(Early leaders were called chairmen and served one-year terms)
Note: These sketches were written by Bill Baab, with assistance from Dick Watson, Medford, New Jersey; Bob Ferraro, Boulder City, Nevada; George Wagoner, Sacramento, California; Don Smith, Sacramento, California, and others.
George Rieber, 1968-1969, Sacramento, California
The Antique Bottle Collectors Association, founded in 1959 by John Tibbitts and his wife, Edith, in Sacramento, Calif., attracted the attention of antique bottle clubs across the country and many joined what was to become the forerunner of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors. Thirteen clubs met during the annual ABCA convention, as noted in the Tibbitts’ newsletter, “The Pontil,” in the September 1968 issue. There were 45 affiliated clubs and the organization had grown too big for one club to handle it. So delegates voted to organize the “International Federation of Bottle Clubs,” according to George Rieber, who later became the first Federation chairman. The first meeting was held Nov. 16 in Oakland, Calif., with the Golden Gate Historical Bottle Society as host. Later, the “International” was dropped from the name .and it became the Federation of Historical Bottle Clubs. The Sacramento club became charter member No. 1. “A good share of the credit should go to George Rieber for his many hours of work “on behalf of the Federation, according to Don Smith, “The Pontil” editor. “George had a good sense of humor, liked historical flasks, although his was a general collection overall,” Smith recalled during a 2011 interview. Smith noted in “The Pontil” of May 1969: “George Rieber. . . was unanimously elected Honorary Chairman of the Federation and given a seat on the Board of Directors.”
Elmer Lester, 30 March 1969 – October 1969, Sacramento, California
Elmer Lester picked up the ball that started rolling under George Rieber’s leadership and kept it rolling. Fifty-five representatives of 17 clubs met March 30, 1969 at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, Calif. The second chairman of the Federation, Lester noted that 37 clubs out of a possible 102 have become Federation affiliates. Growth was sort of slow, in Lester’s view, and following the Antique Bottle Collectors of Colorado becoming an affiliate, he noted: “If only all member-clubs of the F.H.B.C. (it later became the FOHBC) would follow suit, the Federation would be off the ground like Apollo 10!” Lester’s interest in the hobby came about through his collecting rock crystals. “He called his upstairs attic where he had his rock crystals displayed the ‘Crystal Palace’,” said George Wagoner, who also was a member of the original Sacramento Antique Bottle Collectors Association. “Elmer also collected high end food bottles and they joined the rocks on display,” Wagoner said in 2011. “He was a member of the Toastmasters and a great public speaker.”
John Eatwell, October 1969 – 0ctober 1970, Denver, Colorado
“An all-around good guy” was the way friends described John Eatwell after his death on Nov. 29, 2005 at age 73. He served as the third chairman of the Federation of Historical Bottle Clubs (later Collectors), which he helped to found during the 1960s. He also chaired the Federation’s first show in his hometown of Denver in 1969. He co-wrote two books, one on Denver’s early drug stores (Denver’s Golden Days and Apothecary Palaces) and the other on his favorite subject called Pike’s Peak Gold with David K. Clint III.. John’s collection of Pike’s Peak whiskey flasks was outstanding. Stories abound about his digging adventures in the Leadville, Colo. dump (elevation 10,000 feet). “He told us how he would leave early Sunday morning in the winter for Leadville, load up his shovels in his vintage bright red Austin Healy convertible (with the top down so the shovels would fit). After arriving at the dump, he’d pick through the frost for the first hour or two, then settle in to dig bottles and listen to Denver Broncos games on the car radio,” said longtime friend Jeff Johnson in a tribute to Eatwell published in the Spring 2006 issue of Bottles and Extras. Eatwell owned his own firm, John M. Eatwell Architects. He was married to the former Karen Schepler and they became the parents of four children. He was elected to the Federation Hall of Fame in 2002.
John Guttenberg, 1970 – 1971, New York
During the second annual convention of the FOHBC July 24-27, 1970, at the Genessee Valley Bottle Collectors Association show, John Gutenberg was elected chairman and served until 1971. Member clubs received one vote on agenda items with proxy ballots signed by two officers of a club also accepted. By-laws and show display judging were principal agenda items, John was the first president of the GVBCA. The club and Rochester, N.Y. shows continue to this day.
John Martinelli, 1971 – 1972, New York
He served as education chairman of the Genessee Valley Bottle Collectors Association in 1969 He was a collector of bottles and insulators, especially threadless insulators. In 1970, as editor of the GVBCA newsletter, Applied Seals, he was cited by Collectors Weekly Magazine for his editorship. He was president of the club in 1987. He is well known as a collector and dealer in stoneware bottles and crocks.
Gene Bradberry, 1972 – 1974, 1988 – 1994, 2010 to present, Memphis, Tennessee
Elected to the first two-year term as Federation of Historical Bottle Clubs president in 1972, he served to August 1974. He was reelected in 1988 and served through 1994. He was elected again in 2010. He was serving as second vice president in 1971 when Chairman John Martinelli asked him to draft bylaws for the 2-year-old Federation. Martinelli’s plans included the country being broken into five regions and that’s how region chairmen (now directors) came into being. In 1972, Bradberry set up the region rotation to host the convention each year and made a presentation to hold an Exposition in St. Louis during the nation’s bicentennial year of 1976. Expos are now held every four years and national shows are held in each of the three years between the Expos. “I wanted to hold a National Show every year and, while serving as president in 1991, we held the first National Show in Memphis.” In 1989, Bradberry suggested the name change of Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors. He then wrote the current set of bylaws. Somewhere along the line, the regions shrunk from five to four. In 1994, at his urging, the Federation took over Bottles and Extras (a gift from founders Scott Grandstaff and Kitty Roach) and published the first issue in 1995. In 1990, Bradberry contacted John Tibbitts, former Sacramento, Calif., club president and editor (of The Pontil) about using Tibbitts’ club logo with modifications. Tibbitts approved and Bradberry super-imposed the Federation’s round logo onto the California club’s lady’s leg bottle and that became the official logo.
Roy Brown, 1974 – 1976, Grayson, Kentucky
He was elected chairman in 1976 and was succeeded by Bob Ferraro. “Hal Wagner, Randy Haviland and myself came up with the idea of an Expo and the first one was held in St. Louis during the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration. We also came up with the idea of offering life memberships in the Federation.” Roy was known for his outstanding collection of fruit jars. He is a member of the Midwest Antique Fruit Jar and Bottle Club. His collection of Louisville (Ky.) historical flasks contains all of the molds and most color variants. He loaned some of them for an FOHBC display at the Wheaton (N.J.) Museum.
Bob Ferraro, 1977 – 1978, Boulder City, Nevada
Bob was chairman of the Federation’s Western Region from 1973-75 before becoming FOHBC president. He was president of the Southern Nevada Antique Bottle Collectors Club from 1971-73. One of his primary goals while serving the national organization was to increase membership by proposing to change the name of the organization from Federation of Historical Bottle Clubs to Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors. “During my term in office, the Federation decided to hold a national show in a different region each year and to have an exposition every four years in a different region. We were attempting to model the expositions after the first national show held in St. Louis in 1976. I believe we have met this objective. I have met and worked with many bottle collectors from all four regions within our country. This has been a pleasing and satisfying experience. Bottle collectors are great people!” He was inducted into the FOHBC Hall of Fame in 2002.
Norman Barnett, 1978 – 1980
He started collecting fruit jars in 1967 and helped found the Midwest Antique Fruit Jar and Bottle Club in 1972, serving as its president for all but 10 years of its existence. He and his wife, Junne, became known for their collection of rare fruit jars, especially those with odd closures. Norm was responsible for organizing and conducting the first fruit jar get-together in 1976, held on the Monday following the St. Louis Expo. Eighty collectors from 17 states and Canada attended. The Barnetts were so supportive of the Federation, in which they were early life members, as well as everyone in the hobby, be it fruit jars or bottles. Norm and Junne received a President’s Award from the Federation in 1994 for their continued support of the Federation and their work on the 1993 annual meeting and show. They played host to the Federation’s National Convention and Annual Meeting in Muncie, Ind., in 2001 and were in charge of the banquet at the 2003 National Show. That same year, they were inducted into the Federation Hall of Fame.
Jean M. Garrison, 1980 – 1982, Sparrow Bush, New York
“The Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors strives to promote, foster and encourage all activities toward the betterment of bottle collecting.” That slogan was lived up to on a nearly daily basis by Jean Matthews Garrison, who served as the Federation’s public relations director for eight years. She and husband, Don, were avid supporters of the Federation’s National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa, N.Y, serving in various positions as members of the National Bottle Museum Society. She became national chairman in 1980. Ten years later, she was nominated by Sam Fuss, then serving as Northeast Region chairman, and inducted into the FOHBC Hall of Fame. Not only was she a “joiner” (she held membership in seven bottle clubs), but she also was a “doer” (she served as Federation representative for the Hudson Valley Bottle Collectors Association, first vice president of the Saratoga Bottle Collectors Association, secretary of the Suffolk County Antique Bottle Collectors Association, editor of its newsletter for six years, Northeast Region chairman (now director) and edited the news notes and served as Northeast Region editor of the Federation Letter. Get the picture? She was a life member of the FOHBC.
Steve Ketcham, 1982 – 1984, Edina, Minnesota
Steve began collecting antique bottles, advertising and stoneware in 1967 while still in high school. While attending the University of Minnesota, he began digging for bottles, and his first digs were on the banks of the Mississippi River near the university campus. Freeways were being built in Minneapolis’ inner city and he frequented construction sites in older neighborhoods. Steve was charter member No. 11 when the North Star Historical Bottle Association was established in 1976. A few years later, he joined Minnesota’s First Antique Bottle Club and began attending regional meetings of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors in 1973. He later served as assistant chairman and then chairman of the FOHBC’s Midwest Region. He established the Federation Writers’ Contest and served as its chairman for several years, He was FOHBC president from 1982 to 1984 and sat on the board of directors from 1982-1998. He often provided comic entertainment at Federation national banquets and contributed many articles to its magazine.
Dick Stockton, 1984 – 1986, Fort Myers, Florida
Dick served the Federation as a life member and was instrumental in steering the FOHBC through legal issues. He gave intelligent advice on questions which arose on procedure. He got the 501-C3 designation during Gene Bradberry’s term and it has continued to serve the Federation well.
Frank Brockman, 1986 – 1988, Stockton, California
Frank served while the Federation National Museum was an active point of discussion at meetings and in correspondence and newsletters. California collectors came annually to the Verbeck House in Ballston Spa, N.Y., to clean it and prepare for the early June opening until a new director turned them away. Frank wrote excellent articles on digging and historical flasks. Top rarities in historicals were his specialty.
Gene Bradberry, 1988 – 1994 (See above)
Junior Carl Sturm, 1994 – 1998, 2006 – 2008, Longwood, Florida
He and his wife, Joy, took on the job as editors of The Federation Letter in 1985 and The Federation Glass Works in 1989 at the request of FOHBC President Gene Bradberry, publishing the newsletter on a monthly basis, first on a typewriter, then progressing to a computer in early 1990. They won the President’s Award in 1990 “for their outstanding contributions as Federation Glass Works editors. A life member of the Federation, he was elected its president for two terms (1994-98). He edited Bottles and Extras and converted it to a bi-monthly publication. He served the Federation as director-at-large from 2004 to 2006, then was elected president and served from 2006 to 2008. He is currently a director-at-large and has been a voting member at FOHBC board meetings continually since 1990. Carl is a member of the Long-Timers Club, having been among those who attended the 1976 St. Louis Expo and the 2007 Collinsville, Ill., National Show. He was elected to the Federation Hall of Fame in 2008. Carl has an incredible collection of rare cure bottles and also is an authority on early black glass bottles.
Sheldon Baugh, 1998 – 2002, Russellville, Kentucky
A life member of the Federation, Sheldon served as Midwest Director for two terms and as director-at-large since his presidential stint. He has attended every FOHBC Expo and every annual National Show since they started. “I love the Federation and the many friends and collectors I have met across the country,” he said. He attended Western Kentucky University and has owned an insurance agency since 1975. He served 14 years as a state representative in the Kentucky General Assembly. He and Brenda have been married 48 years (as of April 2011) and have two children and a pair of granddaughters. His excellent knowledge of the insurance and investment business saw the Federation through hard economic times and is the primary reason for the FOHBC’s survival and the financial stability of the organization today.
Ralph Van Brocklin, 2002 – 2004, Johnson City, Tennessee
Ralph was raised in Salinas, Calif., an agricultural town in the central coast region known as “The Salad Bowl of the World.” In 1972, he entered UCLA as a pre-medical science student and upon graduation in 1977, he was selected for the entering class in the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He was graduated from Penn in 1981. Following a one-year residency in hospital dentistry at the University of California, Dr. Van Brocklin began his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. He fell in love with the East Tennessee region and has called Johnson City his home for the past 25 years. He has been a collector of western liquor items, including beers, whiskeys, flasks, shot glasses and stoneware for more than 40 years. After moving to Tennessee, he also focused on bottles and stoneware from that and other southern states. He is well known for his extensive western flask collection, but also focuses on mini jugs from all regions (with a collection approaching 500 specimens) and bottles from the Monterey Bay area of California. Ralph is a past president of the FOHBC, serving on the board from 2001 through 2006, and as president from August 2002 through August 2004. He is married to the former Deborah Erwin, of Erwin, Tenn., and they have two sons, Mark and Hunter.
John Pastor, 2004 – 2006, New Hudson, Michigan
John has been a collector, dealer, auctioneer and appraiser of antique bottles, flasks and related glass for more than 35 years (in 2011) and is a widely recognized authority. His interest in old bottles began at a very young age when he and his father began exploring the fields and woods along the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek, Mich. Occasionally, a few old bottles were found, including a Buffalo Lithia Water which remains in his collection. He is a life member of the Federation and has served in varying capacities on the board of directors since August 1998. He successfully catalogued and conducted the annual FOHBC national auctions from 2001 through 2005. He founded American Glass Gallery in 2008. He is manager and event coordinator for the annual Columbus Day Weekend at Norman C. Heckler’s historic Woodstock Valley, Conn., home. He acquired Antique Bottle & Glass Collector from owner Jim Hagenbuch in 2010 and is now publisher of the magazine.
Junior Carl Sturm, 2006 – 2008 (see above)
Richard Siri, 2008 – 2010, Santa Rosa, California
Richard’s entrance into collecting antique bottles began one day in 1966 when his brother, Ted, was working on a road in Willits, Calif. Richard’s family was in the dirt road construction and paving business. The grading work uncovered an old dump and Ted noticed some old brown whiskey bottles with embossing on them. He remembered seeing similar bottles in the window of a trailer house in town, so he took the bottles to the trailer’s resident. He received $5 apiece. That stirred the Siri family’s interest. They went to the dump and dug out more. Later, Richard discovered an antique bottle club in his hometown of Santa Rosa and, after a few visits,.he was hooked on the hobby. He was fortunate to meet Bill and Betty Wilson, who were gathering material for their Western Bitters book. Many of Richard’s bottles are pictured in that book as are some of his ephemera and bottles in the Bill Ham-Carlyn Ring Bitters Bottles book. Richard also is an active collector of 1957 Chevrolets. No one understands Richard’s passion for collecting better than his wife, Bev. They had been dating for some time. While attending the Reno bottle show in 1987, he turned to her and asked, “What do you want to do tonight? Do you want to get married?” And, they were. Richard is a life member of the FOHBC, joining March 4, 1991, and served as its president from August 2008 through August 2010. He served as first vice president from 2006 to 2008.
Gene Bradberry, 2010-2012 (see above)