ARTICLES WITH INFORMATION FOR WISCONSIN ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTORS:::.
FINDING THE HIETZLER
How many times has it happened? You mention a bottle on the way out to a hunt and one turns up? Not as often as we’d like, but everyone seems to have at least one story like that.
On one such day, mrbottles (or Steve as I may refer to him) and I were planning a dive in a river. On the way out, we were talking about all the items that had been found there. I said that our buddy Jim had found an S.M. Eaton pre-hutch the last time he dove there. Steve replied that he already had that bottle. Except, he noted, that he did not have the mold variety that was manufactured by the glass company ‘MGCo’. Sure enough, that exact bottle (from MGCo) winds up going home in his box.
However, we often talk about all kinds of great bottles in the excitement of going diving and we don’t actually find them. But, in retrospect, those conversations don’t stand out in your mind nearly as much. The truth is, if talking about finding a bottle actually helped you find it, we’d never shut up on the way out. All you’d hear is "Tomahawks, Badgers, and Wolfs, Oh my!" Or rather, "graphite pontilled acorn blob-top colored pre-hutchinson garbled nonsense". Maybe just "Hopkins".
One of my dream bottles was a bottle from Hartford, Wisconsin. It was apparently a misprinted bottle from an early ill-fated venture by Theodore Dietzler. The bottle is a hutchinson soda embossed ‘Trentel & Hietzler". Little is known about Trentel but conjecture has it that Hietzler must be Dietzler because he went on to become a very successful bottler in Hartford. One reason that this bottle was a dream find for me is because I collect hutchinsons and this one was extremely rare. Another is that my parents live on Pike Lake. Hartford is the nearest town. There is a sense of connection to the area and its’ history. Additionally, Pike Lake is where we first cut our teeth diving and where we first began to find antique sodas and beers.
Unlike the scenario discussed earlier, we didn’t just randomly talk about Hietzler before diving in Pike. We talked about it every time. It became our pre-dive mantra. Right before submerging, we’d say, "Find a Hietzler". I think it may have started as a taunt. "I’m going to find a Hietzler, beat that!" Later, I think it came to be general well wishing. It stood for, "Good Luck" or "Find the best bottle in here." After awhile, we’d said it so many times it almost came to mean, "giddy up" or "Let’s go get something."
On one Sunday, Steve and I were deciding where to go diving. We had time for only one tank. I was lobbying for Pewaukee Lake. It is huge and there has to be more glass at the bottom. Steve wanted Pike. I said that there's nothing good left in Pike. We had already pulled out a lot of glass and the returns were diminishing. We ended up deciding to try Pike because we were going to visit our folks later in the day anyway. We took our dad's pontoon boat out to dive in relative comfort. (You can get suited up in a standing position). When we started diving, we gave the usual mantra, "Find a Hietzler" and went under. As I hit the mud out there searching around, I banged up against a bottle. I grabbed it but I couldn’t investigate it very much. The mud I'd stirred up completely surrounded me. This forced me to feel the bottle for details that I couldn’t see.
This is actually one of the favorite topics of conversation for us divers. That is, "What did you think it was before you fully saw it?" We can jab about that for hours. You never forget your first impressions when you find something really good. MrBottles, in fact, talks about this experience on land when he found his amber hutch. He originally thought it was something else. Maybe an odd shaped beer from Waukesha before he realized he had found an amber Munzinger from Milwaukee. There’s really nothing to compare this sensation to especially when you’re diving. You’re underwater and somewhat blinded. You’re feeling for clues as to the bottle’s identity, but you already have preconceived ideas about what you might find. Then when you get something odd you wonder and guess until you actually view it.
I’m not sure what I expected that day. I guess a Theodore Dietzler and Company hutch (which is still rare but not nearly as rare) was not out of the question. We’d found that bottle before. As I felt around the bottle I had just found, I grabbed what seemed like an unusually plump blob top. That’s nice. Feeling down the bottle, the shoulders started immediately. This thing had no neck. It had embossing, good. It also seemed very short but the bottom was intact. It had to be a very unusual Theo Dietzler hutch or my mind was playing tricks on me. It didn't feel right at all. No neck and way too short. I tried to look at it. Too much mud. I held it right in front of my mask. Too much mud. I turned, twisted, and held it over my head. Too much mud. I swam a bit, and finally re-held the bottle overhead. When I reached clear water, I immediately saw the "H". I recognized it instantly. Oddly enough, the first thing I felt was guilt! Here I was complaining about how picked over Pike Lake was just minutes before. In fact, I think I said that there was nothing left to find here. Now, I had found the best bottle that I had ever found in Pike. A beautiful, nearly mint condition, extremely rare, Trentel and Hietzler Hartford hutch. Wow! Even the metal stopper lodged in the neck and blob was intact without corrosion. Eventually, I recovered from my guilt. Now, I prize that gorgeous chunk of glass.
That beautiful historical artifact is also unusual in that it was manufactured by the Northern Glass Company out of Milwaukee (embossed on the front hub). I can think of only one other hutchinson soda like that. This glass company was short-lived lasting only a few years (between 1894 and 1896). Dietzler bottles begin to appear shortly thereafter.
The next spring, I took the bottle to the Milwaukee bottle show. People's reactions were funny. I showed it to Roger Peters who told me that it was the first whole one he had ever seen. I showed it to Wayne Kroll to demonstrate that metal stoppers can survive when buried in the bottom of a lake. Another author, Dan Gross, joked that the bottle was his and asked where I found it. I told him that I couldn't tell him or I'd have to kill him. That was probably too harsh. I should have given him the same pre-dive advice that I had. Go out and find a Hietzler.