Sometimes mistakes pay off.
A new variant of a rare and highly sought-after early West Kootenay soda water bottle with three spelling errors on it has sold on eBay for $866 US.
The scarce specimen from the Slocan Bottling Works of Kaslo, dating to about 1896, is a Hutchison-style bottle, with a spring-loaded internal stopper.
What makes it unusual is that it’s embossed “CHOPPELL & KOPPS / CASLO BC,” but should read “CHAPPELL & KAPPS / KASLO BC.”
Although several other examples of the misspelled bottle exist, they are clear and have a blank bottom; this one is aqua and has “16” embossed on the bottom.
According to the seller, who is from Fernie, the bottle was dug up with a few dings and scratches, but no chips or cracks, and has its original stopper.
The auction drew 12 bids, including four over $500. All that’s known about the buyer is that they are from Canada. (The auction is here.)
It’s the only example of the bottle with the spelling blunders to appear on eBay in the last decade. A few were reportedly found in the early to mid-1970s by divers off Ainsworth Hot Springs, while a BC collector claimed to have located a small cache of them.
Six other Slocan Bottling Works bottles that said “SLOCAN BOTTLING WORKS / CHAS J. KAPPS / KASLO BC” have sold separately on eBay since 2001, fetching prices of $43 to $251 US. Only one was from a local seller; the others came from Edmonton, Montana, Florida, and Pennsylvannia.
Divers recovered another example from Kootenay Lake in 1962 while looking for a child’s glasses.
A clear syphon, several billheads, and a wooden crate from the same company are also in local private collections.
Strangely, no bottles are known to exist with the proper spelling of Chappell.
According to Pioneer Soda Water Companies of BC authors Bill Wilson and Jim Askey, Charles Kapps established the bottling works by 1894 on D Avenue and moved to 5th Street a few years later, reportedly into what’s now the Langham Cultural Centre.
In 1896, Kapps took on William Chappell as a partner, but this only lasted about a year before Thomas Mitchell replaced him. By 1898, Kapps was again running the business by himself.
“However, the company was certainly prospering,” the authors say. “In 1896 the Slocan Bottling Works was the sole agent for the Pabst Brewing Company for the Slocan district. This franchise surely must have been a money maker.”
By 1903 Arthur W. Goodenough, a former saloonkeeper and co-proprietor of the Kaslo Brewery, replaced Kapps. The last mention of the bottling works was in 1908.
Although not much is known about Kapps himself, census data shows he was born in Germany in 1866 and came to Canada in 1893, probably figuring that thirsty miners would prove a ready market.
From Kaslo he appears to have departed for Bellingham, and then Spokane, where in 1906 he built the Kaiser Hotel. He also had a stake in several valuable real estate holdings there and in Idaho’s Deep Wonder mine.
In 1916, his wife Louise filed for divorce, alleging desertion, and sought custody of their children, William and Meta. Louise died three years later, age 36.
In the 1940s and ‘50s, the president of the Fox Head Brewing Co. of Waukesha, Wisconsin was a Charles Kapps. Same guy? Could be. He resigned in 1955 due to ill health.
Our Charles Kapps died around 1958, age 92, and was buried in Spokane, leaving a legacy in glass.
This story will appear in the July 22 edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser.