I found this hand-tooled flask yesterday evening. It is embossed with a circle slug plate that reads: "Edward Rafter Importer New York City". I would have posted this right away but I ended up doing some research and it bassically opened a whole historical can of worms that delayed me. Anyway this is the story of how this bottle came to be and the 19th century slum lord responsible for it:
Edward Rafter was a grocer and property owner. He started business in Manhattan in 1863 (same year as the NYC draft riots) and by 1888 owned eight tenement buildings and several retail grocery stores.
When investigators checked his building on 343 and 345 East 11th Street, they found that the resident baker used water from the basement sink to make his bread, while the resident fish monger washed his fish in the sink, and the 16 families who lived in the building above the two shops “used the sink as a urinal.”
Threatened with legal action, Rafter said that correcting the problem was impossible. “What steps can I take?” he asked. “It is a very hard matter to take charge of all the tenants in the house.”
By 1903 Rafter had leased building 630-632 Hudson Street and used it as a liquor and grocery warehouse:
It's a bit difficult to discern but if you look closely you can see "Edward Rafter" written in white on the ground floor signage above the horse wagons. Also take notice of the words "Wholesale Grocers" painted above the second floor.
Despite the conditions in his tenements, the New-York Tribunehad nothing but praise for Rafter's provisions business.
“Buying for all of his nine stores in quantity at wholesale, and selling cheaply, his goods go quickly, and are therefore always fresh. In his great storehouse at No. 630 Hudson-st, New York City, these goods are gathered, and from it distributed to his several retail establishments." - New York Tribune August 2, 1903.
Rafter operated the building at 630-632 Hudson Street until 1908.
This is the same building as it appears today:
If we look closer we can see Edward Rafter painted signs still vaguely visible, notice the word "Wholesale":
Here is the bottle in situ, conveniently embossed-side up:
Since all of Edward Rafter's liquor and provisions were housed at the 630-632 Hudson Street location before being distributed to his other locations, we can safely bet that is where this bottle originated from. And since I found this bottle closer to Yonkers than in Manhattan we can guess this may be from the Yonkers No. 6 and 8 Broadway location which according to the Tribune opened around 1902.
This is not a complete history of Edward Rafter and for that I apologize, but it's a start, hope you enjoy.
I like to thank users 102viadeluna and driftwood from antiquebottles.com as well daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com, where most of this information was sourced from.