By Jeff Wichmann
Fred Holabird has written Volume II in his The Nevada Bottle Book series, this one focusing on drug store bottles from Nevada. At 480 pages, this beats his previous book on Nevada sodas, whiskeys, beers and dairy and other bottles by over 130 pages. To say it is a massive undertaking is an understatement. The book is chock full of color advertising, pictures of towns, bottles and ephemera of all types. If it happened in Nevada or is related to anything in Nevada during its growing period from roughly 1859 and on, there is something on it in this book. For bottle collectors or just anyone with even a remote interest in Nevada history, this book covers the subject beyond good. Covering everything from pharmacology to mining and glass manufacturing on the west coast and of course bottles, the book is important in the way the early building of the west was. It lights up the eyes with grandiose pictures and frozen images from years past filling the head with imaginative thought and a daring primal journey. For those that collect anything western, this book is a soothing and informative road map for the soul.
Holabird starts the book with a forward written by Jacquelyn K. Sundstrand, University of Nevada Reno, Special Collections, Reno Nevada. In it she talks about the immense amount of work Holabird did in order to finish this behemoth book and has a laugh that there were some people who thought this book would never come to fruition with Fred Holabird being one of them. As Sundstrand points out, “No matter how enjoyable we find it the Nevada Bottle Book is serious history.” Indeed it is and with the 100’s of bottle pictures and other entertaining shots of Fred himself showing a bottle or two, the reader is getting a hefty dose of Nevada as it was, all bundled up into an easy to read and enjoyable reference.
The book includes a well thought out table of contents and lengthy index as well as numerous sidebars, where the author adds additional information to give the reader everything they need to know about a town or bottle. His page numbers are cleverly designed with pictures of bottles next to the page number relating to that particular chapter’s topic. The overall layout and picture quality is first class with tokens, maps and any and everything Nevada sprawled out so life like that it looks almost like you can pick up a token or old photograph. In addition he includes a list of every Nevada drugstore merchant by name, not an easy task to do.
Of course the book was done about bottles, Nevada drug store bottles specifically and it has covered that subject as well as any bottle book we’ve seen with not just the history of the bottle but multiple photographs and go-withs that fully illustrate the bottle and its place in Nevada history. Although the book is on drug store bottles, Holabird includes pictures of other very rare and beautiful examples as well. That very well might be because back then you could buy just about anything in a drug store. So in addition to drug store bottles you’ll see whiskeys, sodas and a whole lot of everything Nevada. While his first color book was the best book we’d seen on Nevada and its bottles, this book dives deeper into the importance and historical significance of the Silver State. The stories about miners and mining towns and most importantly the characters who lived there are as amusing as they are insightful. People like Samuel Clemens who lived in Aurora and worked as a pharmacist there, conceding that he was no good at it and then moving to Virginia City, all written about in his well-known book titled Roughing It. The people of Nevada were characters indeed. An article in the December 10, 1859 Territorial Enterprise noted: The cold weather, instead of allaying, only seems to increase the virulence of silver fever. Should our new Territory be organized, one of the first acts of the Legislature should be to make an appropriation for a lunatic asylum; for a surety, many of our citizens are nearly insane upon the subject of silver mining.”
So the Volume II Nevada Bottle Book is out and it’s a good thing for lovers of bottles and history anywhere. As Holabird points out in his preface, “I approached this book like a science project…part of that is chemistry, part metallurgy and part history.…the Nevada pioneers who chose to be druggists…crosses the line of science. Indeed, many were mining men, and their stories related here are filled with the wonders of Nevada mining history.” Holabird also points out that between the two books combined there is nearly forty years of work. It’s obvious when you take a look inside the covers you’ll understand the passion and fortitude it takes to put together a project of this kind. A labor of love, a love of labor, this book appears to be much like climbing Mt. Everest, once you get half way up, you’d better not look back. We are all better off that Fred Holabird and his many helpers and generous friends over the years never looked back.
Ghost Town & Medicine’s is available now for $40.00 (+ $5.00 shipping/handling) Call Toll Free 844-HWAC-RNO (4922-766) Phone 775-851-1859. Holabird’s Western Americana Collections LLC 3555 Airway Dr., Suite #308 Reno, NV 89511