Jeff and Holly Noordsy

Dealers Specializing in the Sale of Early American Bottles, Glass and Period Decorative Arts

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THE EVOLUTION OF FORM AND DESIGN IN AMERICAN BOTTLES: 1739-1903

CHRONICLING THE TRANSFORMATION FROM ART TO INDUSTRY

As Presented by Jeff and Holly Noordsy at the Eastfield Village Glass Symposium in August 2005

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

As with the figural bitters and whiskey bottles of the period, inkwells produced in and around the Civil war were increasingly fanciful, playing upon Victorian tastes. Following Harrison's success in the marketing of inks in distinctively formed, personalized bottles, many manufacturers turned away from the ubiquitous umbrella inks and sought new and interesting designs to give their brands recognition. Among the first of these designs is the so-called "turtle" ink, popularized by the Warren, MA concern of J & I. Moore. Also of interest are the clever "house" inks, igloo inks, those blown in the shape of a bank, the well-detailed Locomotives and the barrel inks as patented by L.N. Pierce in 1865. By giving their products shelf recognition while at the same time echoing popular aesthetic tastes, ink manufacturers shrewdly utilized bottle design as a successful marketing tool.

Already satisfied with the general design of the bottles containing their wares, there were not widespread design changes within the patent medicine category in the post Civil War era. With that said, the bottles were as a general rule larger, for like bitters of the period, medicines were being "taken" in greater doses, again, as an unintended result of the Temperance Movement. And, while brands with longstanding popularity continued bottling their elixirs in vessels similar to those of the previous period, several industrious newcomers to the patent medicine business seized upon the success of the bitters industry by designing more fanciful bottles as would have matched the tastes of their Victorian era customer base. Notable among these bottles are the various Wishart's Pine Tree Cordials, a case-style bottle that featured a well-detailed Pine Tree embossed on the front of the bottle. Blown in a wide variety of colors and in several different mold varieties, Wishart's bottle was first produced sometime around 1860 and the cordial remained popular for 30 years or more.

Though still produced in some quantities in and around the Civil War, the simple unembossed utility bottles that had been a staple of the earlier Glass Houses were a dying breed and by 1880, most snuff, blacking, porter and ale bottles were blown in private, personalized two-piece molds. The same is true of the beautiful cathedral pickle jars, which although still popular in and around the War, were gradually supplanted by bottles blown in personalized molds or simple square bottles with plain panels and no gothic designs. So too were the fruit jars of the period gradually simplified, as time and competition quickly winnowed the once great numbers of fruit jar makers into a scant few, of which Whitall and Mason were the most popular. Both makers continued to refine their jars, gradually creating closures of increased effectiveness and simplicity of use. In turn, the more intriguing and unusual closures in wide use at the start of the period were gradually lost by 1880.

Soda and Mineral Water bottles of the period also do not differ greatly from those of the previous era and as their popularity increased, they were produced in prodigious numbers. The general shape and form of both bottle types was retained, and they continued to be blown in generally cylindrical two-piece molds with thick walls and heavily applied collared mouths. If any change should be noted, it would be in the decreased usage of octagonal, mug based and pyramid shaped bottles within the soda category and an almost universal acceptance of the simple cylinder. The emergence of the Hutchinson-style soda bottles is also of note. In mineral water bottles there was no change whatsoever and the popularity of the form and product in general can be witnessed by the creation of the Congressville Glass Works in 1865. Situated just outside of Saratoga Springs, the Glass House was an offshoot of Oscar Granger's Mountain Glass Works and it was engaged almost entirely in the business of blowing bottles for the local waters. Still, the demand for the type of bottle was great enough for local vendors to place orders with Stoddard and Willington, presumably a result of Congressville's inability to meet local needs.


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