I received the following emails and photos from Chuck F. and Dr. Tom Jacobs. Reprinted with permission.
Sent: 05:15 PM 3/27/2004
Thank you so VERY much for this GIFT of an answer to the mysteries surrounding this find. I can't imagine ever having unraveled it without you.
You're correct -- the bottle also reads, ""This Bottle Never (or Not) Sold"
Thanks so very much!
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2004 9:54 AM
Subject: RE: Wunderbier
When I first heard of you find I had a great theory. Many fireplaces had to be rebuilt after the '06 quake and I guessed that a bottle dating more than 10 years after the residence was built would likely have been placed there around 1906. But I hit the books (old telephone books and directories which I also collect) and got some answers. It is very interesting to me that the Kroger label was on the Dohrmann bottle. Kroger embossed his own bottles. Each bottler owned their own bottles and they were returnable. If you read early bottler trade journals they are always talking about loss. This was a great expense to the bottler. Many of the embossed beers also state "This Bottle Never (or Not) Sold" Around the turn of the century bottlers started charging for the bottles going out and gave credit when returned. Tokens were issued at the point of sale (grocery store, bar, saloon) for a deposit refund when the bottle was returned "with patent stopper". Still many bottles were lost because resealable patent stopper bottles were so handy to put other liquids in at home. This has been good for the collector since many bottles in my collection have the wires and stoppers on them and may have been saved from destruction for this reason. There was a Beer Bottler's Board of Trade in San Francisco where stray empties were collected and sorted for return to the owners. I have had the opportunity to dig on the sites of several beer bottling works and realize they did not hire the highest brain power to sort the bottles. For example I dug the trash heap from the United States Bottling Co. (Folsom Street, Mission District) and found bottles from the "U.S. Bottling Co. John Fauser" , "U.S. Lager J. Proll", and even the "Fredericksburg Bottling Co." In all cases the bottles had either the "U.S." connection or as in the case of the Fredericksburg, a shield emblem (many of the Cuneo bottles also have an embossed shield). I can only guess that these bottles were returned to Cuneo rather that their real owners because of the similarity of name or graphic design.
Anyway, Dohrmann quit business in 1900 and must have sold his bottles to Kroger. The phone number is the best piece of information for dating the bottle. Kroger had the phone number "White 1302" from at least November 1897 through June 1902 (date of that phone book). Kroger's number in June 1903 was "Capp 6121". Given when Dohrmann went out of business and the phone number change, your bottle dates from 1900 to 1903. It sounds like you bottle has a metal "Lightning Stopper". The date is only a patent date. This style became used less and less after the porcelain "Hutter" stopper was patented in 1893. There was concern that bacteria (the enemy of the beer bottler) on the rubber of the lightning stoppers not only contaminated the beer but may have imparted a foul taste as well. The porcelain stoppers even though they also had rubbers, had less rubber in contact with the beer. The rubbers could also be changed at each use by snapping them off of the knob at the base. You could not do that with a lightning stopper.
Both the Dohrmann and Kroger bottles are of approximate rarity and value. They are scarce and without labels are valued in the $50 to $75 range.
Hope this is of use.
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 4:19 PM
I live in San Francisco and I'm an owner of an old 1890s Victorian, in the North Panhandle area of the City. I was doing some construction demolition of my fireplace mantle , and discovered an old empty (darn) beer bottle with the label still on it, just sitting behind the mantle (!) amidst a big pile of bricks....it says:
Wunder Brewing Company's "Wunderbier"
Seal Rock Bottling Company,
John Kroger, Proprietor,
909 York Street, San Francisco
Telephone White 1302
"We guarantee this beer to be brewed from selected malt and [next side of label] bohemian hops and to be pure in every respect."
Seems the bottler was over in the Mission District, not far from 7th & Harrison. Mapquest map.
The logo on your website is different from that of the label; the label shows a gold acorn with a big blue "W" in the middle, surrounded by a blue shield "WUNDER Brewing Company". It resembles this picture but in blue (not red).
The back of the bottle reads, "F.A. Dohrmann, San Francisco CAL" as raised glass.
It also has an old metal flap/porcelein cap, which reads, "Lightning PA
Sept 10 '78" underneath.
Was hoping you might tell me more about the possible age of this bottle? From your website, seems Wunder Brewing didn't get started until 1898. Would the cap corroborate the date of the bottle??