The below Bristol Herald Courier article was written by
Joe Geraghty .Pictures were taken by David Crigger.
Man assembles whiskey bottle collection to rival any drinker's
Monday, Feb 12, 2007 - 12:00 AM
| Joe Geraghty
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Charlie Barnette loves the bottle, and at this point it’s probably too
late for his family to stage an intervention. The family is full of collectors, Barnette admits
willingly. He is not a drinker, despite the hundreds of whiskey bottles in his house.
"When I was a kid, I collected matchbooks and stamps," Barnette said. "I’ve
always, I don’t know, sort of wanted to accumulate something. Bottles, I guess, sort of satisfied that urge in me."
Barnette’s wife collects frog figurines and Indian artifacts, while his
son gathers soda bottles.
Barnette’s passion is finding whiskey and medicine bottles from the turn
of the last century. He has boxes of them stored under his house and in a shed out back.
"When I dig them up, I hate to just leave them there, so I just bring them
home and stick them under the house," Barnette said.
Only the special ones – and there are hundreds – get displayed
in a room at the back of his house, where they line shelves and fill cabinets.
Barnette travels to bottle shows all over the country to buy and sell, but
his true joy comes in uncovering a long buried bottle.His most recent digs have occurred under
the Anderson Street Bridge that’s under construction in the city.Barnette expresses genuine
emotions about the bottles he collects, and the ones that got away.His favorite is a brown Andrews
Manufacturing Co. Sarsaparilla bottle. It’s one of only 10 known to exist, Barnette said.He
once came upon an even rarer Andrews Sarsaparilla bottle, this one clear. It was the only known clear version of the bottle
in the world, and it was broken.
"That’ll make you cry," Barnette said.
He tries to get to a construction site before the heavy equipment arrives.
"Those bulldozers, they don’t worry about breaking bottles," Barnette
Bristol was once the whiskey capital of the region, with multiple
distilleries and countless competing brands. It’s a period of history that often gets overlooked, Barnette said, perhaps
because people are ashamed of Bristol’s liquor-tinged past.But alcohol was big business here,
especially when Tennessee voted to go dry more than a decade before prohibition took hold nationally. People from all over
would come to the city on the state line to buy a drink, he said.Those bottles have ended up in
all kinds of strange places.Barnette has found them sealed up in walls of old homes, suggesting
that the city’s brick masons in those days enjoyed a nip of whiskey every now and then but had to hide their bottles
from their employers.
The medicine bottles Barnette has collected tell the story of Bristol’s
drug business. Back in the early 1900s, pharmacies lined State Street and each mixed its own concoctions and notions designed
to cure all manner of ailments. Every bottle bore the name of the pharmacy that mixed its contents,
and the city is still today littered with the old glass containers, if you know where to look.
For Barnette, that’s the thrill of it. He couldn’t
estimate the value of his collection because he only sells bottles when he’s looking to buy different ones.His only regret is that he didn’t start collecting sooner. He got his start in the early 1970s and really
picked up during the nationwide bicentennial celebrations of 1976.
"I’d hate to think of how many bottles have gone through
my hands over the years," Barnette said. "How many I wish I’d kept..............
Posted February 14, 2007 @ 08:37 PM by TN Lady
Very well written article about an important phase
of Bristol's history, as seen through the eyes of the collector, Charlie Barnette. As a published writer/author, he has certainly
stimulated my interest in not only local history, but in bottles as well. His website http://www.bristol-tenn-va-bottles.com/
is full of valuable information for both historian and collector. I wish you had included his website address in the article
so that others may learn more.
14, 2007 @ 06:35 AM by Julie
Nice article, I liked
the joke about the intervention. I think a point was missed though..besides collecting bottles of spirits, Charlie seeks to
preserve and restore a certain spirit of the past, and he successfully rekindles that in sharing his bottle collection with
us all. Thanks for touching my life, Charlie, and helping me to see my bottle is at least half full, and usually a little
Posted February 13, 2007 @ 05:23 PM by whiskeyman
Great article and picture !!! I would like to see more
articles of this type that focus on local history and local people..
Posted February 13, 2007 @ 10:53 AM by Bryan
Great article man! You got me to read it, wo ho! And
i collect insulators but i have to say thats impressive! Good thing i got a late start at the hobby eh? Have fun finding those
clear Sarsaparilla bottes. -Bryan
13, 2007 @ 10:28 AM by jjhampton
Having known Charlie
for many years, I view him first as a historian and then as a collector. His collection has stimulated countless thousands
of hours of research, to feed his personal hunger for knowledge. All of us in the collecting community benefit from Charlie's
knowledge, and his willingness to freely share it. His web site is a masterpiece. Thank you, Charlie.
These are some additional pix taken during the interview by David Crigger.
Posted February 12, 2007 @ 11:36 PM by Joe C. Copeland
An excellent article pertaining to my good friend Charlie
and his collecting hobby. Our state is full of collectors of various sorts of items. I collect & catalog TN trade tokens
which are also a lot of our state's past history which very few people know about. I am always seeking tokens to add to my
collection and would appreciate any help your readers can give me. I have about 300 different towns & about 2,000 different
tokens in my collection. All information on TN tokens is appreciated.
Posted February 12, 2007
@ 09:46 PM by AnchorPoint
Great article about
a fellow bottle collector. I'd like to see more stories about whiskey, soda, milk & druggist bottles, as well as the lives
of the people behind those businesses. Our history plays a very important role. Unpublished, then it's perhaps lost forever.
Posted February 12, 2007 @ 09:38
PM by H-Maysweetpeas
interesting article. It offers the reader an insight of the history of the older Bristol bottles, Tennnessee in earlier times,
and an insight about the collector, Charlie Barnette. It is refreshing to read about a collector who is so willing to their
share their items of collection and to share the stories associated with the thrill of the 'find'. Well written and the pictures
are a true bonus.
Posted February 12, 2007 @ 08:42 PM by snooks36
Great article....on a fantastic wonderfull, interesting
Collector. You go "Charlie!" snooks36.........
Posted February 12, 2007 @ 07:49 PM by sammi
charlie your collection of bottles are beautiful.you
are nice looking too.
12, 2007 @ 06:48 PM by Ron Johnson
Very nice article.
Charlie is a member of our Bottle Forum, antique-bottles.net, and we really appreciate his expertise. Many articles concerning
the hobby of bottle collecting tend to be negative in tone. Yours was, I think, fair, and nicely informative. You certainly
picked the right person to interview! Great job all around. Ron
Posted February 12, 2007 @ 05:26 PM by Tom
Great article.!!! Keep collecting Tom
NEXT PAGE >>>>
Sources - Bibliography
i) Library of King College, Bristol,Tenn.
- Newspaper Microfilms
ii) Bristol,TN-VA Public Library - Newspaper
Microfilms & City Directories
iii) 1904 Bristol Herald Industrial
iv) Bristol-Goodson Industry &
Resources in 1885 -W.F.Henry/Reporter
v) Witness To An Epoch -
vi) Double Destiny
- Robert Loving
vii) Historic Sites of Sullivan County
- Muriel Spoden
viii) Bristol Tennessee-Virginia : A History
- V.N. "Bud" Phillips
ix) Spirits & Medicinal Bottles
of Bristol, Tenn.-Va. - Charlie Barnette
x) The Passing Years
- Bristol Historical Association
xi) City of Bristol @ 1915
xii) A Pictorial History -
Bristol Historical Association
xiii) Whiskey, An American Pictorial History
- Oscar Getz
xiv) Prohibition, 13 Years That Changed
America - Edward Behr
xv) The Shadow Of The Bottle -
Review & Herald Publishing Co.
xvi) Historic Sullivan - Oliver Taylor
xvii) One Year At A Time - Bristol - 1907
- Lonnie & Kim Blevins
xviii) Honoring Our Heritage: Faces & Places
From The Past -
& Kim Blevins and Roy & Carolyn Williams
xvix) Between the States: Bristol Tennessee -
Virginia During the Civil War - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
xx) Pioneers in Paradise - Bristol,
Tenn-Va. - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
xxi) A Good Place to Live - Bristol,
Tenn-Va. - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
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