salutations.
And that’s a good thing because Sean Murphy is a constant fountain of great material and encouragement to the rest of the members. His show and tell displays are consistently remarkable.

On the 21 Jan meeting Sean showcased a wide variety of glass paperweights set around a smattering of other rare and impressive objects including beautiful redware pottery and a lovely jug stenciled …

Here’s a Whitby jug

I will ask Sean to provide more information here

Big Money Bottles Sold On eBay, May 2011

Hamilton’s Patent Stoneware – R. Johnson Greek St. London This pottery piece sold for: £6,310.99 (36 bids in total).
The bottle stands about 7” tall and it’s not a torpedo in the truest sense, it stands up on a level surface!
It’s thought to date from early to mid nineteenth century !
The bottle is glazed up to its shoulders; lip with some scratch marks and a bit of rust and dirt. The surface lettering reads: “Hamilton’s Patent R. Johnson, 15 Greek St. London”.

Royal Dalton Kingsware Whiskey Bottle – The Forty Thieves This is “The Forty Thieves” Kingsware pear shaped Whiskey Flask.
This very pretty whiskey bottle sold for: C $4,800.00 (20 bids in total)
The bottle stands about 8.5” tall and 4” in diameter
There is a small chip on the spout that must be mentioned.
But the paint and glaze are still in tip top condition.

H. Sproatt Toronto Torpedo Soda Bottle (Rare Teal)

This lovely old soda bottle just sold for: US $1,075.00 (17 bids in total)
It’s one of Canada’s earliest soda bottles, and was very likely made at Lockport Glassworks in New York, NY.
The piece dates from approximately the 1850s-1860s.
The glass is a rare teal colour which is odd because most Sproatt torpedoes are aqua.
The lightly polished glass is clean with very few, minor scratches on the surface.

Rare Lime Green Gurd’s Ginger Beer Bottle – Montreal, Canada

This lime green ginger beer bottle just sold for: US $1,175.00 (13 bids in total)
It stands approximately 9.25” tall
The potter mark reads as follows, “29 Buchan & Portobello Edinburgh” with two tiny iron pops
There’s a slight 1” line in the green on shoulder.
The product label reads: “Gurd’s Trademark Ginger Beer ‘The Perfect Drink’”
Hmmm I’d like to have one right now.

Lost Creek under Toronto’s Streetcar Condos

While excavating the property at 510 King St East in Toronto, workers discovered a lost creek which was heaped with trash – some of which is now treasure.
Recently Dumpdiggers admin were treated to a fascinating account of valuable antique glass bottles and early Canadian pottery being recovered from construction site in downtown Toronto. The building project at 512 King St E is owned by a hip property developer called Streetcar. The site is located on the north side of King St. at River St which almost as far east on King as you can go – its opposite St Lawrence street which is the north western extremity of the massive River City condominium development.

By comparison, the relatively small ‘Streetcar condos’ building project on the north side of King St is well under way, and will probably be completed by the summer of 2011. But back when this property was still being excavated, in July 2010, the developers found plenty of evidence of a small creek that ran above ground here, up until the early 1880s. This creek was yet another tributary of the mighty Don River that was buried by man before the turn of the century.

Evidence of a lost creek under Toronto

The old glass jars and cream coloured stoneware beers floating on the top of the puddle at the bottom of the excavation are all that remains of a centuries old dump site that served industrial age Toronto. You can see the water is being sucked out of the hole by sump pumps. When these photos were taken, the spring water was drained into the storm sewers on the south side of the property and bottles were popping up all over the place.

evidence of a lost creek under 510 King St Toronto
The construction site manager was very helpful and accommodating, and was himself an expert in the history of the site. He shied away from my camera of course; posing for pictures on a job site can be risky. But to his credit, he was very forthcoming with good information. ‘The creek has no name’ he said in provocative tone, and his words echo in my thoughts.

While pointing outside from behind his comfortable desk in the heated office trailer, he told me how the north facing wall of the excavation, and now the building’s foundation is engineered with specific water collecting apparatus to channel the accumulation into nearby municipal storm sewers.

early Canadian glass bottles
A good storyteller, the construction site manager recounted the hot July days when the backhoe operator dredged out several tones of metal debris that had been dumped and incinerated over a hundred years ago. Back then the natural water system was deliberately buried under the heaviest man-made materials available; industrial age iron scraps, building stones, broken bricks and cement was dumped here to suffocate the spring. The refuse also contained wagon loads of hundred year old household trash. The rubbish was incinerated in keeping with period legislation about dump maintenance with respect to hygiene, so only the strongest, luckiest bottles survived.

Q.S GRAINGER beer bottle, Toronto hotel keeper, 1880
The Dumpdiggers reader who contributed information to this story reported that this Q.S Grainger stoneware beer bottle came from this dig site. It was hand-turned on a pottery wheel by an unknown local potter in the 1880s. There are only a few remaining with this stamp, and every specimen is unique. He also wrote that, “There was an assortment of Toronto blob top pint & quart soda water bottles, many medicine bottles from Canada & USA, glass & stoneware, ink bottles, stoneware jars & pottery items. There was even one amber & one aqua glass fire grenade bottles! A few pot lids from the UK. A total of about 300 blown bottles that date from 1870 to 1905. This lot had a creek running from north to south of the property and it was filled in through many years with ashes. Mixed in the ash were numerous bottles. The workers only picked up the embossed bottles that were worth money and left the unembossed ones that were not worth someones time to clean.”

Origins of the lost creek and its path to the Don River,
The lost creek originates from a natural spring just north of the excavation site. In the 1880s it was on the surface and ran south through this property and what is now the River City condo developments property, the future site of the Pan American games in 2014.

The lost creek fed into the Don River.
The Don River Straightening Project helped Toronto become a better city, but it also created rich pockets of good historic trash for Toronto diggers to unearth for centuries to come. Let me tell you a story about the Don River in Toronto in the late 1800s. The people of this great city have had a love / hate relationship with the Don since the origins of the British settlement in the 1790s. straight Don River in TorontoOne hundred years later, desperate to stop the flooding, and to provide a shipping channel and to create additional industrial land near the lake, a vast scheme known as “the Don Improvement” was carried out in Toronto. The project straightened the river south of Gerrard St to make room on either side for railroads, roads and other urban infrastructure. Ashbridge’s Marsh was drained and filled, eliminating a public health concern, while providing acres of new industrial land in the Port Lands. The expansion of the city in the early 1900 buried the last traces of the creek that once ran across 512 and 510 King St East.

Are these posts the remnants of a small bridge?

As you can see, wooden posts were visible at the bottom of the hole. Let me remind you that the bottom of the hole was almost ten feet below the surface of present day King St East. Were these wooden posts part of a small bridge across the lost creek? Picture that if you can, and its easy to see residents walking and talking… No doubt some of the antique glass soda bottles were discarded by the users themselves immediately after consuming the contents. Soda bottles are exactly the kind of rubbish that get’s pitched by hand, while the milk bottles and medicines are more typical of a systematic municipal trash disposal program at the site.

One of the best bottles that was recovered was this amber Warner’s Safe Cure which was a popular patent medicine. Because it has the names of three cities embossed in the glass, its what’s known today as a 3 city Safe Cure.

WARNER’S ~ SAFE ~ NERVINE ~ LONDON – ENGLAND (LEFT SIDE) TORONTO – CANADA (RIGHT SIDE)~ ROCHESTER ~ N.Y. U.S.A. HALF PINT, AMBER, DC. This bottle’s value is approximately $500 as per the Werner’s Reference Guide blogspot. The website is definitely worth perusing if you have any Warner bottles in your collection.

Another excellent source of information on Warner Patent Medicine bottles is the Warner’s Safe Cure Blog which is the product of a skilled writer that lives his passion for this specific type of antique glass. I’ve just spent three hours reading sixty posts on his site.