Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes
Soda & Mineral Water Bottles
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Soda and mineral water (generally just called "soda water" or "soda" here unless a distinction is necessary) was bottled in a relatively diverse array of bottle styles as indicated by the grouping pictured above. However, like with the beer/ale bottles, the (usually) carbonated nature of soda and mineral waters narrowed the possible bottle variety in several ways. Most importantly, the bottles had to be made of relatively heavy/thick glass in order to withstand the gaseous pressures of the product itself. (Bottles made to withstand internal carbonation pressure were known as "pressure ware" in the bottle making industry [Glass Industry 1959].) The bottles also had to be able to survive the rigors of the high pressure bottling process as well as the extensive post-bottling handling and use since soda water bottles were typically re-used many times. This is evidenced by extensive base and side wear to many examples. In fact, similar to beer bottles, many (most?) soda water bottles were the property of the soda bottler and were sometimes marked as such, i.e., THIS BOTTLE IS NEVER SOLD or similar embossing to that effect (Riley 1958; Paul & Parmalee 1973; Busch 1987). The Hutchinson soda pictured to the below left has significant wear to the high points of the embossing from rough contact with its neighbors in bottle cases and from the bottling process. Not surprisingly, this is often called "case wear."
Also contributing to a degree of uniformity and related to the carbonation is the fact that a large majority of soda water bottles were round in cross section - cylindrical. A cylindrical bottle (like to the left) is inherently stronger than other shapes (except a sphere) all things being equal, e.g., similar size, glass thickness and quality (Tooley 1953; Glass Industry 1959). Square, rectangular, or other highly angular body shapes are unknown with some notable exceptions. Soda water was frequently bottled in heavy glass 8 to 10 sided bottles (and rarely 6 or 12 sides). A picture of an 8-sided example from the 1850s is to the right. These multi-sided shapes apparently worked fine because with so many sides the weaker 90 degree corner angles of a square/rectangular design were avoided. In addition, with the way hot glass flows when blown the inside of the bottle is much less angular and more rounded than the outside surface, further enhancing the strength - especially given that these bottles have very thick glass anyway. This internal "roundness" is evident if one studies a fragmental multi-sided soda bottle. (Note: Some soda and mineral water was non-carbonated or "still"; cider and some "medicinal" mineral waters were examples. These products would not necessarily require heavy glass bottles - and sometimes came in lighter containers - but usually came in the typical heavy glass soda water bottles since those type bottles were the most available and had consumer acceptance.)
Also of critical importance to the bottling of soda water was the type of closure/finish combination. The closure had to be simple for people to use, cheap to produce, and of course be effective in not releasing the contents nor the carbonation until final consumption. This importance is reflected in the fact that the names widely accepted for some of the bottle styles discussed on this page are related to sealing of the bottle - both the finish type (e.g., "blob" soda/mineral water like the two bottles pictured above) or closure method (e.g., "Hutchinson" soda, like pictured to the left). Much of the information on this page for some of these closure related styles is shared with the pertinent sections on the Bottle Finishes & Closures: Part III: Types of Bottle Closures page.
For clarification, the difference between "soda water" and "mineral water" during the 19th century was often vague. Soda water is generally considered flavored artificial mineral water, i.e., "regular" water made better with purposeful addition of various compounds and/or flavoring, and of course, carbonation. Mineral water would generally be natural waters from spring sources that were typically highly mineralized with carbonates (alkaline), sulfurous compounds, and/or various salts and often carbonated naturally (they were also sometimes flavored confusing the issue). "Spring water" is another name sometimes used for natural, unaltered mineral water and in fact is used to this day. However, mineral water was also a generic term applied to various natural and artificially carbonated, (usually) non-artificially flavored waters including many utilized for their perceived medicinal qualities. Suffice to say at this date, the distinction between them is often unknown. Because of this the term "soda water" is primarily used here (Riley 1958; Munsey 1970; McKearin & Wilson 1978; Schulz, et al. 1980). As a side note, carbonation was desired in these products for reasons beyond sensory pleasure. Carbonation also helped prevent spoilage allowing for the shipment of the product to more distant places, even prior to refrigeration and pasteurization (Wilson 1981).
The history of bottled soda waters within the U.S. can be traced back to at least 1806 when the first reference was made to the need for "soda water" bottles by a New England scientist that was asked to make and offer the product by his neighbors (Riley 1958). Mineral water in bottles goes back before that as it is known that bottled waters were being produced in - and likely imported from - Europe possibly as early as the late 17th century and surely by the end of American Revolutionary War. There are also indications that mineral water was being bottled during the late 18th century in the Boston area. The famous Saratoga mineral waters were being bottled at least as early as 1809 and used by many for an assortment of ills - "emetic, cathartic and diuretic...good in scrofulous and rheumatic affections; likewise in venereal taints" (McKearin & Wilson 1978). One "Saratoga style" mineral water bottle (covered below) from Vermont (Middletown Mineral Springs) was embossed with the words "Natures Remedy" and "Healing Spring" (on different variants) indicating a common conception about mineral waters as having medicinal qualities (Tucker 1986). A Vermont mineral water (Guilford Mineral Spring Water) claimed to cure an assortment of diseases - click on Guilford medicinal claims label to view a picture of part of an original label on an ca. 1880 bottle making all kinds of wild claims including the cure of cancer; click Guilford quart mineral water bottle to view the entire bottle which is the classic "Saratoga" shape. Other carbonated and sometimes flavored waters were touted during the early 19th century as being helpful in cases of "putrid fevers, scurvy, dysentery and bilious vomitings" (Paul & Parmalee 1973). There may have been some indirect merit to these claims as the water supplies in many places were suspect as to purity and even modern medicine acknowledges the utility of liquid ingestion for indigestion and nausea and for maintaining body fluids during illness (Wilson 1981). As the above implies, the earliest mineral and soda waters were primarily consumed for medicinal purposes, though the perceived utility of soda water gradually evolved away from primarily medicinal to a flavored refreshment by the 1830s and on (Riley 1958). However, the therapeutic benefits of some mineral waters are still claimed today; if in doubt, run a search on the internet on the subject.
As with beer and ale, different soft drinks and mineral water were bottled in non-glass containers. This included the ale style stoneware bottles similar to that pictured in the introduction to the Beer & Ale Bottled page (click stoneware ale bottle to view the example). Root beer was commonly dispensed in stoneware bottles during the 19th century, particularly east of the Mississippi. The example pictured to the left is a typical 1850s to 1870s era bottle that is incised with DR. BROWNS on the front and ROOT BEER on the reverse (photo courtesy of Glass Works Auctions). Mineral water was also sold in larger ceramic or pottery jugs like that pictured to the right, though it seems likely that this product was not carbonated. This particular jug dates from around 1906 or 1907 as that was the time span when the Wild Pigeon Springs Mineral Water Company was in business under that name (Fowler 1981). It should also be noted that bottles strongly identified with beer were also used (or re-used) for the bottling of soda and mineral water. Click on orange soda export beer label to see the fragmental label on a "quart" export beer found at the historic Fort Bowie (Arizona) that dates from the 1880s. Though faint, the label notes that the product last contained in the bottle was orange soda (bottle in the National Park Service's Ft. Bowie collection, WACC, Tucson, AZ.). Beer bottles were likely often used (or more likely re-used) for soda and sarsaparilla, at least in the frontier West where bottles of any type were likely in short supply.
Probably the most comprehensive source of information on the history of soda water production in the U.S. is found in John J. Riley's 1958 (also reprinted in 1972) book entitled "A History of the American Soft Drink Industry - Bottle Carbonated Beverages 1807-1957." (Much of the history in the following two works comes from Riley.) Schulz, et al. (1980) work entitled "The Bottles of Old Sacramento: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Glass and Ceramic Retail Containers Part 1" also includes a nice summary of the subject and history of soda and mineral waters as well as some excellent historical information pertinent to an assortment of bottles excavated in Old Sacramento, CA. Finally, John R. Paul and Paul W. Parmalee's 1973 book entitled "Soft Drink Bottling - A History with Special Reference to Illinois" is an excellent overview of soda history, advertising, bottling, and the soda water bottle types themselves. All these books are out of print but often available via internet used book websites.
NOTE: Linked to the "Bottle
Types/Diagnostic Shapes" grouping of pages is a complete copy of a never re-printed, 280
page, 1906 Illinois Glass Company bottle catalog scanned at two pages per
JPEG file. Click
1906 IGCo. Catalog to access the page that links to all the scans of this
very useful catalog. Soda and mineral water bottles are listed primarily on pages
soda/mineral water styles
Each of the pictured bottles has a 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 content manager 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.
Soda water, as noted above, was being bottled at least as early as 1806 when the first reference was made to the need for "soda water" bottles by a New England scientist that was asked to make and offer the product by his neighbors (Riley 1958). Mineral water in bottles goes back before that as it is known that bottled waters were being produced in - and likely imported from - Europe as early as the late 17th century and surely by the end of American Revolutionary War.
The earliest bottles that were used were probably not distinguishable from the bottles used for many other products like beer, ale, cider (fermented apple juice), and even various spirits (Guest 2007). These types would be similar to the black glass "ale" bottles like pictured on the "Beer & Ale Bottles" page under the heading "Early Ale, Stout, and Porter Bottles" (which includes the two bottle pictured here). More distinct types of bottles for soda water seemed to have evolved during the late 1830s to early 1840s (McKearin & Wilson 1978).
The bottle to the left is likely an early American (1820-1840) soda water or ale bottle. This interesting bottle is free-blown with a iron or improved pontil scarred base and has an early style of finish that is called variably a "funneled", "inverted taper", or "tapered down" finish (Unitt 1980b; Jones & Sullivan 1989; von Mechow 2005). This unusual finish does appear with some frequency on bottles that are attributed to the glassworks in the Pittsburgh, PA. area which may be where this bottle was produced (von Mechow 2005). Of course, without some type of positive identification (label and/or embossing) there is no sure way to determine where this bottle was made or to what use it was actually put; it could have been used for spirits, medicines, or many other liquid products.
The bottle pictured to the right is a very typical short, squat beer (ale, porter, & stout) bottle, which was also used for mineral waters, with a fairly abrupt shoulder and a long (compared to body) straight, non-bulging neck. The pictured example is embossed DYOTTVILLE GLASS WORKS / PHILAD.A. (Philadelphia, PA.), has an applied mineral finish, and though it is not pontil scarred, many of this type often are. This was a generic bottle produced by the glassworks for those who wished to label their product or did not want to bear the extra cost of proprietary embossing, though this style was offered frequently as a plate mold and proprietary embossing is very common on these bottle types. This general shape was very commonly used for beer and soda/mineral water bottling east of the Mississippi during the period from the late 1840s to about 1870. Big eastern seaboard cities like New York and Philadelphia had scores of different proprietary embossed examples made for local bottlers (von Mechow 2006). Judging from embossed specimens, this shape was rarely used west of the Mississippi with a few notable exceptions in Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, and likely a few other states. It appears to have been little used in the Pacific states where no locally embossed examples are known, though generic bottles (like that shown) were likely used since some are found in the West (Preble 1987; Fletcher 1994; Markota 1994; Burggraaf & Southard 1998). Click on the following link for a base view image of this bottle.
Dating Summary/Notes: The early porter, stout, and ale bottles with the shapes noted above typically date from the 1870s or earlier. During and after the 1870s, these general styles faded from popularity as some of the other styles covered below rose in popularity. The squatty style for beer never totally faded out with some English ale bottles still bearing a resemblance to the style (empirical observations). The squatty "porter" shape - as some glassmakers called it - was actually still being produced as late as 1911 (IGCo. 1911). Click IGCo. 1906 catalog - pages 260-261 to see the offering in the 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog which still produced this style with plate mold capability (page on the right). Given this wide range of manufacture, the dating of the "porter & stout" style bottles must be based on manufacturing based diagnostic features, as discussed on other pages within this website, or with local historical research if the bottle provides enough information via embossing.
One of the better sources for information on the earliest American soda/mineral water bottle is in McKearin & Wilson's (1978) "American Bottles & Flasks and their Ancestry" - the section on "Spring, Mineral, and Soda Water Bottles" (pages 233-244). Also see Tod von Mechow's exceptional website on early soda, mineral water and beer bottles at the following link for more information on specific diagnostic features of these type bottles which can help refine the dating: http://www.sodasandbeers.com
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One of the earliest bottle styles identified with mineral water was the "Saratoga" style. As with most early bottle styles these have squatty bodies, i.e., relatively large diameter proportional to the body height. This style also has a relative short neck and finish which in combination are usually less than half the height of the body on the pint bottles and somewhat less than the body height on the quarts (pictured below). Though an early type style it continued to be used until the late 19th century and was closely identified with the mineral waters of the Saratoga Springs area of east central New York. This style was also used around the country by other mineral water purveyors including a few on the West Coast most likely to try to recreate the "cachet" in their offerings of the famous Saratoga Springs, N.Y. products (Tucker 1986). Click Pacific Congress Water Springs Saratoga / California to see an example from San Francisco, CA. (Linked photo courtesy of American Bottle Auctions.)
The Saratoga style mineral water usually was made, not surprisingly, with a mineral type finish. This style of bottle is almost certainly the reason this finish was and was and is called the "mineral" finish as it is almost ubiquitous to the style. Some other finish styles were used on occasion - like the oil, brandy, and (very rarely) rolled or sheared finishes - but far and away the most commonly observed is the mineral finish. In fact, it is also occasionally called the "Saratoga" lip or finish (Tucker 1986). There were likely scores or hundreds of different companies that bottled mineral water in this style of bottle with a large amount of them operating in the Saratoga Springs area of New York, though similar bottles range widely across the country from the South to the far West, as noted above (Tucker 1986). Not all companies would have used embossed bottles since unmarked ones are known, though it appears that a large percentage of these bottles were embossed with the user/bottlers name. This probably was done in an attempt to get as many as possible of these expensive-to-produce bottles back for re-use.
The olive amber mineral water bottle pictured to the above left is one of the earlier embossed Saratoga style bottles and could have been addressed under the first section on "early" styles above. This bottle is also the first of four bottles illustrated that were products from the same or related companies which bottled water from springs in the Saratoga, NY area, i.e., the Congress and Empire Springs. This early bottle is embossed JOHN CLARK / NEW YORK and dates from 1833 to 1846 when John Clark was bottling Congress Spring waters. It is likely that the pictured bottle dates from the latter half of this period as they were known to have been blown by the Saratoga Mountain Glass Works (Mt. Pleasant, NY) no later than 1845-1846 (White (1930) in Schwartz & DiBartolomeo 1974; McKearin & Wilson 1978). This bottle has a crudely applied mineral finish, pontil scarred base (sand pontil), and was blown in a post-bottom mold with no air venting in evidence - all attributes befitting the early age of this bottle. The earliest known embossed mineral water bottles with this general shape are the precursor LYNCH & CLARKE / NEW YORK bottles that date between 1823 and 1833 when Clarke had Thomas Lynch as a partner. Lynch died in 1833 and the bottles are believed to have changed to being embossed with just John Clarke shortly thereafter though it is likely that the Lynch & Clarke bottles continued to be blown and/or used for a time after 1833 (McKearin & Wilson 1978;Tucker 1986). Click on the following links to view more images of the John Clarke bottle: base view showing the sand pontil scar (the scattered raised graininess on the base); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
The almost black (dark emerald-olive green) "quart" Saratoga style bottle to the right is embossed CLARKE & WHITE / NEW YORK and is a somewhat later container from the same company as the John Clarke bottle above, most likely made sometime between 1856 to 1866. It has a mineral finish (though this example has a sparse lower collar most likely due to insufficient glass application for finish forming), no pontil scarring (though some types of Clarke & White bottles do have iron pontil scars commensurate with the noted date range), and was blown in a post-bottom mold with no air venting (Tucker 1986). This bottle is very crude throughout the body with lots of bubbles and waviness (i.e., "whittle marks") to the glass and has rounded (i.e., not sharply defined) embossing - all attributes consistent with the noted production period. Since this bottle does not have a pontil scar it likely dates from the latter half of the noted period, i.e., early to mid 1860s. (This is an example of the dating refinement possible with the presence or absence of various diagnostic features.) Click on the following links to view more pictures of this bottle: base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
The mineral water to the left is embossed CONGRESS & EMPIRE SPRINGS CO. / (large "C") / SARATOGA, N.Y. on the front with CONGRESS WATER on the reverse. This the third bottle from the same progression of companies noted above. The medium to dark emerald green color is distinctive to mineral water bottles blown at the Congressville Glass Works (New York), which with some subtle variations, are known to collectors as "Congressville green." This particular Congress & Empire Springs bottle dates from about 1880-1885 as it has a true applied mineral finish but also an earlier style single mold venting mark on the shoulder of each mold half. This resulted in a bit sharper embossing than the above pictured Clarke & White bottle, though this embossing sharpness difference is really only distinct with direct physical comparison. This bottle represents the pint style that was used by this company (and many other companies) between about 1870 and at least the late 1880s to early 1890s (Tucker 1986). This brand was probably the most popular of the Saratoga mineral waters; somewhere between 75,000 and 100,000 bottles sold by the company in 1878, including to many parts of the world (McKearin & Wilson 1978). (These bottles were exported in quantity to the West Coast as evidenced by this particular bottle being excavated in Portland, OR. and others found throughout the West (empirical observations).)
picture to the right is a close-up of a pint
CONGRESS & EMPIRE SPRING CO. / SARATOGA, N.Y. - EMPIRE WATER mineral water
bottle with an applied mineral finish and the original cork still wired down in place. This bottle,
which dates from the 1880s, also has about two-thirds of the contents in place
showing that corks were an effective - but not perfect - closure method since
the contents are not still carbonated (if they were originally carbonated).
The mineral finish provided a secure attachment ledge for wiring down a cork, with the
anchor being either between the upper and lower parts (like in the pictured
bottle) or below the flared lower part or collar at the base of the finish. Very similar to
the Congress Water bottle above, this shape/style of Empire Water
was produced between about 1865 and 1884 and is another bottle from the
same family of mineral water producers as the bottles
described above (Tucker 1986).
Additional images/information of Saratoga style mineral water bottles:
Dating Summary/Notes: The distinctive Saratoga style of bottle continued in use for a very long time spanning the period from the earlier bottles made in the 1820s and 1830s up until the end of the 19th century. The smaller pint sizes fairly consistently have the conformation of the bottles pictured on the left side of this section, thought there are subtle variations as with all types of bottles. The quart sizes follow the form of the Clarke & White example pictured to the above right, though later (post-1885) quart bottles sometimes have a distinctly less abrupt and steeply sloping shoulder where there is no distinct break between the shoulder and neck, reminiscent of the champagne style of beer bottle except much wider in the body (Tucker 1986). Click steep shoulder Congress Water quart to see a quart example with the taller, steeper shoulders. Later (post-1885 into the early 1900s) bottles may also be found with a tooled finish instead of an applied one, like the crown finish example pictured to the right above. All bottles observed by the author were blown in post-bottom molds (illustration to the left), though living out West, one does not get a chance to observe significant numbers of what are primarily an Eastern American bottle style.
As implied by the references noted, the best sources for information on the subject of Saratoga type mineral water bottles is Donald Tuckers "Collector's Guide to the Saratoga Type Mineral Water Bottles" (1986) and McKearin & Wilson's (1978) "American Bottles & Flasks and their Ancestry" - the section on "Spring, Mineral, and Soda Water Bottles" (pages 233-244).
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Soda/Mineral Water style
During the late 1830s to early 1840s a new and distinct style of bottle appeared on the scene. The earliest record of flavored soda water being bottled was in about 1838 or 1839 when Eugene Roussel (Philadelphia, PA.) bottled lemon flavored soda water (McKearin & Wilson 1978). He possibly used this style of bottle, but is known to have used bottles somewhat similar to the "squat" style noted in the "Early Soda/Mineral Water Styles" section above (von Mechow 2009). A picture of an early 1840s Roussel bottle is available at this link: http://www.sodasandbeers.com/images/Pictures/18010ad.gif By the early 1840s the counter-pressure bottling process and machinery appeared and bottle shops were opening up rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard to provide for increasingly demanded flavored soda waters (Riley 1958). When precisely the blob-top soda style arose is unknown, though the early 1840s appears to be the most reasonable beginning date (McKearin & Wilson 1978). These bottles were, of course, also used for traditional mineral water as noted with the first two medium green bottles pictured in this section; the example to the left notes "mineral water" in the embossing.
The blob-top soda style is typified by being cylindrical in cross-section (or sometimes multi-sided like the octagonal bottle to the left), with a variably long steep shoulder which blends gradually into a relatively distinct moderate length neck, topped with one of a variety of one-part blob finishes with very subtle differences (two of which are shown in the two pictures below). As usual, the easiest way to become oriented with this style is to study the pictures found here. The style is generally referred to as a "blob" or "blob-top" style soda/mineral water by collectors, though of course "blob" is a finish type that can be found on a relatively wide array of bottle types including some of the soda/mineral water bottle styles addressed later. The name "blob-top soda" has become widely accepted with only a few alternative names noted, though the term was never used by bottle makers. One slight name variation is "true blob" and some historic archaeologists have called it the "standard style" soda bottle, though this latter name has not particularly caught on (Paul & Parmalee 1973; Schulz 1980; Fowler 1981). Von Mechow (2009) defines two subtle variations on this style - the "soda shape" with a more abrupt, shorter shoulder (somewhat like the image to the above left) and the "pony shape" with a longer, more sloping shoulder (image below right) although the break between these two variations is hard to define. (Consult Von Mechow's excellent website for more bottle shape information: http://www.sodasandbeers.com/SABBottleShapesSoda.htm )
The blob-top sodas range narrowly in size from 8 to 14 ozs., with the smaller end of that range (half-pint) predominating (McKearin & Wilson 1978; empirical observations). The primary closure was a wired down cork for which the blob finish was eminently suitable, though some swing type heavy gauge wire cork holders were also used (Elliott & Gould 1988; Graci 2003). Blob-top sodas are also frequently seen with another highly popular swing type stopper - the Lightning closures. See the Bottle Finishes & Closures - Part III: Types of Bottle Closures (beverage bottle closures section) for more information on the subject. The blob soda style, as pictured here, is similar in general form to the smaller champagne style beer bottles, though that style "evolved" later for beer and are usually distinctly larger and taller bottles with somewhat lighter thickness glass, though still fairly heavy.
The brilliant blue-green mineral water bottle pictured above left is a very early California Gold Rush era soda/mineral water bottle embossed (in a plate) - LYNDE & PUTNAM / MINERAL WATERS / SAN FRANCISCO / CAL. A. It has an applied blob finish, faint iron pontil scar on the base, and was blown in a post-bottom mold with no air venting in evidence. It is believed to date from 1850 to 1851. The address of the company in business directories of the era indicates that it was in the area destroyed by one of several "great fires" that occurred in San Francisco during the early 1850s; specifically the one on June 22nd, 1851. The company was not listed as in business in 1852 (Markota 1994). As there were no glass manufacturing facilities in the West prior to 1859, these bottles were blown at a glassworks on the east coast and transported around "the horn" (South America) by sailing ship to San Francisco. This is proven by the fact that the reverse side of this bottle is embossed (not in a plate) with UNION GLASS WORKS / PHILAD.A. (Toulouse 1971; Hinson 1995). Click on the following links for more view pictures of this bottle: base view showing a very faint improved or iron pontil scar with virtually no iron oxide remaining; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.
The medium cobalt blue soda bottle pictured to the above right is embossed with C. & K. / EAGLE WORKS / SAC CITY (Sacramento, CA.). The C. & K. stood for Casey & Kelly. It has an applied blob finish, no evidence of a pontil scar, and was blown in a post-bottom mold without any evidence of air venting. These manufacturing attributes - including the lack of a pontil scar - are consistent with the known business dates for the company of 1858 to 1866; particularly the later end of this period (Markota 1994). Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish. As shown by the images here, blob sodas were commonly produced in highly colorful glass colors as well as the more mundane aqua glass (colorless glass has never been observed but of course possible).
The relatively early blob-top soda/mineral water bottle pictured to the left is embossed THE / EXCELSIOR / WATER and was almost certainly made in 1850s. It has an improved pontil mark within the indented base, applied blob finish, was blown in a post-bottom mold, and has no mold air venting as this bottle pre-dates this latter feature by several decades. To view more images of this bottle click on the following links: base view showing the very distinct iron or improved pontil mark filling most of the inset portion of the base; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and blob finish. This bottle is thought by some to be have been used in California but they are known to have been found in the Northeast also. It is likely that this was a semi-generic type bottle that was used by several bottlers in different parts of the country. Actually, there were many generic, multi-user type blob-top soda bottles made which were not embossed (labeled) or just embossed with things like "Improved Mineral Water" or the glassmakers name, but which have no company/city specific information. The pictured bottle has a wide, relatively symmetrical, mushroom style blob finish which was a variation common on earlier (ca. 1850s and 1860s) blob-top soda bottles. This particular blob-top soda bottle is 8-sided, which was a shape that was frequently used during the era noted and continued to be an occasional shape through at least the 1870s (Markota 1994). Multi-sided blob-top soda bottles are very uncommon after that time (empirical observations).
The blob-top soda water bottle pictured to the right is embossed within a round plate - JURGENS & PRICE / BOTTLERS / HELENA MONT. This is an example of a late 19th century blob soda that has a tooled blob finish, very heavy glass thickness, and was blown in a post-bottom mold, though lacks obvious mold air venting marks. These features indicate a probable manufacturing date of between about 1885 and 1890. Since beer was also bottled occasionally in this style of bottle (click H. Weinhard beer bottle for an example of a "champagne style" beer bottle with virtually this same shape) and this bottle is embossed generically with "Bottlers", it is conceivable that it could have been used for beer. However, a check of breweries in Van Wieren (1995) does not indicate that Jurgens & Price were in the brewing business. From this additional information, one could reasonably conclude that this bottle was indeed used for soda/mineral water bottle though more local (Helena, MT.) research would be necessary to confirm this fact. For more images of this bottle click on the following links: base view showing the post-bottom mold configuration; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish showing where the mold seam ends on the neck below the tooled finish (as defined on this website). This bottle also has a slightly less squat appearance than the older bottles pictured above (compare the pictures). Bottles with this more slender shape appear to be typical of later (post-1860s) soda bottles, but is not likely to be an absolute feature (empirical observations). (Authors note: An example of Hutchinson style soda bottle [covered later] with the exact same embossing pattern was noted on eBay after the above was written. This provides firmer "proof" that this bottle was almost certainly used for soda or mineral water.)
Additional images/information of blob-top soda bottles:
Dating Summary/Notes: The blob-top style soda/mineral water bottles appear to have originated in the early 1840s and were quite popular by 1850 (Markota 1994). This style dominated the soda bottle market up through the early to mid-1870s when inroads in to its dominance were beginning to be made by other closure related bottle styles. In general, earlier (pre-1865-1870; the two bottles pictured on the left side of this section) blob sodas tend to be slightly wider in the body (over 2.5" in diameter) with a slightly more abrupt shoulder as compared to later (late 1860s to 1880s; pictures on the right side of this section) examples which tend to be a bit narrower (right at 2.5" in diameter) and have a longer, somewhat more steep, shoulder. However, this is a relatively loose relationship and may not be consistent enough for reliable dating.
This style appears to have largely fallen out of favor by the late 1880s, being overwhelmed by the popularity of the Hutchinson style (covered next). Based on turn-of-the-century bottle makers catalogs, the blob style with the blob finish did survive until the early 1910s though was not very popular because few bottles are known to the author from that era. By the early 1900s this general body shape was being almost universally produced with the superior crown cap accepting finish (covered later on this page). Generally speaking, the blob-top soda bottles follow the diagnostic dating information found on the Bottle Dating complex of pages quite well.
Though the blob-top soda bottle style was primarily used for soda/mineral water, and to a lesser degree beer and ale, there were some rare other uses of the shape. As a additional reminder of the impossibility of coming up with absolute rules for anything dealing with the typing (or dating) of historic bottles, the following is quoted from McKearin & Wilson (1978) about a blob-top soda type bottle put to a different use (medicinal):
Also see Tod von Mechow's exceptional website on early soda, mineral water and beer bottles at the following link for more information on specific diagnostic features of these type bottles which can help refine the dating: http://www.sodasandbeers.com
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Stopper Soda/Mineral Water styles
This class of soda water bottles are differentiated by having internal stopper closures (i.e., not cork sealed) and often body and/or finish shapes that were designed to accommodate these unique closures. Both of the major covered styles (first two below) have long, moderate diameter bodies, short to non-existent necks, and are topped with some variation of the blob finish. Be aware that there were scores of different patented styles of internal stopper - and related bottles - invented and made during the era between the 1860s and the early 1900s (Graci 2003). Most of these types were very short lived (and not covered here) though two major types of stopper defined bottle styles - used primarily for soda and mineral water - are primarily discussed in this section. These were the Gravitating stopper and Hutchinson spring stopper styles. Just for variety, one other closure related style - the Roorbach ball stopper - is covered briefly at the bottom of this section. It is seen occasionally but is much more uncommon than the Matthews. These bottles are a hybrid of sorts between the Codd ball and Baltimore Loop Seal closures and the Hutchinson and Matthews bottle shapes.
The image to the right is of a soda bottler in Iron Mountain, MI. during the early 20th century. It clearly shows an array of embossed Hutchinson soda bottles (click image to enlarge; embossing is faint but visible on some) cleaned and ready to be filled. According to Ron Fowler's incredible (really!) website on Hutchinson soda bottles (http://www.HutchBook.com) there was one bottler in Iron Mountain - John C. Eslick - who operated there and used bottles embossed with his name. Could be John and family in the background?!
The Hutchinson style (and closure) was far and away the more popular of these styles, though both stopper types could apparently be used on the other style of bottle (explained below). Both of these related soda water bottle styles are also referred to as the "patent style" by some historic archaeologists, to differentiate them from the "standard style" (blob-top soda) discussed above (Schulz 1980). However, neither of these names has been widely adopted by archaeologists or collectors. (Note: The Codd style bottle is also technically an internal stopper type but is covered separately and later on this page.)
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The crown cap closure and finish is arguably the second most significant closure invention of the late 19th century with continuous use throughout the entire 20th century and today. (The external screw-thread closure/finish would almost certainly be #1 in finish importance...for those keeping score at home.) The crown cap was patented by William Painter in 1892, who also patented the Baltimore Loop Seal which was used on soda bottles to some degree in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The period (1890s) illustration to the right shows a crown cap on a crown finish which looks exactly like the crown cap/finish used on beer (and some soda) bottles today (from Riley 1958). It was called the crown cap because, according to Painter, it "gives a crowning and beautiful effect to the bottle."
This closure consists of a simple metal cap with a corrugated skirt or flange and a compressible liner (originally cork and now plastic) inside the top. The finish is as shown in the pictures below which is a narrow rounded bead upper part (lip) with a variably sized tapered or rounded lower part (collar) below. The cap is placed on the crown finish and crimped into locking position with some type of crown capping tool or machine (Lief 1965). To access the contents of the bottle the still familiar, small, hand bottle opener is used. This finish style prompted and required new shapes of bottles that were more conducive to the ever increasing automation in the bottling business. That is the subject of this section.
Two date and characteristic related categories are addressed in this section: "Early Crown Top Sodas" (the pre-Applied Color Label or ACL era) and "Later Crown Top Sodas" (made during the ACL era). This is a relatively arbitrary "break" in that some "Early Crown Top Soda" types (i.e., a style dominated by embossed product/producer information - often in a plate) were produced in the "Later Crown Top Sodas" era (dominated by ACL's to provide the product/producer information), and vice versa. The term "modern style" has been used by some historical archaeologists for this entire class of crown top soda bottles which, though relatively accurate in a comparative sense to the earlier styles, has not been widely accepted (Schulz 1980). On this website we refer to this entire class of soda bottles generically as "crown top sodas" due to the binding feature of that finish/closure type.
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Round Bottom/Torpedo Styles
This class of soda/mineral water bottles is unusual in that they were intended to not stand upright. Instead, the rounded or pointed bases were designed to do the opposite of most bottle bases and ensure that the bottle was laid on its side so that the wired down cork would not dry out and shrink allowing the contents to loose carbonation and/or evaporate (Riley 1958).
These type bottles are commonly referred to as "round bottom sodas" or "ballast bottles" since it is believed (and likely true) that many, if not most, of these type bottles were imported from England as "ballast" (weight) in ships returning to the United States. A common variation is the "torpedo" bottle which is distinctly more pointed on the end with an bulging "amphora-like" body. The torpedo style was first used in England at least as early as 1809 when a patent was granted to William F. Hamilton. Torpedo bottles are often referred to as "Hamilton's" by English collectors but are also called "bombs" or "eggs" or "egg-shaped" by others (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Elliott & Gould 1988; Jones & Sullivan 1989). A picture of a typical pointed base torpedo soda bottle is pictured below right. It is embossed with "Walkden Aerated Water Co." (Manchester, England) and dates from approximately 1880-1890. (Note: Round bottom and torpedo sodas are lumped together as "round bottom sodas" for simplicity in most of the following discussion.)
The typical round bottom soda bottle was made of thick heavy glass to withstand the carbonation pressures of soda, mineral water, and in particular, ginger ale (Munsey 1970). Some rounded bottom soda bottles actually have a small flattened area in the middle of the base that allows for the bottle to stand upright though somewhat precariously. These are referred variably to as a "club", "tenpin", "semi-round", or "egg-shaped" (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Elliot & Gould 1988; Jones & Sullivan 1989). The finish on a majority of round bottom sodas is a thick heavy blob which allowed for the wiring down of a cork closure, though other finishes are occasionally noted including a crown cap finish (post-1900) and rarely, a Codd's ball stopper type finish. Round bottom soda bottles were usually produced in a true two-piece mold where the neck, shoulder, body, base (or what passes for a base), and sometimes all or a part of the finish were produced by the two halves of the mold. As such these type bottles are a rounded base version of the "hinge mold" discussed on the Bottle Bases page which exhibit one mold seam that runs continuously from one side of the body, around the base, and then up the other side. With the exception of round bottom soda bottles, the majority of true two-piece mold bottles largely disappeared during the 1870s.
The bottle pictured in the upper left corner is a BERLIN MINERAL WATER (Boston, MA.) that likely dates from the 1880s as it has an applied blob finish and evidences no mold air venting. The majority of these type bottles found in the United States were imported from Great Britain and frequently embossed with company names and cities from England and Ireland - Belfast (picture below) being a very common point of origin. However, some were - like the bottle pictured - either made in the United States or made overseas for U.S. bottlers. They were advertised in the catalogs of U. S. bottle makers during the early 20th century as "Round Bottom Ginger Ale" bottles (Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1908, 1911). Click IGCo. 1906 catalog - pages 248-249 to see the two round bottom soda offerings from the Illinois Glass Company in 1906. It includes a standard blob finish example (lower right page) and a "new" ginger ale bottle with a crown finish and a slightly flattened base ("the size of a nickel") that allowed for a precarious upright stance (upper left page). For an image of another American utilized round bottom soda bottle, click on Saegertown, PA Mineral Springs bottle to see a labeled "ginger ale" bottle from Pennsylvania that dates from the late 19th century. Whether this bottle was manufactured in the U.S. or imported (mostly likely) is impossible to tell, though it is known that the round bottom soda bottles were most frequently used for ginger ale like the pictured bottle was (Munsey 1970).
The round bottom soda pictured to the left is a very common and typical example that was imported from the British Isles into the U.S. in mass quantities (the pictured example was found in Oregon). It is embossed with ROSS'S on one side and BELFAST (Ireland) on the other. It has an applied finish that is a cross between a blob (large and one-part) and and the oil style (flattened and tapered outside surface), was blown in a true two-piece mold, and exhibits no apparent mold air venting evidence. Click Ross's close-up to view an image of this bottles shoulder, neck, and finish. If American-made this bottle would key out on the Bottle Dating pages as having been manufactured in the 1865 to 1880 era. However, it was likely made in the late 19th century or even early 20th as European bottle making techniques were a decade or two behind American ones. Though foreign made, these bottles were imported by the millions into the U.S. from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century and are very commonly found on late 19th to early 20th century historic sites, though they can also date back to the 1870s. These type sodas - and the Ross's in particular - are also found throughout the world but are particularly prevalent in British Commonwealth Nations like Australia, Canada, India, and others.
Additional images/information on rounded bottom soda bottles:
Dating Summary/Notes: A large majority of mouth-blown, round bottom/torpedo soda bottles date from the 1870s to the 1910s. Most were imported, although there are some American made torpedo bottles (Eastern Seaboard) that date back as early as the 1840s in the U. S. The style can go back as early as 1809 in England (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Baltimore Bottle Club 2002).
The more pointed base torpedo bottles appear to be mostly a 19th century style, with few (if any) edging into the 20th century. They virtually always have a blob or (rarely) oil/mineral type finishes; no torpedo style bottles have been observed with crown finishes (Jones & Sullivan 1989; empirical observations).
Most mouth-blown round bottom sodas have a blob style finish (often flattened on the outside surface), rarely an oil or mineral finish. A few have been observed with a Codd's ball stopper finish/closure (Elliott & Gould 1988). Towards the end of the era of popularity for this bottle type, a crown cap accepting finish was relatively common. These began to be produced in the mid-1890s and continued until at least the late 1910s. Of course with the crown cap closure type the utility of the round bottom - to keep the cork wet and tight - was irrelevant and probably why the style appears to have disappeared by the early 1920s in the U. S.
Round-bottom soda bottles with the slightly flattened base - allowing them to somewhat precariously stand upright - date no earlier than the early 1890s with most likely dating from about 1900 or later (Illinois Glass Co. 1898, 1903, 1906; Elliott & Gould 1988).
Machine-made examples of round bottom sodas - which also included examples with the slightly flattened base - date from the early 1910s into at least the 1920s and possibly beyond outside the U. S. Machine-made examples typically had a crown cap accepting finish though sometimes can be observed with a "blob" or other finish type (empirical observations).
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The Codd's ball stopper soda water (rarely beer) bottle style was by far the most successful of an assortment of internal ball type stoppers for soda bottles devised during the second half of the 19th century. It was first patented in 1870 in England with patents for the most commonly seen types granted in 1872 and 1873; it was first patented in the United States in 1873 (Munsey 1970; Goodacre 1995). Most of its success was in England or the Commonwealth nations like Canada, India, and Australia. Similar to the round bottom sodas, this closure & bottle style was infrequently used by American soda bottlers (primarily due to the fierce competition from the Hutchinson and later crown closures) and was known to have been produced in only one U. S. glass factory - the Whitney Glass Co. (Glassboro, NJ) beginning in 1886 (Toulouse 1971; Goodacre 1995). There were, however, a few seldom seen non-Codd ball types which were made in the U.S. (Riley 1958, Graci 2003). Part of the reason for its lack of success in the U.S. reportedly was because American kids had a tendency to break the bottles to get at the internal marble for their youthful games, though that must have occurred in other countries also (Lief 1965).
The bottles were produced by a method that required the use of an applied finish until well into the 20th century which is long after virtually all other bottle types were being mouth-blown with tooled finishes. According to one author the mouth-blown bottles were produced as follows: After being mold blown the bottles were sheared at the neck and allowed to cool. Then a glass marble, made from glass of a hardness twice that of the bottle was dropped into it. The bottle was then re-heated and the neck welded on (finish applied), so containing the marble (Goodacre 1995). Eventually fully automatic bottle machines were adapted to produce Codd bottles (example pictured below right).
This type of internal ball closure was self-sealing via a rubber gasket mounted inside the bore of the bottle against which the marble was firmly held in place by the carbonated contents. The contained beverage was accessed by pushing down on the marble to release the pressure after which the marble dropped to the constriction ridges in the lower part of the neck. Click Codd opener for a picture of a tool used to push down the marble. The illustration below left shows the upper portion of a Codd bottle with the marble in the sealing position inside the bore. The photo to the right below shows a late 20th century, machine-made Codd bottle from India with the gasket in place in the middle of the finish and the marble in the unsealed "resting" position low down in the neck on the internal constriction ridges. This side view of a Codd bottle also shows why these bottles are sometimes called an "elephant" or "pig" bottle (Elliott & Gould 1988). Some resemblance, I guess? The "eyes" are actually diagonal indentations in the neck that held back the marble when pouring the contents out after opening, keeping it from impeding the flow (Fowler 1986). During the 1920s and 1930s most of the English machinery to produce Codd bottles was shipped to India where the bottle may still be produced (Goodacre 1995).
Besides size, there are a few variations to the typical bottle as pictured here. What variations there are, are primarily in the body as these bottles shoulder/neck (hard to differentiate the two separately) and finish had to be largely as shown in the pictures for this closure system to work properly. One interesting variation is that there were some round bottom and torpedo sodas bottles that have Codd ball stoppers - some of which were made in England for U. S. soda water manufacturers (Elliot & Gould 1988). This makes for a very unusual looking bottle to say the least and given the purpose of a round bottom - to ensure that the bottle is laid on its side to keep the cork wet - somewhat pointless, since there was no cork.
The English Codd bottle pictured to the above left is embossed NORTH LINDSEY / MINERAL WATER CO. / SCUNTHORPE. It is also embossed on the reverse REDFEARN BROS / BOTTLE MAKERS / BARNSLEY indicating that the bottle was made by this glass company - business dates unknown. The towns of Barnsley and Scunthorpe are located in central England so of course this bottle is English made, most likely during the late 19th century, i.e., 1880-1900. It has a crudely applied long tapered (outwards towards base) "oil" type finish (for want of a better finish fit) with a groove on the inside of the bore for the gasket which the marble sealed against; a ubiquitous finish on a Codd bottle. Some residual gasket is remaining as shown in the picture. The bottle has no apparent evidence of air venting and was blown in a post-bottom mold. These features would date the bottle - if U. S. made - from the 1870s to mid-1880s. However, as noted on other portions of this website, European manufacturers were "behind" the U. S. in adopting new bottle production techniques so it is possible that this Codd bottle could date as late as 1900-1915 as Codd bottles from that era are known with these diagnostic traits. It could also date from the 1880s also and would need local research on the company (or glassmaker) history to pin down the date more. Click on the following links for more views of this bottle: base view; close-up of the neck and finish. Though English made, it is essentially identical to the bottles that were used infrequently by soda companies in the U.S.; bottles that were almost certainly made by English glass companies like Redfearn Bros.
Dating Summary/Notes: As noted, the Codd bottle/closure was a minor element in the American soda bottle/closure market. Hutchinson closures followed by the crown closure (both covered below) were far and away the most popular sealing methods for soda and mineral water in the U.S. One researcher, however, has tallied 25 or so different Codd bottles that are identifiable as used by American companies spanning the country (Graci 2003). In Hawaii, the state where soda companies used the Codd bottle the most, there were at least 14 different Codd or Codd type bottles used by 4 different companies between 1884 and 1898 (Elliott & Gould 1988). It is not known how many American soda concerns used unembossed Codd bottles with proprietary labels attached, though it was likely just a fraction of one percent and miniscule compared to the Hutchinson and crown closure bottles; Codd bottles are rarely found on historic sites in the U.S. (empirical observations).
The general date range for the mainland American use of the Codd closure is probably similar to the date range noted for Hawaii, though it is known that some Codd bottles were used into the early 1900s by some companies. For example, one Western embossed Codd bottle with a true applied finish (BIGGAM BROS. / YAKIMA, WA) is known to date from between 1911 and 1913. These bottles were marked as having been manufactured by NUTTALL & CO. - a glass works in St. Helens, Lancashire County, England which was merged out of existence in 1913 (Fowler 1986; Whitten 2005; Lockhart et al. 2018). (For more information, see the Nuttall & Co. makers marking article at this link: http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/Nuttall.pdf A good cut-off date for the limited use of Codd closures in the U.S. is the mid 1910s (Newman 1970).
Worldwide, Codd bottles were used for an immense range of time from invention in the early 1870s to the late 20th century, as indicated by the bottle pictured to the above right which is machine-made and has as base sticker noting it was Made in India. Mouth-blown Codd bottles can date as late as the 1920s with applied finishes which were required by the process needed to produce these bottles noted earlier. Eventually fully automatic bottle machines were adapted to produce these bottles. (One wonders how the automatic machine worked in order to get the marble in place?) During the 1920s and 1930s most of the English machinery to produce Codd bottles was shipped to India where the bottle may still be produced (Goodacre 1995). The machine-made Indian example pictured above right was purchased new from an import store around 1990!
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Soda/Mineral Water styles
There were an assortment of other variably popular bottle styles used as containers for the sale of soda and mineral water - some more or less proprietary (Bitterquelle) and others generic shapes (siphon & apollinaris). The following assortment covers some of these bottles but is not remotely all embracing.
For additional images of various labeled soda & mineral water 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 (Soda & Mineral Water) is very large. 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 generally not as diverse as the mouth-blown era (ACL sodas being a possible exception) 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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