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 FIFTEEN

 

AAs with those men engaged in the sale of patent and proprietary medicines, the various concerns holding title to the bubbling Spring Waters of New York and Vermont also utilized privately cut molds to their advantage. And, it is with the introduction of the embossed "Lynch and Clarke" bottles in 1828 that the so-called "Saratoga-type mineral water bottles" have their origins. Made primarily at Mount Vernon, the earliest of these bottles were cylindrical two and three piece mold vessels blown from thick, heavy batches of olive amber bottle glass. Typically finished with ringed, sloping collars as a means of securing the corks and wire bails commonly utilized as a means of containment, mineral water bottles were blown in both pint and quart-sizes. With little, if any, refinement, bottles blown in this general form and color range would remain the most common and popular method of bottling Mineral Waters throughout the pre-War period. Reportedly "medicinal" in nature, mineral waters gained wide popularity among the expanding middle classes and they were shipped to all corners of the nation. In time, mineral water bottles would become a major seller not only for Mount Vernon, but also Mount Pleasant and somewhat later for Stoddard, Willington and Congressville.

As the bottles specifically designed for mineral bottles evolved, so too did those designed to hold artificially flavored and carbonated sodas. First introduced to the public by Thaddeus Sherman in 1808, soda waters and soda fountains had attained widespread popularity in major cities by the 1820s. Eight and fourteen ounce two-piece mold bottles were the preferred method of bottling sodas and they came into general use by the late 1830s and early 1840s. Primarily cylindrical with a short neck and a blob-style lip, soda bottles of the period were also blown in octagonal, tapered and mug based forms. Produced in greatest numbers in the Glass Houses of Philadelphia and New Jersey, these soda bottles, like the regional flasks of the period, were blown in a multitude of colors, including artificial greens, blues and sometimes shades of amethyst. As the mineral water bottles would become a mainstay of the New England and New York State Glass Houses, so too did the soda bottles increase the output of the Mid-Atlantic State Glass Houses.

As personalized two-piece mold bottles blown for sodas and mineral water bottles gained in popularity, freeblown and dip-molded "junk" were largely replaced by unembossed molded bottles of uniform size and shape. Included among these bottles are the so-called "Stoddard stubbys" which were in fact blown at numerous different Glass Houses and remained popular through the 1870s. Bottles designed for blacking and snuff had by this point evolved into two distinctly different forms - snuffs were generally rectangular with beveled edges and blackings were square without chamfered corners. Although primarily unembossed, brands of particular popularity were blown into personalized two-piece molds as early as the 1830s. Still, most snuff and blacking bottles were labeled rather than embossed, as was the case with the ubiquitous whiskey cylinders of the period. Although there are some exceptions, the great majority of the whiskeys blown in the pre-war period were unembossed and those that were embossed were done so on the base, not with the name of a private label but rather with the name of the Glass Works in which they were produced. Bottles of this type were blown at a multitude of Glass Houses, including Whitney (in New Jersey), Dyottville, Stoddard, Willington and Ellenville, New York. Made in the same fashion as those English bottles patented by Rickett in 1821, these cylinders were generally blown in a three-piece mold that was hinged at the shoulders.

Usage of the two-piece mold also brought greater uniformity to the ink category, as by 1840, the earlier dip molded and pattern molded forms had been replaced by the so-called umbrella ink. Typically eight-sided and finished with a simple sheared top, umbrella inks were produced at nearly every bottle glass factory and in nearly every conceivable color of the rainbow. As with other bottles of the period, those inks blown in artificial colors were primarily blown in the Mid-Atlantic States and the Midwest, while those blown in natural shades of olive and amber were the product of the various New England Glass Houses. Like the snuff and blacking bottles of the era, these umbrella inks were generally unembossed and labeled, though popular makers such as Hover and Harrison utilized private molds with great success.

Other notable bottles of the pre-War era include the gothic revival inspired cathedral pickle jars and the so-called "wax sealer" jars that gradually supplanted freeblown and dip-molded jars as the preferred means of storing and canning foods. Arguably among the moldmakers' greatest triumphs are the earliest of the cathedral pickle jars, which merge utility and design in an unparalleled fashion. Blown with the aid of careful cut two-piece molds, these ornately designed jars reflect architectural and design tastes of the period and they were blown in a multitude of different molds. Primarily square but sometimes round or polygonal, these jars retain evidence of the moldmakers' skills even beyond that of the figured flasks, which were blown in increasingly simple molds as early as the 1840s. Popular through the 1870s, cathedral pickle jars were blown in any number of Glass Houses in New Jersey, the Philadelphia area and also in New England. Though generally aqua in color, cathedral pickles were also blown in shades of green and rarely in shades of amber, as is the case with the most celebrated of cathedral pickles, those blown at Westford and/or Willington.

Unlike the cathedral pickles (which were primarily marketed commercially and pre-packaged), molded fruit jars were intended for home use and canning. The earliest of these jars were blown in New Jersey and Philadelphia and they featured various means of securing a closure to preclude the need for cork and cheesecloth. A multitude of different closure types were patented prior to the Civil War, each with some degree of effectiveness. It was in the so-called Crowleytown Mason however, that we find the antecedents of the Mason jars, which would become synonymous with home canning during the next period of bottle making. Utilizing molded screw threads and India rubbers as a sealant, these jars offered unsurpassed ease of use and it was not long before this closure system became the dominant manner of ensuring freshness. Like the cathedral pickle bottles blown concurrently, the fruit jars of the period were primarily fashioned from aqua glass, though colored examples are known.


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