By virtue of age, almost any antique object will have a story behind it. Some will be interesting or important, most mundane. Some objects will never have their history or story revealed, others will rely on notes or oral history handed down from prior generations. In a few cases, however, the object itself will have all the information you need front and center.
Such was the case with an antique bottle that I recently found at a local re-sale store. Bottles are not a specialty of mine but the obvious age and the SC (for South Carolina), combined with the reasonable price, was all the incentive I needed to become the new owner. Speaking as an appraiser, I'll share with you that Southern items almost always command a premium in the marketplace for historical items. A little quick research led to an interesting story behind the bottle, which is as follows:
In 1893, the then-governor of South Carolina, Ben Tillman (known as "Pitchfork Ben" due to his farming background), decided to create a state-run liquor monopoly called the South Carolina Dispensary. Located first in Edgefield, SC, the dispensary offered spirits in half-pint, pint, and half-quart bottles. The most common sort are the "Jo Jo flasks" such as the one pictured above. Soneware jugs, made both in SC and VA, were also used. Originally, most bottles were made by out-of-state glass companies but in 1902, Tillman moved the dispensary to Columbia where bottles were then made by the Carolina Glass Co. It was a short-lived enterprise, however, with the dispensary closing its doors in 1907.
The Jo Jo flasks are easy to spot, with a large SCD monogram on the front of the flask and "S C Dispensary" embossed beneath it. The glass company will usually appear on the reverse side... in this case my bottle was marked "C G Co" for the Carolina Glass Company. Hence, it probably dates to 1902-1907. A second type of bottle was the "Union flask", which lacks the monogram but bears two titles, S C Dispensary and South Carolina Dispensary. The common clear bottles usually trade in the $75-150 range but rare forms can bring $20,000 or more.
For a much more in-depth discussion of the dispensary and the types of bottles they used, you can follow this link to Wikipedia. Here is the link:
I found it to be a fascinating read and now know to be much more attentive when I run across old bottles. Whether I ever find one of the really rare SC Dispensary flasks is anyone's guess but the story behind the bottle I did find was a good one.
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association, the Sarasota County Aging Network (president), and is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent