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|About this site|
This page addresses some of the most common
questions that have either been asked by users or that they would likely have. These questions also
help to explain and clarify the purpose and need of this site, why it exists the
way it is, and other pertinent issues and points. It is both a
informational forum for presenting information that does not "fit"
well anywhere else and a true question and answer vehicle for the most common questions
I have or believe likely to receive. As such, this page will always be a work-in-progress.
FAQ's List - Click on a question to move directly to it.
1. Why is this website necessary or important?
1. Why is this website necessary or important?
The idea of "necessity" or "importance" is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Currently, the information needed to have a reasonable chance at dating or typing (i.e., what a given bottle was likely used for) a historic bottle is scattered in hundreds of different publications, many of which are very hard to obtain. Much unwritten information is also contained in the minds of many people who have thought and worked in this field, including the author and others consulted for this project. This fragmentation restricts the amount of information easily obtainable by archaeologists (or anyone with an interest) working to describe or classify bottles or bottle fragments found on historic sites. This website is intended to provide a consolidated information source that will allow both the professional and layperson a chance at greater understanding of the history and mystery behind historic bottles which can be both enlightening and aesthetic.
Another mission is to clarify some of the now confusing
terminology used to describe and classify bottles, establish some standard
definitions of commonly used terms, and clear up some of the common
misconceptions dealing with historical bottles (e.g., the side mold seam height
as a "dating thermometer" myth [see
FAQ #20]). Judging
from the emails received, this
currently being extensively used by cultural resource professionals - and many
others - around the U.S.,
Canada, and the World. The fascinating history of American glass bottles
touches and is a part of the transition from a craft-based to industrial-based
economy, the settlement of the U.S. and resulting cultural patterns and changes,
the hopes and
dreams of our ancestors, and much more. Is that important? You be
was the Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) involved with this website?
The quick answer is that the BLM was the employer of the author of this website (who is retired now) and helped facilitate its creation by offering that author a "special project" as a challenge in the waning years of his career. This website was the project picked which has been done in addition to his regular duties in the public rangeland administration and management world (with the addition to lots of personal time and expense).
More generally, the BLM - as the largest land managing
entity in the United States (largest land base) - has tens of thousands of
historic sites on lands that it manages. Virtually all of these sites
are either in the American West or Alaska.
Long-abandoned archaeological sites and historic landscapes give us
important insights into the ways human activities and the environment have
linked together through time, how seemingly minor cultural practices can
contribute to substantial environmental change. Discovering, studying,
and understanding the evidence of past human influences on the land can give
BLM and the public critically important background as we plan how we should
be using the same land today and in the future.
The recordation, interpretation, and protection of
these sites is a critical and mandated mission of the agency. These
sites are also important to the understanding of a vibrant era in American
History - the Trans-Mississippi migration and settlement of the West.
This website was sponsored in part by the BLM as an extension of agency
management mandates and responsibilities and is intended to assist internal
and external cultural professionals, other employees, contractors, and
volunteers in the pursuit of agency goals in the Cultural Resources
Management programs. This website also happens to be a useful
educational resource for those interested in the subject of historic
3. Why is this website hosted
by the Society for Historical Archeology (SHA)?
The hosting of the Historic Bottle Website (HBW) by the SHA is the result of a mutually beneficial cooperative effort between that organization and BLM. Since its initial posting in January of 2005, the Historic Bottle Website has become a very useful resource to the historical archaeology community. This makes its location on the SHA website in the relatively new "Research Resources" section particularly appropriate. The website's public educational emphasis helps the SHA to meet one of its goals: "...to promote scholarly research and the dissemination of knowledge concerning historical archaeology."
BLM benefits by forging a stronger connection to one of the leading
professional organizations within the archaeological world. The move
also helped the Department of Interior (DOI) meet recent DOI Inspector
General Evaluation Report (#2003-I-0051) recommendations to simplify their web presence, increase security,
and control content, while still
maintaining a recognizable connection to the Historic Bottle Website. Recent fundamental changes in
the BLM's website preparation methods also necessitated the move as the size
and functioning of the HBW is not conducive to the required change to
standard format templates. Finally, the pending (and now realized) retirement of the
website author necessitated this move so that the HBW can be updated and
enhanced indefinitely into the future outside of the BLM computer network.
4. Why is this information being presented on
In order to answer or address questions related to the dating and typing a bottle, a lot of information must be presented in a way that is accessible to the user of this site. A major benefit of using the internet to accomplish this task is the ability to use hundreds (or thousands) of illustrative pictures that would not be possible (or affordable) if published in book form. Another benefit of the internet is the relative ease of revising and/or adding information to a website as corrected or new information becomes available. As soon as the information is added it is available to everyone immediately; an attribute not possible with a printed publication. Finally, the ability of the internet to easily reach more potential users than any other communication medium makes it the most powerful tool of education and enlightenment available today. (Though, like television, the internet does not always achieve its lofty goals.) Authors Note: A printed, condensed, hard copy "field" version of this website is planned for publication sometime in the future depending the authors time availability and the demands for such a publication.
5. Why are only bottles produced in the United States covered by this website?
This geographical limitation is followed on this website for several reasons:
The information on this site is generally applicable to many bottles produced in Canada, since their glassmaking history very closely parallels that of the United States. In fact, a significant amount of the information used in the creation of this site was produced by Canadian historic archaeologists. However, there are some manufacturing and stylistic trends noted for Canadian bottles that parallel English bottle making and styles (particularly with many liquor, soda, and beer bottles) and one must be cognizant of this fact (Watson & Skrill 1970; Watson et. al. 1972; Urquhart 1976; Unitt 1980b).
What is generally true for our friends to the north is not necessarily as true for our friends to the south. Mexico was very slow to implement new techniques and processes and in fact, continued to use mouth-blown processes for many bottles well into the mid-20th century. This is evidenced by crude, mouth-blown Mexican bottles produced for the U.S. market embossed "Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse Of This Bottle" (ca. 1934-1964) which have diagnostic characteristics that would date them between 1865 and 1885 if they had actually been produced in the U.S. Click Mexican bottle to see an example of a crude mouth-blown mid-20th century Mexican-made bottle.
(Note: Some commonly encountered [in the U. S. or
Canada] foreign bottles are covered throughout this website and in particular on
Miscellaneous & Foreign Bottles typology page.)
6. Has this site received
There are several answers to this question, though the quick answer is no, the website has not received full "peer" review. First of all, the website is not as yet complete so full peer review would be premature. Second, the site is being constantly publicly accessed and "peer" comments continually received, considered, and incorporated as appropriate. And finally, the site will always be a work in progress with continual updates and additions for as long as is possible. Thus, there will almost always be new information that has not been "peer" reviewed.
7. How do I properly reference
this website in another publication or website?
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of different opinions, guidance, and confusion on how to properly reference all or a portion of a website on the internet. After a review of citation sources (on the internet of course) the author has several suggested ways to reference this site.
If referring to the entire site, the following is suggested:
Lindsey, Bill. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. ONLINE. 2010. Society for Historical Archaeology and Bureau of Land Management. Available: http://www.sha.org/bottle/index.htm [add date website was accessed]
If citing a particular page on this site, the following is suggested using the Dating sub-page as the example:
Lindsey, Bill. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website - Bottle Dating Page. ONLINE. 2010. Society for Historical Archaeology and Bureau of Land Management. Available: http://www.sha.org/bottle/dating.htm [add date website page was accessed]
As an alternative, the following webpage specific (Dating sub-page) citation format example is from the Society of American Archaeology journal guidelines:
2010. Bottle Dating. In Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. Electronic document, http://www.sha.org/bottle/dating.htm, accessed [add date website page was accessed]
Is This Website Complete?
Yes and no. This website is complete in that it is fully functional to users pursuing historic bottle information relative to the two primary and three secondary "goal" questions listed at the top of the Homepage. This website is not complete in the sense that it will always be a "work in progress." It is the intention of the author to continually update, refine, and broaden the sites information base. The ultimate goal is to allow the user - professional and layperson alike - the best shot at gaining substantive information on the majority of bottles produced in the United States between 1800 and the 1950s. Additional and new information will always become available and will be incorporated into the site periodically. (Note: As this site is currently a bit incomplete - with an expected completion sometime during 2011 or 2012 - the above is pertinent once the website is "complete.")
9. Why can't I find my specific bottle discussed
on this site?
As noted on the Homepage, during the time period covered by this website (~1800 to the 1950s) the number of uniquely different bottles (i.e., shape, size, embossing patterns, colors, mold variations, etc.) made in the United States and Canada undoubtedly is in the many hundreds of thousands. As a small example, there were at least 17,000+ differently embossed Hutchinson style soda bottles (Ron Fowler pers. comm. 2011) produced during that styles heyday from introduction in 1879 into the 1910s! And that is just one bottle style within one "type" or category of bottles, i.e., soda bottles. Also, be aware that the vast majority of historic bottles have little if any published history available in any form; much research is yet to be done. To cover all the possible bottles made during the noted time period is simply impossible for any publication or website. The goal of this site is instead to address in depth the general aspects of manufacturing feature based dating and the typology (i.e., what a bottle style was specifically used for) of historic bottles and then assist the user in the pursuit of additional information and/or specific references as available or known.
10. Why doesn't this site discuss the value of old bottles?
This site is intended as an educational tool for both professional archaeologists and the general public in assisting with the pursuit of information about historic bottles and the closely related subject of glassmaking in the United States. The value associated with historic bottles is not relevant to these goals. While acknowledging that many historic bottles have value and that the vast majority of bottles were legally obtained, it would still be inappropriate for this site to dwell on value as it may encourage illegal collection activities. If ones primary interest is the value of bottles, there are a large number of books and websites (e.g., eBay® or WorthPoint®) available that may be consulted for value estimates. Be aware however that the subject of value is probably as complex, illusive, and subjective as the dating and typing of bottles covered by this website!
11. What if I disagree with some of the information and conclusions made on
Without a doubt some people viewing this website will disagree with some of the information presented and/or the conclusions drawn. Although hundreds of references have been consulted to determine and/or support the information and conclusions made on this site, there is much in the historic bottle world that has never been documented. A lot of points made on this site, particularly in the world of bottle dating, are at least partially based on observations made over time by the author and by other people that have been consulted for this effort. For that matter, much of the information found in the references utilized - from the professional as well as avocational worlds - is laced with informed speculation and supposition. That is the nature of much historical information and research. However, the majority of the information found here is a synthesis of a myriad of published references and sources both from the professional and collector worlds.
Having said this we welcome clarifications, corrections,
proposed additions, editing notes, and any ideas you have to make the site more
functional or of higher utility. What we ask however, is that your
critiques and/or corrections be friendly and objective with the reasons why a
change or addition is needed either documented or otherwise supported by
published references or supported with some type of reasonable empirical
information. We realize that many "facts" in the world of bottle dating are
based on empirical observations made over the long term by people who really
"look" at things. A lot of the information found on this site ultimately
goes back to such. When making suggestions just keep in mind the primary
objectives and parameters of this website, as spelled out on the Homepage and
clarified by some of the FAQ's found on this page. Also keep in mind that
this webpage will always be a work in progress with additional and refined
information to be added for at least as long as the author is able. So feel free to provide
your thoughts - very little seen here is fixed in stone.
12. Why are the measurements
often in centimeters instead of inches, i.e., metric?
The measurements on this site - particularly on earlier images - are often only in centimeters because the metric system is the worldwide accepted standard, including for most American scientific publications. However, most of the bottles pictured or linked to the large Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes complex of pages, as well as later images added throughout the website, have the measurements in both inches and centimeters or no measurements at all, except in the text discussion the bottles. (This was based on a suggestion from users.) For those images that are purely in centimeters a centimeters to inches conversion table is provided for use.
13. Why is there more coverage of mouth-blown than machine-made
Be aware that the author of this website has much more experience with mouth-blown bottles (19th century up until about 1920) than more recent machine-made items. He also has had more access to mouth-blown items for photographing and describing on this site. A user may find that this site is skewed towards mouth-blown items, though there is an every increasing plethora of information on machine-made bottle also. Part of this is also a function of mouth-blown bottles and manufacturing being arguably a more complicated subject than bottles from the machine-made era, where uniformity and standardization was the key to enhanced productivity. However, as time goes on and more depth is inevitably added to the website over the years, machine-made bottle information will undoubtedly be expanded. This will be especially true for the information on the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes complex of pages where additional machine-made bottle examples will be added.
14. What are
the white glare circles visible in many bottle pictures?
The bright white circles visible on many of the bottle pictures - particularly on the shoulders of bottles - are from the reflector flood lights that the author of this website used to illuminate the bottles for image taking purposes. The picture to the right shows these illumination circles on the shoulder of a ca. 1880 cylinder liquor bottle. The author of this website, who took virtually all of the pictures contained here, is not a professional photographer and used readily available equipment in creating a photographic set-up for taking the pictures. Hopefully the pictures serve the function that they were intended for - to illustrate the concepts and information outlined here.
15. Why does
this website only cover bottles manufactured back to about 1800?
The website does not address much in the way of 17th & 18th century bottles for several reasons. First is that there is very little in the way of glass bottles in the West - where virtually all the BLM administered lands are - that date prior to 1800. The second reason is that 17th & 18th century glass manufacturing processes were essentially identical to early 19th century glassmaking since little changed technologically in the glass making world from ancient times until the 1820s and after (Cable 1999). So in a sense the earlier eras are covered by this website from the perspective of glassmaking processes. And finally, a large majority of all glass from the pre-1800 era was made in Europe and imported; this website covers American production primarily. There was very little glass made in the U.S. prior to about 1800 for a variety of reasons (taxes/tariffs, transportation, colonialism, monetary system), and bottles which were made in the mid to late 18th century America would be largely indistinguishable from imported items (McKearin & Wilson 1978). Since the variety of bottles made prior to 1800 was limited and this type information would be of use to those east of the Mississippi, a section or separate page covering bottles from Colonial times may be added to this website in the future.
16. Why are so many of the bottles pictured on this site embossed when the majority produced were not?
A large percentage of the bottles pictured on this site are indeed embossed, most likely out of proportion to the numbers produced during the era covered by this website - 1800 to the mid 20th century. It has been estimated that over 60% of all bottles made in the late 1800s were not embossed; even a higher percentage were not embossed prior to that time (Fike 1987:4). There are several reasons for the preponderance of embossed bottles used to illustrate this website. First and foremost, embossed bottles provide much more information in regards to bottle dating and typing, most of which is directly applicable to the larger number of bottles that are not product or producer embossed. The other reason is that the majority of the bottles pictured on this site are from the authors diverse collection making these bottles the easiest to photograph and describe in detail - and this collection emphasizes embossed bottles.
are so many of the bottles pictured on this website from the West?
Given the fact that the area of the U.S. east of the Mississippi had many times the population (and thus bottles) of the area west of that river during the time span covered by this website, it is true that Western items are overrepresented. The primary reason for this is that the author of this website has lived in the West/Northwest his entire life and has somewhat concentrated on collecting Western items (and the majority of the bottles pictured on this website are from the authors collection). In addition, since virtually all BLM administered lands are in the West (or Alaska) and emphasis on Western bottles is not inappropriate since a large percentage of the bottles found on public lands during cultural surveys were Western produced or produced for Western businesses. Since stylistic trends and manufacturing methods were largely the same throughout the U. S. at any given time period, the specific information relative to bottle dating & typing is usually applicable to all parts of the U. S. When there are known regional differences in bottle styles or manufacturing methods this information is included where pertinent on this site. In addition, since there were relatively few glass companies operating in the West during the period covered by this website, many of the "Western" bottles pictured here were actually produced in the East or Midwest and shipped to the West for use.
18. How do I interpret the notations
used for the embossing on bottles?
The conventions used on this website to denote the pattern of embossing on a bottle follow that used by most collector books and by many archaeological publications. The embossed lettering itself is usually noted in italics. A slash mark ( /) is used to denote that the embossing shifts to a different line on the same side of the bottle. For example "H. Weinhard / Portland, OR." indicates that the embossing is on two separate lines; click H. Weinhard beer bottle to see the actual embossing. Dash (-) marks indicate that the embossing is on another side of the bottle. An example is Udolpho Wolfe's - Schiedam - Aromatic / Schnapps where the Udolpho Wolfe's, the Schiedam, and Aromatic Schnapps are all embossed on separate sides of this square bottle; click Wolfe's Schnapps bottle to view a picture that shows two sides of this bottle. In addition, the Aromatic Schnapps in split onto two lines of embossing as indicated by the slash, i.e., Aromatic / Schnapps (this is slightly visible in the linked picture).
19. Does this website
have search capability?
Yes! Although there is no specific search capability within the Historic Bottle Website itself, it can be searched easily by using the "Search SHA" block found within most of the SHA web pages, including the homepage and the "Research Resources" page. Click Research Resources to open a pop-up page that includes the search function block on the upper right side which is labeled "Search SHA."
20. Can a
bottle be accurately dated by the height of the side mold seams?
One of the longest running myths in the world of bottle dating is that the side mold seam can be read like a thermometer to date the age of a bottle. The theory is that the higher the side mold seam the later the bottle was made - at least in the era from the early to mid 19th century until the first few decades of the 20th century. This dating tool was apparently devised by Grace Kendrick in her seminal 1963 book "The Antique Bottle Collector." This book was pioneering and reprinted many times into the 1970s and is probably the most common and widely quoted bottle books (by collectors and archaeologists alike) ever written, containing a wealth of generally good information.
This theory is found in Kendrick's chapter on "The Applied Lip" which contains a chart (Figure 9) entitled "Age Gauge: Mold Seams of Bottles." Kendrick's explains in the text (page 45-47) that "It is true that the mold seams can be used like a thermometer to determine the approximate age of a bottle. The closer to the top of the bottle the seams extend, the more recent was the production of the bottle." The chart accompanying this statement notes that bottles made before 1860 have a side mold seam ending on the shoulder or low on the neck, between 1860 and 1880 the seam ends just below the finish, between 1880 and 1900 the seam ends within the finish just below the rim, and after 1900 the seam mold seam ends at the top surface of the finish, i.e., rim (Kendrick 1963).
Although there are examples of bottles
having mold seams that fit these date ranges properly, the issue of dating
bottles is vastly more complicated than the simple reading of side mold
seams. If it were that simple much of this website would be
unnecessary! For example, the process that produces a tooled finish
frequently erases traces of the side mold seam an inch or more below the
base of the finish whereas the typical applied finish has the seam ending
higher - right at the base of the finish (Lockhart et. al. 2005e). The reason this is noted here is that the concept keeps
popping up in the literature of bottle dating and identification ranging
from Sellari's books (Sellari 1970:5) published shortly after Kendrick's
book to as recent as Fike (1998:4) and Heetderks (2002:15). It is
also frequently noted by sellers on eBay® when describing their offerings.
For a broader discussion of this subject see Lockhart, et al. (2005e) -
Debunking the Myth of the Side Seam Thermometer The issue of mold seams and dating is explored in
various portions of this website, but in particular on the
Bottle Body Characteristics & Mold Seams and
Bottle Bases pages,
with additional information found in various other locations.
21. Will you
answer historic glass bottle related questions or address comments about the Historic Bottle Website?
Yes, if you include good (in focus) images, a detailed description of the bottle, and clear questions. I certainly enjoy responding to questions though may not always have the time to fully address your query since this is a purely volunteer effort and I have many other interests. I can not devote any time to researching specific bottles although I will often provide suggestions where one could possibly find the information. That is often within this Historic Bottle Website which is large enough that users don't always find the right section(s).
I will always eventually reply to polite, articulate emails dealing with the content and structure of the Historic Bottle Website itself as well as those questions with good, in focus images dealing with specific U. S./Canadian produced bottles within the era covered by this website, i.e., late 18th century to the mid-20th century. Unfortunately, foreign bottles are not my field of expertise so the odds of useful information diminishes. As appropriate I will also forward occasional questions to members of the Bottle Research Group for further information and/or their interest.
I will typically respond only to clearly articulated questions which include good quality (in focus) digital images showing the entire bottle, the bottle base, finish (lip), and any other features of note along with a detailed description of the bottle.
(I apologize for obsessing about the need for good (in focus!) images, articulate descriptions, and clearly stated questions. However, I receive many questions that are lacking such information which often precludes any useful response. So if a question has incomplete details and no (or blurry) images I will often not respond. Bottle ID and dating is often difficult with the bottle/fragment in hand. Unfortunately, even with good photos and descriptions it is usually even more difficult. When one or both are lacking it is usually impossible to usefully respond with anything that isn't already on this website for users to find themselves.)
One additional caveat necessary to note is that there were literally 100's of thousands of uniquely different glass bottles made just in the U. S. & Canada during the noted time period and no one person knows the specifics about any more than a small percentage of a percent of that total (see Question #9). This is true of all bottle books and websites - they can only cover a miniscule number within the huge universe of bottles for which an overwelmingly large majority have little or no published history available. In other words, there is a good chance that the specific bottle you ask about will simply generate a general response about its approximate manufacturing time period and its typology (i.e., what the bottle was used for) - the primary intent and utility of this website. I may suggest possible avenues for potential research for which I don't have the time (I get lots of emails) unless such is directly pertinent to the goals of this website. I DO learn a lot from viewer questions so welcome them!
Typical questions which I may not be able to fully respond to include most questions that deal with the specific history or origin of limited production or distribution, local/regionally bottled products (especially outside my location in the far western U. S.) for which there is no published information to my knowledge, although I may be able to provide an approximate manufacturing date range and likely use (typology) for most bottles. Questions which are not detailed enough to discern concisely what bottle the question is being asked about or what the real question even is may not generate a detailed response. This includes just about any bottle specific question that does not include useful digital images.
I also have a very limited knowledge of foreign-made items, know little about art glass (and vases and other related non commercial hollow ware items) and pottery/ceramic bottles although items within some of these categories are discussed on this website to a limited degree primarily to show some of the diversity of other containers that may commonly be found on U. S./Canadian historic sites. "Specialty" bottles (click to view my definition of such) are also a broad class of bottles that I have limited information on and are generally not the subject of this website which primarily covers the much more ubiquitous utilitarian bottles - the subject of the Bottle Typing (Typology) & Diagnostic Shapes array of pages.
And finally, be aware that one question I will
NOT specifically respond to is about the value of a bottle.
plenty of websites (e.g., eBay® or
WorthPoint®) and books (by the Kovels', Polack, others) which deal with
the very complicated subject of value. Also see
If you have an articulate question that includes good quality (in focus) digital images showing (at least) the entire bottle, bottle base, finish (lip), and any other features of note along with a detailed description of the bottle - and does not ask about value - my contact email is:
Please put Historic Bottle Website - or something identifying the
email as a bottle question - in the subject line to avoid "spam" inbox
deposition and inadvertent deleting.
Although I do enjoy addressing questions be aware that all work on this website - including responding to the myriad of questions I receive - is not a BLM or SHA sponsored activity. It is purely a non-paid, volunteer effort on my part...and although retired I do have competing interests!
22. ??? Inevitably, more FAQs to come in the future...
SEARCHING THIS WEBSITE: To do a word/phrase or image search of this website one must use the following Google search link: Search the SHA/BLM Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website
Return to the top of this page.
This website created and managed by:
Bureau of Land Management (retired) - Klamath Falls, Oregon
Questions? See FAQ #21 above.
Copyright © 2015 Bill Lindsey. All rights reserved. Viewers are encouraged, for personal or classroom use, to download limited copies of posted material. No material may be copied for commercial purposes. Author reserves the right to update this information as appropriate.