Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes
Miscellaneous & Foreign Bottles
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This Miscellaneous & Foreign bottles page is one of two typology pages (in addition to the Household bottles [non-food related] page) which largely comprise the "catch-all" sections for American-made bottles that do not neatly fit in any of the other major typology pages. This particular page also includes a smattering of foreign bottles which were commonly imported into the U. S. and Canada and likely to be found on U. S. and Canadian historic sites. It will also briefly address the subject of reproductions and modern (mid-20th century or later) "fantasy" bottles about which this author gets many questions.
This section of the typology pages probably doesn't need any further discussion or introduction; it just contains moderately significant categories that are not otherwise covered anywhere else within this website. The other typology pages (e.g., "Liquor/Spirits bottles", "Food Bottles & Canning Jars", etc.) have larger introductory sections than this page or the "Household bottles (non-food related)" page. This is because the "miscellaneous" and "household" categories are much wider ranging in diversity, lacking an overall binding "theme" compared to the other major categories. Instead, this page will have specific bottle type introductions incorporated into the opening paragraphs within each given section listed. Given this structural difference, the introduction for this page is considered complete; please scroll down to the "Organization & Structure" section below to begin.
This Miscellaneous & Foreign Bottles page is divided into the following categories and sub-categories based largely on the different contents that each group held, and within those groups, by various dominant shapes or other logical categories. Additional categories and/or sub-categories will almost certainly be added as future updates to this page.
Each of the pictured bottles has a relatively short description and explanation including estimated dates or date ranges for that type bottle and links to other view pictures of the bottle. Additional links to images of similar bottles are also frequently included.
The array of references used to support the conclusions and estimates found here - including the listed dating ranges - are noted. Additional information and estimates are based on the empirical observations of the author over 50 years of experience; this is often but not always noted.
Various terminology is used in the descriptions that may be unfamiliar if you have not studied other pages on this site. If a term is unfamiliar, first check the Bottle Glossary page for an explanation or definition. As an alternative, one can do a search of this website. To do a word/phrase search one must use the "Search SHA" boxes found on many of the main SHA web pages, including the Research Resources page (upper right side of that page) which links to this site. The Historic Bottle Website (HBW) has no internal search mechanism so be aware that when running a search one will also get non-HBW response links to other portions of the SHA site.
Barber bottles could have been included along with "hair products" on the "Household Bottles (non-food related)" typology page, though due to their specialty bottle nature, they are covered separately as the dating timelines discussed for utilitarian bottles simply do not work with this class of bottles. A synopsis of this class of specialty bottle is found in Munsey (1970:171) and quoted in part below:
"During the last fifty years of the nineteenth century, when many men went to barbershops for a shave as well as a haircut, it became the custom to provide special customers with personalized shaving mugs and hair tonic bottles. In addition, each barber had his own set of two bottles of tonic for other than special customers, and a matching bowl. Some barber bottles could be more properly called dresser bottles because they were used in the home...
"The tonics kept in these bottles were bay, witch hazel, "Tiger Rub" (perfumed alcohol, and a variety of liquids with such appealing names as "Lilac," "Rose," and "Spice." Some of these tonics were commercial products and some were made by the barber himself. The 1906 Pure Food and Drug laws prohibited such personalized mixtures (*See note below) and restricted the manufacture of some commercial products. This coupled with the success of King Camp Gillette...in marketing the safety razor in 1903 (which reduced daily trips to the barber, brought about the death of barber bottles in both the shop and the home."
(*Authors note: As noted at the 1906 Pure Food and Drug laws link, until the 1912 passage of the Sherley Amendment to the 1906 Act, enforcement of the Pure Food and Drugs Act was limited at best. Even then, enforcement was a process that took years to make a difference.)
The primary heyday of this class of bottles was from between the 1870s until the late 1910s. By the 1920s, when these bottles ceased to be produced in quantity, they had moved from a working container into the early realm of collectability due to their beauty (Munsey 1970; Holiner 1986). Barber bottles were certainly produced, sold and used well into the 1910s. For example, Theo Koch & Sons - a New York barber supply company - in their Barbers Supplies catalog of 1915 still offered a wide array of imported "Stand Bottles" made in "Bohemia" which at that time included all/parts of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria and Hungary. The bottles were also made in other European countries such as England, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and France. And many were made in the United States. Unfortunately, few barber bottles were marked with the place of origin so attribution to any country, much less glass company, is usually not possible. American companies such as The Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, New England Glass Works, Fostoria Glass Company, Fenton Glass Works, Whitall Tatum & Co. and others made these bottles also (Holiner 1986).
The pale green barber bottle pictured to the above left (neck and base views to the immediate left) is, generally speaking, a typically shaped example from the late 19th to early 20th century. It has a "dot and daisy" pattern which was common on period barber bottles (Holiner 1986:49-52). The base shows a glass tipped pontil scar which is quite commonly encountered on barber bottles, even though a very large majority were made well after the period when pontil scars were phased out in favor of snap tools for virtually all utilitarian bottles. The bottle also has a tooled "bead" style of finish and was molded using the turn-mold process which eliminated all evidence of the vertical side mold seams. The image to the far left shows the neck and finish of this bottle with the original sprinkler top in place - a perfect closure for the shaking out of the contents onto ones head or on a comb and one commonly found on barber bottles.
The bottle pictured to the right above is an opalized (white details) and frosted (between the white) "daisy and fern" design dating from the 1890s or early 1900s, and possibly American made (Holiner 1986:78). It has a smooth base (not pontil scarred) but otherwise exhibits a hand-made, art glass quality manufactured look. It also has a sprinkler top still in place.
The following barber bottles give some idea as to the variety possible in both shape and colors. These bottles date from the 1885 to 1920 era and are provided compliments of Glass Works Auctions. There were likely thousands of different variations of these bottles made during the era noted above.
Dating summary/notes: As a specialty bottle type, barber bottles will rarely follow the dating rules based on manufacturing related diagnostic features as discussed on this website. They are really a form of art glass where older hand processes continued until well into the 20th century. For example, an amber glass, floral Art Nouveau style barber bottle with a pontil scar shown in Holiner (1986:54) is specifically illustrated in the previously noted 1915 Koch & Sons Barbers Supply catalog as available in "eleonor-green,"roman-gold, and sky-blue" (Holiner 1986:119). The best source of information, including scores of colored images and excerpts from barber supply catalogs, is "Collecting Barber Bottles" by Richard Holiner (1986). Freeman (1966:370-371) also covers the subject and there is an article (which the author has not seen) entitled "Barber Bottles" in the Western Collector Magazine (January 1966) by Otha Wearin that may be of use.
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Fire grenades are an unusual and somewhat limited class of bottles which can vary widely in shape, though were generally shaped and sized like those shown here - at least during the couple decades of the 19th century through the first few decades of the 20th. Dr. Cecil Munsey's 1970 book "Collecting Bottles" sums up concisely, what a fire grenade was:
"Early in the 1870s, it became popular to have round glass bottles filled with carbon tetrachloride stationed at critical points in homes, businesses, trains, and other appropriate places. These bottles were designed to be thrown into fires, where the impact would shatter the bottle, spill the carbon tetrachloride*, and extinguish the fire. It is not known who was the first to invent this ingenious method of extinguishing fires but it is known that the first American patent granted for a fire "extinguisher"** was awarded to Alanson Crane of Fortress Monroe, Virginia in 1863."
(*Other chemical solutions were also used like the carbonic acid noted below. **Alanson Crane's patent #37,610 was for an "Improvement in Fire-Extinguishers" which was a water pipe and sprinklers system for buildings, not a throwable and/or breakable container.)
The 6.5" tall, turquoise blue fire grenade pictured to the left above and to the right was one of the first commercially produced and most commonly encountered today. As the images show, it is bulbous bodied with an overall diamond quilted pattern covering the body as well as four flattened circular areas evenly spaced around the body. The first side (above image) is embossed on the front top to bottom with HARDEN'S HAND / FIRE / EXTINGUISHER / GRENADE. The next side is embossed with AUG 8 71 / PAT' AUG 14. 83 indicating important patents dated August 8th, 1871 and August 14th, 1883 (more below). The third side has an embossed star with the word STAR in the middle. The fourth side is flattened but absent any embossing; likely it originally contained a paper label.
The 1871 patent (#117,891) was issued to Samuel B. Johnson of Philadelphia, PA. for the concept of a breakable ("...constructed of metal, glass, or other material suitable for the purpose intended..."), fire extinguishing "grenade" that could be hurled into a fire to put it out. Johnson did note that "It is preferable that the vessel be in the form of a grenade or bomb, and constructed of glass, that it can be easily thrown or discharged, and break when it strikes the spot against or towards which it is intended."
The 1883 patent (#282,981) was issued to John J. Harden of Chicago, IL. for a "Hand-grenade for Fire-extinguishers." Apparently, Harden acquired rights to Johnson's 1871 patent for a throwable glass grenade, but refined his product further with the 1883 patent which was basically for a glass bottle with a specific finish and seal. Click view of the neck and finish to see a close-up of the grenade's neck, finish and closure which still retains the cement seal - which fills the length of the neck also - and most of the original contents (some evaporation through the seal). The patent was for - "A hand-grenade for fire-extinguishing purposes, consisting of a receptacle formed of glass or other frangible, material and having an orifice provided with a stopple fitted therein, the stopple being provided with an interior recess opening into the interior of said grenade, containing the requisite acid and alkali, forming a charge of carbonic-acid, or other fire extinguishing gas, said orifice being also provided with an enlargement above said stopple, and ending with an inwardly-inclined flange...". This translates from that patent-speak into a throwable glass bottle ("grenade" which was not specifically patentable at that juncture in time) with the unique finish shape and cement seal ("stopple") as shown (which was patentable).
All of these Harden's bottles were mouth-blown in a two-piece, (probably) cup-base mold in the experience of the author, i.e., none were machine made. This indicates a manufacture between 1883 and the 1910s. They have a crudely cracked-off finish rim with the two-part "finish" (the bulbous ring and the outwardly flared upper portion) having been fully molded by the full length bottle mold and received little if any finishing work/tooling after being removed from the mold and cracked 0ff the blowpipe. The finish formation is similar to the improved tooled finish except that there was no actual tooling. If anything was done to "finish" the finish, it was a bit of grinding of rough rim to make it much less sharp (and dangerous) though they are still very rough as shown in the view of the neck and finish.
The turquoise blue fire grenade pictured to the left is a Hardin's fire grenade variation, most likely a bit later in manufacture (early 1900s) though mouth-blown manufactured in the same fashion as the example above. It is about the same size and dimensions as the example above, but differs in the body design which is numerous vertical ribs broken in the middle by a protruding body encircling band. The band is embossed with HARDEN'S HAND GRENADE FIRE EXTINGUISHER and on one shoulder side has the word STAR inside a star in a circle, the same as found on one side of the earlier discussed bottle.
There were many other types of fire grenades made in various shapes from the 1870s until 1920s or later; see Munsey (1970:196-197) to view a more types illustrated there. This author knows of no book dedicated to the subject although there is some information and additional images of these type bottles in Freeman (1964:350-351) and Ferraro (1966:63-67). A few additional 1870s to 1910s "grenades" are listed as follows:
Dating summary/notes: The dating of these type bottles based on manufacturing related diagnostic features closely follow the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information. There are no significant bottle type specific, manufacturing related diagnostic features or dating trends that have been noted by the author with one exception. There is a strong trend in these bottles towards having cursory, crude and largely untouched (slightly ground down) "cracked-off" finishes, like the two examples illustrated here. This isn't as much a dateable feature as almost a finish style that is virtually only found on mouth-blown fire grenade bottles; a feature of possible use in fragment identification.
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Carboys & Demijohns
The term "carboy" and "demijohn" are largely alternative names for the same category of glass bottles - those with a capacity of at least a quart (or a couple quarts) on up to typically 5 to 7 gallons, although examples holding as much as 15 gallons have been noted (Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1920; Munsey 1970).
A few references consulted noted functional or design differentiation between the two terms. For example, Odell (2008) mentioned that functionally "Demijohns were for potable and non-corrosive liquids" with "carboy contents...strong chemicals - mostly acids." Munsey (1970) noted stylistically that "Demijohns were usually manufactured in a bulbous or bladder shape and have rather long necks; carboys, on the other hand, were generally cylindrical in shape and had short necks." For example the large olive green bottle to the left would be a "demijohn" with the 5 gallon bottle illustrated to the right further down this section would be a "carboy." This author, however, has observed the latter "carboy" shape being used commonly for drinking water - a decidedly potable and non-acid liquid - from the late 19th century to the present though typically plastic today. (In fact, the 5 gallon "carboy" illustrated below right is labeled as a "water bottle.") To add to the confusion the 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog scanned and located on this website shows a listing for a cylindrical, short neck "demi-john" (page 110) and a bulbous/bladder shaped "carboy" (page 112) - the reverse of Munsey's styles differentiation. For simplicity sake, the term demijohn is largely used here for all large capacity glass bottles.
Large capacity, bulk bottles were used at least as early as the middle of the 18th century in America. Such large bottles, however, date back to at least the 14th century in France although the term demijohn (sometimes hyphenated "demi-john") seems to have originated in the 17th century, possibly in Persia. In any event, origin of the term is obscure today (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Odell 2008). Demijohns were typically covered in wicker - typically woven thick grass, reeds, sedges, and narrow twigs - as such bottles, especially when full of liquid, were very fragile and easily broken with just minor bumping. The shape of demijohns was typically like those shown here largely because these shapes are the easiest to cover effectively and quickly with wicker.
Most American glass companies that produced hollow-ware - aka "bottles" - also produced demijohns for bulk liquid storage. An example of the typical limited offerings available in the U.S. can be viewed in the 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog scanned and available on this website at the following link: 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog. (See pages 110 to 115.) Page 111 of that catalog shows a (likely) cylindrical demijohn inside one of the many vehicles used to both protect the large demijohns from breakage and to dispense the contained liquid in an efficient manner. Often the bottle inside the case was wicker covered also.
The large oval/bladder shaped demijohn pictured to the above left is a mid-19th century, mouth-blown European made example. I
Dating summary/notes: The dating of these type bottles based on manufacturing related diagnostic features roughly follow the guidelines presented throughout this website and summarized on the Bottle Dating page; see that page for more information.
There are no manufacturing related diagnostic features or dating trends that have been noted by the author except that in the experience of the author, these bottles tended to be made by mouth-blown method a bit beyond when a majority of most other bottle types were being made on machines. For example, the 1920 Illinois
The most useful references
known to this author on this genre of large
bottles - and leaned on heavily in the preparation of this section - are
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Many types of foreign-made bottles are commonly found on historic sites in the U. S. (and Canada).
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This section on reproductions...
WARNER'S SAFE KIDNEY & LIVER CURE - (Left image.) This bottle is embossed WARNER'S / SAFE / KIDNEY & LIVER / CURE (large embossed safe) / ROCHESTER, N.Y. This large distinctive bottle is oval in cross-section and 9.4"/24 cm tall. This is another bottle style that is strongly associated with the genre of medicine bottles. It is also closely (but not totally - there were imitators) associated with the products of the H. H. Warner Co. who was a prolific advertiser and producer of different patent medicines, most of which are shaped like the pictured bottle (Ojea & Stecher 1998). NOTE: These bottles were accurately reproduced by the Crownford China Co. during the 1970s (possibly a bit earlier and/or later) and sold with reproductions of the original label. However, they exhibit machine-made characteristics and distinctive base embossing. Click on the following images to view pictures of one of these reproductions which are quite well done: view of the embossing; view of the label; side view; view of the base showing the telltale embossing CROWNFORD / (C in a circle) / CHINA CO. INC.
McKearin & Wilson also have a section on this subject.
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Other miscellaneous bottles
Other miscellaneous types includes, of course, bottles not covered elsewhere on this page or any of the other typology pages largely because these "types" are of minor importance. This is the "miscellaneous miscellaneous" section.
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For additional images of various labeled miscellaneous bottles click the following link to view the pertinent section of the Labeled Bottles page.
Again it must be stated that the category of bottles covered on this webpage (Miscellaneous & Foreign Bottles) is very large and diverse. Like all of the bottle "typing" (typology) pages connected to the main Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes page, this page just scratched the surface as to the total diversity of these bottle types. It does, however, cover the primary styles that were most commonly used and encountered within an archaeological context. This page has also somewhat emphasized mouth-blown bottles since that subject is of more familiarity to the author of this website than later 20th century, machine-made items. However, though the automated bottle production era also had incredible variety, it was not as diverse as the mouth-blown era since shape standardization and simplification was typical of machine manufacturing. Also, bottle body embossing became much less frequent on machine-made bottles and a significant amount of the diversity of the mouth-blown production era was the different proprietary embossing on essentially the same shapes of bottles.
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