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27 Aug 2021, last revised 26 Apr 2022

The bottle book, Old Copper Country Bottles, published in 1978, listed a single bottle embossed, JAC. AGNITSCH. / RED JACKET / MICH in the Unknown Brewers and Bottlers section. Having only one, extremely rare bottle suggests this was a short-lived bottler, which may have placed only one order of bottles, and perhaps for only a gross (the minimum quantity). It was unknown if this beer-type bottle actually contained beer, especially when "Brewery" was not embossed on the bottle. We see that the bottle has an applied Baltimore loop seal top, which dates it to the latter half of the 1880s, possibly as late as the early 1890s. It is for this time period that our search concentrates.

First of all, it appears "Agnitsch" is a misspelling of "Agnitch". We could not find any "Agnitsch" in the U.S. Federal Census that matched this time period, but the census included many members of the "Agnitch" family. In the late 1890s, advertisements in The Copper Country Evening News referred to businesses being located in the "Agnitch block" on North 5th St., Calumet, while a search for "Agnitsch" turned up nothing. We searched the Houghton County Polk directories, but Agnitch was not listed, probably because its first volume was issued in 1895 (1), which was too late for this bottle.

Newspaper announcement - The Calumet and Red Jacket News, 01 Mar 1889, p. 1
Newspaper announcement - Mar 1889
Newspaper announcement - The Calumet and Red Jacket News, 13 Dec 1889, p. 3
Newspaper announcement - Dec 1889

The breakthrough came with the discovery of a notice in The Calumet and Red Jacket News that repeated in Feb-Mar 1889. We do not have access to earlier issues so we do not know when the notice started. It stated that Jacob Agnitch in Red Jacket was selling Val Blatz's special Wiener Beer, Export Lager, and the celebrated Half-and-Half (5). He was also the proprietor of the Detroit House, which we found in the 1895 Houghton County Polk directory to be located in Lake Linden, but by that volume, Agnitch was no longer proprietor (1). Therefore, it turned out Jacob Agnitch was an agent for Blatz and his bottle contained Blatz beer.

Jacob Agnitch probably distributed Blatz beer out of a saloon. The Polk directory listed a saloon for Stephen Agnitch in the 1887 and 1889 volumes (2,11) and for Agnitch Bros (Stephen and Jack) in the 1891 volume (3). In Feb 1891, "Mr. Agnitch" decided to go out of the saloon business, and along with being the Blatz agent, proposed opening a meat market (9). It is unclear if this happened or when it happened, since about two months later, the Agnitch Brothers installed a new bar in their saloon (10). Stephen Agnitch was then listed as a brewer's agent in the 1893 directory (4), and the 1893 Sanborn map shows a depot for Blatz. Since neither of them were listed in the 1895 directory (1), the Blatz agency apparently changed hands. Blatz then closed its Red Jacket branch in Jan 1897 but maintained its operations in Hancock (8).

A marriage record from 1891 listed a Jacob Agnitch as a merchant and resident of Red Jacket (6). He was from Austria and married Mary Ahrus on 17 May 1891. The 1890 U.S. Federal Census was mostly destroyed by fire, and we could not find him listed in the 1900 census. The 1910 census lists him as a machinist in a shop and a resident of Yellow Jacket in Calumet (7). It noted that he immigrated in 1885, which means he would not have been listed in the 1880 census. If this was the same Jacob Agnitch, it shows that his time at the saloon was short-lived.

Jacob Agnitch was an early distributor of Blatz beer in the Copper Country before Blatz established a depot in Red Jacket. Bottles bearing the Blatz name have been found locally but they lack a local town name. They may have been used by other agents or Jacob Agnitch himself. We are fortunate to have the Agnitch bottle with a local town name to commemorate Blatz's presence in the Copper Country.

References

  1. R. L. Polk & Co. 1895. Houghton County Directory 1895-96. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  2. R. L. Polk & Co. 1887. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1887-88. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  3. R. L. Polk & Co. 1891. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1891-92. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  4. R. L. Polk & Co. 1893. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1893-94. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  5. anonymous. (1889, Mar 01). untitled. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 1.
  6. Michigan, U.S., Marriage Records, 1867-1952 (accessed on ancestry.com).
  7. U.S. Census Bureau. 1910 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  8. anonymous. (1897, Jan 16). Business Card. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 4.
  9. anonymous. (1891, Feb 20). untitled. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  10. anonymous. (1891, May 01). untitled. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  11. R. L. Polk & Co. 1889. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1889-90. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.

125
Jac. Agnitsch bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: c.1889
rarity: extremely rare
  • plate low on mold