1-Oldest Tabasco Bottle.jpg
Check it out—the World’s Oldest Tabasco Bottle (or a reasonable facsimile)

Most of us are fascinated by superlatives. We can’t wait to see something that is said to be the world’s oldest, biggest, smallest, best or first.

And so it was when I recently decided to scope out the exhibition, “Havens in a Heartless World—Virginia City Saloons and the Archeology of the Wild West” at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City until June 18.

The show displays artifacts uncovered between 1993 and 2001 by archaeologists excavating the sites of four 19th century saloons in Virginia City.

I, however, was interested in one object in particular that had been discovered—the world’s oldest Tabasco sauce bottle, which is part of the exhibition. Archaeologists had dug up fragments of the shattered bottle on the site of the Boston Saloon, which had operated in VC between 1864 and 1875. The bottle dates to about 1869 and was reassembled at the University of Nevada, Reno’s archaeology lab.

I really wanted to see this bottle, about which even the Louisiana-based Tabasco sauce company had made a big deal. I looked up the story of the bottle on the Tabasco sauce Web site and discovered that the company’s official historian had certified that it was the earliest surviving form of a bottle used by the company, which began producing the hot pepper sauce in 1868.

Not surprisingly, once I was there I realized that the bottle was only a small part of a much larger presentation. A dozen displays and placards told about the archaeological digs, what they produced and what they tell people about early Virginia City.

As I wandered through the displays, I gained more of an understanding about the role that saloons played in Virginia City’s rich history (they just weren’t for getting drunk).

It was all very enlightening. And, yes, I did see the world’s oldest tabasco sauce bottle. Too bad it was empty.

“Havens in a Heartless World” can be viewed daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Nevada State Museum. There is $5 admission charge for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for children under 18. For more information, call 775-687-4810.—-Richard Moreno

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Some scroll through the day. Others seize it. Go do something crazy. And tag it #RenoTahoe so we can see it.