BLM logoSHA logoHistoric Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website

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Welcome to the BLM/SHA
Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website!

Grouping of Historic Bottles dating between 1840 and 1940.
 

BLM LogoSHA logoThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, administers 261 million surface acres of America's public lands, located primarily in 12 Western States (including Alaska). Part of the mission of the BLM is the management and preservation of the cultural and heritage resources found on America's public lands - prehistoric and historic. 

The author created this website as a BLM employee and continues to update and enhance the site in retirement as a volunteer.  This website now has a permanent home courtesy of the
  Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA).



Website Goals: To enable the user to answer two primary questions about most utilitarian bottles and jars* produced in the United States (and Canada**) between the early 1800s and 1950s, as follows:

1. What is the age of the bottle?  (i.e., Bottle Dating)
2. What type of bottle is it?  (i.e., Bottle Identification, Typing or Typology)

The above two questions also address what was succinctly articulated in the Intermountain Antiquities Computer System (IMACS) and the nominal purpose of this website, which is “…to provide archaeologists with a manual for a standard approach to arriving at historical artifact function and chronology” (University of Utah 1992).   This entire website is essentially a "key" - albeit a complex one - to the dating and typing (typology) of historic bottles.  In addition, this site also assists the user with these questions:

3. What technology, techniques, or processes were used to manufacture the bottle?
4. Where did the bottle come from, i.e., where was it made and/or used?
5. Where can I go for more information on historic bottles?

Open pontil base on a "calabash" bottle.

Blow-pipe or "open"
type pontil scar.
Bottle ca. 1850-1855

This website will explain why this sharp glass mark on the base of a bottle is a key mid-19th century diagnostic characteristic.

Since there were hundreds of thousands of uniquely different bottles produced in the United States (and Canada**) between 1800 and the 1950s (Fike 1987), it is beyond the scope or even possibility of this site (or any website or book) to provide specific details about more than just a tiny fraction of a percent of that variety of bottles.  Even then the bottles discussed in depth are so primarily to illustrate the presented information and concepts.

This site instead attempts to help the user determine some key facts - approximate age & function - about any given bottle based on observable physical characteristics.  Hundreds of specific historic bottles are used as examples within the pages of this website to illustrate the concepts discussed; with luck you may find the specific bottle you have an interest in discussed though typically you will not.

This website is intended for...

▪ Field archaeologists trying to identify and date bottles or bottle fragments which are found during cultural surveys and excavations in the United States;

▪ Educators dealing with the subject of historical archaeology; and
 
▪ Collectors and the general public trying to date a bottle, determine what it was used likely for, and/or begin their search for information dealing with the fascinating world of historic bottles.
 


HOW TO USE THIS SITE

Base of an Owen-Illinois produced beer bottle.

Some of the embossed markings on the bottle base above are a great information source for 20th century bottle identification; some are meaningless.  This bottle is an Owens-Illinois Glass Company produced beer bottle made in 1941 by the Oakland, CA. plant.

This website will help you determine what to look for when identifying and dating historic bottles.

If you are attempting to determine the approximate manufacturing date - or age - of a particular bottle (or significant sized fragment) the first page to visit would be the Bottle Dating page and its related sub-pages.  These pages lead a user through a series of questions about the physical - or morphological - characteristics of historic bottles which help to narrow down the age of an item.  This complex of pages is a major hub of the rest of this website and the best place to start a search.  Also linked to the Dating page is a sub-page called Examples of Dating Historic Bottles which tracks a few different bottles through a dating and general information quest to illustrate how the dating process and this website work.

If you are interested in identifying what a bottle was likely used for - i.e., what "type" of bottle it is (aka "typology") - the Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes page and the extensive array of related sub-pages should be visited.  This very large complex of pages includes bottle type specific sub-pages with extensive style based dating information.  The "Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes" complex of pages is in essence an on-line "type collection" of major bottles styles and types made during the 19th through mid-20th centuries.  Please note that the main "Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes" page - and many of the subordinate pages - are very large with hundreds of imbedded images; it may take 20 to 30 seconds or more to load even with moderate to high speed internet connections.

Be aware that none of the pages are all inclusive since related information exists on one or many other website pages.  For example, there is information pertinent to dating a bottle on virtually every website page.  The title of any given page gives the predominant theme of that page and would be the first place to start when pursuing information on that particular subject.  However, the process of bottle identification and dating is quite complex with many exceptions; thus, the need for many web pages covering a lot of descriptive information.  A listing or "map" of all the main subject pages and connected sub-pages found within this website is found at the following link Website Map.  Use that page to get a feel for the structure of this website and to access any of the other web pages.

When possible, the information on this website is given general reliability rating estimates (e.g., high, moderate, low or "usually", "occasionally", "almost always", "almost never") to allow a user some "feel" for the probable accuracy of their conclusion or determination.  In addition, there are a hundreds of dating and/or typing determination examples scattered throughout virtually every site page to give the user a feel for the processes involved in dating and/or typing a bottle.
 


To do a word/phrase search of this website 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.

 

It is suggested that if you only bookmark one page of this website for future reference, that it be the Website Map.

 


It is recommended that a new user first view a short listing of User Tips about how this site "works."  Click on User Tips (pop-up page) to view this information.

If you simply want to learn something about historic bottles and/or view pictures of a lot of different type historic bottles, just "surf" the site!

Return to the top of this page.

 

Recent updates, additions and revisions to this website

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO USERS!

Currently, and ongoing for many years to come, the Bottle Research Group is using this Historic Bottle Website to exclusively publish new makers markings articles as well as revisions of previously published ones.  This is all directed towards the eventual completion of...

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MANUFACTURERS MARKS ON GLASS CONTAINERS

See the following page for a complete list of and links to these articles:
Bottle & Glass Makers Markings
(They are also on the Reference Sources/Bibliography page.)

Several significant Bottle Research Group (BRG) publications are now also available via this website:

Makers Markings Logo Tables - A major milestone in assisting with the dating of historic bottles is the completion of the "Makers Markings Logo Tables" by the BRG.  This alphabetical listing of specific embossed bottle/glass makers markings includes the marks used by various bottle/glass making companies in the United States and Canada as well as some in England and Mexico.  The actual makers marking "logos" are listed along with the name of the company that used the marking, the date range for the use of that marking, and the makers marking article(s) that cover that particular marking and maker.  These tables taken as a whole constitute essentially a "quick reference" dating guide to the makers markings found on historic bottles!  (The last two "Combined Makers Markings Table" links below are different file size versions of the entire array of logo tables combined into one download!)

Tintype of a man and his Drake's Plantation Bitters - ca. 1865-1875.Lockhart, Bill, Bill Lindsey, Beau Schriever, and Carol Serr.  2012.  New Insights from the Bottles Excavated at the Fort Riley Hospital Privy. Privately published by Bill Lockhart & the Bottle Research Group.  This well illustrated work highlights the recent reanalysis of hundreds of bottles and bottle fragments systematically excavated in 1984 from a large privy at Fort Riley, KS. used from the late 1850s into the 1890s.  The reanalysis resulted in the identification of several previously non-attributed makers markings as well as provided a significant amount of information to affirm and refine many of the concepts and dating guidelines found on this site.  This copyrighted work is available for sale as a softbound book via www.Lulu.com (search using "Bill Lockhart") or as a free, downloadable .pdf file which may be saved or printed out to make your own book for no cost!  The file is available at this link: http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/FortRileyReport2012.pdf

Lockhart, Bill, Tod von Mechow, Beau Schriever, David Whitten, Bill Lindsey and Carol Serr.  2014.  William Painter's Baltimore Loop Seal. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website, E-published January 2014.  This article is web published here exclusively for users!  It is about this late 19th century (but used into the 1910s) closure type used for beer and soda bottling and invented by William Painter, who went on to much bigger fame as the originator of the crown cap closure and finish.  This article is available at this link:  http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/BaltimoreLoopSealarticle.pdf
 

Another significant addition to this website, which will be ongoing for some time, is the inclusion of a series of articles primarily authored by Bill Lockhart on the early bottle making machines from the very late 1800s to the first couple decades of the 20th century.  These are highly informative, interesting and well illustrated articles on the early days of bottle making automation!

Lockhart, Bill.  2014.  Frank O'Neill and the O'Neill Glass Machines. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website, E-published February 2014.  Another great article web published here exclusively! This article is about some significant late 19th to early 20th century, press-and-blow, semi and fully automatic machines that were eventually able to make narrow neck bottles as well as wide mouth bottles and jars.  This article is available at this link:  http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/ONeillmachines.pdf

Lockhart, Bill and Barry Bernas.  2014.  Turning Blue: Charles Blue and the Early Jar Machines.  In the "Guide to Collecting Fruit Jars: Fruit Jar Annual 2014" by Jerry McCann , pp. 19-47.  Privately published.  As noted in the articles introduction:  Charles Edwin Blue created the first really successful jar and wide-mouth bottle machine. Between 1894 and 1912, Blue patented ten such machines, corresponding to the rise of the Atlas Glass Co. – from 1896 to 1902. This study examines the earliest machines – made by Blue and others – the manufacturing characteristics they left on jars, and ramifications applied to identifying early jars made by the Atlas Glass Co.  This article is available on this website at this link: http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/TheBLueMachine.pdf

...more to come in the future!

Other recent additions to this website:

  • The author of this website has prepared a summary of the mouth-blown bottle finishing methods section on the Bottle Finishes & Closures page which is available as a downloadable and printable (pdf) article.  Click The Finishing Touch: A Primer on Mouth-blown Bottle Finishing Methods to view/download this article (32 pages and full of illustrations).  This copyrighted article was prepared to be part of a proposed future Society for Historical Archaeology book on bottle and glass manufacturing.  That books future is unknown so the article is now being made available to users here as a free download.
  • Kearns-Gorsuch Bottle Company 1916-1917 "The Packers' Handy Reference Book" - The original of this entire period bottle makers catalog has been scanned and posted to this website as a tool for bottle identification or typology.  This company specialized in various food and condiment bottle production, but does have an assortment of other types.
  • Additional information continues to be added to the current work-in-progress typology page - Household Bottles (non-food related).  The ink, mucilage/glue and blacking/shoe polish bottle sections are fully completed with work being done on the other household bottle sections.
  • Bill Lockhart (Professor at NMSU - Alamogordo) recently revised all three of his "e-books" and they are now loaded and available free on this website!  These books, though regional in nature, have broader application to the dating and typing of the covered bottle types.  Click on the following links to move to the section of this website that allows one to download these files.  (Of note, the second and third listed books are also available as hard copy, published works for those wishing such; information available at the same links):  

Other updates: 

Noted soda bottle researcher Ron Fowler has completed (2012) a website that includes a searchable database of the well over 18,000 different embossed Hutchinson soda bottles that he has cataloged.  It is available a this link:  http://www.hutchbook.com  Although still a bit of a work in progress (primarily the inclusion of thousands of bottle images!) this website is already a marvelous resource for those trying to identify soda bottles and fragments as well as so much more.

In late 2011, a significant if not monumental work of note was published for those interested in historic bottles.  Published by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey it is entitled Bottled in Illinois - Embossed Bottles and Bottled Products of Early Illinois Merchants from Chicago to Cairo 1840-1880.  Click Bottled in Illinois to read more about this book and for how to acquire it.

...and lots of smaller additions, corrections, and the like always ongoing! 

 


 

*Note on the scope of this website:  This website is designed to provide information on the dating of typical utilitarian bottles and jars made in the United States during the 19th through mid-20th centuries.  It does not attempt to address the dating of "specialty" or imported bottles made during that time, though much of the information found on this website is pertinent to these items to varying degrees.  What is a utilitarian bottle or jar?  What are specialty bottles?  Both are hard questions to answer and the answer is somewhat arbitrary in the end.  For this website the distinction between the two categories is related to the varying time frames that different glass making techniques were used for for the two classes of bottles.  Click on utilitarian bottles or "specialty" bottles to view the portion of the Glossary Page that covers these subjects.  We have tried to define the distinction between these two classes of bottles from the perspective of the intent of and information found on this website.

**Note on Canadian bottles:  This website was prepared based primarily on information about bottle manufacturing technologies, processes, and styles specific to the United States.  Empirical observations indicate that Canadian-made bottles very often followed similar glassmaking technique and process chronologies making much of the information applicable to Canadian made bottles.  However, some Canadian-made bottles mirrored English manufacturing techniques/timeframes and many English stylistic trends (particularly for liquor, soda, and beer bottles) which differed somewhat from typical U. S. items - though many Canadian bottles also mirrored U. S. styles.  If using this site for the dating or typing of a known or likely Canadian-made bottle, keep this in mind as the reliability of the information may be reduced.

The subject of Canadian-made and imported (primarily European) bottles is addressed by the following question on the FAQ's page:
 Why are only bottles produced in the United States covered by this website?

 

 


The opinions expressed are those of the author of this website and not necessarily those of The Society for Historical Archaeology nor the Bureau of Land Management.
 


This website created and managed by:
Bill Lindsey
Bureau of Land Management (retired) -
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Questions?  See FAQ #21.

Copyright © 2014 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.

3/22/2014