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Daniel Rose – “the expert whittler”


10-13-2012 8-06-34 AM.jpgDaniel Rose is one of the best known bottle whimsey artists of all times and his works are among the most desired and valued by collectors today.  


He was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1871 and died in an automobile accident on June 26, 1921. When he was nine years of age he became afflicted with rheumatism and by the age of 19 Daniel was an invalid except for his forearms and a hand. He took up whittling to occupy his time and during his life it is believed that he made around 120 bottles containing fans, religious messages, chairs, musical instruments, a blacksmith shop and tools, spinning wheels, and mechanical bottles.

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Few artists had the skill and artistic ability as Daniel Rose. His fans were exquisitely carved notches, scallops, holes, and other designs. The fans would open to a full 270 degrees or more and he would sometimes include several fans of different sizes or shapes in a bottle.


He added wooden frames with carved letters containing his religious messages such as “God is Love, Love God, or Have Faith in God.” They were carved with great skill and had a red felt background to prominently bring them out. Sometimes handwritten messages like “Praise the Lord, God is Love, Seek the Lord, and Fear God” were written on the base. He loved including animals in his bottles including squirrels, rabbits, birds and fish. He would occasionally include tools such as carved, one piece scissors, or a hammer or axe in the bottles. He would sometimes mount his carved fans on a small wonderfully carved ball and cage. Daniel Rose would typically seal his bottles with either a cork or a wooden stoppers with curved crosspieces with a thin metal wire under them, making the stopper impossible to remove.


Often the bottle top was a carved darker piece of wood fashioned in the general shape of a crown. He would sign his bottles under the wooden base including his name, date, Johnstown, PA and sometimes a dedication.


Another Account:


The life of Daniel Rose began and ended near the city of Johnstown, Pa., which is nationally known because of the tragic flood which laid waste the city, May 31, 1889. The parents of Daniel Rose were Samuel and Annie Eash Rose. Daniel and his twin sister were born February 25, 1871.


Daniel was a buoyant youngster, fond of romping and play, and finding the confinement of the school room very tiresome, he sought to evade it whenever possible. But his twin sister liked school, and here we have a glimpse that heredity is more powerful than environment. Education was largely optional in those days for there were no compulsory school laws nor truant officers and the school session only lasted five months.


At eight years of age Daniel was helping his father in his sawmill, thus early learning to work with his hands, which was much better liked than school. It is to this type of man that the world needs to be grateful, for the work of the man of toil is as necessary and honorable as that of the man of learning. We have too long given credit to brain and robbed brawn of its due. The first man was a toiler, a gardener; and the second Man, even the Son of God was a toiler, a carpenter.


One of the things that makes the life of Daniel Rose interesting is the handicap under which he worked. He was crippled - his body drawn out of shape by rheumatism. His neck seemed stiff, he could barely hold up his face and looked at one sideways with one eye. The rheumatism which so crippled him was first seen when he was nine years old. His mother faithfully took care of him in these earlier years but she died when Daniel was only thirteen years old, leaving a family of nine children without a mother's care. And Daniel and his sister Lovina were the oldest. From this time his health was somewhat neglected. But he was able to work on the farm until he was eighteen.


Though deprived of his robust health he still sought to enjoy life. When he was about fifteen years old he trained an ox team. In the winter these were hitched to a low home-made bobsled and in this he took the boys and girls for many pleasant rides. He had a sense of humor which seems to be one of the Creator's ways of lubricating life, saving us from the friction and heat of hard experiences. The sled was low and the snow soft and he would ask all the youngsters to stand holding fast to the others. Suddenly he would give the ox team a crack of the whip and his sled would be empty, and he full of fun. But all too soon these days came to an end and the portion of the physical vigor that was his slowly gave place to greater weakness.


In the year 1889, at only eighteen years of age, he became an invalid. Work and play were seemingly at an end. At this age, his entire body with the exception of the arms became stiff and remained so until death. Many doctors tried to help him but the only help they gave him was a remedy that relieved the pain, after which he did not suffer so much. Although Daniel Rose was an invalid for more than thirty years none who knew him during those years would say that his work had ceased, it had really just begun.


In the year 1898 Daniel Rose became quite widely known and was registered at Washington, D.C., as "Champion Whittler of the United States." He began by carving fans and chains and little tools of soft wood. He had a dream one night that he placed a watch all apart into a bottle. So he followed the suggestion received thru the dream by carving a chair and placing it in small parts thru the neck of the bottle. This was the beginning of the work in which he became well known. He was able to place most remarkable carvings in bottles. It was tedious and painstaking but he had the patience necessary. Some people doubted that he placed his carvings in the bottles in pieces, they believed that the bottles had a false bottom. But many saw him at his task and they know that Daniel Rose acquired the ability, with painstaking effort.


The first of such carving was done while the men were in the harvest field. It is impossible to give the reader an adequate idea of the beauty and artistic quality of his work. One of the most interesting carvings and which called forth the greatest admiration was the carving of an entire village with its varied interests. Every activity of a small village is represented: women are hanging out clothes, men are pumping water from the wells, bicycles run along the streets, men are sawing wood, one woman, cleaning house, spied a mouse, she chases the mouse, it runs into a hole and comes out on the other side, here she strikes her broom at it. These are all in action. Daniel Rose blended the vital in life with the humorous. The activity of the described scene would take a nickel and the springs hidden inside would produce the motion and activity.


He produced a miniature set of all the main animals supposed to have entered Noah's ark together with the ark. One of his costliest carvings was a bottle with all the outstanding musical instruments of the world carved inside. Another bottle contained most of the tools a carpenter uses. These bottles of carvings were sold at prices ranging from fifty cents to one hundred dollars.


Daniel lived with his father until he was thirty-six years of age. At his father's death he was invited to live at the home of his twin sister, Mrs. Mishler, who lived in the city of Johnstown. He was pleased to do this for after visits of several weeks at the home of his sister he was always reluctant to return those eight miles to the farm. He was very grateful to his sister for her care and often remarked that he could never repay her for the kindness and privilege of living with her but that the Lord would have to reward her.


Daniel was of a cheerful disposition and had many friends. Children were favorites also. A young neighboring couple often took their small babe to the Mishler home and Daniel became very much attached to Baby Leah. He delighted in holding her and entertained her for hours. When Leah grew older and was able to walk she would climb up in his armchair and lay her head very affectionately against his watching him as he whittled. They often shared apples and the child brought much sunshine into Daniel's life. When she was six years old her crippled friend died and for the first time she showed an easiness in the presence of death for her love was so great that it robbed death of its fear.


When an active life was denied Daniel Rose he began to study and read. He loved the Bible and read it seven times and the New Testament thirty-one times. He made the Bible his staff and leaned upon it and never found it to fail him. He had faith in the Lord for his keeping and trusted his soul's salvation to the same Lord, in whose shed blood he trusted for the pardon of his sins. His happiness in the Lord was greater than the happiness of his youth. There are always divine recompenses for every loss. God is sufficient for every situation. Daniel was known to have remarked when asked about his affliction, "It is bad but I have a good home." Truly, to be able to look on the bright side is an attainment! A certain caller came upon Daniel and his sister as they were singing together. Daniel said to the visitor, "I guess you wonder whether we are always that happy. We have had very little trouble the last fifteen years." this is a tribute to his brotherly spirit as well as to the kindness of his caretakers.


About the year 1900 Daniel Rose was baptized and received into the Mennonite Church in his father's home. He was faithful, and always ready to give his testimony for the Master, and would give short talks or lead in prayer when called upon to do so. He was very prayerful and it is said that he would not eat an apple without giving thanks to the Giver.


The brethren of the various churches in the Johnstown District were very kind and generous to him in many ways. One of the ways in which they showed their helpfulness was in taking him for rides in their cars and by taking him and his sister or some of the family to Church. Many times a car provided pleasure and the thoughtfulness of the friends even yet lingers in the grateful memory of the sister.


Daniel often wished that he might precede his sister in death and she wished to take care of him to the last. This desire was granted to her. During an illness of his sister's he showed signs of deep grief and wrote to others about her illness fearing death and its attendant loneliness for himself.


On Sunday, June 26, 1921, friends had taken Daniel and his sister to the Stahl Church. On the way home the car in which they were riding was struck by another car. As Daniel was entirely helpless he was thrown from the car and he had both legs broken as well as suffering internal injuries. It was too much for his frail constitution and he only lived about three hours after the accident. He was conscious until twenty minutes of his death, and was happy in the bright hope of the future. A nurse who sat by his bed said, "I have seen many die but none more peacefully."


He is missed in the home, as are also the visitors who used to come. But Daniel's sister does not mourn as those who have no hope. In one of his last letters he wrote, "Work is rather slack at Johnstown at present although I have plenty, but not everyone is gifted as I am. I have not closed up shop as yet." But when his shop was closed it was the hand of God which did it. A friend asked for a bit of work that was unfinished but after a thorough search his sister found that everything was finished, every piece started had been completed.


The following is an excerpt from: The Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler, by the Rev. Harvey Hostetler, published in 1911.

Feb 25, 1871, a family at Elton, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, was made happy as they beheld the faces of a pair of new born twins. One was given the familiar name of Daniel and the other Lovina. They grew up together well and hearty till they were nine years of age, at which time Daniel became afflicted with that dreadful disease, rheumatism, but he was able most of the time to help work on his father’s farm, till he was nineteen years of age, at which time he became practically helpless save his hand and his forearms. At last he got a medicine by the name "Angeline" from Jos. Shumaker, Hamilton, Ohio, that took away his suffering pain. After his pain left him he wished to occupy his mind on something to pass the time, and so he took to whittling as his delight. He soon became very proficient in the art of wood carving. He has whittled out of wood all kinds of tools, musical instruments, and machinery, and put them down through the necks of bottles and built them up inside the bottles. He has filled 120 bottles, and has made many things not in bottles, such as chains, fans, chairs, furniture and scripture mottoes. He used to sell a great many of his articles many years ago, but at present he is not able to make them. But he has five different kinds of postcard views showing some of his wonderful skill, which he will send to anyone who sends him 10 cents and a stamp. Address, Daniel Rose, “the expert whittler”, Johnstown, PA.

Remember him at Christmas and on other holidays and at his birthday. He will appreciate letters from his many relatives and will reply when he is able to write. A stamp should be enclosed in letters where a reply is expected.


This obituary appeared in an unidentified newspaper on June 27, 1926

Daniel Rose (commonly known as the champion whittler), son of Samuel and Anna Rose, was born in Cambria Co., Pa., Feb. 25, 1871; died June 26, 1921; aged 50 y. 4 m. 1 d. When he was a child, he was active and attended school. As a boy he was attacked by rheumatism, which made him entirely helpless. He was widely known by his writing for the papers, by writing letters to other shutins, and by the many things that he whittled out of pine wood. Many of these things were placed in bottles and then put together. For a number of years he had been a faithful member of the Mennonite Church. He was drawn into a S shape and thus sat in his chair and his bed. In this position, he led in public prayer in church, gave talks at Sunday school meetings, and testified to the saving power of God. He read the Old Testament through 7 times an the New Testament 32 times. He made his home with his twin sister in Johnstown, Pa. They had intended to attend services at the Weaver Church, but hearing that the Shetler family had returned from Oregon, they attended services at the Stahl Church. In the evening, a brother took them towards their home, when they were struck by an automobile. The collision threw him out of the car, and broke his legs, hurt his shoulder, and also injured him internally. He was taken home, where he died three hours after. He is survived by four brothers and four sisters. Funeral services, which were largely attended were conducted by S. G. Shetler, assisted by Alex. Weaver and W. C. Hershberger. Interment in the Weaver Cemetery.

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Who is Professor Morrell and what is his Relationship with Daniel Rose?



Over the years, Daniel Rose bottles have been a hot topic among collectors. Rumors have circulated that he destroyed most of his non-religious bottles since they did not pay homage to God and it has also been speculated that many of his bottles ended up in Hawaii although he never traveled there. So what might have happened? Let’s let Professor Arthur Lincoln Morrell into the discussion.


Arthur Lincoln Morrell, commonly known as Professor Morrell, has been featured on postcards and billboards with multiple bottle whimsies and other items of folk art. He travelled the country demonstrating and displaying his skills. Prof. Morrell was a regular presenter at Ripley's Believe It or Not "Odditoriums" and he is listed on the roster of performers on the website at http://www.showhistory.com/ripley.html


In spite of this public fame and exposure, he was also somewhat a man of mystery and an enigma. What we do know is that Professor A. L. Morrell lived from the middle 1800's to at least the 1950's.  He was known as, or commonly called, the "Jack-Knife King."  According to a description on a postcard featuring him, "Prof Morrell has been a professional whittler for over 35 years, has whittled his way around the world twice and over.  An act different from anything ever seen.  He saw a tramp whittling by the roadside, when he was a boy, 11 years old, and from that time on he did nothing but whittle, until he became an expert."  His first public exhibition was in 1884. 

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As we view the above postcard and the wonderful display of carvings and bottles, we are truly impressed by Professor Morrell and his work.  The sign in the postcard reads:  "This is Prof A.L. Morrell the Jack-Knife King and his World Wonder Bottles.  The man who has whittled around the world."   From the words on the sign you would naturally believe and accept as fact that Prof. Morrell made the bottle whimsies in the picture. He is shown with many bottles around him and clearly, the scene leads you to believe and certainly implies that he is the artist and craftsman of these bottles. The problem is that when the bottles pictured on the postcard are examined closely it becomes evident that the bottles are the work of artist, Daniel Rose. In fact, there is a picture of Daniel Rose with these very same bottles.


To date, no known bottles by Professor Morrell have been identified. In fact, the only item I know by him is a pair of wooden pliers that has the identification printed on them. If these are bottles made by Daniel Rose, what are they doing on this postcard and why are we led to believe by the sign that they were made by Prof. Morrell?  Did Morrell buy these bottles from Daniel Rose and then take them with him to show examples of this craft, or perhaps represent them as his own work?  Was he merely helping Daniel Rose sell the bottles by taking them to his exhibits and shows? Did Morrell and Rose even know each other? 


Likely, they did know each other and based on a published photograph of Arthur Morrell holding a bottle of Daniel Rose we can also assume this is how some Daniel Rose bottles made it to Hawaii. The picture also had a caption that stated: “This piece is forty years old and it still works,” says Professor Arthur L. Morrell of Honolulu, Hawaii, exhibiting one of the many curious mechanical devices he has whittled out of wood and placed inside bottles. (Credit Line (ACME) 6/6/35. (REF DEPT. June 14, 1935 N.E.A.

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This statement clearly leaves little doubt that Arthur Morrell is claiming these bottles as his own work and they place them in Hawaii.

To learn more about Arthur Morrell, click here Arthur L. Morrell

Bottles by Daniel Rose

Bottles by Daniel Rose


Click on a picture to view the bottle and description in the Gallery

Bottle ID: 597

Bottle ID: 1003