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 SIX

 

In addition to dip molded spirits and porter bottles, our 18th and early 19th century glass houses also produced many thousands of the ubiquitous freeblown chestnut and globular bottles, in great enough numbers in fact, that these bottles remain relatively common today. The earliest of these bottles were blown at Wistarburgh and they are typically rather large (8") with elongated, somewhat pear shaped bodies and heavily applied collared mouths. Found in shades of both natural bottle glass greens and ambers, it would appear that they were a mainstay of Wistarburgh's production. Blown first at Pitkin in or around 1791, and later at all of the New England Glass Houses of the period, these simple, freeblown and dip-molded bottles were produced en masse to meet both commercial and domestic demands. Suitable for a wide range of uses, these often asymmetrical vessels were typically rendered from a coarse grade of bottle glass. Generally light in weight and pale in color, these relatively simple bottles were the most popular of the all-purpose domestically manufactured bottles of the Colonial Period. Evidence of the wide range of storage needs for which they were used is shown in the variety of sizes in which they were blown - examples can be found today ranging from 2" all the way to 16" with all sizes in between covered. It is likely that the smallest of these bottles (both globular and chestnut shaped) were used by doctors and druggists and perhaps by household bottlers and merchants as well for the storage of essences and/or medicinals. The larger bottles (more typically globular but sometimes chestnut-shaped) were presumably blown for bulk storage of wines, liquors and perhaps medicines.

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, chestnut and globular bottles were also produced at the Midwestern Glass Houses and like the pocket bottles of the era, their usage lingered beyond that of the Eastern output. Heavier and blown from a more refined metal than similar objects blown in New England, freeblown Midwestern globular bottles were a regular product of the New Geneva Glass Works. Chestnut bottles were also blown at New Geneva as well as at the early Ohio Glass Houses but unlike the freeblown chestnuts made in New England, many of the Ohio chestnuts and globular bottles were blown in pattern molds as previously discussed.

 

Also blown during this period were freeblown and dip molded jars and bottles designed for a multitude of uses. Created from both window and bottle glass, jars of this period were used by Doctors and Druggists for powdered ingredients, in the home for storage and food preservation and commercially for the packaging of pickles, sweets and other preserves. In its design, the jar's heavily contracted shoulder and wide, flanged mouth served as the perfect anchor for securing cork, bladder or cloth as would have been used in the preservation of perishables. Although blown in sizes ranging from a few inches to vessels holding several gallons, it would appear that most jars of the period were of substantial size, meant to hold products in bulk.

 

Other bottles of the Colonial Era include those specifically designed to hold medicines, snuff, blacking and ink. With the notable exception of Pitkin-type inkwells, these vessels were rarely pattern molded, sometimes freeblown and most often created with the aid of a shallow dip mold. Medicine vials were advertised by Stiegel in 1772 and they were probably blown from both white "flint" glass and ordinary bottle glass. Typically quite narrow with short necks and delicately flared lips, the capacity of these vials generally ranged from one half ounce to eight ounces. Although claims made by Dyott indicate that domestically manufactured medicine vials did not match the quality of English imports, it appears from advertisements of the period that freeblown and dip molded medicine vials were a regular production item for both bottle glass house and flint glass houses into the 1820s.

Typically blown using coarse, olive amber metal and formed with the aid of a dip mold, snuff and blacking bottles of the Colonial period were produced in a plethora of shapes and sizes. A regular production item in every Glass House of the period, snuffs and blackings were sometimes round, more often square or rectangular and rarely, polygonal. During his excavations at the site of the Germantown Glass Glassworks, Richmond Morcom found shards of heavily collared rectangular snuff bottles in great enough quantities to show that they were blown there, although it can be presumed that bottles of this type were also imported from England. Snuff bottles are also known to have been blown at Wistarburgh and at Stiegel's Works in Manheim, where account books show that 1,084 snuff bottles were blown in February of 1767 alone. Production of snuff bottles (in response to increasing consumer demand) continued throughout the colonial period, with examples of particular aesthetic appeal blown in East Hartford and other early Connecticut Glass Houses. There is sound documentation of snuff bottle production in the Midwest as well, though at this point it appears the form and design of these bottles does not distinguish them from the output of the New England Houses.

 

 

As with the flasks of the colonial period, inkwells were both freeblown and pattern molded in Glass Houses of both the East and the West. Most notable among the Eastern ink bottles are the pattern-molded Pitkin-types, which like the flasks, were constructed in the German half-post method. Blown in both square and generally conical forms, Pitkin-type inkwells are by their nature asymmetrical and varied in their sizes and capacities. Other New England inks were pattern molded, though not using the half-post, as is the case with the so-called pattern molded "melon" inks. Inks of this type were also blown without use of a pattern mold and in a variety of sizes. Though typically attributed to the early Connecticut Glass Houses, pattern molded inks were also almost assuredly blown in Keene and at Mount Vernon. Most notable of the pattern molded inks blown in the Midwest are the generally cylindrical funnel-mouthed bottles blown using the 10 and 15 diamond molds.

 

 

 

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