Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes

Group of liquor bottles; click to enlarge.

Liquor/Spirits Bottles
HOME: Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Liquor/Spirits Bottles

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One-fifth size liquor bottle in old amber color; click to enlarge.Liquor of all types - bourbon, rye, gin, cognac, scotch, etc. - was bottled in a wide variety of bottle shapes and sizes ranging from small flasks that held a few ounces to demijohns and carboys that held gallons.  As with virtually all of the bottle type categories to follow, liquor bottle diversity is staggeringly complex in depth and variety.  The pictures on this page show just a small bit of this variety.  However, there are definitive trends in shapes that mark a bottle as very likely to have been used primarily or originally as a container for high alcohol spirits intended for internal consumption, "medicinal" or otherwise.

Alcohol was of course an important ingredient in many other products also, ranging from wine, champagne, beer, and porter to most patent and proprietary medicines, bitters, and tonics to even preserved fruits.  This section of the "Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes" page just covers liquor bottles where the contained product was high in alcohol (20%+) and the intended use was not primarily medicinal - or at least the acknowledged medicinal utility was of secondary importance.  For example, even though Hostetter's Stomach Bitters contained as much as 43% alcohol (86 proof!) during the early 1900s, it's primary intent was medicinal though undoubtedly many people who used this very popular product did not have self-medication in mind (American Medical Assoc. 1921).  In addition, various straight liquors were thought to be therapeutic for various ills - gin for the kidneys, rum as a cure for bronchitis, and Rock and Rye for the symptoms of the common cold (Powers 1998).  Whiskey was often labeled as - and sometimes even embossed - "For Medicinal Purposes Only" as early as the mid-19th century - long before National Prohibition took effect in January of 1920 (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  To be fair, ethyl alcohol was (and is) one of the better preservatives for products intended for internal consumption or external use.  These examples help point out the vague line that existed between liquor/spirits and medicinal products during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mid-20th century liquor flask with the Federally required embossed statement.
"FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE" inscription on the shoulder of a machine-made pint liquor flask manufactured in 1956 by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.  This embossing was required on all liquor bottles sold in the U.S. between 1935 and 1964 (inclusive).

Though not quite on a par with the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century, temperance was a very significant morally based social movement in the U.S. and had its roots in the still pervasive damage done to some individuals and their families by the improper use of alcohol.  To quote an important work on the subject: "For many observers of American Life the Temperance movement is evidence for an excessive moral perfectionism and an overly legalistic bent to American culture."  This is a pervasive thread that still exists in current American politics and culture in aspects of human behavior well beyond just alcohol (Gusfield 1970).  The growing strength of the Temperance movement and rising anti-alcohol fervor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to the passage of ever increasing restrictions on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.  The famous (or infamous depending on perspective) Anti-Saloon League was primary force doggedly pursing the move towards the banning of alcohol and one of the first the successful single-interest pressure groups in the U. S. (Okrent 2010).

The power of the Temperance movement culminated in the addition of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution on January 16th, 1919; the amendment written to take effect one year after ratification, i.e.,  January 17th, 1920.  National Prohibition, however, was already the law of the land through Congressional passage - over a presidential veto - of the National Prohibition Act (aka the Volstead Act) on October 28th, 1919 which took effect immediately, although existing stocks could be sold through the January 16th, 1920 date.  There were, of course, various exceptions allowed under the law for "medicinal" products containing alcohol as well as sacramental wines (Okrent 2010). Although certain elements of the Volstead Act were loosed up (e.g., 3.2% beer was legal to sell again) beginning in April of 1933, repeal of the 18th Amendment came in December of 1933.  With repeal, liquor was required to be sold only in bottles; bulk sales in casks was prohibited in an attempt to exert tighter controls and prevent a resurgence of anything resembling the old time saloon.  In January of 1935,- federal legislation took effect prohibiting the resale or use of used liquor bottles and required that the following statement be embossed on them: FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE  (Busch 1987); see the picture to the above right.  (It should be noted that implementation of this requirement began in late 1934, so some bottles made that year will have the noted embossing.)  This regulation was repealed in 1964 giving an effective dating tool of 1935 to the mid 1960s for this diagnostic feature (Munsey 1970).  Be aware however that for some years after 1964 liquor could still be found in bottles with this embossing since not all liquor producers switched immediately to new bottles due to the expense of new molds or to deplete an existing supply of bottles (Ferraro 1966).  Bottles known to date as late as 1974 still had that inscription on them; click 1970s liquor bottle to see an example which is also covered later on this page.

Pint Dandy flask with contents; click to enlarge.(Note on Canadian liquor laws:  Canada followed a similar trend as the U.S. in the gradual implementation of alcohol prohibition with the various Province's going "dry" between 1901 and 1917, though there was never a "national prohibition" passed in Canada.  By time National Prohibition was fully implemented in the U.S. in January of 1920, the only area north of Mexico that was not totally "dry" was the Province of Quebec (Unitt 1972).)

The push for individual State and eventually National Prohibition came right at the time (1910s) that bottle makers were making the transition from mouth-blown to fully machine-made bottles.  It is an almost absolute fact that if an American made liquor bottle is mouth-blown it pre-dates National Prohibition.  It is largely true, though not nearly absolute, that if a liquor bottle is machine-made it dates from or after Prohibition.  Prohibition makes a very convenient dating transition point for liquor bottles which is not available for other types of bottles.  However, there were some machine-made liquor bottles and flasks that most definitely pre-date Prohibition.  For example the labeled, colorless, flask (with contents) pictured to the left is actually dated on the tax seal as having been bottled during the fall of 1919 which is just weeks before National Prohibition fully took effect in January 1920.  It is machine-made and a commonly encountered style of liquor flask that can date from before, during, and possibly, just after Prohibition (see the "Dandy Flasks" section later on this page).


NOTE:  Attached 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.  Liquor bottles are listed primarily on pages 118-177.
 


 

Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes:
"Liquor/Spirits Bottles" page
Organization & Structure

Group of liquor bottles; click to enlarge.This page is divided somewhat arbitrarily into four primary categories,  plus a fifth catch-all "other" category, as follows:

Figured Flasks
   -Decorative flasks
   -Masonic flasks
   -Historical flasks
   -Calabash bottles
   -Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation theme flasks
   -Other Figured flasks

Cylinder styles
   -Squat spirits/utility cylinder bottles (earlier)
   -Tall, moderately slender bodied, bulged neck spirits/utility cylinder bottles
   -Tall, moderately slender bodied, straight neck "Patent" style spirits cylinders (mid-19th century)
   -Tall, moderately slender bodied, straight neck spirits cylinders (late 19th & 20th century)
   -Decorative shoulder spirits cylinders
   -Squat cylinder spirits bottles (later)
   -Malt whiskey cylinders
   -Tall, straight neck spirits cylinders (early 20th century)
   -Tall Modern Cylinder liquor (mid-20th century)

Square/Rectangular styles
   -Case gin bottles
   -Tall square short-necked spirits bottles
   -Tall square long-necked spirits bottles
   -Short squatty square spirits bottles
   -Rectangular spirits bottles

Flask styles (not considered "figured")
   -Pattern mold/"Pitkin" flasks
   -Union Oval flasks
   -Shoo-fly & Coffin flasks
   -Picnic/Jo Jo flasks
   -Barrel flasks
   -Eagle flasks
   -Olympia & Washington style flasks
   -Baltimore Oval Flasks
   -Dandy Flasks

Other Miscellaneous shapes/styles
   -Chestnut flasks
   -Benedictine bottles
   -Handled liquor bottles

These categories are shape based primarily with the exception of the first category - figured flasks - which are largely recognized by collectors/archaeologists as a separate category.  Each of the pictured bottles has a relatively short description and explanation including estimated dates or date ranges for that type bottle and links to other view pictures of the bottle.  Additional links to images of similar bottles are also frequently included. 

The array of references used to support the conclusions and estimates found here - including the listed dating ranges - are noted.  Additional information and estimates are based on the empirical observations of the author over almost 40 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.

 


 

Figured Flasks

"Scroll" shaped figured flasks from the 1850s; click to enlarge.Figured flasks is a generic name for the large class of liquor flasks primarily produced between 1815 and 1870.  They are also variably referred to as "historical", "pictorial", or "decorative" flasks.  The most simple classification of figured flasks are the "historical" flasks which are those with portraits of national heroes, presidents, personages; emblems or symbols of sovereignty, political parties, societies; inscriptions related to various subjects, famous sayings, or popular slogans; and "pictorial" flasks which bear purely decorative motifs (Munsey 1970; McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Figured flasks were quite popular during this era because they were both functional and decorative typically having ornate embossing, designs, and/or molded features.  Due to their esthetic and decorative nature, these flasks were infrequently discarded unless broken so many survived to the present day.

Generally following McKearin & Wilson (1978), figured flasks are loosely categorized in this section into the following groups: Decorative (e.g., scroll [a grouping of colorful scroll flasks to the above right], sunburst, cornucopia, geometric designs); Masonic; Historical (emblems/symbols of the U.S., heroes and celebrities, Presidential candidates, shield & clasped hands); Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation; and Others (sports, Pike's Peak).  Figured flasks also include calabash bottles (example below), which are covered separately here because of their distinctive shape, and some flasks that fit the form description but are just embossed with lettering, i.e.,, glassmaker or purchaser name/location. 

Calabash bottle from the 1850s.Unlike most other types of liquor bottles which are generally more common without embossing, figured flasks are by definition embossed since the embossed motifs and molded designs are what defines them as figured flasks, though many shapes are also unique to this group (e.g., scroll flasks, calabash bottles).  Unembossed flasks with shapes similar to some of the later (1860s primarily) figured flasks are considered generically in the "Flask (not considered figured)" category.

The figured flasks described here represent a small cross-section of the hundreds of different types made during their heyday.  These type items are occasionally found on historic archaeological sites though usually as fragments since they were not usually discarded until broken.  Most of the classification and dating information for this section is from McKearin & Wilson's epic work "American Bottles & Flasks and Their Ancestry" (1978).  This book is the source of information on figured flasks and contains by far the most comprehensive listing (with illustrations) and is the accepted classification system for figured flasks.  The listing of figured flasks - pages 521-677 - was an update and expansion to the original listing found in McKearin & McKearin (1941).  An alternative classification for figured flasks in McKearin & Wilson, which is pertinent to their dating, is a section entitled "Bottle Form or Shape Groups" (pages 512-517).  Here the authors divide figured flasks into 9 distinct "Form Groups" and includes dating ranges for when that form group was first produced.  The book also covers most other types of 18th and 19th century American bottles and is an almost mandatory reference for serious students of American made bottles of the 18th and 19th century.

Note:  Because of the beauty - and possibly the intrinsic value - of figured flasks, many have been reproduced at various times during the 20th century.  Some of these reproductions are very hard to discern from originals to the inexperienced eye.  These reproductions are not covered here but are discussed in McKearin & Wilson on pages 678-696, through the 1978 publication date.  The bottles pictured in this section are all early to mid-19th century originals.

Decorative flasks

The decorative group of flasks is a category of "pictorial" flasks made up of four primary types: scroll, sunburst, cornucopia, and geometric.  These are categories from McKearin & Wilson (1978) and are covered in that reference on pages 420-436.

Pint scroll flask; click to enlarge.Scroll flasks:  The figured flask pictured to the left (and the colorful group of five to the upper right) is commonly referred to by collectors as a scroll flask, though in the early days of collecting (and probably even now) they were referred to as "violin" flasks.  What 19th century glass makers called these is lost to history.  This style of flask was introduced around 1830 and were extremely popular through the 1840s and 1850s.  Popularity apparently waned by the beginning of the Civil War (early 1860s) and it appears that very few if any were made after that time.  Most scroll flasks were likely made by Midwestern glassmakers, though most do not have makers marks to allow for precise attribution.  Scroll flasks are covered as Group IX in McKearin & Wilson (1978).

Scroll flasks were primarily made in half-pint, pint (most common size by far), and quart sizes, though smaller and larger examples are known, including a gallon size.  Scroll flasks almost always have some type of pontil scar, i.e., glass-tipped, blowpipe, and iron pontils primarily; non-pontiled bases are rare in scroll flasks indicating that they likely do not post-date the early 1860s.  The range of colors possible in these flasks is almost unlimited, though they were by most commonly made in shades of aquamarine - like the example above.  Finishes found on these flasks included primarily the following: straight (sheared) and cracked-off (or subtle variations like the rolled, flare, or globular flare) sometimes with re-firing but often just left rough (example pictured to the right); rolled; double-ring; and champagne.  If of interest, the details of scroll flask morphology nomenclature are discussed and illustrated on pages 422-423 of McKearin & Wilson (1978).Pint scroll flask in yellow green; click to enlarge.

The aqua scroll flask pictured above is very typical in design and likely dates from the late 1840s or 1850s.  It is classified as GIX-12a in McKearin & Wilson (1978) and has a straight flared finish (sheared/cracked-off with and some re-firing), blow-pipe pontil scar on the base, and was made in a two-piece key mold.   Click on the following links for more images of this pint scroll flask from different views: side view; base view; shoulder/neck close-up view.  To the right is pictured a very similar pint scroll flask (GIX-15) in an unusual yellow green color with a cracked-off and non-refired finish; click thumbnail image to enlarge.  Click quart scroll flask to view a picture of a quart sized scroll flask with a double-ring finish.  This quart scroll also has an iron pontil scar, is classified as GIX-1 or 2, and likely dates from the mid to late 1850s.   (A colorful grouping of five scroll flasks dating from the late 1840s to late 1850s is also shown at the top of this section above.)

Sunburst flask; click to enlarge.Sunburst flasks: Another very popular style of early figured flask is referred to as the "sunburst" flask, which encompasses various types based on the molded design on the body.  Sunburst flasks are among some of the oldest of the figured flasks dating as early as 1812 to 1815 and as late as the 1840s for a few.  Most are believed to have been primarily made by various New England glass works.  Sunburst flasks are covered as Group VIII in McKearin & Wilson (1978).

Sunburst flasks were made in only pint and half-pint sizes.  They all have pontil scars - either glass-tipped or blowpipe types - indicating early manufacture.  Colors can vary somewhat widely, though the large majority are in shades of olive green and olive amber, various other true greens, shades of amber, and aqua.   Finishes are typically straight (sheared) or cracked-off (or subtle variations like the rolled, flare, or globular flare) typically with with obvious re-firing; and occasionally with hard to classify variations of the double ring, mineral, or others.  For more information on sunburst flasks check out the following external link: http://www.glswrk-auction.com/142.htm 

Keene sunburst pint; click to enlarge.The olive amber half-pint flask pictured above is a typical 1820s to early 1830s design from the Keene-Marlboro Street Glass Works, Keene, NH.  It is classified as GVIII-10, has a blowpipe pontil scar on the base, globular flare finish (sheared/cracked-off with tooling marks and re-firing), and was produced in a key mold.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask: shoulder and neck/finish view; base view; side view. As an example of how a given type of bottle can be used or re-used for a non-type typical product, click on the following links: sunburst with label; close-up of the label.  This shows an example of this same type sunburst flask that was used (or more likely re-used) for "SPTS. CAMPHOR" by a Pennsylvanian druggist.  Spirits of camphor was historically used internally (an expectorant) and still is used externally (muscle aches and pains) though is now considered to be a more or less hazardous substance if ingested.  It is definitely not a liquor though it has "spirits" in the name.

The pint, clear green sunburst flask pictured to the right is an earlier product of same Keene, NH. glass works as the flask above and is one of the earliest figured flasks dating from between 1815 and 1817 (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  It is classified as GVIII-2, has a glass-tipped pontil scar on the base, a straight (sheared/cracked-off) fire-polished finish, and was produced in a two-piece hinge mold.  These flasks are often called "two pounders" by collectors as they are almost decanter-like with heavy glass weighing between 2 and 3 pounds.  Click the following links to view more pictures of this flask:  shoulder and neck/finish close-up; base view; side view.

Cornucopia pint flask; click to enlarge.Cornucopia flasks:  Flasks with the cornucopia and/or urn with fruit were a popular theme on flasks between about 1820 and 1850. They are covered as Group III in McKearin & Wilson (1978).  Some of these flasks have an eagle design instead of the urn on the reverse, but are otherwise very similar.  The symbols of the cornucopia and urn were easily recognized during the time as symbolic of the young country's (U.S.) good prospects and was a favorite motif in arts and crafts through the first half of the 19th century (McKearin & Wilson 1978).

Cornucopia flask reverse; click to enlarge.Cornucopia flasks were made in only the pint and half-pint sizes.  These flasks seem to all have pontil scars - typically either a glass-tipped or blowpipe pontil - reflecting their early manufacturing dates; iron pontils are unusual.  Colors are once again variable but dominated by olive green, olive amber, other shades of amber and green, and aqua.  Finishes are almost always a of the straight (sheared) or cracked-off varieties (or subtle variations like the rolled, flare, or globular flare) typically with with obvious re-firing.

The pictured flask (both sides shown - cornucopia side to above left; urn to right) is a product of Coventry Glass Works, Coventry, CT. and is classified as GIII-4.  It has a straight to slightly flared finish (sheared/cracked-off and fire polished), blowpipe pontil scar, and was name in a key mold.  Click the following links to view more pictures of this flask: base view showing the blowpipe pontil scar; side view showing the multiple vertical ribs that are commonly found on this style of flasks which generally date between the 1820s and about 1850.

Geometric flasks:  These flasks are very rare, very early (1810s or early 1820s), unusual, and unlikely to be encountered.  Thus they are not covered.  If interested in these types of flasks, refer to McKearin & Wilson (1978) page 436 (part of Group X: Miscellaneous flasks).  Users can also find some information on these type flasks, including pictures, at the following link: http://www.glswrk-auction.com/144.htm
 

 

Masonic flasks

Pint masonic-eagle flask; click to enlarge.The flask pictured to the right is one of a relatively large and varied group of figured flasks that feature the somewhat variable Masonic motifs of the Freemasons, a potent political and social force during the first half of the 19th century.  These could also be considered as "historical" flasks by some (Munsey 1970).  Masonic flasks are covered as Group IV in McKearin & Wilson (1978).  Most Masonic flasks have some type of design on the reverse that features an American eagle.  These types of flasks are some of the earlier of the figured flasks dating primarily between 1815 and the 1830s though a few date as late as the Civil War.  These later flasks have more simplistic Masonic-like emblems than their earlier ancestors (see McKearin & Wilson 1978:436-440).  All of the Masonic flasks pictured/linked in this section are from the earlier era.  (Note: One of the later type Masonic flasks is covered in the calabash section.)

These earlier Masonic flasks were only made in pint and less frequently, half-pint sizes.  Like most figured flasks, the Masonic flasks can be found in a wide range of colors though most were produced in different shades of aqua, amber, and green (olive green, blue-green, olive amber).  All of these earlier Masonic flasks are pontil scarred, usually of the glass-tipped or blowpipe type.  Iron pontils are rare or possibly unknown (empirical observations).  Finishes are usually straight (sheared), cracked-off, or rolled with occasional double ring or other simple applied finishes.

Zanesville Masonic-eagle pint flask; click to enlarge.The above pictured blue-green Masonic flask has a stylized eagle embossed on the reverse and dates between 1817 and about 1825.  It is classified as GIV-1 in McKearin & Wilson (1978) and was produced by the Keene-Marlboro Street Glass Works (Keene, NH.).  It was made in a two-piece hinge mold, has vertically ribbed sides, and a glass-tipped pontil scar on the base.  Click on the following links for various view images of this flask: reverse side view with eagle; base view.  Click Masonic-eagle flask to view a somewhat similar Masonic pint flask that likely dates from the early 1830s and is classified as GIV-17.  It was also made at the same Keene glassworks as the previous flask, though a decade or more later.  It has a fire polished sheared/cracked-off finish, blow-pipe pontil scar, and was blown in a two-piece hinge mold.  Click Masonic-eagle reverse to see the other side of this flask.

Another shape type variation of Masonic-eagle flask - and a common flask shape during the 1820s, 1830s and 1840s - is pictured to the right.  The illustrated flask was made by the Zanesville Glass Manufactory (Zanesville, OH.; owned by Joseph Sheppard) from at least 1826 and continuing most likely well into the 1830s (Barrett 2011).  These flasks are classified as GIV-32 in McKearin & Wilson (1978) and are the earliest "historical" flasks made in Zanesville, OH. (Barrett 2011).  Click reverse side view to see the beautiful and elaborate eagle design on the reverse of this flask and the embossed name  J. SHEPARD & CO. (below the eagle and misspelled); click side view to see the ribbed sides; and click base view to see the glass-tipped pontil scarred base that shows the straight mold seam indicative of a hinge mold.  As noted, this shape of flask in pints & half pints with ribbed sides was a very common style for figured flasks made between about 1820 and 1850 and is found with various embossed designs, portraits, etc..
 

 

Historical Flasks

This grouping of flasks is quite varied as to embossing, design, and shape.  The unifying theme of these flasks - and what differentiates these flasks from other groups - is their historical connection be it emblematic, symbolic, or human.  The following sub-categories are taken from McKearin & Wilson (1978) where the historical flasks are covered as all or parts of Groups I, II, X, XII primarily; see pages 440-491 of that reference for much more information.

Washington-Eagle flask reverse; click to enlarge.Emblems/Symbols of the U.S.: The most popular image on figured flasks is not surprisingly the American eagle - often embossed on both sides of the flask.  Of the 323 flasks charted by McKearin & Wilson (1978), 159 are designated specifically as eagle flasks (Group II) with dozens more that have eagles on the designated reverse side.  The diversity of different types of eagles is amazing, ranging from the bold and artistic eagles like shown to the right to stiff and simplistic eagles like shown at this link - Pike's Peak-eagle flask reverse view.  In general, the more detailed and artistically pleasing eagles are on the earlier flasks (1820s to 1840s) and the more simplistic ones on the later flasks (1850s and 1860s) though there are exceptions of course (Munsey 1970).  Other emblems/symbols found much less commonly include American flags, stars, sailing ships, anchors, monuments, cannons, the Liberty tree, and Columbia/Liberty.

Willington eagle pint flask; click to enlarge.Eagles or other symbols of the U.S. can be found throughout the entire date range of figured flasks - 1815 to about 1870.  Because of this shapes, sizes, finishes, mold types, and manufacturing processes vary as widely as the period allows with no particular diagnostic features unique to the group like some of the other figured flask types.  It is recommended that users interested in this particular group of figured flasks consult McKearin & Wilson (1978) for more specifics.

The flask pictured above is a "beaded edge" Washington-Eagle flask (GI-2) that dates from the 1820s or 1830s and was likely made by an early Pennsylvania glass company.  It has a sheared/cracked-off and fire polished straight finish, glass-tipped pontil scar on the base, and was produced in a two-piece key mold.  Click on the following links to view more images of this flask: pontil scarred base; shoulder and neck close-up; beaded and ribbed side view.  The reverse of this flask features a bust of George Washington and is pictured below.

Double eagle flask with ribbed edges; click to enlarge.Another variation of the American eagle were the quite artistic versions found on the flasks produced by several Connecticut glass factories.  The pint flask pictured to the right above is a product of the Willington Glass Company of West Willington, CN. and is so embossed on the reverse.  It classifies as GII-62, has a smooth cup-bottom mold conformation (a very unusual mold type for the era), and a crudely applied double ring finish.  These flasks were produced using both pontil rods (pontil scarred) as well as a snap-case tools (smooth base).  This company was in business from 1815 to 1872 with these flasks dating from the late 1850s and 1860s (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask: reverse side view, cup-bottom molded base view, side view, shoulder and neck close-up.

Yet another variation of the American eagle is found on an assortment of highly ornate flasks that may have been made by one of the Louisville, KY. glass companies during the 1850s; it is attributed by McKearin & Wilson (1978) to "possibly the Kentucky Glass Works" (flask pictured to the left).  This pint flask (similar examples also were produced in quart and half gallon sizes) has a blowpipe pontil scar, was blown in a two-piece key mold, and is classified as GII-24.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask: side view, base view, shoulder and neck close-up.

Washington-Eagle pint flask; click to enlarge.Heroes, Celebrities & Presidential Candidates: The likeness of many people are emblazoned on the sides of figured flasks.  However, none were as popular as George Washington with at least 72 flasks bearing his likeness.  Other flasks have the likenesses of General Lafayette (Revolutionary War hero), DeWitt Clinton (Erie Canal), Zachary Taylor (12th President), Jenny Lind (singer), Andrew Jackson (7th President), Louis Kossuth (Hungarian Patriot), William Harrison (9th President), and others.  Most of these flasks are referred to as "portrait flasks" and are included within  Group I in McKearin & Wilson (1978).

Flasks in this category are a mixed lot with little physical commonality except that they are flasks and made during the figured flask period of 1815 to 1870 or so.  Colors, shapes, sizes, finishes, and other manufacturing methods vary as widely as the period allows.  There are even a few late 19th century flasks that were produced for Presidential elections (Grover Cleveland, William Jennings Bryan, William McKinley) that are cataloged within this group.

General Taylor on a Washington-Taylor flask; click to enlarge.The flask pictured to the right is a Washington-Eagle flask (GI-2) that was discussed above with links to more pictures of the item.  It is embossed GENERAL WASHINGTON encircling the embossed portrait of the first president. 

Some of the most common flasks in this category are the Washington-Taylor series of flasks, which contains at least 37 different examples.  The picture to the right is of a very common quart size version (GI-37) with General Taylor on one side (with the embossing GENERAL TAYLOR NEVER SURRENDERS - a reference to his Mexican War exploits in 1847) and George Washington on the other (with the embossing THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY).  These flasks originated during Taylor's 1848 Presidential campaign but appear to have been produced up until about the Civil War.  The pictured example has a smooth base (no pontil scar), a very crudely applied "packer" type finish (single collar) that was laid around the cracked-off neck end, and was blown in a two-piece hinge mold (straight mold seam dissecting the base).  Click on the following links for several more pictures of this flask: reverse view with George Washington embossing; base view with dissecting mold seam.  Most of the Washington-Taylor flasks were blown at the Dyottville Glass Works, Philadelphia, PA.

Union-Clasped Hands embossing; click to enlarge.Shield & Clasped Hands:  During the 1860s the struggle to preserve the Union was paramount in peoples minds and the images related to that struggle popular.  The "shield & clasped hands" flasks usually have at least the following embossing pattern on one side (close-up picture to the left):  clasped hands inside of a shield, stars embossed above the shield, branches with pinnate leaves to the side of the shield, and often the work "UNION" somewhere in the pattern.  There are many embossing variations with additional items like the one pictured which has a Masonic-like compass below the clasped hands; others have makers marks incorporated into the pattern.  Though variable, the reverse side of these flasks usually have a flying eagle with a ribbon banner in its beak (pictured in the next section on calabash bottles).

Clasped Hands & Shield calabash; click to enlarge.Although the pictured shield & clasped hands bottle is "calabash" in shape, most are flatter more typical flasks shaped similarly to the Pike's Peak flask noted later in this section ("Other Figured Flasks").  Click on the following links to see the front and reverse pictures of a typical shaped pint shield & clasped hands flask: GXII-17 front, GXII-17 reverse (photos courtesy of Jeff Noordsy Antiques).  These type of flasks were made in quart, pint, and half-pint sizes.  As these flasks date from the later end of the figured flask era (primarily 1860s), they are infrequently pontil scarred, and when pontiled they are usually an iron pontil.  Finishes on these bottles vary substantially from sheared and/or cracked-off and fire polished, to champagne style, to an oil type finish like the pictured bottle.  Most of the shield & clasped hands flasks are included within  Group XII in McKearin & Wilson (1978), though a few are in Group IV like the pictured bottle.

The pictured bottle has an embossing pattern that is quite typical of the shield & clasped hands flasks, just a different shape - calabash.  As noted, the embossing does include a Masonic type compass and is included within the Masonic flask group as GIV-42.  These bottles were made by A. R. Samuels of Philadelphia, PA. (Keystone Glass Works) which was in business for a relatively short period from 1866 to about 1874 (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  This particular bottle has a blowpipe pontil scar and was blown in a two-piece post-bottom mold.  This is about as late as pontil rods were generally used on bottles but shows that they indeed did see use well into the 1860s on some items.  Click on the following links for several more pictures of this bottles: reverse view, base view with pontil scar, side view, neck and finish close-up.
 

 

Calabash bottles

Calabash bottle from the 1850s.Calabash bottles are large, gourd or pear shaped bottles (sometimes called flasks also) which were quite popular during the mid 19th century, i.e., 1840s to around 1870.  The name presumably originates from the resemblance of these bottles to the hard shelled, gourd-like fruits of the tropical American "calabash tree" - Crescentia cujete (Gilman & Watson 1993).  Calabash bottles as a group are lumped together in most peoples minds by their shape but are actually classified in McKearin & Wilson (1978) by what is portrayed via the embossing so they fall out in many groups.  The origin of this distinctive bottle shape is attributed to Philadelphia mold maker Philip Doflein who reportedly created the first calabash bottle mold in the 1840s (WheatonArts website - www.wheatonarts.org - 2009).

Calabash bottle with eagle; click to enlarge.Calabash bottles are referred to as "quart" size, but usually held around 1.5 quarts, though different types do have varying capacities (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Most calabash bottles were blown in two-piece post-bottom molds, can be found with various pontil scars or with smooth (non-pontiled) domed bases, and virtually always have some type of applied finish - usually a brandy, bead, oil, or blob finish.  Unlike most other groups of figured flasks, calabash bottles were not apparently made with straight (sheared or cracked-off) finishes.

The calabash pictured to the above right has an image of - and the words - JENNY LIND embossed on the front and is classified as GI-99.  Jenny Lind, a singer who was know as the "Swedish Nightingale", was lured to the America by P. T. Barnum for a series of performances in 1850 and 1851.  The reverse side has an embossed building with a smokestack and the words GLASS WORKS / S. HUFFSEY and was likely the product of the Isabella Glass Works (New Brooklyn, NJ).  These bottles date from the 1850s though there is evidence that the mold was used as late as 1870 (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Click on the following links for more pictures of this calabash bottle: reverse side with glass works embossing, base with pontil scar.

The calabash to the right was described in the previous section on shield & clasped hands flasks, though this is an image of the reverse showing the eagle with the banner in its beak.   It dates from the mid to late 1860s.  Click on the following links for several more pictures of this bottle: base view with pontil scar, side view, neck and finish close-up.
 

 

Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation theme flasks

Success to the Railroad flask; click to enlarge.This is another broad class of figured flasks that include embossing and motifs that deal with U.S. economic and social life such as agriculture, transportation, commerce, and even temperance!  These flasks are a mixed lot with little physical commonality except that they are flasks and made during the figured flask period of 1815 to 1870. The do not have a group of their own, but are instead listed among several groups in McKearin & Wilson (1978).  Colors, shapes, sizes, finishes, and other manufacturing methods vary as widely as the period allows.  A couple flasks within this category are shown for examples representing the earlier and later ends of the period.  For more information see McKearin & Wilson (1978) pages 491-495.

Corn for the World flask; click to enlarge.The transportation related flask to the right has a horse drawn wagon on tracks and the embossed lettering SUCCESS TO THE RAILROAD.   The railroad flasks (there are several different variations covered as Group V in McKearin & Wilson (1978)) celebrated the burgeoning railroad system which began in the 1820s.  The pictured flask was likely first produced about 1830 and has the same embossing pattern on both sides.  It has a straight to slightly flared finish (sheared/cracked-off and fire polished with some tooling), blowpipe pontil scar, and was produced in a two-piece key mold.   The pictured example classifies as GV-3 and was produced by the Keene-Marlboro Street Glass Works, Keene, NH.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this very crude flask:  base view showing the pontil scar, side view showing the vertical ribs, close-up view of the shoulder and neck.

The agriculture/commerce related flask to the right has a large ear of corn embossed and the embossed lettering CORN FOR THE WORLD.  The reverse side has the Baltimore Monument embossed with the word "Baltimore."  This quart size flask classifies as GVI-4, has a smooth (non-pontiled) base, applied double ring finish, and was blown in a two-piece hinge mold by the Baltimore Glass Works, Baltimore, MD.  This particular flask likely dates from the 1860s, though other "Corn for the World" flasks also appear to date as early as the 1840s (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Hagenbuch 2005).  Click on the following links to view more pictures of this flask:  base view, reverse view with Baltimore Monument, side view, close-up view of shoulder, neck, and finish.
 

 

Other Figured Flasks

Pikes Peak pint flask; click to enlarge.This category of figured flasks covers the flasks that do not fit into the previous categories.  This includes flasks that have primarily sports related themes (hunting, fishing, horse racing, bicycling - mostly in McKearin & Wilson's Group XIII), those with just lettering (Group XIV & XV), and the large grouping of Pike's Peak items (Group XI).  These flasks are also a mixed lot with little physical commonality except that they are flasks and made during the figured flask period.  Colors, shapes, sizes, finishes, and other manufacturing methods vary as widely as the period allows.  For more information on these variable flasks see McKearin & Wilson (1978) pages 491-495.

Cunninghams & Ihmsen flask; click to enlarge.The pictured flask is one of the Pike's Peak assortment and is classified as GXI-17.  This flask has a smooth base, an applied finish that is a cross between a packer and patent finish type, and was blown in a two-piece key mold.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask:  reverse side view, base view, close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.  This group of flasks typically have a prospective miner walking with a cane and stick/bag over his shoulder on one side and an eagle on top of an oval frame on the reverse.  These popular flasks played on the excitement of the 1858-1859 gold rush to Colorado, which was then part of Kansas-Nebraska.  Given that fact, we know that none of these flasks pre-dates 1859 which is confirmed by the majority being smooth based; pontils scars are known but very uncommon in these type flasks.  The best source of additional information on the Pike's Peak flasks, besides McKearin & Wilson (1978), is Eatwell & Clint's book "Pike's Peak Gold" (2000).

The flask pictured to the right is listed in McKearin & Wilson (1978) as a figured flask (GXV-5), but has only embossed lettering (CUNNINGHAM & IHMSEN / GLASS MAKERS / PITTSBURGH, PA).  This flask dates from between 1857 and 1867 (probably latter end of that range as it is not pontil scarred) and is fairly typical of this category of flasks, though they do vary a lot in form (McKearin & Wilson 1978). (See the "Flasks (not considered figured)" section below for a large assortment of other type liquor flasks, including this flask.)
 

 

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Cylinder Styles

There is a wide variety of liquor/spirits bottles in which the bodies are round in cross-section, i.e., cylindrical.  These types of bottles vary in size and design substantially, but all share the fact that they are round when looking straight on at the base.  The evolution of the cylinder liquor bottle is generally from wider and squattier to narrower and taller as time progressed (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Jones 1986).  (Note: The evolution of spirits/wine bottles is discussed and illustrated in McKearin & Wilson (1978) on pages 205-221.)  The following bottles represent some of the more common shapes of cylindrical liquor bottle progressing in general from oldest to newest.  As with all the bottle types described on this site, there is almost endless variations on any shape theme so a user should not get too caught up in subtle details, though admittedly some subtle details can be very diagnostic; these are noted where possible.

1822 dated Ricketts molded bottle; click to enlarge.Squat spirits/utility cylinder bottles (earlier): The earliest liquor bottles manufactured during the time span covered by this webpage tended to be shaped like the bottles pictured here with a wide, moderate height body, and a moderate length neck.  Compared to the next few cylinder liquor bottle types, these would be called "squatty" in conformation.  These bottles tended towards olive green, olive amber, and black glass in color.  To view an example of an earlier - early to mid-18th century - liquor bottle click on Belgian type liquor bottle.  The linked bottle likely dates between 1700 and 1730 and is Dutch or Belgian in origin; this is a shape that was likely never actually manufactured in the U.S. but imported to some degree (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  These earlier round but non-cylindrical shaped bottles were displaced beginning about 1730 for various reasons including the cylinder shape being more conducive to storing and stacking and the increasing use of the "dip mold" for forming bottles; a mold type which could not be used for the earlier shapes (Jones 1986).  (See the dip mold discussion on the Bottle Body Characteristics & Mold Seams page for more information on this technique.)

The olive green bottle to the left is a sand pontiled three-piece Ricketts' mold produced (see Bottle Body Characteristics & Molds Seams page) spirits bottle which is blob sealed and dated 1822, which is likely about the date of manufacture.  It is also embossed H. RICKETT'S & CO. GLASS WORKS BRISTOL on the base and PATENT on the shoulder.  Click Rickett's base for a close-up picture of the pontil scar and some of the embossing.  Though English in origin, this shape of bottle was commonly made and/or used in the U.S. during the first third of the 19th century (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  This particular bottle has the early version of the applied mineral finish with the relatively short upper part which was common during the 1820s to 18440s era on Rickett's and similar bottles.

New England Glass Bottle Company bottle in black glass; click to enlarge.The black glass (very dark olive amber) spirits or ale/porter/cider (wide beverage usage) bottle to the right is of early American origin being blown by the New England Glass Bottle Company (Cambridge, Mass.) between 1827 and 1845 (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  The company name is embossed very faintly on the base of this bottle - click NEGBCo base marking to view a picture of the base.  The center of the base has a sand pontil mark that is typical of the era.  Click shoulder, neck & finish to view a close-up of those portions of this bottle.  Like its English counterpart, this bottle was also made in a three-piece Rickett's type mold though very similar types were also free-blown and produced in dip molds.  This bottle also has the early variation of an applied mineral finish, even though the crudity makes it somewhat difficult to determine exactly what the glassmaker was trying to achieve.

This type of bottle was also used for wine as well as the other noted products.  One of the better sources of information on these earlier wine/spirits/beer bottles is Olive Jones 1986 work entitled "Cylindrical English Wine & Beer Bottles: 1735-1850" (Jones 1986).  Also see Hume's (1991) "A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America" for more information on this subject including an illustrated time series of primarily English-made wine/spirits bottles from 1652 to 1834.

Additional images/information on early squat spirits bottles:

  • Mid to late 17th century English onion bottle; click to enlarge.Early English "onion" bottle - This is the earliest bottle illustrated on this website (excluding the Roman bottles found on the Glassmaking & Glassmakers page) dating from the 1680s to 1720s period (Dumbrell 1983).  It is English in origin, very dark olive green glass (i.e., "black glass"), free-blown with a glass-tipped or blow-pipe pontil scar, and has a period typical string rim finish type.  This bottle is European in origin and pre-dates the time period covered by this website but is included to show an example of a bottle typical of some of the earliest types than can be found in North America (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  These bottles were certainly used for wine as well as spirits.  (Image courtesy of Glass Works Auctions.)
  • Mid to late 18th century "mallet" style bottle; click to enlarge.English/European "mallet" style liquor bottle - This (left bottle) is another early bottle that pre-dates the general coverage of this website; it is also of English or continental European origin but is a type that is sometimes found in the New World at some of the earliest settlement areas.  It is referred to as "mallet" style as it resembles a mallet, I guess.  This bottle dates from sometime between about 1730 and 1780 (McKearin & Wilson 1978), was free-blown and has a large glass tipped pontil scar within the high kick-up base; click base view to see such.
  • H. RICKETT'S & CO. GLASS WORKS BRISTOL - This bottle (bottle on right) is another same sized example of the Rickett's mold type squat liquor bottle as was discussed above.  It is also embossed with PATENT on the shoulder, was produced in a 3-piece mold, and has all the other characteristics of the one above except that it does not have a body blob seal and is dark olive amber ("black glass") in color.  It is embossed on the base with the noted Rickett's embossing around a sand pontil scar; it dates from the 1821 to 1840 era.
  • Also see the section near the bottom of this page on chestnut flasks, which though not cylindrical, are one of the earliest styles for U. S. produced bottles dating from as early as 1780 to 1790 up to the 1830s. These type bottles were used for various spirits as well as other liquid products - medicines, wine, and about anything that could be poured.

Dating summary/notes:  This style of spirits/ale bottle was most commonly produced during the period between the late 18th century and maybe 1850.  Most have pontil scars, were made in three-piece (Rickett's) or dip molds, and have applied finishes.  It should be noted that these type bottles were used for containing products that diverged greatly from the usual spirits/wine/ale liquid contents including use for caraway seeds and ground pepper (McDougall 1990).
 

 

Image of a mid-19th century spirits/ale bottle; click to enlarge.Tall, moderately slender bulged neck spirits/utility cylinder bottles: Transitional from the earlier squattier type bottles above to the taller narrower cylinder "fifth" shapes shown below are bottles generally shaped like that pictured to the left.  This taller, narrower shape was used for spirits as well as ale/porter, wine, and likely other liquid consumables (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  These types show the stylistic trend towards taller more graceful (less "squatty") forms in the mid 1800s.  Typical of these bottles is the bulged or bulbous neck; later spirits styles/types were dominated by straight sided necks as discussed below.  Although similar shaped American made spirits bottles can date occasionally from the late 18th century, they really began to dominate by the 1820s and 1830s.  These shapes gave way to variations of the standard "fifth" bottle in popularity in the U.S. by the mid-19th century, but never actually disappeared like the earlier squat bottles above (McKearin & Wilson 1978).

Tom Gin bottle from 1906 catalog; click to enlarge.The bottle pictured the left was blown in a dip mold which is indicated by the textured surface to the bottle body below the shoulder and the smooth glossy glass surface at the shoulder and neck (click photo to enlarge).  It has a crudely applied mineral finish (with a bit taller upper portion as compared to the earlier bottles above), a faint sand pontil scar on the base, and likely dates from the 1850s.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle: shoulder/neck close-up, base view.  Of interest on this bottle is a faint bluish cast to the apex of the moderately pushed-up base.  This is frequently seen on mid 19th century (and earlier) black glass bottles and is likely the result of the pontil rod and/or hot iron rod that was used to form the push-up base (with pontiled bottles this was most likely the same rod).  These types of bottles were also mouth-blown in two and three-piece molds and later (late 19th and early 20th centuries) in turn-molds.

This general shape continued to be used for liquor bottles - particularly for foreign produced spirits - throughout the 20th century and is still used for some spirits today; many "single malt" Scotch bottles (e.g., Glenlivet®) use this bottle shape and still have cork sealed mineral type (more or less) finishes.  Similar bottles from the mid to late 20th century were also machine-made with external screw threads.  The illustration to the right is of a "Tom Gin" bottle from the 1906 Illinois Glass Company's bottle catalog which is very similar in shape and size (1/5th gallon) to the 1850s bottle pictured above.  Bottle maker catalogs of the early 20th century also offered many other variations of this same general shape (i.e., tall, relatively narrow cylinder with a bulging neck and two-part mineral type finish) attesting to its continued popularity.  The proprietary style names of some variations include "Belle of Anderson", "The Primrose Whiskey", "Scotch Whisky", "Sweet Wines", "Black Wines", "Pittsburgh Brandy", "Tall Bulb Neck Brandy", "English Rum", "Crown Prince", "Irish Whisky", and others (Illinois Glass Company 1903, 1906, 1911, 1920).  Though used for a very wide period of time, bottles from different eras are usually easy to differentiate and comparatively date based on manufacturing related diagnostic features covered in other portions of this website.

Early 20th century brandy bottle; click to enlarge.After the 1870s, black glass bottles like that pictured above largely disappeared and lighter greens, olive greens, shades of amber, and colorless glass dominated.  The medium amber brandy bottle pictured to the left is embossed: SCHLESINGER & BENDER/ PURE / CALIFORNIA / WINES / & / BRANDIES / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.   The finish on this bottle could be considered a variation of the mineral finish which was typically used for brandy and similar spirits even to the present day, as noted above.  Wilson & Wilson (1968) estimated the manufacture of this bottle to between 1890 to 1895, though on close inspection the bottle appears more likely to date from the early 1900s (1900-1915) based on diagnostic features, i.e., "improved" tooled finish, multiple air venting (including on the base), and very neat manufacturing methods.  Click here for more images of this bottle: base view (with several vent marks visible), shoulder/neck/finish view

Additional dating information for the Schlesinger & Bender bottle is available from several sources which when taken together help confirm and refine the manufacturing based date range at bit.  It is known that this particular bottle was found in a dump that was likely in use from some point after 1900 to the 1920s, not prior to that time (empirical observations).  The company also is known to have continued in business until 1917, though was likely incorporated beginning in 1914 (Edmonson 1992; www.pre-pro.com website).  Since similar bottles are known that have Schlesinger & Bender, Inc. embossed on them - and the subject bottle does not - it is probable that this bottle was made no later than 1913 (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Barnett 1987).  Add these informational tidbits together and we have a likely manufacturing date of about 1905 to 1913 - about as close as one can get without more extensive research, which may not refine the date further anyway.  This information was included here to show that bottle specific dating is a difficult, often messy, and rarely totally precise endeavor, and that all the information one can find must be considered together in arriving at a reasonable age estimate.

Dating summary/notes:  This general style of bottle was used for a lengthy period of time so the age must be determined using other features besides shape.  The following dating trends apply:

  • Earlier bottles from the 1870s or before, like the pictured black glass version, have applied mineral finishes, were made in three-piece or dip molds, and may be pontil scarred. 
  • Bottles produced after about 1885 to 1890 usually have tooled finishes and in colors other than black glass (i.e., shades of amber, colorless, lighter olive greens). 
  • Bottles produced after about 1915-1918 are machine-made with those made from the 1930s on increasingly with external screw cap finishes, though cork finishes are still seen occasionally to the present (empirical observations). 
  • Machine-made bottles with the embossing "Federal Law Forbids Sale or Re-use of this Bottle" were made between 1935 and the late 1960s.

 

Dyottville cylinder fifth; click to enlarge.Tall, moderately slender bodied, straight neck early "Patent" style spirits cylinders (mid-19th century):  During the 1850s the bulged neck, cylinder bottle noted above "evolved" closer to a general shape that continues in popularity to this day (though with different finishes and manufacturing methods of course).  This style is represented by the bottle pictured to the left which has a neck of similar (moderate) length as the previous style, but which is straight sided instead of bulging.  The straight sided neck usually has a bit of a taper inwards from the base of the neck to the base of the finish.  The body length is typical of the bulged neck cylinder above in that it is relatively tall and moderately slender.  This type of bottle is often referred to as the "cylinder fifth" as its size is about 1/5th of a gallon - or 5 to the gallon as bottle makers referred to them.  The actual capacity of these and later bottles varied from about 1/6th of a gallon up to a quart or so (Hawkins 2014).

The pictured example is embossed DYOTTVILLE GLASS WORKS PHILA. in a circle around the outside perimeter of the base which indicates the maker and location.  It has an applied mineral finish, lacks evidence of air venting commensurate with its age (1860s), was made in a 3-piece mold, and often have iron pontil scars though this example does not.  This style of tall 3-piece molded cylinder bottle was commonly manufactured and used between 1844 and about 1880, with most appearing to date between the 1850s and early 1870s (McKearin 1970).  Many are embossed with PATENT on the shoulder (discussed below) although this example is not.  Most of these type bottles appear to have been made in a Rickett's type 3-piece mold which is discussed and described more on the Bottle Bases page.  Click on the following links to see different views of this bottle: base view showing the domed base center and relatively flattened round ring which surrounds the center (a classic Rickett's mold base); shoulder, neck and finish close-up view which shows the mineral finish common to these bottles.  The combination of the mineral finish and the noted base attributes (with the base ring frequently embossed with a glass makers name) are defining elements of this cylinder "fifth" liquor bottle type compared to the similar variety discussed next.

As noted, this style was popular and blown by numerous eastern American glass houses up until about 1880; a majority are so marked on the base similar to the Dyottville bottle above, a company that was in business from 1833 to 1923 (Toulouse 1971).  Some examples of other base markings (with the business date of the company in parenthesis) on this type of bottle are:  Weeks & Gilson / So. Stoddard, N.H. (1853-1873), Whitney Glass Works (1813-1918), Willington Glass Works (1815-1872), Ellenville Glass Works (1836-1896), Bushwick Glass Works (1865-1890s), Cunningham & Ihmsen (1857-1878), W. McCully & Co. (1841-late 1860s), and likely others (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Lockhart, et al. 2004, 2005[b] & [c]).  As the business dates show, all of these companies were active during the height of this bottle types popularity - the 1850s and 1860s.

1860s era Dyottville cylinder "fifth" brandy bottle; click to enlarge.This style was typically produced with either a mineral finish (like shown) or towards the latter end of the date range the brandy finish (which blends into the cylinder "fifth" style covered next).  The production in a three-piece mold leaves a diagnostic horizontal mold seam around the bottle at the junction of the body and shoulder.  Many of these type bottles also have the word PATENT embossed on the shoulder (though not the pictured examples) which was apparently a purely stylistic feature harkening back to the original Rickett's 1821 English "patent" spirits bottles (which also had PATENT embossed on the shoulder) and is no reference to any particular patent in the U.S.  This type of bottle is often referred to as a "Patent cylinder fifth" (or words to that effect) by collectors.

Weeks & Potter liquor bottle; click to enlarge.The Civil War era (1860-1870) bottle pictured to the right is also embossed with the same DYOTTVILLE GLASS WORKS PHILA. base embossing as the bottle above.  It has the original label indicating that it was used for brandy.  It also has an applied mineral finish, was made in a 3-piece mold, lacks any evidence of air venting, and has a "smooth" (non-pontil scarred) base.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view showing the embossing; close-up of the shoulder showing the three-piece mold seams (but no PATENT); close-up of the applied mineral finish.  (Images from eBay®.)

The bottle pictured to the left could be considered a transitional bottle that dates from the same era, i.e., 1861 to about 1870.  It was blown in a three-piece mold but has attributes of the later cylinder fifth's in that it is slightly taller and sports a straight brandy finish, in this case with internal threads.  This bottle is embossed WEEKS & POTTER on the shoulder which was a Boston proprietary medicine concern, founded in 1852 and operating well into the 20th century.  They produced many patent & proprietary medicines including the Sanford's Radical Cure and several Cuticura products including the famous Cuticura System of Curing Constitutional Humors (Baldwin 1973; Fike 1987).  These bottles most definitely held liquor as labeled examples have been observed by the author noting that they contained "Old Bourbon Whiskey."

Additional images/information on this style of cylinder spirits bottle:

  • Labeled liquor bottle from 1850; click to enlarge.Mountain Malmsey Wine 1850 - This is a three-piece mold, "Patent" style (though not embossed as such) spirits bottle with an applied "mineral" finish and a sand pontil scar on the base (click base view to see such).  The original label reads "PURE MOUNTAIN MALMSEY A PLEASANT SWEET WINE BOTTLED BY G. W. HOLDEN 1850."  The labeled noted date of bottling fits well with the diagnostic characteristics of this bottle and is almost certainly the year (possibly 1849) when the bottle was manufactured.  Malmsey was an alternative name for the varietal grape known also as Malvasia.  (Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvasia)  This also indicates that the style of bottle was occasionally used for wine.

Dating summary/notes: The "Patent" style (with or without the shoulder and/or base embossing) of liquor bottle with Rickett's mold attributes was commonly manufactured and used between 1844 and mid to late 1870s, with most appearing to date from the 1850s to 1870s.  Those with PATENT embossed on the shoulder date from the 1850s until at least 1872 to possibly as late as 1875 or 1876 based on research done on various Pittsburgh area glass factories - large producers of this style -  by Jay Hawkins (Hawkins 2014).  The style typically have a mineral type finish and were made in a three-piece mold though some were two-piece molds.  Colors vary widely with shades of amber and olive being the most common by far.  Pontiled versions (almost always an iron pontil; rarely a sand other type pontil scar) likely date from the Civil War or before with non-pontiled examples being from after that period into the 1870s.  The "Patent" style can be difficult to differentiate from the cylinder type discussed next, though there are usually enough subtle differences to the experienced eye to be of value for dating.
 

 

One-fifth size liquor bottle in old amber color; click to enlarge.Tall, moderately slender bodied, straight neck spirits cylinders (late 19th & 20th century): By the early 1870s the "Patent" style tall cylinder had generally evolved a slightly longer neck at many glass works, including the new glass companies on the West Coast.  The finishes on these type bottles were dominated by the brandy and straight brandy types with the mineral finish being rarely seen on cylinder liquor bottles after about 1880.  The base of these bottles do not usually have the Rickett's type base characteristics, though can be somewhat similar at times.  The typical shape and size of these was slightly more graceful in appearance due to the bottle being about the same diameter (around 3") but a bit taller overall than the earlier "Patent" style, primarily because of the neck length.  These differences are, however, subtle and variable.

Illinois Glass Company 1906 liquor cylinders; click to enlarge.This general style of liquor bottle, along with some subtle variations (like the rest of the cylinders discussed below), were most popular from the 1870s through the 1910s until National Prohibition in 1919-1920.  The illustration to the right is from a 1906 bottle makers catalog and shows three of their cylinder liquor bottles - "standard", "extra tall", and "short" cylinder moulds (Illinois Glass Co. 1906).  The "standard" and "extra tall" cylinders are similar to the bottles pictured here.  The "short cylinder mould" (bottle on right in illustration) is similar to the colorless (faintly amethyst) liquor fifth described below in this section.  The catalog notes that the "standard cylinder" came in sizes ranging from 1 ounce (sample size) to 1/2 gallon, though the most common sizes were the "fifth" and the slightly larger quart size.  A common name for this style is just the "standard fifth" or if embossed, a "lettered brandy" (Illinois Glass Co. 1903; Wilson & Wilson 1968; Barnett 1987; Thomas 1998a & b; empirical observations).

The above pictured shape and size ("fifth") of spirits bottle was very popular in Western America, but was used throughout the country extensively.  This bottle was most likely made at the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works (San Francisco, CA. - 1876-1902) between 1876 and the mid 1880s based on the star on the base, the "old amber" color (yellowish olive amber), and the crudely applied brandy finish (Toulouse 1971; Zumwalt 1980).  From the early to mid 1910s through the rest of the 20th century this general tall, cylinder, long neck, style was made by automatic bottle machines (i.e., machine-made).  The two styles at the bottom of this cylinder section are more typical of the later types of cylinder liquor bottles from the 1910s on.

Early 20th century mouth-blown liquor bottle; click to enlarge.The colorless (very slight amethyst tint), 11.8" tall, mouth-blown cylinder "fifth" to the left is embossed within a plate with E. C. JORGENSEN & CO. / (monogram of E C J & Co intertwined) / PORTLAND, OR.  It has a "improved" tooled straight brandy finish (click close-up of neck and finish to view such) and was produced in a cup-bottom mold with three air venting marks on both the front and back shoulder indicating an early 20th century production.  Daniele Marx and Emil C. Jorgensen began their wholesale and retail liquor business about 1877 with Marx leaving the company in 1902.  This bottle dates from just after that point, i.e., between 1902 and 1905 when the company was dissolved (Thomas 1998a).  This date range is consistent with the fact that this particular bottle was found under the floor of an old store in Summit, OR. (near Corvallis) which was reportedly built about 1901.

Cylinder "Fifth" whiskey; click to enlarge.A slight variation of this style is slightly wider in the body as portrayed by the bottle pictured to the right of an amber Old Castle Whiskey "fifth" (San Francisco, CA), which is closer to a quart in size.  It is embossed boldly on one side with THE / F. CHEVALIER & CO. / OLD (embossed castle) / CASTLE WHISKEY / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.  Click on the following links to view additional pictures of this bottle - base view; shoulder, neck, and finish.  This bottle has a tooled inside thread finish ("brandy finish" with internal threads) and was made in a two-piece cup-bottom mold.  It has the makers mark PCGW on the base indicating it was manufactured by the Pacific Coast Glass Works, which began business in 1902, placing this bottles manufacturing between 1902 and about 1910 (Toulouse 1971).  Inside thread whiskey bottles from the late 19th and early 20th century are particularly common in the West and apparently uncommon east of the Mississippi (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Munsey 1970).  Click HERE to view a close-up picture of this bottles hard rubber stopper which matches the threads inside the finish.

Dating summary/notes: The standard "fifth" style liquor bottle was made for a lengthy period of time so the age must be determined using other diagnostic features besides just the shape.  (This will be a common refrain throughout the "Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes" pages).  However, the following dating trends have been noted:

  • Bottles dating from the 1870s through the 1880s will usually have an applied brandy finish and have been blown in a post-bottom molds.  Dominant colors during this period are shades of amber and olive amber, with the occasional colorless bottle and rarely pure olive green or aqua.  For an example of one of the earliest (ca. 1869-1871) olive amber, Western American (San Francisco, CA.) whiskey bottles (J. H. Cutter Old Bourbon) of this style click on the following links: full view; base view; neck and finish close-up; embossing & body close-up (Thomas 2002).
  • Bottles made after about 1890 have almost exclusively tooled brandy and straight brandy finishes with mouth-blown ones being made up until National Prohibition which began after 1919.  These bottles were also almost always blown in a cup-bottom mold.
  • Mouth blown quart size cylinders in this shape tend to primarily date no earlier than the late 1890s with most being post-1900 to National Prohibition.  The quart size was popular with consumers and was most likely driven by the proliferation of mail-order liquor dealers that usually used quart sized bottles.  Mail order liquor became very popular as the number of states passing statewide alcohol prohibition laws (making them "dry" states) increased in the early 1900s making the mail the only way to acquire "legal" liquor.  However, the Webb-Kenyon Interstate Liquor Act of March 1st, 1913 ended the mailing of liquor to "dry" states (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  (Note: This law is still in effect to various degrees.)
  • Turn-mold examples of this style appear to date from the late 1880s or early 1890s to 1910s with the earlier examples having applied finishes (up until the mid-1890s) and are usually some shade of amber or red amber (empirical observations).
  • Liquor bottles with inside screw thread finishes date primarily between 1890 and about 1915 or so and are always mouth-blown (we are just waiting for someone to point out an exception to this "always").  Inside thread cylinders (and a few flasks) produced during this era were primarily used by Western American liquor companies and infrequently by Eastern companies for unknown reasons (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  Colors are dominated by colorless and shades of amber.  (See the Bottle Closures page for earlier "Eastern" exceptions to this dating for inside thread bottles.)
  • Machine-made fifth/quart versions are common from the mid-1910s, through National Prohibition ("For Medicinal Purposes Only"), and to the current day with some variations (as shown by the last bottle covered in this section below).  From the 1930s on, external screw threads increasingly dominated though cork closures are still seen on occasion.  Bottles with the embossing "Federal Law Forbids Sale or Re-use of this Bottle" were made between 1935 and the 1960s.

It should be noted also that this shape - in several sizes and usually in colorless or aqua glass - was also used for olive oil, vinegar, and a few other "food" products during the first few decades of the 20th century (Zumwalt 1980; empirical observations).  For example the mouth-blown "fifth" sized bottle at this link - Navelade Fruit Juice - is embossed within a plate with NAVELADE / TRADE MARK / FRUIT JUICE CO. / LOS ANGELES, / CAL. though is of the typical shape of a mouth-blown liquor bottles produced during the 1900 to 1915 era (when the pictured bottles was made also).
 

 

Cylinder quart with fluted shoulders; click to enlarge.Decorative shoulder spirits cylinders:  A variation on the fifth/quart cylinder discussed above is a class of somewhat more decorative or ornate containers represented by the quart liquor bottle pictured to the left.  These bottles are similar to the above but have fluted or swirled features molded into the shoulder and/or lower neck.  Glassmaker names for the many variations of this style were "Fluted Neck Whiskey", "Minnesota Brandy", "Maverick Brandy", "Starlight Brandy", "Chicago Fancy", and most likely others (Illinois Glass Co. 1906; Cumberland Glass 1911; Obear-Nester 1922).  Some variations have additional decoration on the lower body near the base; others have the decorative molding just on the neck itself.

The pictured quart cylinder liquor bottle was used by the Oregon Importing Company (Portland, OR.) and dates between 1904 and 1915, when statewide Prohibition was effected in Oregon (Thomas 1998).  This bottle has an improved-tooled straight brandy finish, has multiple air venting marks almost hidden with the shoulder design, and was blown in a two-piece cup-bottom mold - classic diagnostic features of a post-1900 mouth-blown bottle.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this bottle: base view; shoulder, neck, and finish view.  Many fluted shoulder liquor bottles have the more gentle slope to the shoulder like the pictured bottle, while other have the more abrupt shoulder like the cylinders discussed in the box above.  This particular company noted in their advertising and bottle embossing that they "Neither Rectify Nor Compound" - a reflection of the ongoing battle just after passage of the 1906 Food and Drugs Act between "pure" whiskey producers and the "rectifiers" or "compounders" who blended their whiskey, often with a large proportion of neutral spirits and flavoring compounds.  Both were placed on an equal legal footing by the so-called "Taft Decision" of 1909 - a presidential decision that established "standards of identity" for various types of whiskey; many of which are still followed today (Downard 1980).

Early 20th century liquor bottle with fluted shoulders; click to enlarge.The very common, mouth-blown, pre-Prohibition quart sized liquor bottle to the right with fluted shoulders and lower body is embossed with HAYNER DISTILLING CO. / DISTILLERS & IMPORTERS / DAYTON, OHIO U.S.A.  It is also embossed on the base with DESIGN PATENTED / NOV. 30TH 1897 and has a tooled brandy finish, was blown in a cup-mold base, has multiple air venting marks, and manganese decolorized glass that has turned amethyst.  These bottles date from between 1898 and 1917 or so with most dating between about 1905 and 1917.  This is one of several variations from this very large liquor company that did most of its business through the mail - often to the ever increasing numbers of "dry" states during the noted era.  Their popularity was also due to their low prices; they advertised prices of $3.20 postpaid for four full quarts of Hayner Rye Whiskey in 1898 (Preston 2006).  The loophole in the law that allowed for their mail order business (the vast majority of Hayner's business) was made illegal with passage of the Webb-Kenyon Interstate Liquor Act of March 1913 which prohibited the shipping of liquor to dry states from "wet" ones, although enforcement of this law did not really occur until about 1917.  The substance of this act was included in the 21st Amendment which repealed Prohibition and is still partially in place today (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Downard 1980; Preston 2006).  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  base view showing the 1897 patent date; close-up of the brandy finish; close-up of the embossing

NOTE: Dr. Cecil Munsey recently (1/2013)  published an interesting and highly illustrated article on the Hayner Distilling Co. along with the history of the noted Webb-Kenyon Act.  This article is available at the following link:  http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/MunseyHaynerDistilling.pdf

Dating summary/notes:  Mouth-blown cylinder fifth/quart cylinder liquor bottles with fluted or decorative shoulders and/or necks appear to be primarily a product of the early 20th century, with some dating back as early as the 1890s.  Mouth-blown versions typically date between 1895 and 1915 (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Barnett 1987).  Machine-made cylinder liquor bottles with decorative shoulders/necks were commonly made from the 1910s up until the late 20th century; various types are still made today (e.g., Jack Daniels™ bottles though they are square bodied).  Machine-made bottles with the embossing "Federal Law Forbids Sale or Re-use of this Bottle" were made between 1935 and the 1960s.  

(Note: Like with some of the other early 20th century liquor bottles, decorative shoulder type bottles were also used for sauces, olive oil, vinegar and other liquid to semi-liquid food products during the first few decades of the 20th century [Munsey 1970; Zumwalt 1980]).
 

 

Squat cylinder spirits bottle; click to enlarge.Squat cylinder spirits bottles (later): Another fairly popular shape for spirits bottles was like that pictured to the left which was called a "squat brandy" in some glassmakers catalogs, though it was likely used for an array of different liquor types including brandy, bourbon, and rye whiskey (Illinois Glass Co. 1903).  This shape is defined by having relatively wide but short squatty body with a neck that is relatively long and usually straight sided (like pictured example) though sometimes bulged, with a brandy or straight brandy finish.  Some earlier examples have been noted with a mineral finish (Tibbetts 1963).  This shape seems to have evolved from the early 19th century squat bottles discussed first in this section, possibly appearing in the 1860s and surely by the 1870s, though its popularity was mostly in the early 20th century.

The pictured quart bottle is not embossed and was produced in a turn-mold as it has no side mold seams and fairly obvious horizontal concentric rings indicating its turn-mold heritage.  It has a tooled straight brandy finish and likely dates from 1900-1915.  Since it was produced in a turn-mold the evidence of air venting and the type of mold base plate are not physically in evidence.  These type bottles were listed as "Squat Turn Mould Brandies" in the Illinois Glass Company catalogs of the early 20th century and were available in the pint and quart sizes (Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1911).  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view; shoulder, neck, and finish.  One of the most common embossed bottles with this particular shape were distributed by (and embossed) the Wright & Taylor Distillers (Louisville, KY.) between about 1893 and National Prohibition (Wilson & Wilson 1968).

Ca. 1880 squat rye whiskey bottle; click to enlarge.The very similar shaped - though earlier - squat cylinder spirits bottle to the right is embossed in a round plate with PAROLE / PURE / (image of horse) / RYE WHISKEY.  It has a crudely applied brandy finish, was blown in a post-bottom mold, and has no evidence of mold air venting indicating an approximately manufacturing date between the mid-1870s and early 1880s.  The origin of this bottle is unknown (although it is almost certainly from the East coast) although Parole was a race horse of some note owned by tobacco king Peter Lorillard.  Parole placed 4th in the 1876 Kentucky Derby but then went on to some notable success in the late 1870s primarily in Europe.  In particular, Parole's victory over an English horse in 1879 caused a sensation back in the U. S. with saloons, pool halls, and even baseball teams being named after the horse (source:  www.Wikipedia.org).  This rare bottle almost certainly dates from that period, i.e., 1879 or 1880 - its rarity implying that it was likely not made beyond that time.  Rye whiskey was frequently bottled in squat cylinder bottles like this during the later 19th to early 20th centuries although it was also commonly contained in other shape bottles; it was particularly commonly bottled in rectangular fifths - a shape covered later on this page (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  (Note: Although this bottle is very uncommon, it is presented here for a couple reasons: to show an earlier version of this style that is known to have held rye whiskey and, in particular, to show how one can squeeze out a more refined date range for a bottle with a little researching and a knowledge of relatively rarity.)

Dating summary/notes:  The squat brandy as a mouth-blown bottle primarily dates between 1890 and about 1915-1918.  Some date as early as the 1860s and there was some limited popularity evident by the 1870s and 1880s.  These earlier examples would be typified by an applied finish and a post-bottom mold conformation (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  Those made from the 1890s into the 1910s usually have a tooled finish and were produced in a cup-bottom mold, with some being turn-molds like the pictured example.  Occasional mouth-blown examples of this type from the early 20th century are seen with a post-bottom mold conformation, e.g. the noted Wright & Taylor Distillers bottles have this feature and can date as late as the 1910s.  Early 20th century glass catalogs noted this shape as available with external screw threads which would have been mouth-blown with a ground finish rim.   Internal screw threads have also been observed on Western American liquor bottles of this shape made between 1900 and the mid 1910s (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Barnett 1987).  Machine-made versions of this shape are somewhat unusual, but undoubtedly exist from the mid to late 1910s on with the earlier ones (up until the early 1930s) likely having cork closures with external screw threads more common after that time.
 

 

Early machine-made Duffy Malt Whiskey; click to enlarge.Malt whiskey cylinders:  This distinctive shaped liquor bottle style was strongly associated with malt whiskey, i.e., distilled fermented malted barley or distilled beer similar to brandy being distilled wine.  Malt whiskey was widely claimed by the purveyors to be of high medicinal value, i.e., a medicinal liquor which treated a multitude of ills (more below).  The body of this bottle style is proportionally quite tall with a diameter of approximately 3" (the diameter of the pictured example) and a very short to almost non-existent neck with the height of the finish typically being as tall or taller than the neck; see the image to the left.  Most of these bottles also have a molded ring or bead ("annular collar") or opposing lugs (like the pictured example) at the base of the neck which was apparently purely for styling reasons.

This bottle style first originated - and patented - by Thomas J. Hurley of New York City in 1886, although the product was reported first marketed in 1884 (Wilson & Wilson 1971).  The inventor noted that the bottle has "...an elongated body, a short neck, and an annular collar..."  Click Thomas Hurley's "Design for a Bottle" - Design Patent #16,864 to see such.  This style was typically called a "malt whiskey" or "ring malt whiskey" by glass makers.  Alternative names are not known although the "Belle of Bourbon" bottles were similar in conformation except for a somewhat longer neck and no ring at the neck base (Illinois Glass Co. 1899, 1903; Fairmount Glass Co. 1910; Owens-Illinois Glass Co. 1930).  The illustration at this link shows the style - minus the neck ring/lugs - in the Illinois Glass Company's 1906 bottle catalog.

Duffy Malt Whiskey base; click to enlarge.The pictured malt whiskey bottle is a pre-Prohibition Duffy Pure Malt Whiskey which is embossed on the upper body as follows:  THE DUFFY MALT WHISKEY COMPANY / (monogram) / ROCHESTER, N. Y.  U. S. A.  (Earlier bottles are embossed with Baltimore, MD. where the company originated instead of Rochester.)  The base is embossed with PATD AUG. 24 / 2/ 1886 with the "2" being simply a mold tracking number (image to the right).  The reverse heel is also embossed with ONE FIFTH GALLON, i.e., a "fifth" capacity bottle.  This particular bottle is an early machine-made product by a non-Owens machine, i.e., a semi-automatic machine or one made automatic with the addition of a gob feeder mechanism.  It is just over 10" tall, 3" in diameter, has mold air venting marks, and some crudeness associated with early machine manufacture.  It likely dates from the 1910s.

The original labels on this bottle note that the product was 44% alcohol (88 proof!), contains "...no poisonous Drugs or other added poisons...", and was "especially recommended by the Medical Profession as a superior stimulant for use in treatment of Consumption, "Grippe," Coughs, Colds, Dyspepsia..." and more.  Click front label to see such including their contemplating chemist trade mark; click reverse label to see the medicinal claims stated there.  The American Medical Association disagreed with the various health restoring claims made by the company noting that the "nostrum" was simply "...whiskey of a very poor quality" and that even a "...high grade whiskey has but a limited place in therapeutics; Duffy's Malt Whiskey has none" (AMA 1921).   Regardless of that, Duffy's was extremely popular well into the 20th century.

The patent holder for the bottle style - Thomas J. Hurley - was the secretary and/or treasurer of the Duffy Malt Whiskey Company around the time of the patent issuance.  The New York Times noted in October 1888 that Hurly was extensively in debt and had fled to Honduras in late 1886, presumably to avoid creditors (New York Times 1888).  He must have cleared up his financial problems as he went on to great success with this brand and eventually took over the H. H. Warner & Co., makers of the equally popular Warner's Safe Cure products (Wilson & Wilson 1971). (See the Medicinal Bottles typology page for more information on Warner's products.)  There were an assortment of competing products to the very popular Duffy Malt Whiskey although the author has observed far more Duffy Malt Whiskey bottles than all the competing products combined.  The following link - Julian & Johnson malt whiskey - shows a rare regional malt whiskey bottle embossed with JULIAN & JOHNSON / EL PASO / TEX. which has an applied finish and dates from the mid to late 1880s most likely.  It shares the same shape as the Duffy's along with the "annular collar" at the base of the neck and was almost certainly used for malt whiskey, likely playing off the consumer recognition of the bottle shape to help sales. (Bottle in the Arizona State Museum's Tucson Urban Renewal collection, Tucson, AZ.)

Dating summary/notes:  The malt whiskey style liquor bottle appears to have first originated about the time of the noted August 1886 patent date.  The earliest Duffy Malt Whiskey bottles do have true applied finishes; these likely date from the mid to late 1880s.  By the 1890s, these bottles had tooled finishes with machine-made bottles likely predominating by the mid-1910s (Wilson & Wilson 1971).  The general style was produced until at least the early 1930s but was not found after that point by the author in any bottle makers catalogs, although it is certainly possible they were produced later (Owens-Illinois Glass Co. 1930). 

 

Short cylinder fifth; click to enlarge.Tall, straight neck spirits cylinders (early 20th century): Another popular and common shape for liquor/spirits were bottles like the one pictured to the left.  This shape is very similar to the tall, cylinder liquor bottles covered above but have a slightly shorter neck and a less abrupt shoulder (i.e., more sloping from the base of the neck to the top of the body).  It is a shape that was common during the first three decades of the 20th century and is most common in the "fifth" and quart sizes.

Liquor bottles from the IGCo. 1920 catalog; click to enlarge.These type bottles went by many names including "Short Cylinder", "Cincinnati Brandy", "Side-mold Seam Brandy", and "Round Brandy" (Illinois Glass Company 1906, 1920; Obear-Nester 1922; Fairmount Glass Works 1930s).  The illustration to the right is from the Illinois Glass Company's 1920 catalog and shows two types of very similar liquor bottles that the company made at the time National Prohibition was just beginning in the U.S.

The bottle pictured to the left is a late mouth-blown example that has a tooled brandy finish, a slight amethyst tint (from manganese dioxide as the glass decolorizer), multiple (6) air vent marks on the shoulder on both sides with more on the base, and was produced in a two-piece cup-bottom mold.  It likely dates from the early to mid 1910s and is a very common shape (mouth-blown and machine-made) during the decade just prior to National Prohibition, i.e., 1910 to 1920.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view; shoulder, neck, and finish.

Dating summary/notes:  As noted, this specific shape is very typical of liquor bottles produced during the first few decades of the 20th century.  Mouth-blown examples always seem to have a tooled brandy/straight brandy finishes (occasionally with internal screw threads and even external threads with a ground rim) and were blown in either a cup-bottom mold, turn-mold, and occasionally a three-piece mold.  Some are occasionally embossed on the body (e.g., Bonnie Bros, Louisville, KY.) but most are not, i.e., they are product labeled only.  Mouth-blown examples date primarily from the late 1890s to the mid 1910s with some dating a bit later (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Barnett 1987; Thomas 1998a & b; empirical observations).  Machine-made versions with a brandy or straight brandy cork finish date from the early to mid 1910s (overlapping with the mouth-blown versions) through National Prohibition and into the 1930s and 1940s at least (Fairmount Glass Works 1930s; Lucas County Bottle Co. 1940s).  Machine-made external screw thread versions can date from about 1930 until the end of the 20th century.  Those with the embossing "Federal Law Forbids Sale or Re-use of this Bottle" were made between 1935 and the 1960s (empirical observations).
 

 

Mid 20th century liquor bottle; click to enlarge.Tall Modern Cylinder liquor (mid-20th century):  The bottle pictured here represents a large time leap from the bottles pictured above.  It is a fifth sized cylinder with 4/5 QUART embossed on the shoulder and a modern continuous external screw thread finish.  It is typical of the look of liquor bottles produced during the mid to late 20th century, though there was extensive variety to the general shapes and embossing of which this example is a representative sample.  This shape is similar to the ones covered above except for a somewhat shorter neck and of course the modern type external screw thread finish.

This particular bottle was made by the Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company (Elmira, NY) who used the stylized "TMC" makers mark between about 1944 to 1985 when the company closed (Lockhart et al. 2007c).  For more views of this bottle click the following links: base view; shoulder, neck, and finish view.  This bottle has a date code for 1974 (the "74" in the mix of numbers on the base) which indicates manufacture long after the regulations requiring the embossing "FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE" were eliminated, which this bottle base still retains as the photo shows.  Many liquor bottle molds made just prior to the 1964 law change continued to used for years since the cost of redoing the assortment of machine molds was expensive and not typically done simply to delete the previously required inscription.  The base also has the number "2" on it which is the Federally required liquor bottle permit number for Thatcher Glass.  Click Industry Liquor Bottle Permit Numbers List to view a listing of these required numbers for all U. S. bottle manufacturers.  (This listing courtesy of Russ Hoenig, Owens-Illinois Glass Co. [retired].)  The other numbers on the base are as follows:  the "D-125" is a distillers code for an unknown distillery; the "5765" is (most likely) a mold catalog number for Thatcher Glass; the "8" is of unknown use, though is possibly a consecutive mold number code for the eighth blow mold on the machine that made these bottles; and the "L" to the left of the "D-125" code is of unknown meaning.

NOTE: Some references and many people believe that there are liquor bottles embossed with FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE, i.e., PROHIBITS instead of the word FORBIDS (Ferraro 1966).  No PROHIBITS bottles have ever been observed by the author or other consultants to this website and it is believed to be a myth, though the author would welcome conclusive proof (an image) that PROHIBITS was indeed used in this context.

Dating summary/notes: Tall, cylinder external screw thread liquor bottles can date anytime from National Prohibition to the present day.  Those with the "FEDERAL LAW..." statement usually date between 1935 and the 1960s.  The example above - which was apparently made in 1974 - is a very late bottle made with that embossing.  Similar machine-made bottles without the "FEDERAL LAW..." statement but with an external screw thread finish can date prior to the regulatory requirement in 1935, to as early as the early/mid 1920s ("medicinal liquor"), though most liquor bottles without that statement date after the mid-1960s.
 

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Square/Rectangular Styles

Like the cylinder liquor bottles above, there is a large array of liquor bottles that are square or rectangular in cross-section.  These bottles varied in size and design substantially, but all share the fact that they are square or rectangular when looking straight on at the base.  The following bottles represent some of the more common shapes of square/rectangular liquor bottles progressing from the generally oldest styles to newest.  As with all the bottle types described on this site, there is almost endless variations on any shape theme so a user should not get too caught up in subtle details, though admittedly some subtle details can be very diagnostic; these are noted where possible.

Dip molded case gin; click to enlarge.Case Gin bottles:  Some of the earliest liquor bottles were like the one pictured to the left which is square in cross section and generally designed to contain gin though undoubtedly contained various types of liquor and possibly wine.  Commonly called "case gin" or "taper gin" bottles since they would pack more efficiently to a case (6 to 24 bottles) than round bottles (Illinois Glass Company 1903).  Case gin bottles are square with a more or less distinct taper inwards from the shoulder to the base (or a flaring from the base to the shoulder if you prefer).  The neck is very short to almost non-existent with the finishes varying from a laid-on ring, flared, mineral finish, oil, and even a blob.  This shape and style of bottle originated in and was commonly made in Europe at least as early as the mid-17th century and have been found in contexts as early as 1745 in the New World (Jones & Smith 1985; Hume 1991).  However, some case gin type bottles were made in the U.S. during the time span of popularity for this bottle type from at least the early 19th century (McKearin & Wilson 1978).

"Taper gin bottles" were listed twice in the early 20th century Illinois Glass Company catalogs as available in "imported colors" as well as "domestic flint."  The "domestic flint" bottles are assumed to have been made in the U.S. by that company and were available as a "plate mold, from which lettered bottles can be furnished...".  Embossed examples of case/taper gin bottles with U.S. proprietary embossing for U. S. companies have been noted (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  The domestic versions were slightly more expensive to buy than the "imported colors" versions, which are thought to have been imported from Europe and sold by the Illinois Glass Company, though it is possible these were actually made by the company in the typical "imported colors," which undoubtedly meant some shade of olive green (Illinois Glass Company 1903, 1911).

A van Hoboken gin; click to enlarge.The example pictured above is typical of the shape with a distinct taper to the body, but with a flared finish which appears more common on the earlier (pre-1880) case gins.  This example was produced in a dip-mold and dates from the mid-19th century (Shafer 1969).  This bottle is not pontil scarred and was found in western Oregon in the context of Civil War era (or shortly thereafter) items which places it towards the end of the dip mold era (1870s).  It is possibly American made, though that is impossible to tell for sure.  Although there are no mold seams in evidence body of this bottle there is a faintly embossed cross on the base of the bottle - sure proof of molding of some kind and in this case, surely a dip mold.  Click base embossed cross to view a picture of the embossing.  Base embossed dip molded bottles are unusual though obviously occurring.  The distinct taper to these type bottles helped facilitate removal from the dip mold.  Click case gin shoulder close-up to view a close-up picture of the shoulder, neck, finish.

The large (well over a quart) case gin bottle pictured to the right was produced in the late 19th century (i.e., probably between 1880 and 1900), although virtually identical bottles were also produced earlier and later than that date range.  This example is embossed A VAN HOBOKEN & CO. / ROTTERDAM on opposite sides and is - as the embossing indicates - of foreign origin (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  (The pictured example was found by the authors brother in Malaysia.)  However, Hoboken bottles are not uncommonly found on historic sites in the U. S.  This particular bottle is of typical shape and proportions for a case gin, was produced in a two-piece cup-bottom mold, has a crudely applied "blob" finish, no evidence of air venting, and has a blob seal on the shoulder.  This bottle is an example of how American manufacturing based dating ranges can not be reliably used for foreign made bottles.  If American made, a bottle with these diagnostic features (except maybe for the cup-bottom mold feature) would likely date from between the mid-1860s and mid-1880s.  Click on the following links for more images of this bottle:  base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, finish, and blob seal.  One-part blob or oil finishes on mouth-blown case gin bottles are typical of items made from the 1880s to about National Prohibition in the late 1910s.

Dating summary/notes: The "case gin" style of bottle dates to at least as early as 1625 to 1650 and are European in origin (Hume 1991).  Examples of case gin bottles were found on the Zeewijk, a ship which sunk off the coast of Australia in 1727.  Early case gin bottles were sometimes formed with paddles or square wooden blocks instead of a dip mold - possibly with a "shingle mold" (Boow 1991).  Earlier (18th century) versions usually had little taper to the sides and are often essentially vertical from shoulder to heel (Jones & Smith 1985).  In the 19th century the taper seems to become more pronounced with the pictured examples being fairly typical, though some late 19th and early 20th century examples can have even more taper (empirical observations).  Mouth-blown examples of this style were made into at least the mid-1910s with machine-made versions made at least up until at least World War II, with some continued use after the war in Africa (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Vermeulen 2000). 

Early 20th century Dutch gin applied finish; click to enlarge.Given the wide time span that this shape was used (over 300 years), manufacturing based diagnostic features must be used to help narrow down a date for these bottles.  Even then, the dating is often unreliable since it is likely that most case/tapered gin bottles found in the U.S. were made in Europe where glassmaking technology was implemented slower than in the U.S. where mechanization and automation made the U.S. a world production and efficiency leader between 1880 and 1920 (Scoville 1948).  For example, European made mouth-blown bottles commonly had "true" applied finishes much later than American made bottle, i.e., well into the 20th century.  As an example of this, the crudely applied oil finish pictured to the left is on a Dutch-made gin bottle that bears a label identifying it as having been made no earlier than 1914 when an elephant became the trademark for H. H. Melchers - the Schiedam company that used this bottle (Vermeulen 2000; Vermeulen pers. communication 2008).  This bottle also has additional body crudity to it (wavy bubble laden glass) that would diagnostically place it from the 1860s to mid-1880s if actually made in the U. S.   Click the following links for more images of this Dutch gin bottle: base view (cup-bottom mold produced); view of the label and the trade mark elephant; view of the embossing.  (Photos courtesy of Ed Stephens.)

Late 19th century European gin with flattened corners; click to enlarge.There are a couple morphological features of case gin bottles relative to the corners of the base that are more or less unique to the style and an almost positive identifying characteristic if one only has the fragmental base with the feature.  The first is that many earlier (1870s and prior) free-blown or dip-molded (like the example pictured to the above left) case gins have distinctly "pointed" base corners.  These bottles essentially sit only on the four small points of the base.  In addition, later (1860s and later) fully molded case gins have distinctly - though variably - beveled or flattened corners like shown in the image the right.  Click base view to see Late 19th century Dutch gin with unusual body texture; click to enlarge.another image of this same gin bottle base (bottle dates from the 1870-1890 era) that shows this feature looking straight on at the base.  Few if any other square bottles have either of the described base features; both are quite indicative of a bottle used to contain gin (though not all gin bottles have these features) and most likely imported from continental Europe.

One additional mold related feature essentially unique to European-made case gin bottles is a vertically corrugated texture to the body sides.  This is shown in the image to the left which is a large (quart+) late 19th century mouth-blown case gin with this body attribute. (Photo courtesy of Glass Works Auctions.)  These are sometimes referred to by collectors as "shingle mold gins" due to the resemblance of the glass surface texture with that of wooden shingles.  It is thought by some that earlier case gin bottles (first half of the 19th century and prior) were formed in dip molds comprised of four wood boards nailed together although this particular body feature is unlikely to have been caused by the boards (Jones & Sullivan 1989).  (For more information see the related discussion on the Bottle Body Characteristics & Mold Seams page.)  This body texture is primarily observed on later case gin bottles (1860s on) like the example to the left which was formed by a full sized closed mold which during the late 19th century was almost certainly made from iron or other metal.  The vertically corrugated surface appears to have been purposefully formed on the inner mold surface for styling reasons as case gin bottles with this attribute are very common.  Although foreign made, bottles with this diagnostic feature were imported extensively into the U. S. during the late 19th and early 20th century and the are commonly encountered on historic sites (empirical observations).  This body texture feature is in the authors experience unique to case gin bottles; so much so that if a flat paneled fragment with that surface texture is found on a historic site it can be certainly attributed to being from an imported case gin bottle dating from the last half (and probably last third) of the 19th century to as late as the second decade of the 20th.

Notes:
-McKearin & Wilson (1978:224-229) contains a good overview of early case and square bottles, which includes the next section below.
-Cecil Munsey's website contains an excellent article on case gin bottle - including many full color images - at the following link:  http://www.cecilmunsey.com/images/1238_GIN_BOTTLES.pdf
 

 

Aromatic Schnapps bottle; click to enlarge.Tall Square Short-necked Spirits bottles:  Once two-piece full sized molds came into common use in the early 19th century, the "case gin" shape above evolved (but of course did not disappear) into vertically straight sided multi-purpose bottles like that pictured to the left.  Square bottles were of course used for a wide assortment of different products and came in an array of different sizes and shape variations, though all share the feature that they have four equal sides to the body, little difference in diameter from shoulder to heel, with the corners (where the flat sides met) usually beveled like the pictured examples.

This general style and size of square bottle with a tall body and short neck was used primarily for various spirits and high alcohol medicinal products like bitters and sarsaparilla.  In fact, this general shape was undoubtedly more commonly used for bitters, sarsaparilla, and other medicinal "tonic" products than for purely spirits - especially by the last quarter of the 19th century.  Finishes on these type bottles range widely but the most common were the oil (like pictured) and mineral finishes, with the double ring, brandy, and others used less commonly.  Earlier versions (1870s and before) will have deeply domed bases and often various types of pontil scars; later versions (1880s and after) will have smooth (non-pontiled scarred) bases and are usually less domed (i.e., pushed-up) than the earlier ones.

The pictured example is embossed on three sides: UDOLPHO WOLFE'S - SCHIEDAM - AROMATIC / SCHNAPPS.  Schiedam is a city in Holland near Rotterdam and was apparently just part of the proprietary name since this product was originally produced in New York and the bottles made in the U.S.  However, Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps became a very popular "medicated gin" that was produced from the late 1840s until well into the 20th century.  Due to its popularity it was produced in various parts of the world with the bottles by at least the late 1800s being blown overseas in addition to the U.S.   Wolfe's bottles were produced in a wide variety of colors and sizes, though always apparently square.  The pictured bottle is typical of square spirits bottles produced in the mid 19th century and has a crudely applied oil finish and a large grayish iron pontil mark on the base dating it to around 1855-1865.  Click on the following links to view more pictures of this bottle: base with iron pontil; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish; side view of Schiedam embossing; side view of Aromatic Schnapps.  This product is an example of the crossover between spirits and medicine as it claimed to be a "Superlative Diuretic, Anti-dyspeptic, and Invigorating Cordial " and though the alcohol content is unknown, it was undoubtedly high (Wilson & Wilson 1971; Fike 1987).High alcohol medicinal tonic; click to enlarge.

Dating summary/notes: The use of the specific style of bottle shown above for spirits was primarily between about 1850 and 1880, with some use a bit later.  Examples with pontil scars would date from the Civil War or before.  Smooth (non-pontiled) examples with applied finishes would date from the 1860s to early 1880s; tooled finishes from about 1885-1890 and after (empirical observations).   Similar bottles continued to be used for gin and other spirits well into the 20th century as shown in the 1920 Illinois Glass Company catalog (the pictured bottles in this catalog were machine-made).  As noted, this style was also very popular for the packaging of bitters and other typically high alcohol medicinal products. 

The picture to the right shows late (1910s) mouth-blown Bitter Herb Tonic bottle which states it is 25% alcohol (50 proof) but which was also a "...liver, stomach, and bowel stimulant."  Spirits or medicine?  This bottle has a tooled oil type finish with ample bubbles in the glass.  Without embossing or labeling identifying the actual contents, it would be impossible to say what any given bottle like this actually held, though it is very likely to have been high in alcohol whatever it was.  As noted previously, the line between medicine and spirits is often blurry prior to the National Prohibition.  (This is still true today with the acknowledged health benefits of red wine and dark beers - in moderation of course.)
 

 

Early 20th century liquor bottle; click to enlarge.Tall Square Long-necked Spirits bottles Another fairly popular form for liquor bottles is as pictured to the left with a moderate height and width square body and a relatively long neck.  The body sometimes has a very slight taper in from shoulder to heel and the finishes are dominated by the brandy and straight brandy types.  This general shape seems to have originated, or at least become popular, by the 1890s and was most used during the first two decades of the 20th century, i.e., 1900-1920 (Wilson & Wilson 1978; Barnett 1987).  The Illinois Glass Company, Swindell Brothers, and other glass maker catalogs of the early 1900s called this style the "Boston Square Brandy" and made it in an assortment of sizes from 2 ozs. (sample size) to a quart (Swindell 1902; IGCo. 1906; Alther 1909; Cumberland 1911).  Click on illustration to the right.  The Agnew Co. (1894) called their version the "Tall Boston Brandy."  The necks and/or shoulders can have decorative molded features like swirls and fluting.

Page from the IGCo. 1906 catalog; click to enlarge.The pictured bottle is a typical, though slightly smaller than average, example of the style containing a pint (i.e., "8 to the gallon").  It was made for the Louis Taussig Co. (San Francisco, CA.) and was likely a generic spirits container for an assortment of that company's products.  This example was blown in a two-piece cup-bottom mold, has an improved-tooled straight brandy (more or less) finish, plentiful air venting marks throughout the bottle, and a slightly pink tint caused by using manganese dioxide as a glass decolorant.  This bottle was likely manufactured between approximately 1900 to 1906 as it has 715 / H on the base which is likely the makers mark (the "H", the "715" is a mold number) for the Holt Glass Company (Berkeley, CA.) that was destroyed by the April 1906 San Francisco earthquake and not rebuilt (Toulouse 1971; Thomas 1998).   Click on the following links to view more pictures of this bottle: base view; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.

Dating summary/notes:  As noted, this style seems to have originated just before the turn of the century (19th to 20th that is) and was most popular towards the end of the mouth-blown manufacturing era just prior to National Prohibition, i.e., 1900 to 1920, though these can date as early as the 1890s (Agnew Co. 1894). 

The style was largely used for and identified with spirits but has been noted with embossing or labels for medicinal products, e.g., VIN-O-SULA CUBAN TONIC / THE GREAT DYSPEPSIA / AND KIDNEY REMEDY.  This bottle is identically shaped to the one pictured, though in the "5 to the gallon" (fifth) size.  It is also mouth-blown, likely dates between 1905 and 1915 (based on shape, improved-tooled finish, multiple air venting marks, and cup-bottom mold production), and probably contained a high alcohol product as consumers of the time would have identified this shape with spirits (Lindsey 2005).  It should also be noted that very similar to identically shaped bottles were used for olive oil, salad dressing, vinegar and likely other liquid food products during the first few decades of the 20th century (Zumwalt 1980). 

The style was also apparently used for wine as indicated by the dark amber bottle pictured at the following links: entire bottle; base view.  This bottle is clearly machine-made and embossed with URBANA WINE CO. INC. and a city in New York which can not be read.  (Apologies for the poor images which were off of eBay®.)  The base is embossed with the makers mark of an "H" in a triangle indicating manufacture by J. T. & A. Hamilton (Pittsburgh, PA.) who were in business from 1884 to 1943 (Toulouse 1971).  However, this bottle most likely dates from around 1915 to 1919 (Prohibition) though could also be a "medicinal" product that was produced during Prohibition, i.e., the 1920s.
 

 

Early 20th century square liquor with swirled neck; click to enlarge.Short Squatty Square Spirits bottles:  As with the cylinder liquor bottles discussed earlier, what could be made tall and relatively narrow could also be made shorter and squattier.  Square liquor bottles were also produced with a short and proportionally wide body and a neck that is approximately as tall as the body.  The neck (and sometimes shoulder) of these bottles often had some kind of decorative molding features like swirls, fluting, and/or bulged necks. 

The Illinois Glass Company catalogs from the early 1900s list an assortment of different variations on this style theme which have decorative necks.  Names include (click on the name to see the page from the IGCo 1906 catalog with that item) - Square Squat Brandy; Squat Boston Square; Squat Square, Bulb Neck; and Squat Square Syrup; the latter item is like the pictured bottle available in pint and quart size (IGCo 1903,1906).  (See the 1906 IGCo. Catalog page for more distant cousins to this bottle style).  Other glass manufacturers used similar names during that era (Swindell 1902; Cumberland 1911).  Typical finishes on mouth-blown and earlier machine-made items bottles were, like with most liquor bottles, the brandy or straight brandy finish.  Other styles would be uncommon, though a double ring finish is observed occasionally, e.g., on the popular (1890s to National Prohibition) square squat Mt. Vernon Pure Rye Whiskey (Wilson & Wilson 1968).

The bottle pictured here is a typical example of the type with a neck that is about as tall as the body, but retains the original labels.   It has an improved-tooled finish, was blown in a cup-bottom mold, and dates from the late 1890s to very early 1900s.  This particular quart sized bottle is interesting in several respects due to the labels.  One side has a label attesting to the products testing by an "analytical and consulting chemist" in 1896 who attested that the whiskey is "...free from all matter prejudicial to health, and conscientiously recommend it as a pure and healthful medicinal whiskey."  This was a common claim for liquor produced from the 1890s on, apparently due to the rising pressures of the ever more powerful temperance movement during the so-called Progressive period (Young 1961; Gusfield 1970).  Another side has a label warning the purchaser "To guard against refilling of this bottle, see that the capsule is wired and sealed and cork branded"; a reference to the extensive - though not illegal - re-use of bottles during the era; though this company could have also re-used this bottle (Busch 1987).  Click on the following links to for more views of this bottle: medicinal whiskey label view; "notice" and "caution" label view; non-labeled side view.

Dating summary/notes: The square squat style for liquor appears to have been most popular from the 1890s on.  Mouth-blown examples of this style typically date between the 1890s and National Prohibition and are dominated by examples with swirled, fluted, and/or bulge necks.  These bottles almost always exhibit the diagnostic characteristics of the era: tooled and improved-tooled finishes, cup-bottom mold production, and multiple air venting marks.  Machine-made examples with a brandy or straight brandy finish (cork closure) date from the early to mid 1910s (overlapping with the mouth-blown versions) through National Prohibition.  External screw thread versions can date until the end of the 20th century; those with the embossing FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE were made between 1935 and the 1960s (empirical observations).  (Note: This shape was also commonly used for imported Scotch Whiskey during the same era noted above for mouth-blown bottles (Unitt 1972).)
 

 

Early 20th century rye whiskey bottle; click to enlarge.Rectangular Spirits bottles The final shape in this section is one that is transitioning into the next category of spirits bottles - flasks.  It is rectangular in cross-section with rounded corners, a proportionally tall body, and short neck.  It is a common shape for early 20th century liquor bottles and in smaller sizes would be considered a type of flask (see next section).  Even in this larger size - like the quart size pictured to the left - it could be considered a large flask shape.  This style also usually (but not always) has a raised band or strap down both narrow sides, although the strap or banded sides seem to be less common on the smaller (one pint or less) sizes than the larger sizes (empirical observations).  This shape was commonly used for bottling rye whiskey during the period from 1890 to National Prohibition (Wilson & Wilson 1968).

The early 20th century Illinois Glass Company catalogs (click following links to view the specific pages in the 1906 catalog) listed this shape as a "Baltimore Oval" available with either a "brandy finish" or "screw top" in the flasks section (IGCo. 1903, 1906, 1908, 1911; Thomas 1998).  Production sizes ranged from 4 ozs. to one quart with those having a capacity of 16 oz. and less being considered flasks by this author.  Observed finishes on this shape bottle are usually the brandy or straight brandy types with a prescription or patent finish possible but noted much less frequently.  Internal or external threads (with ground rim) are occasionally seen on mouth-blown versions.

The pictured bottle is quart sized, was manufactured for the John C. Connelly Co. of Sacramento, CA., and dates from between 1910 and 1917 (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  It is also embossed on the reverse inside of a plate with FULL QUART (horizontally) and DONNELLY RYE (vertically).  This particular bottle has the original label indicating that the product was "Guaranteed by Jno. C. Donnelly Co. under the Food & Drugs Act June 30th, 1906" - a sure indicator that it dates no earlier than 1906-07.  This bottle also exhibits typical early 20th century mouth-blown features: improved-tooled finish, inside-thread finish/closure, ample air venting marks on the shoulders and sides, and mold seams indicating production in a cup-bottom mold.  Click on the following links to see additional pictures of this bottle: embossing on reverse view; side view (showing raised "strap"); base view; close-up of the shoulder, neck and finish.  This type bottle with inside threads - like the pictured example - seem to be primarily a Western American phenomena, with few noted from the Midwest or East (Sellari 1969-1972; Barnett 1987).

Dating summary/notes:  This shape of bottle was most popular during the first couple decades of the 20th century, i.e., 1900 to the beginning of National Prohibition in 1920, though can date as early as the 1890s.  It was particularly commonly used for rye whiskey, but was used for other spirits also.  Mouth-blown examples usually were made in a cup-bottom molds (occasionally post-bottom molds), with ample air venting marks, and a tooled or improved tooled finish.  The style with a cork closure ("square ring finish") apparently lived on at least into the 1920s as the style was still being offered in the Illinois Glass Company's 1920 catalog but in sizes from 7 to 16 oz., i.e., true flask sizes (IGCo. 1920).  See the "Baltimore Oval" flask covered below.  Similar machine-made bottles with external threads would date from the late 1920s or end of Prohibition (1933) until the late 20th century, though actual examples haven't been observed by the author of this website but are likely to exist.
 

 

Mid-20th century spirits/liquor bottles:  There were hundreds if not thousands of different post-Prohibition liquor bottles produced in varying shapes and sizes through the middle of the 20th century, and of course, to the present day.  This section may be expanded to cover additional significant types in the future as time allows.
 

 

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Flask Styles (not considered "figured")

Flasks of widely varying shapes and sizes were a very common container for spirits of all kinds, originating in the need for a traveling bottle.  A flask is a bottle originally designed to be portable and easy to carry, which is typically oval to a rounded rectangle in cross-section, and laterally compressed on two sides.  Flasks are most often associated with varying types of spirits, though they were used for some other liquid products like medicines and bitters (Jones & Sullivan 1989, Ring & Ham 1998, empirical observations).  Though the "flask shape" can be found in a multitude of sizes; on this website flasks are considered to have a capacity of about 16 oz. or less which is a more or less the upper limit of a pocket or "portable" size.  The following bottles represent some of the more common shapes of spirits/liquor flasks progressing in general from oldest to newest.  As with all the bottle types described on this site; there is almost endless variations; crossovers; and hybrids on any shape theme with flasks.  Given this a user should again not get too caught up in specific details.

Early American "Pitkin" flask; click to enlarge.Pattern mold/"Pitkin" Flasks:  Some of the earliest types of American made flasks were blown in pattern molds.  Many of these flasks were produced by an early method of glass blowing called the "half-post method."  These latter items were pattern molded after the application of the second layer of glass and are referred to as "Pitkin" style flasks.  Bottles and flasks could be patterned once like the linked nursing bottle which is pattern molded; but not of half-post manufacture; this style was also used for liquor (adult nursing bottle).  They were also patterned twice giving a "broken swirl" appearance to the bottle; which can often resemble small popcorn kernels on the surface of the flask (McKearin & Wilson 1978). 

The forest green "Pitkin" style flask pictured to the left is of early American origin and produced by the half-post method; note the horizontal ridge encircling the shoulder just below the neck.  This flask is single patterned on the upper 40% of the body and double patterned on the lower 60% (click picture to enlarge).  It was most likely made at a New England glassworks between 1780 and 1820 and would be referred as being "swirled to the right" (from the bottom of the body upwards) which is the most common direction for swirling on New England "Pitkins" (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Noordsy 2003).  It also has a glass-tipped pontil scar and a sheared/cracked-off, re-fired, and flared finish. 

The light green "Pitkin" style flask pictured at this link - light green "Pitkin" - is another example of a double patterned "broken swirl" flask from the same era.  Though of the proper conformation, it is an unusual color for a New England style "Pitkin" as most were blown in darker shades of green, sometimes amber, or variations like olive green and olive amber (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Noordsy 2003).  This flask also has a glass-tipped pontil scar on the base and a sheared/cracked-off and re-fired straight finish.Mid-western "Pitkin" flask; click to enlarge.

Not all "Pitkin" style flasks were made by New England glass factories; many were made by various glassworks further to the west as well as South New Jersey, and possibly other locations including England.  The "Pitkin" style flask to the right was most likely produced at a Midwestern glass factory - western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) most likely - during the first third of the 19th century.  It's heritage is indicated by the brighter green color and the somewhat more circular shape of the bottle body.  This flask was also twice pattern molded resulting in the "broken swirl" pattern (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Click Midwestern Pitkin close-up to view a close-up of this flask which distinctly shows the half-post "ridge" on the upper shoulder as well as the pattern mold ridges.  This flask would be referred to as being "swirled to the left."  Midwestern flasks were rarely if ever blown in olive-green or olive-amber and are most common in more vibrant greens, shades of amber, and aqua.

Dating summary/notes: Pattern molded bottles are some of the earliest American bottles.  American made pattern molded flasks like the "Pitkins" would not likely date after the 1830s and typically would date from the 1780s to about 1830.  New England "Pitkin" flasks are believed to date between 1780 and the 1820s; the Midwestern "Pitkins" date from about 1800 to extinction in the 1830s (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Because of the early production of these type bottles, pattern molded bottles and flasks are rarely found on historic sites in the West, but would be commonly encountered on early sites in the East and Midwest.  For more information on Pitkin style flasks, including how to tell the New England examples from the Midwestern ones based on color, shape, size, ribbing pattern and weight, see McKearin & Wilson (1978) pages 328 to 333.
 

Between the era of the "Pitkin" style flasks above (late 18th through the first third of the 19th century) and later styles of spirits/liquor flasks covered below (1860s and after) the Figured Flasks were dominant.  These were previously covered above as a separate category due the ubiquity and the historical significance of that grouping.  See the Figured Flasks section of this page for coverage of that spirits bottle category.

1870's oval liquor flask; click to enlarge.Union Oval Flasks:  One of the more common post-Civil War flask types that "replaced" the figured flasks were the many subtle variations of the "union oval" flasks.  Actually, some of the later (1860s) figured flasks share the same shape as these flasks and could be considered precursors that "evolved" into the union oval.  For example, the G-XI group of Pike's Peak Flasks (1859 to the early 1870s) are essentially types of union oval flasks with historically relevant embossing instead of product/proprietary names (McKearin & Wilson 1978).   These flasks were covered in the figured flasks section earlier on this page.

The name "union oval" was used by glass makers for both liquor flasks and druggist bottles which are both more or less oval in cross section with a raised strap or band down the sides.  The difference between the two groups is that the druggist bottles are straight sided, i.e., the sides are parallel, whereas the sides of the liquor union ovals typically narrow slightly from shoulder to heel, as shown by the flasks pictured here (Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1880; Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1906; Obear-Nestor 1922).  In the collector world the name union oval is applied to an assortment of subtly different liquor flasks that fall into two main classes - those with the raised strap or band down the side ("strap side union oval") and those that do not have the strap and are more or less rounded on the narrow side (simply called a "union oval" or "knife edge union oval" if the side comes to a bit sharper edge).

Cunninghams & Ihmsen flask; click to enlarge.An early union oval type flask that has its heritage linked with the figured flasks is the pint aqua flask pictured to the right which would be considered a strap side union oval.  It is embossed on the front CUNNINGHAMS & IHMSEN / GLASSMAKERS / PITTSBURGH, PA., has a crudely applied champagne (more or less) finish, and was blown in a key base mold with no air venting.  This flask dates from the mid-1860s to early 1870s and is listed as GXV-5 in McKearin & Wilson (1978).  Click here for more views of this flask: base view; side view showing the "strap"; close-up of the embossing.  The history of this glassmaker discussed at length in an article entitled "The Ihmsen Glass Company" which is linked to the Bottle and Glass Maker's Markings sub-page or by clicking The Ihmsen Glass Company (Lockhart et al. 2005c).

Similar to the Cunningham & Ihmsen flask, and likely made about 5-10 years after that flask, is the "pint" flask pictured to the above left which also has a raised band or strap down the narrow side, i.e., a "strap side union oval."  This flask is embossed J. F. CUTTER / EXTRA / TRADE / (shield) / MARK / OLD BOURBON and was most likely made out West by the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works in the 1870s (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Thomas 2002).  (Note: Many Western collectors consider the distinctive outward curve to the bent leg of the letter "R" to be the work of a particular mold cutter associated with that glassworks.  This is a common embossing feature on many Western bottles of the 1870s and 1880s, though not unique as some bottles made east of the Mississippi also have this feature.)  Click on the following links to see additional view pictures of this flask: base view which also shows the strap side; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.  Strap side union oval flasks - without the embossing "Warranted Flask", "Full Measure", and/or the capacity (covered below) - date primarily from the late 1860s up to at least the mid-1890s, although some were produced at least as late as 1910 (Fairmount Glass Works 1910; Feldhaus 1987; Thomas 2002).

Knife-edge oval pint flask; click to enlarge.

The "knife-edge" variation of the union oval flask has no raised straps on the side, but instead comes to a rounded point of sorts at the side mold seams.  The picture to the left shows a pint knife edge union oval most likely blown by the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works between about 1875 and 1883.  The base has an 8-pointed star or asterisk that is attributed by collectors to the SF&PGW and is seen primarily on liquor (cylinders and flasks) and beer bottles found in the West.  The "sharp" edges to the side are best seen by clicking on the base view picture linked below.  This flask has a crudely applied finish and was blown in a post-bottom mold with no air venting - all evidence of an 1870s or early 1880s date for this style of flask.  Click on the following links to view additional pictures of this pint flask: base view with "asterisk"; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish; side view.  The knife-edge style of union oval flask appears to date primarily from the 1870s into the 1890s (Thomas 1998, 2002; empirical observations).

Early 1880's union oval half pint flask; click to enlarge.Similar to the last flask is the variation where the narrow sides of the flask are also not strap sided but distinctly rounded, not coming to the pointed edge that the above flask has.  A half-pint example is pictured to the right. This particular flask is embossed O. G. W. on the base which is most likely for the Oakland Glass Works (Oakland, CA. - this flask was unearthed in Oregon) and was manufactured during that glass works narrow dates of operation from September of 1884 to no later than September of 1885 (Friedrich 2010 - at http://www.westernbittersnews.com/search/label/Oakland%20Glass%20Works ).   This flask has a tooled double ring finish, no air venting marks, and was produced in a post-bottom mold.  Click on the following links for additional images of this flask:  base view including the O. G. W. embossing and showing the rounded sides; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  These non-strap sided, rounded side union oval flasks appear to date from the 1860s well into the early 1900s.  (Note: This particular flask is an example of the tendency for smaller bottles to have their finishes tooled earlier than larger ones.  Most liquor bottles/flasks from this timeframe - early 1880s - have a true applied finish; most small half-pint flasks from this era often have tooled finishes (empirical observations).)

Early 20th century "full measure" type union oval; click to enlarge.Strap side union oval flasks embossed with WARRANTED, FULL MEASURE, GUARANTEED, or similar affirmative notations on the shoulder - often with the contents capacity (i.e., FULL PINT) embossed elsewhere on the body- are a very common flask made primarily from the mid to late 1890s until at least 1920 (Bellville Glass Co. 1905-1910; Illinois Glass Co. 1920; empirical observations).  These "full measure" bottles had a specific capacity that was affirmed to the potential customer by the embossing and appear to be a reaction to the very common "scant" sizes which held less capacity than the named size would indicate.  (Scant sizes are discussed briefly in the coffin section which follows this one.) 

The colorless strap side union oval example to the left is embossed with GUARANTEED (in a fancy banner) / (image of a star) / FULL 1/2 PINT / 8 OUNCES / UNION MADE and is a typical example of a "full measure" type flask.  This bottle has the manufacturing features noted a few sentences down and likely dates from the 1905 to 1915 era.  (This flask still contained the original 90-100 year old bourbon whiskey when acquired by the author, which was appropriately disposed of.  ;-)  Click the following links to see more images of this bottle - base view; side view - both images of which show the banded side to the flask.  Of some dating utility is the fact that bottles embossed with UNION MADE appear to never date earlier than about 1900 (empirical observations).  Click Warranted Flasks to see an image (of mediocre quality unfortunately) of two sizes of flasks embossed with WARRANTED / FLASK embossed and the capacity (7 oz. and 14 oz.) embossed on the shoulder - both typical "scant sizes" but at least acknowledged on the bottle.  Both flasks also date from the early 1900s.  These later strap side union oval flasks are usually found in aqua, colorless, or amber glass (with other colors much rarer), have tooled double ring finishes, and are air vented.  Many of these flasks also have plate mold circles in evidence and sometimes have embossing inside the plate.  If embossed with a proprietary/company name they are virtually always from the Eastern seaboard with a few from the Midwest; few- if any - of these later union oval flasks seem to have been utilized by Western liquor purveyors who had them embossed with their name (Thomas 1998a & 1998b; empirical observations).

Additional images/information on union oval style flasks:

  • Cobalt blue union oval - Added proof that there are virtually always exceptions to any bottle related trend or rule is this very unusual colored - deep cobalt blue - half-pint union oval flask from the late 1860s to maybe as late as the early 1880s.  (Photo from eBay®.)  This item was likely blown using the leftover glass from a prior batch or blown for a personal item or gift.  Mouth-blown bottles in particular could and were blown in different colors on occasion depending on the glass at hand, the needs of the customer, and probably dozens of other reasons.
  • WORMSER BROS. / SAN FRANCISCO (amber flask to far right) - This bottle is an example of a larger (8.5" tall and 3.4" at its widest) union oval type flask with rounded sides, i.e., totally oval in cross section.  It was possibly blown at one of the early San Francisco, CA. glass works (i.e., Pacific Glass Works or San Francisco Glass Works) though could have  been blown on the Eastern Seaboard (possibly in Stoddard, NH. according to one source), has an applied double ring finish, post-bottom mold produced, lacks any evidence of mold air venting, and dates from between about 1867 and 1872 (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Thomas 2002).  (Photo courtesy of American Bottle Auctions.)  Intact and fragmental examples of these flasks are commonly encountered in the 19th century mining camps of Nevada (Thomas 2002).

Dating summary/notes: Union oval type flasks appear to have originated around the time of the American Civil War and continued into the early 20th century.  These flasks are usually encountered as mouth-blown items although the 1920 Illinois Glass Company catalog lists a FULL MEASURE (embossed on the shoulder) union oval flask in the "Machine Made Bottles" section ranging from 6 to 32 ounces in capacity.  More specifically on the dating of variations:

  • Some of the earliest union oval flasks were made by the same companies along the Eastern Seaboard that made the figured flasks discussed early on this page.  Images of a pint union oval type flask with WHITNEY GLASS WORKS embossed on the base and an inside threaded finish and stopper is available at the following links:  Whitney Glass Works pint flask; close-up pictures of the base, finish, and stopper.  These type of union oval flasks (many have unembossed bases) date from the 1861 patent date for this stopper/finish into the 1870s.
  • Strap side and regular, non-strap side union oval flasks without the WARRANTED FLASK, FULL MEASURE, and similar style embossing (not including company related embossing) date from around the Civil War into the early 1900s, and can be further dating refined based on manufacturing based diagnostic features, e.g., finish manufacture, base mold features, air venting (Agnew 1894; Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1911; Fairmount Glass Works 1910; Robert J. Alther 1909). 
  • Mouth-blown versions with the noted WARRANTED FLASK, FULL MEASURE, and similar style related embossing - often with capacity notations - date from the 1890s to at least 1920 (IGCo. 1920).
  • However, like with most liquor flasks, union oval flasks without proprietary embossing out number those with that type of embossing many fold.
  • Machine-made union oval flasks most likely date no earlier than 1915 and are actually fairly unusual as the style largely disappeared in the early to mid 1920s based on a review of various glassmakers catalogs.

 

Shoo-fly pint flask; click to enlarge.Shoo-fly & Coffin Flasks: During the same time period when the union oval flask style (covered above) was gaining increased popularity (early to mid 1870s) the shoo-fly flask made its appearance on the bottle style scene.  These flasks are somewhat similar to union ovals except that the taper of shoo-fly flasks inward from the shoulder to the heel is more pronounced, the narrow sides are distinctly beveled with a sharp edge where the side panels meet the front and back panels, and the wide front and back panels are flat.  There is often some curvature to the two part beveled sides and when so, the flask is referred to by collectors as a "shoo-fly" flask.  When the side panels are distinctly flattened, these flasks are referred to as "coffin" flasks (Thomas 1974, 1998a).  The picture of two pint flask bases below right shows the difference, with the shoo-fly (rounded side panels) to the left and the coffin (flat side panels) to the right.  Since glassmakers apparently never used the term "coffin flask" for any of these items, on this website they are generally all referred as shoo-fly flasks.

Shoo-fly and coffin flask bases; click to enlarge.These flasks came in an assortment of sizes ranging from a few ounces to a quart, but a very large majority of them are found in the pint and half pint sizes, which actually held around 10-11 ozs. and 5-6 ozs., respectively.  Bottle makers would often call the smaller capacity - smaller than the nominal name size - bottles "scant" capacities and the full size the "full measure" version (Wightman ca. 1900). The large majority of these flasks do not have product and/or proprietary embossing like the pictured examples.  When found with embossing this greatly increases the probability of narrowing down the date range tighter with the opportunity of company related information being found in local business directories.  The colors of these flasks are dominated by clear or colorless (sometimes with a pinkish, amethyst, or faint straw tint); aqua and shades of amber are much less common; any other color is very unusual.  Finishes are dominated by the brandy and straight brandy styles, with the oil and champagne finishes being much less common and other types rare.  Shoo-fly flasks were primarily used for various spirits though have been noted with labels/embossing for other products, including Jamaica Ginger (very high alcohol medicines), castor oil, various medicinal products, tea and flavoring extracts, and occasional other non-carbonated liquids like bicycle lubricating oil (Illinois Glass Co. 1903, 1920, 1924; Thomas 1974).  One minor variation of the shoo-fly flask is the "Bell Punch Flask" which differs only in that it has a bead ring on about the middle of the neck; click Illinois Glass Company 1906 catalog page 174 to view a illustration of this type flask (left hand page, lower left corner).

A transitional style of sorts between the union oval and the shoo-fly were the Newman's patent flask.  These flasks have the mostly rounded sides and oval cross section of the union oval flask, but also have the sharper taper and a somewhat more defined and flattened front and back panel similar to the shoo-fly.  These flasks are embossed on the base with C. NEWMAN'S PAT. OCT. 17 1876.  Click Newman's patent #183,322 to view the original patent.  Carlton Newman was a glassblower at the Pacific Glass Works in San Francisco in the 1860s, then went on to co-found the San Francisco Glass Works in 1865, which became the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works in 1876 where these flasks were likely made (U. S. Patent Office 1876b; Toulouse 1971). The Newman flasks are always mouth-blown and when made in an amber pint size that dates between 1877 and about 1880.  In the pictured half pint size (link above) in colorless glass (sometimes amber glass) the flasks date from the 1880s and 1890s (Wilson & Wilson 1968).  Click Bottle Closures to view more information on this type of flask.

Pint shoo-fly amber flask; click to enlarge.The colorless "pint" shoo-fly flask pictured above (a "coffin flask" with flattened side panels) is embossed RICHARD KNOLL / WHOLESALE / LIQUORS / PORTLAND, OR. in a round plate and dates between about 1887 and 1893.  It has a tooled straight brandy finish, two air venting marks on each side, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold - all consistent with the estimated date which is based on a combination of company historical information and diagnostic features (Thomas 1974).  Click on the following hyperlinks to see more photos of this flask: base view; side view (right bottle); close-up of shoulder, neck & finish.  Of interest, upon close inspection it is obvious that this flask was produced with the exact same plate that was used to make the picnic flask pictured and described in the next section.  This shows that the plates were sometimes interchangeable between molds - at least if made by the same glass company.  This is not an uncommon observation with shoo-fly and picnic flasks; sometimes the same plate was even utilized between the pint and half pint sizes.

The amber "pint" (about 10 oz.) shoo-fly (with rounded side panels) pictured to the left is embossed J. H. CUTTER / OLD BOURBON / A. P. HOTALING & CO. / PORTLAND, O. and dates from between about 1885 and 1887 according to Thomas (1974).  It has an "improved" tooled brandy finish, is not air vented, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold.  It does have body crudity (slightly sunken sides) and somewhat rounded embossing consistent with a lack of air venting, though Thomas notes that other examples are air vented.  This is fairly consistent with a mid-1880s manufacturing date, though the "improved" tooled finishes are more typical of a post-1900 manufacturing date.  Thomas's narrow date range is likely also based on the rarity of these flasks implying a limited production time.

Dating summary/notes: The shoo-fly flask seems to have originated in the early 1870s but examples were made well into the 20th century, including by automatic bottle machines.  Specifically:

  • The very earliest examples of shoo-fly flasks appear to date from at least the early 1870s, possibly the late 1860s.  Since many of these flasks are often embossed with makers marks from Midwestern cities ( e.g., Pittsburgh, PA., Louisville, KY.) it is thought that the style originated in the region delineated by these two cities and considered the "Midwest" in the glass making world.  These early shoo-fly flasks have applied finishes (brandy and oil; exception to the right), no air venting, and were blown in hinge mold or post-bottom molds (Wilson & Wilson 1968; Thomas 2002; Whitten 2005a,b,c; empirical observations).  Click S. McKEE & CO. flask to see an aqua, quart sized, early shoo-fly style flask with an applied champagne type finish.  It dates from the 1870s based on diagnostic features and was made by the S. McKee & Co. Glass Company (Pittsburgh, PA.) who used the S. McKee & Co. mark from about 1872 to 1889 (Lockhart unpublished manuscript 2004f).  For more views of this flask click on the following links: base view showing S. McKee & Co. makers mark; side view; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.  An image of an early (1870s) pint shoo-fly type flask, with an unusual molded external screw thread finish with a ground rim, which was blown in a post-bottom mold without mold air venting is pictured to the right and at this link:  keystone & wreath embossed external threaded finish flask images.  The keystone on the side and on the base may indicate production by a Pennsylvanian glassworks (or not).  These earlier shoo-fly flasks tend to be in colors other than colorless, aqua being the most commonly encountered.
  • The era of high popularity for this style was from the early to mid-1880s to the early 1910s.  Narrowing down the date of a mouth-blown shoo-fly during this date range can be done to a limited degree with a few diagnostic features (air venting, crudeness) though most of the flasks made during this era are very similar in manufacture.  By the early 1910s other flask styles like the Eagle and Dandy became more popular and the shoo-fly less so (Thomas 1974, 1998a).
  • Virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask like the pictured examples) shoo-fly flasks are mouth-blown, with few exceptions (empirical observations).  However, like with most flasks, shoo-fly's without proprietary embossing out number those with this type of embossing many fold.
  • Machines began to dominate production by the mid-1910s and mouth-blown shoo-fly flasks began to disappear about this time.  In addition, the implementation of National Prohibition after 1919 squelched the demand for all liquor bottles.  However, shoo-fly flasks in sizes from 2.5 to 32 ozs. were made well into the 1920s and machine-made versions are not uncommon, though the most common machine-made sizes continued to be the "pint" and "half pint" (Illinois Glass Co. 1920; Obear-Nester Co. 1922).
  • Machine-made examples are sometimes embossed though virtually never with the bottle purchaser's company or proprietary name.  Embossing on machine-made examples is mostly limited to content capacity or similar notations.  It should be noted that many (maybe most?) machine-made shoo-fly flasks were made during Prohibition and likely contained castor oil (and referred to as "castor oil flasks" by glass makers) and other non-liquor substances (Illinois Glass Co. 1920, 1925).
  • Machine-made shoo-fly flasks with external screw thread finishes seem to have first appeared in the mid-1920s (Illinois Glass Co. 1920, 1925).
  • Shoo-fly flasks were apparently little used for liquor after Prohibition was repealed though the style continued to be produced in smaller sizes (1.5 to 4.5 ozs.) with cork finishes until at least the mid-20th century for use as castor oil bottles (Illinois Glass Co. 1925; Fairmount Glass 1920s; Lucas County Bottle Co. 1940s; Knox Glass ca. 1950).  Click castor oil flask to see an image of a machine-made 3 oz. version from the 1920s (made by the Illinois Glass Company which was absorbed into Owens-Illinois in 1929) that was almost certainly used for castor oil.

 

Pint picnic flask; click to enlarge.Picnic/Jo Jo Flasks:  Concurrent with the popularity of shoo-fly flasks, were the equally popular "picnic" flasks.  They are also sometimes called "pumpkin seed" flasks by collectors based on some resemblance to that seed.  However, based on a review of a large number of the glass makers catalogs listed on the Reference Sources/Bibliography page, there is no evidence that glass makers themselves called these flasks "pumpkin seeds."  In fact, at least one glassmaker embossed the name "Picnic" on the flask, as pictured below.  This picnic flask is a "half-pint" (maybe 5 oz.) dating from around 1900 in an mildly unusual aqua color (photo from eBay®).  As noted earlier, bottle makers would often call the smaller capacity - smaller than the nominal name size - bottles "scant" capacities and the full size "full measure" bottles (Wightman 1900).  The picnic name apparently comes from fact that these flasks were just the right size for taking on outings.  Picnic flasks seem to appear first during the late 1870s, with the peak of popularity from about 1890 to the mid 1910s.

Picnic oval base close-up; click to enlarge.Distinguishing features of the picnic flask style are: the generally rounded shape when viewed straight on; relatively small oval to flattened oval base (picture to the right) compared to the width of the flask; highly compressed body from front to back; and relatively short neck/finish.  See the pictures as the shape is easier to visualize than to describe.  The small base does contribute to the flask being a bit "tipsy" though its functionality was to fit in a persons pocket or purse easily while still being able to stand up if needed.  The angle of the shoulders and heel vary to some degree between different picnic flasks with some shoulders projecting from the neck less perpendicularly (i.e., more sloping) than the example pictured above.  The outside edges of the flask (when viewed straight on from the front) also vary from slightly flattened to gently rounded with no obvious vertical flattening; see the pictures here for subtle variations in shape.

SC Dispensary Jo Jo flask; click to enlarge.Distinct variations of the picnic flask include the "Cummings" and "Jo Jo" (or "Jo-Jo" - pictured to the left), both of which are similar to the picnic except that they are generally narrower from side to side.  Click on Illinois Glass Co. 1906 catalog page 158 to see an illustration of a Cummings flask; it is on the left hand page in lower left corner with screw threaded finish.  Click on Illinois Glass Co. 1906 catalog page 171 to view an illustration of a Jo Jo flask, which is the last flask on the right hand page just underneath the picnic flask.  The Jo Jo flask tends to have distinctly flattened front and back panels like a shoo-fly flask and seems to be a hybrid between the two styles.  The Jo Jo flasks was a popular type used by the South Carolina State Dispensary (state operated liquor business) during their years of operation between 1893 and 1907.  Click on the following links for more views of the pint Jo Jo flask from the Dispensary: base view showing the marking for the E. Packham, Jr. & Co. (a liquor bottles supplier); close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  Records show that E. Packham supplied bottles to the Dispensary between 1896 and 1902, further narrowing the date range for this particular flask (Huggins 1997; Teal & Wallace 2005).

Picnic embossed half pint flask; click to enlarge.Picnic flasks came in an assortment of sizes ranging from a few ounces to quart though a very large majority of those made were in the "pint" and "half pint" sizes, which typically held around 10 ozs. and 5 ozs., respectively.  Early glass makers catalogs noted that the 10 oz. size was the "pint" size and 5.5 ozs. was the "1/2 pint" (Illinois Glass Co. 1906).  Be aware that a large majority of these flasks do not have embossing like the examples pictured here, though the presence of embossing greatly increases the probability of more tightly narrowing down the date range tighter with the opportunity of company related information being found in local business directories.

The color of picnic flasks is dominated by clear or colorless (sometimes with a pinkish, amethyst, or faint straw tint); aqua and shades of amber are much less common; any other color is very unusual.  Click picnic colors to view an image of the array of different glass colors that are possible in this style of flask.  This photo also shows the finish variety that can be found, which is relatively limited.  (Image courtesy of Garth Ziegenhagen.)  The typical picnic finish is the double ring, though the brandy, straight brandy, bead, oil, and even internal and external screw threads were utilized on occasion.  Click pint picnic flask with continuous external screw threads to see a ca. 1900-1910 mouth-blown example with the cap in place (it has a ground finish rim).  Click screw thread close-up to see a close-up which shows that the glass under the cap does not have the slight pinkish tint that the remainder of the bottle exhibits, which has been exposed to daylight.  (See the Bottle/Glass Colors page for more information on sun colored amethyst bottles.)  Like the shoo-fly flasks, picnic flasks were primarily used for various spirits though they have been noted with labels/embossing for other products including Jamaica ginger (high alcohol medicine - click C. H. Eddy & Co. / Jamaica Ginger / Brattleboro, VT. to view a picture of a picnic shaped, embossed Jamaica ginger), various medicinal products, tea and flavoring extracts, and occasional other non-carbonated liquids like bicycle lubricating oil (Thomas 1974).

Pint amber picnic flask; click to enlarge.The colorless flask pictured in the upper left corner of this section is embossed identically to the colorless shoo-fly flask pictured in the previous section.  In fact, it was produced using the exact same plate as the shoo-fly except that the plate was placed into a picnic shaped plate mold.  This "pint" (actually 9-10 oz.) picnic flask is embossed RICHARD KNOLL / WHOLESALE / LIQUORS / PORTLAND, OR. in a round plate; it dates between about 1887 and 1893.  It has a crudely tooled double ring finish, two air venting marks on each side, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold - all features consistent with the estimated date range which was based on a combination of company historical information and the manufacturing related diagnostic features (Thomas 1974).  Click on the following hyperlinks to see more photos of this flask: base view showing the oval shape; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

The amber "pint" (10-11 oz.) picnic flask pictured to the right is a relatively early example that dates from between about 1885 and 1890 (Thomas 2002).  It also has a crudely tooled double ring finish, lacks air venting, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold like virtually all picnic flasks.  It is embossed HILDEBRANDT, POSNER & CO. / (intertwined company initials) / S. F. (San Francisco, CA.). and was an early product from this large West Coast liquor company which was in business from from 1884 to 1918 (Thomas 1974, 2002).  Amber is a relatively uncommon color for picnic flasks, but was occasionally used during its popularity range (late 1880s to mid 1910s).  Click on the following links to see other view pictures of this flask: base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Additional images/information on picnic style flasks:

  • Late 1880s picnic flask; click to enlarge.F. C. G. CO. base embossed picnic flask - This aqua, 1/2 pint picnic flask was produced by the Falls City Glass Company of Louisville, KY. who were in business from about 1884 to 1892 (Whitten 2005c).  This flask has a crudely applied double ring finish and though typical of the style in conformation it is a bit unusual as it was produced in a true two-piece "hinge" mold.  This is evidenced by the side mold seam extending around the heel onto the base, dissecting it into two equal halves which also splits the makers mark into F. C. above and G. CO. below the seam line; click F. C. G. CO. base to see such.  Hinge molds were largely replaced by either post or cup-bottom molds by the early 1870s making this a very late example of this mold style.  (Photos from eBay®)

Dating summary/notes: The picnic flask appears to have originated in the late 1870s and were produced well into the 20th century, including by automatic bottle machines.  Specifically:

  • The earliest examples of picnic flasks typically date from the first half of the 1880s.  These earliest examples virtually always have tooled finishes (usually a double ring, but occasionally other types as noted earlier), generally no air venting, and were blown in cup-bottom molds (Thomas 1994; empirical observations).   The F. C. G. CO. example noted above (hinge mold base, applied finish) is a notable exception to this, though is known to date from the 1880s.
  • The era of high popularity for this style was from the late 1880s well into the 1910s  The ability to narrow down the age of a mouth-blown picnic flask during this date range (excluding company embossed examples that have researched history) is limited to a few diagnostic features (air venting, possibly crudeness) since most of that eras flasks are very similar in manufacture.  By the early 1910s other flask styles like the Eagle and Dandy became increasingly popular gradually displacing picnic flasks by the late 1910s when, of course, National Prohibition severely reduced the production of all liquor/spirits bottles (Thomas 1974, 1998a).
  • Like with shoo-fly flasks, virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask) picnic flasks are mouth-blown, with very few exceptions (empirical observations).  However, like with most flasks, picnic flasks without proprietary embossing greatly outnumber those with proprietary embossing.
  • Machine-made picnic flask from the 1910s; click to enlarge.Machines began to dominate production by the mid to late 1910s and mouth-blown picnics began to disappear around the mid-1910s.  Like with the mouth-blown versions, the most common machine-made sizes continued to be the "pint" and "half pint" (empirical observations).  Machine-made picnic flasks tend to be slightly different in shape with distinctly more slope to the shoulder and sometimes from the lower side to the heel.  The image to the right is of a machine-made example that dates from the mid to late 1910s, just before National Prohibition.  (Photo courtesy of Bill Lockhart.)  This flask was made by the Illinois Pacific Glass Co. (San Francisco, CA.) as indicated by the heel embossing of IPGCO (opposite side of photo to right).  These machine-made picnic flasks are much less commonly encountered than the earlier mouth-blown examples, primarily due to the narrow time frame that they were made, i.e., from about 1910-1912 to about 1919.
  • Machine-made picnics are sometimes embossed, but virtually never with the bottle purchaser's company or proprietary name like frequently observed with mouth-blown versions (earlier images above).  The lack of proprietary embossing was a function of the high cost of such for small runs of machine-made bottles (particularly on the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine) and the move towards uniformity (and use of paper labels).  This trend had parallels with many other bottles types, and in particular, prescription or druggist bottles of the same era (Miller & McNichol 2002).  Embossing on machine-made bottles appears limited to content capacity or maker's marks.  The pictured flask above right is embossed near the heel with NET CONTENTS 5 OZ (click to enlarge).
  • Picnic flasks were apparently rarely produced after the early 1920s and did not survive to the repeal of National Prohibition in 1933 like the Dandy flask discussed below (empirical observations).

 

Two sizes of barrel flasks; click to enlarge.Barrel flasks: These flasks are very distinctive in shape and a fairly common item during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  These flasks are more or less a flattened oval in cross-section with more flattening on the label panel side than the other.  The typical conformation is vertical barrel staves around the majority of the bottle, bound with two sets of three hoops.  The reverse has a rectangular label panel, though sometimes embossing is found inside this panel (example pictured to the right below). 

These flasks appear to have been made by at least several different American glass manufacturing companies and were possibly also produced by foreign glass makers.  Barrel flasks are listed in the earlier Illinois Glass Company catalogs (1903-1908) but disappeared by the 1911 edition giving some idea of the termination date for the style (IGCo. 1903, 1911, 1920). 

Barrel flasks appear to be virtually always mouth-blown with tooled or improved tooled brandy/straight brandy finishes. (Machine-made examples have not been observed but are possible.)  The finish on these flasks - particularly the pint size - were often designed to accept a club sauce type stopper and shell cork.  Only the pint and half-pint (actually 12 and 6 ozs. respectively) sizes have been noted, though other sizes are possible.  Colors are varied, with aqua and colorless the most common, though shades of amber, green, and even cobalt blue have been observed (empirical observations).  These flasks were usually blown in cup-bottom molds and are likely air vented, though the vent marks appear to be well hidden by the body design on the flasks pictured here.

Half pint barrel flask with embossing; click to enlarge.The two flasks pictured above are typical of the style and most likely date from between 1890 and 1910 which was the heyday of the style.  They are in the most common colors - aqua and colorless.  Both have tooled finishes and were blown in a cup-bottom mold.  The taller (pint) size flask is also embossed J. MARTIN & CO. / COGNAC horizontally across the barrel staves on the front, indicating its sure use for spirits.  The reverse has a plain label panel and the finish was designed to accept a club sauce type stopper as there is a distinct ridge inside the bore about 1/2" below the finish rim.  Click on the following links to see more images of the pint flask: front view with embossing and barrel staves; reverse view of label panel; base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish

The amber half-pint barrel flask to the right was produced during Grover Cleveland's 1892 Presidential campaign and is embossed OUR CHOICE / (two busts) / CLEVE & STEVE / NOVEMBER 8TH 92 / MARCH 4TH 93.  On the reverse, superimposed over the barrel staves, is a rooster which was the symbol for the Democratic party in some Midwestern states at that time indicating that this is where these flasks were most likely produced.  These flasks are listed in McKearin & Wilson (1978) as a portrait flask with the catalog number GI-124 and are one of the latest produced flasks they cataloged.  Click on the following links to view more pictures of this flask: view of the reverse with barrel hoops and embossed rooster; base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Dating summary/notes: The barrel flask type noted here appears to have originated in the mid to late 1880s and were likely produced until at least the early 1910s.  Specifically (based on empirical observations):

  • The earliest examples of the barrel flasks seem to date from the mid to late 1880s or early 1890s (like the amber dated example above) since examined specimens all seem to have been made with tooled finishes and blown in cup-bottom molds.
  • The peak of popularity for this flask was the 1890s through early 1900s.
  • Barrel flasks with the pictured conformation seem to have disappeared in the early 1910s just before the domination of automatic bottle machines, though could have been produced in the mid to late 1910s.
  • Machine-made versions of this flask are possible, but have not been observed.

 

Pint eagle flask; click to enlarge.Eagle Flasks:  The "Eagle" flask is the first of four flasks described here that were primarily produced and popular during the first couple decades of the 20th century.  Possibly as early as the late 1890s or more likely the very early 1900s (at the Illinois Glass Company the Eagle first appeared in the 1906 catalog), the Eagle style of flask was developed and quickly became quite popular.  The origin of the name "Eagle" is unknown though it likely originated as some glasswork's proprietary name for the shape which eventually became generic for the style as they are listed by that name in various bottle makers catalogs (IGCo. 1903, 1920; Obear-Nester 1922).  A similar style with two rings at the junction of the neck and shoulder was called the "Billy"; another variation called the "Comfort Oval" had one side that was concave which allowed it to "...fit the hip pocket in comfort ..." (IGCo. 1906; Feldhaus 1987).  Unlike most shoo-fly and picnic flasks the Eagle actually held the stated or implied capacity more or less.  This may have been a function of the myriad of consumer protection laws - including truth in labeling - which began to be enacted and enforced during the era of this flask styles popularity (Young 1967). 

Distinguishing features of the Eagle flask style are: the precisely vertical/parallel sides, the short base pedestal which is almost as wide as the body, the highly compressed body from front to back giving a cross section that is a very flattened oval, and the bead ring on the neck typically right above the junction of the neck and shoulder (like the pictured flasks).  These flasks came in a myriad of sizes from 3 ozs. to 32 ozs., though the most popular were the pint and half pint sizes judging from the examples seen today (IGCo. 1906, 1920; Obear-Nester 1922).  The finish on these flasks is almost always a brandy/straight brandy style with the bead ring collar about the same size and diameter as the lower neck ring.  Rarely, the finish is an oil finish; other finish styles are, of course, possible but have not been observed (empirical observations).

The Eagle flasks pictured here are embossed with SPRING VALLEY / WINE CO. / "THE BIG STORE" / 2ND & YAMHILL / PORTLAND, ORE. in a round plate, and FULL POINT and FULL 1/2 PINT on the lower front (picture below right).  This company began operation in 1909 and ended business by the end of 1915 when statewide Prohibition in Oregon was passed and took effect (Thomas 1998a).  These flasks have "improved" tooled finishes, multiple (5) air venting marks on both shoulders, and were blown in a cup-bottom mold - all consistent with a late mouth-blown production date (1900 to mid 1910s).  These are typical shape and sizes of the Eagle flask.  Click on the following hyperlinks to view more pictures of the pint flask: base view; side view; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.

Pint and half pint eagle flasks; click to enlarge.Dating summary/notes: Eagle flasks appear to have originated in the very early 1900s and produced until general phase-out sometime during Prohibition (probably the late 1920s).  Specifically:

  • The earliest documented mouth-blown Eagle flasks date from the very early 1900s and were a commonly used spirits bottle up until National Prohibition took effect after 1919 (Feldhaus 1987; Thomas 1998a & b).
  • Like with shoo-fly flasks, virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask) Eagle flasks are mouth-blown, with few exceptions (empirical observations).
  • Machines began to dominate production by the mid-1910s and mouth-blown Eagle flasks began to disappear during the last half of the 1910s and early 1920s.  Machine-made Eagle flasks are observed occasionally but seem far less commonly than mouth-blown versions, indicating a quick phase out during Prohibition (IGCo. 1920; Obear-Nester 1922; Fairmount Glass Works 1930s).  Like with the mouth-blown versions, the most common machine-made sizes continued to be the "pint" and "half pint" (empirical observations).
  • Machine-made examples are sometimes embossed, but almost never with the bottle purchasers company or proprietary name, like is fairly common with mouth-blown examples.  However, like with most flasks, Eagle flasks without proprietary embossing (i.e., unembossed flasks) out number those with this type of embossing many fold.  Generally the embossing on machine-made bottles appears limited to content capacity or similar notations (IGCo. 1920; empirical observations). 
  • Eagle flasks were apparently little if at all produced after the late 1920s or possibly early 1930s (various glassmaker catalogs; empirical observations).

 

Early 20th century Olympia flasks; click to enlarge.Olympia & Washington Style Flasks:  The Olympia flask was the proprietary product of the Illinois Glass Company (Alton, IL.).  That company in 1903 proudly noted that they "take pleasure in presenting to the trade our new Olympia Flask, in whose shape we have carefully avoided all the objectionable features of ordinary flasks..." (emphasis theirs).  They also noted that it was "name copyrighted" with the design patented "August 9th, 1898" (IGCo. 1903).  The flasks to the left are half-pint sized Olympia flasks that have that patent date embossed on the base, which was typical of the product.  Since Illinois Glass was one of the largest producing glass companies of the early 1900s, these flasks were relatively popular. 

Physically, the Olympia flask is a symmetrically flattened oval in cross-section with relatively flat panels on the front and back.  It also tapers noticeably from the shoulder to the heel.  The illustration at the bottom right corner of this box is of an Olympia flask from the 1906 Illinois Glass Company catalog which noted that the flask was made in sizes ranging from 1 1/2 oz. to 32 ozs, with five different sizes (6, 7, 8, 12, 16 oz.) available as plate molds (IGCo. 1906).  Click on the illustration to see the entire page from the 1906 catalog showing this flask.

Washington style half pint flasks; click to enlarge.A competing style variation was the "Washington" flask (image to the right) which is very similar to the Olympia except for relatively narrow beveled panels on each side of the flattened front panel instead of rounded edges like the Olympia; a Washington flask is pictured to the right below.  The name "Washington" was apparently coined by John Thomas in his book "Whiskey Bottles and Liquor Containers from the State of Washington" since this style was popular in Washington between about 1907 and 1915, when statewide Prohibition took effect (Thomas 1998b).  The maker or makers of these type flasks are unknown, but may well have been a West Coast glassmaker.  Other subtle variations of the Olympia/Washington flasks very likely also exist and would date from the same range as these flasks - 1900 to National Prohibition (1920).  All of these type flasks have tooled or improved tooled finishes, are multiple air vented at the shoulder and usually other locations, and were blown in cup-bottom molds.  Finishes are often the brandy or straight brandy, though the IGCo. illustration below appears to be a champagne finish and the Olympia is usually seen with what would be best called as a variation of the reinforced extract finish as shown in the images above (Thomas 1998b).

The pair of half-pint (6-8 ozs.) Olympia flasks pictured to the left above are both embossed identifying their origin as the "Log Cabin" saloon in Baker City, OR.  Specifically, the left bottle is embossed with MIKE HOFF'S / LOG CABIN / BAKER CITY, ORE.; the one to the right with HOFF'S LOG CABIN / BAKER CITY / OREGON.   Both flasks are half-pints that were blown in a cup-bottom plate mold (as noted in the IGCo. catalog), have tooled finishes, and are multi-air vented.  These flasks were undoubtedly made by the Illinois Glass Company as both have the base embossing DESIGN PATENTED /  AUGUST 9th, 1898.   According to the historical record (business directories) Hoff operated his Baker City saloon from 1902 until Oregon's statewide Prohibition in 1915 with the flasks dating between 1902 and 1913 when Baker City was officially name changed to just Baker (Thomas 1998a).  (Olympia flasks image courtesy of Garth Ziegenhagen.)

The Washington flask pictured to the right above is embossed in a round plate UNION AVENUE EXCHANGE / HENRY HERGERT / 523 UNION AVE. / PORTLAND, ORE.  It dates from 1911 or 1912 as the Union Avenue Exchange saloon was only in business for a couple years under the proprietorship of Henry Hergert (Thomas 1998a).   This particular flask has an "improved" tooled brandy finish, multiple air venting marks including on the base, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold - all consistent with a manufacturing date of the 1910s.   Click on the following links to view additional pictures of this flask:  base view; side view; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish.

Additional images/information on Olympia/Washington style flasks:

  • THE PLAZA BAR (Portland, OR.) Washington flask - This is an example of a larger "pint" (12 to 14 oz.) sized Washington flask that has embossing in a plate, air venting on the shoulder and partially hidden in the embossing of the plate, and a tooled two-part brandy finish.  It dates during the era of popularity for these flasks just before Prohibition, i.e., 1903-1912 (Thomas 1998a).  (Photo courtesy of Garth Ziegenhagen.)

1906 illustration of an Olympia flask; click to enlarge.Dating summary/notes: The Olympia and Washington type flasks originated in the very late 1890s or early 1900s and were popular up until National Prohibition.  Specifically:

  • The earliest documented mouth-blown examples of these flasks from the very early 1900s with use up until National Prohibition which went into effect after 1919 (Feldhaus 1987; Thomas 1998a & b; Miller 1999).
  • Like with the shoofly and picnic flasks, virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask) examples of these flasks are mouth-blown, with few exceptions (empirical observations).
  • Like with virtually all liquor flasks, Olympia & Washington flasks without proprietary embossing greatly out number those with this type of embossing.  Olympia flasks are very commonly observed with this embossing on the base - "Design Patented / Pat. Aug. 9 1898" patent date on the base.  They are also observed with the I.G.CO. (in a diamond) glassmakers marking.  (Click on the Olympia illustration above to view this latter mark as shown in the 1906 IGCo. catalog.)
  • Machine-made versions of at least the Olympia flasks exist, and like the other machine-made flasks noted on this page, would date from the mid to late 1910s into at least the early 1920s.  Machine-made versions were also apparently made with a Kork-N-Seal type of finish/closure.  It appears, however, that this general style of flask did not last long after National Prohibition was implemented in 1919 as they are not listed in glassmaker catalogs after the early 1920s (IGCo. 1920; T. C. Wheaton ca. 1920; Obear-Nester 1922; Fairmount Glass Works 1930s).

 

Pint and half pint Baltimore oval flasks; click to enlarge.Baltimore Oval Flasks:  This is another of the flask styles most popular during the late 1890s and first two decades of the 20th century, then largely disappeared during National Prohibition. The Baltimore oval is rectangular in cross-section with rounded edges.  The wide front and back panels are flat as are the sides, which are sometimes banded on these flasks.  The Baltimore Oval is similar to the next covered flask (Dandy) except more rectangular in cross-section with distinctly flattened sides.  Different variations of this style also existed; some of these went by names like "The Chicago" (shorter neck and more flattened), "St. Louis Oval" (less distinctly flattened on the two large sides), "Philadelphia Oval" (rounded on the narrow sides instead of flattened), "The Wheeling Oval" (front and back rounded slightly outwards), "Pittsburg" (sic) (very similar), and likely many others from different glassmaking companies (IGCo. 1903; Cumberland 1911).  Take at look at the following pages from the 1906 Illinois Glass Co. catalog for this and similar shaped flasks: pages 156-157158-159164-165, and 166-167.

The finishes on Baltimore Oval flasks are typically a tooled or "improved" tooled brandy or straight brandy type, though mouth-blown versions do frequently come with external screw-threads like the flask pictured below.  Some larger versions of this style bottle were made with inside screw threads - see the "Rectangular Spirits Bottles" portion in the "Square/Rectangular" spirits bottle section above.  These flasks also always seem to have air venting marks - often many in various places - and were blown in a cup-bottom mold; all features consistent with an early 20th century manufacture.

Taylor & Williams pint Baltimore Oval; click to enlarge.The pair of amber flasks pictured above are pint and half-pint (true sizes) Baltimore Ovals which are embossed in a plate with GULLEY'S FAMILY LIQUOR STORE / 304-1ST STREET. / PORTLAND, ORE.  Just what a "family liquor store" meant may seem strange to us these days (drinking children?), though it was likely a reference to a liquor store owned by the James J. Gulley family.  It was not an uncommon designation during the early 20th century and likely was an attempt to put a more humane face on liquor sales during those volatile days of rising prohibitionist fervor.  (In fact, if you run a search on the internet now one will turn up a lot of "family liquor stores" still in existence).  These flasks have improved tooled finishes, multiple air venting marks on both shoulders and along the mould seams, and were blown in a cup-bottom mold; all consistent with the business dates for James Gully from 1908 to 1911 (Thomas 1998a).   Click on the following links to view more images of the pint size: base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

The mouth-blown pint Baltimore Oval flask pictured to the right is embossed TAYLOR / & / WILLIAMS / LOUISVILLE, KY.  It has a molded, continuous, external screw thread with some tooling to the finish above the threads; it does not have a ground rim.  This is very late mouth-blown bottle that dates from between 1916 and 1919 when National Prohibition was essentially implemented, as it is maker marked on the base ("M" in a circle) indicating probable manufacture by the Maryland Glass Co., (Baltimore, MD.) which used this mark from 1916 on (Toulouse 1971).  Click on the following links for more images of this flask: base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.

Dating summary/notes: The Baltimore style flasks appear to have originated in the very late 1890s or early 1900s and were popular up until sometime during National Prohibition.  Specifically:

  • The earliest documented mouth-blown examples of these flasks from the late 1890s with use up until National Prohibition after 1919 (Feldhaus 1987; Thomas 1998a & b).
  • As with most of the flasks listed on this page, virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask) versions of these flasks are mouth-blown, with few exceptions (empirical observations).
  • However, like with most flasks, Baltimore Oval flasks without proprietary embossing greatly out number those with embossing.
  • Machines began to dominate production by the mid to late 1910s and mouth-blown Baltimore Oval flasks began to disappear about this time.  Machine-made Baltimore Oval type flasks were made in to the 1920s then seem to largely be replaced by the Dandy (next flask) and other more modern styles.  Like with the mouth-blown versions, the most common machine-made sizes continued to be the pint and half pint (various glassmakers catalogs, empirical observations).

 

Half pint Dandy flask; click to enlarge.Dandy Flasks: This fairly simple style (or variations very similar) probably went by several names (e.g., "Columbia", "Philadelphia Oval", Mikado", "Madison", "Phoenix"), but the most commonly used name in glassmakers catalogs - and by collectors/archaeologists today - is the "Dandy" (IGCo. 1903, 1908, 1920; Cumberland 1911; Obear-Nester 1922).  Unlike the three flasks covered immediately above, the Dandy style made the leap to post-Prohibition popularity and varieties of this style remain in use even today.  These type flasks were called the "book shape" by Canadian bottle makers (Stevens 1979).

The Dandy style is quite similar to the Eagle flask except that there is no bead ring at the junction of the neck & shoulder.  Otherwise it shares the same general body shape with the vertical/parallel sides, the short base pedestal which is almost as wide as the body, and a highly compressed body from front to back giving a cross section that is a very flattened oval.  Finishes of mouth-blown and early machine-made examples tend towards the brandy/straight brandy types, though mouth-blown ones occasionally are found with external screw threads and a ground rim.  Later machine-made examples (1920s and later) are dominated by external screw threads, though corks are still occasionally seen in modern versions of these flasks.  Mouth-blown examples of these flasks appear to all have been blown in a cup-bottom mold and are usually copiously air vented, reflecting the mouth-blown technology of the early 1900s.

Half pint Dandy with inside threads; click to enlarge.The half-pint Dandy flask pictured above is embossed with THE BACHELOR / A. F. REED / 143 3RD ST. / PORTLAND, ORE. in a round plate; it is also embossed FULL 1/2 PINT near the bottom below the plate circle.  This flask has an "improved" tooled finish, multiple air venting marks including on the base, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold - all consistent with a manufacturing date during the first couple decades of the 20th century.  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask: base view; side view; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  "The Bachelor" was a saloon in downtown Portland which was operated by Albert Reed between 1908 and 1912 giving a firm date for this bottle (Thomas 1998a).  Given the Anti-Saloon League and related Christian Women's Temperance Union induced anti-alcohol fervor during this time period it is not unlikely that many of the customers were (or were soon to become) bachelors!  (For more information on the Anti-Saloon League, which was a significant force in the American social and political world during the early 1900s, click on the following link: http://www.wpl.lib.oh.us/AntiSaloon/)

On occasion, Dandy flasks were produced with a finish that accepts an inside thread stopper.  The half pint, mouth-blown Dandy flask to the right is embossed TRADE / (eagle with two globes motif) / MARK / S. A. ARATA & CO. / PORTLAND, ORE. that dates between about 1905 and 1911 (Thomas 1998a).  This flask has an "improved" tooled finish, multiple air venting marks including on the base, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold - again all consistent with a manufacturing date during the couple decades of the 20th century.  (In fact, it is highly dateable bottles like this and the previous one that provide the support for the diagnostic features based date ranges found on this website.)  Click on the following links for more pictures of this flask:  base view; side view; close-up of shoulder, neck, and finish showing the inside threaded stopper in place.

Pint Dandy flask with contents; click to enlarge.The picture to the left is of an "early" machine-made Dandy flask that has the label, box, and original contents.  It is actually dated (on the paper cork seal) as being bottled during the "Fall of 1919" with additional labeling on the reverse noting that it is for "Medicinal Purposes Only" reflecting the implementation of the Volstead Act on June 30th, 1919 making it illegal to sell spirits purely as a beverage.  This flask is also embossed "Full Pint" on the shoulder of one side - click close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish/closure to see this embossing.  This notation on the shoulder (or sometimes lower sides) of Dandy flasks - machine-made and mouth-blown - is very common.

1940's or 1950's screw top Dandy; click to enlarge.The picture to the right is of a relatively recent pint Dandy flask which has the embossing FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE on the shoulder.  This statement was required to be embossed on all liquor bottles sold in the U.S. between 1935 and 1964, but can be found on liquor bottles dating into the 1970s.  Based on the makers marking on base, this machine-made liquor flask was manufactured in 1956 by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.   Click to base view to view an image of this bottles base showing the distinct suction scar made by the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine.  Click shoulder, neck, and finish view for a close-up image showing the very modern looking continuous external thread finish with the lower ring portion of the cap still remaining.  This type of flask is still being made today.

Additional images/information on Dandy type flasks:

  • OLD JOE GIDEON WHISKEY - This pint flask is largely a variation of the Dandy flask that was (and is) called the "The Alton Flask."  The name is from the early 20th century Illinois Glass Company catalogs and the style was apparently a proprietary design that was named after the location of their main glass factory in Alton, IL.  The Alton differs slightly from the typical Dandy in that there is a molded ring at the junction of the neck and shoulder and the finish is a double ring.  The pictured flask is mouth-blown with a tooled double ring finish, air venting, and was blown in a cup-bottom mold.  It is embossed with OLD / JOE GIDEON / (large G with BROS. inside) / WHISKEY / AWARDED / GOLD MEDALS / ST. LOUIS 1904 / PORTLAND, ORE. 1905 and dates from between 1905 and National Prohibition (Thomas 1998a).  Click on the following link to view the illustration from the 1906 Illinois Glass Co. catalog of The Alton Flask - IGCo. 1906 pages 160-161; the flask is illustrated on the upper left page  (Thomas 1998a).  (Photo courtesy of Garth Ziegenhagen.)

Dating summary/notes: The Dandy flask appears to have originated in the 1890s, achieved popularity in the very early 1900s, and produced through Prohibition to the present day.  Specifically:

  • The earliest documented mouth-blown Dandy flasks date from the mid to late 1890s with production up until National Prohibition in 1919 (Preble 1987; Feldhaus 1987; Thomas 1998a & b).
  • Like with shoofly flasks, virtually all company/proprietary embossed (i.e., embossed with the name or company of the purchaser/users of the flask) Dandy flasks are mouth-blown, with few exceptions (empirical observations).
  • Like with most flasks (and most bottles in general), Dandy flasks without proprietary embossing greatly out number those with this type of embossing.
  • Machines began to dominate production by the mid-1910s and mouth-blown Dandy flasks began to disappear by the late 1910s, i.e., at about the advent of Prohibition.  Machine-made Dandy flasks are common and the style seems to have hung on quite a long time.  Like with the mouth-blown versions, the most common machine-made sizes continued to be the "pint" and "half pint" (empirical observations).
  • As early as 1920 (beginning of Prohibition) and continuing well after its repeal in 1933, machine-made Dandy flasks began to be produced with external screw thread finishes, like shown in the picture just above to the right (IGCo. 1920).  Mouth-blown Dandy flasks with screw threads and a ground rim were produced primarily between the late 1890s and mid 1910s.
  • Examples of flasks similar to the Dandy style can still be found in use today (liquor store observations).

 

Mid-20th century spirits/liquor flasks:  There were hundreds if not thousands of different post-Prohibition liquor flasks produced in varying shapes and sizes through the middle of the 20th century, and of course, to the present day.  The cork and screw top Dandy flask pictured above are typical of those made from the 1930s through the 1950s and not unlike those in production today. 

This section may be expanded in the future as time allows...

 

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Other Miscellaneous shapes/styles

This final category for spirits/liquor bottles is a catch-all for some spirits bottles that do not fit neatly into the categories above.

Front view of a New England chesnut flask from the early 19th century.Chestnut flasks One of the earliest types of American made bottles used for liquor are known generically as "chestnut flasks"; they are also sometimes called "New England chestnut flasks" by collectors.  These type of bottles or flasks (hard to say which is more accurate, but we will call them flasks) were made in many sizes from a few inches to several gallons.  They were likely produced by most of the early American glasshouses and date as far back as the 1770s up through the 1830s.  The smallest (5" or less) ones may have been primarily used for medicines, but medium and larger sizes were very commonly used for beverages including wine and various spirits.  Although often referred to as New England chestnut flasks, they were undoubtedly made by many different glasshouses up and down the Eastern Seaboard as it was a popular style during the noted era (McKearin & Wilson 1978).

Chestnut flasks are typically oval to a flattened oval in cross-section with an overall squatty "teardrop" shape when viewed straight on.  These flasks are free-blown typically with glass tipped or blow-pipe pontil scars.  Because they are free-blown, the actual shapes are quite variable with some approaching round in cross-section to very compressed and "flask-like" on the other end of the scale.  Typically the body of these flasks are about 1.5 to 2 times as wide as they are deep.  Finishes are applied and quite crude, varying much in shape and often defying simple categorization.  Occasionally, these flasks have a simple cracked-off/sheared and refired finish, but usually the finish is some type of one-part example made with applied glass that was crudely tooled to form a collar.  Colors vary somewhat with a large majority being some shade of olive green or olive amber; aqua to amber to teal blue have also been noted (empirical observations).  These flasks are usually very crudely formed with bubbles and ripples in the glass, flattened spots and bulges, and an overall lack of symmetry reflecting the free-blown manufacturing and early American heritage.  They usually have very light and thin glass for their size, though this is variable.  Similar bottles made in Europe go back at least to the late 17th century (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Van den Bossche 2001).

Early American "chestnut" flasks; click to enlarge.The chestnut flask pictured above is a typical early American example that was most likely produced by a New England glasshouse between 1790 and 1820s - the heyday for this style.  It is free-blown, has a blowpipe type pontil scar within a pushed up base, a crudely applied one-part finish, and is medium olive green in color.  Click on the following links to view more pictures of this chestnut flask: side view; base view showing the blowpipe pontil scar. 

The grouping of five chestnut flasks pictured to the right are also likely products of the early New England glass companies although the tallest example in the group (9" with a two-part finish instead of a one-part) may be the product of an early Pennsylvania or other Eastern Seaboard glass company, as may some of the others which range to as small as 5" tall (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  All of these free-blown flasks share the same early manufacturing characteristics as the example pictured above and show some of the subtle range of glass colors that these bottles were made in.

Dating summary/notes: Chestnut flasks, as noted, primarily date between about 1780 and the 1830s.  They would be common finds on some of the older historic sites in the East and parts of the Midwest, but would be largely non-existent in the far West (with the possibility of some deposition lag occurrence).  Be aware that during the era of popularity for these type flasks that much or most cheap utilitarian ware was free-blown (or dip molded) and shapes are quite variable.  Thus, the shape or type dividing line between chestnut flasks and similar free-blown bottles and flasks is vague though similar items made using similar processes generally share similar dating ranges.  Some dating and/or typing estimates of such items can still be arrived at using the information on this website.
 

 

Benedictine bottle; click to enlarge.Benedictine bottles:  Benedictine was (and is) a liqueur made with a wide assortment of herbs and spices.  Reported to have originally been made by monks during the Renaissance, it was first commercially produced in France during the 1870s.  Judging from the relative commonness of these distinctive bottles in the U.S., Benedictine was quite popular here during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The product is still produced and bottled today in a similarly shaped bottles (see discussion below) though of course they are made via more modern manufacturing methods.  (Information from the Benedictine website found at the following link:  http://www.benedictine.fr/anglais/histoire_frame.html)

Benedictine bottles are very distinctive in shape with a long sloping neck and flaring shoulder which abruptly ends at the top of the body which then tapers inwards gradually towards the base; see the picture to the left.  The base is usually variably pushed-up and domed, sometimes deeply.  Sizes are most commonly the pictured "quart" size and a smaller "pint" size which has the same conformation, just proportionally smaller.  Most mouth-blown versions are three-piece mold, though two-piece molds have also been noted (empirical observations).  The finish on Benedictine bottles are somewhat unique and could be basically described as a two-part finish with an outwardly tapering (top to bottom) upper part with a flaring rounded ring lower part.  The collars usually (but not always) have distinct indentations or grooves on both sides to facilitate the wiring down of the cork closure.  The glass is typically very heavy and virtually always in some shade of olive green or - in older versions (pre-1890s) - olive amber.  Benedictine bottles often have the word BENEDICTINE embossed on one shoulder by itself or with small crosses (like the pictured example), though they are very often not embossed.  The majority do have a distinctive crescent embossed on one shoulder, opposite the embossing if the bottle is embossed.

Mid to late 20th century benedictine bottle; click to enlarge.The example pictured above is a quart size dating from from around 1895 to 1910.  It is a medium olive green in color with very heavy glass, a kick-up domed base, produced in a three-piece mold with a separate base plate, and has a true applied finish.  Click on the following links for more view photos of this bottle: reverse view showing the embossed crescent; base view showing the deeply domed configuration; close-up of the finish showing the grooves in the ring collar; close-up of the shoulder, neck, and finish.  These bottles were often (usually?) foreign produced but are covered here because of their commonness in the U.S. and the fact that they may have been produced in the U.S. also.  Click on the following link to view the Benedictine bottles offered by the Illinois Glass Company in 1906: Illinois Glass Co. 1906 catalog page 138 (listed on the left page in pint, quart, and a 2 oz. sample size).  Whether the listed bottles were a domestic product made by IGCo. or an offering by them of a foreign produced product is unknown, though it is likely these were imported as the listing notes the offering available in an "Imported Color" (Jones 1961-1968).

The amber, 8" tall, Benedictine type bottle pictured to the right is much more recent, mid to late 20th century, machine-made example which shows well the continuation of form features that define the style, including the vertically grooved finish (apparently the modern manifestation of the indents of old), embossed crescent on the shoulder, deep kick-up/push-up base, and overall conformation and proportions.  Click on the following links to view more images of this bottle:  finish view showing the vertical grooves in the finish (looking down from above); base view showing the relatively high kick-up the height of which also shows in the image to the right; reverse view showing the embossing BENEDICTINE on the shoulder and B & B which indicates this bottle contained B&B which is a blend of Benedictine and brandy.  (Photos courtesy of Deb Bankes.)  This bottle is very similar - if not identical - to the bottles the product comes in today; click on the following commercial Benedictine liqueur website link for more information:  http://www.benedictine.fr/anglais/histoire_frame.html

Dating summary/notes: Benedictine style bottles can date from the 1870s to the present.  Since they were apparently usually made overseas and exported, the manufacturing based diagnostic features do not necessarily follow those noted on this website for U.S. produced bottles.  Most notably, these bottles were made with true applied finishes into the early 20th century and mouth-blown Benedictine bottles appear to have been made up until at least 1920 (empirical observations).  Mouth-blown bottles seem to date from the 1920s or before, with machine-made items dating from that time or after.  This general shape was (and is) also used generically for various other liqueurs in the 20th century (Lucas Co. Bottle Co. 1940s; empirical observations).
 

 

Wharton's Whiskey jug in a reddish amber color; click to enlarge.Handled liquor bottles:  Glass handles were incorporated into the design of a myriad of different American made liquor bottles/flasks made in particular during the middle of the 19th century (McKearin & Wilson 1978).  After the bottle was completely blown (free-blown, dip molded, or fully molded) the handle was applied using some type(s) of glassmaker tools.  Usually, one end of the handle was attached just below the finish or upper neck with the other end attached somewhere on the shoulder.  Most of these bottles were not embossed but labeled with the product type and producer, like the handled bottle below.  Occasional handled bottles were user identified with a blob seal, while others were molded and embossed like the bottle to the left.

The unusual bottle with a pour spout and applied "solid loop" handle to the left is embossed with WHARTON'S  / WHISKEY / 1850 / CHESTNUT GROVE (Philadelphia, PA.) and was blown at the Whitney Glass Works (Glassboro, NJ) around 1860 (the base is embossed with the name of the glassworks).  Many different shapes were produced during the heyday of the applied handle liquor bottle style which were most popular from the late 1840s into the 1870s, though handled bottles were made to some extent before and after this period (McKearin & Wilson 1978).

Applied handle liquour bottle from the late 19th century; click to enlarge.The smaller liqueur bottle to the right is a later production - late 1800s to early 1900s - and most likely of European manufacture.  It has a small "D" shaped handled and was blown in a two-piece cup-bottom mold.  It also has a handmade silver collar that totally covers the finish.  (This example is still sealed with some of the partially evaporated contents still inside.) 

Late 19th century handled scotch decanter.The handled bottle pictured to the left is also of late 19th century European (most likely German) manufacture, has a silver covered cork (cork in place and not visible), and includes sterling silver appliqué  features which notes its intended use for Scotch whisky.  This one has an applied glass handle which is also covered by sterling silver.  This bottle has an applied champagne finish (a transition ridge where the applied finish glass is attached to the cracked-off neck can be felt inside the bore), was blown in a two-piece cup-bottom mold, and has no evidence of mold air venting.  Being European in origin, the dating trends noted on this website do not work well with this bottle (or its olive green sister above). The general shape and design of these latter two bottles was a relatively common late 19th century (1880s to early 1900s) type.  The large majority of these type bottles found in the U. S. (like these two examples) are believed to have been imported from Europe (Thomas 2002; empirical observations).  These bottles also pretty much mark the end of handled mouth-blown liquor bottles.

During the 20th century a wide array of machine-made bottles were made with molded - not applied - handles, the handle being incorporated into the bottle mold as an inherent part of the design.  This includes wine, bleach, and other types of bottles including spirits.  Click machine-made handled jug to view a close-up picture of a handled wine jug that was manufactured in 1960 based on the Owens Illinois Company makers mark on the base.  These type machine-made handled bottles have molded handles with mold seams running the entire length of the handle on the inside and outside edges (pointed out in the picture).  Click HERE to view a picture of the entire bottle.

Dating notes:  Applied glass handles on mouth-blown bottles were an unusual feature added to some fancier liquor bottles primarily during the mid-19th century (1850s to 1870s), though a few were made to at least as late as the 1890s and at least as early as the 1820s (Wilson & Wilson 1968; McKearin & Wilson 1978).  Handles on machine-made spirits bottles are relatively common on bottles made throughout the 20th century and are still observed today on large capacity wine bottles (i.e., "jug wine") though they are apparently not used much on spirits bottles (liquor store observation).
 

 

More varieties to be added to this page in the future as time allows...

 

 

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For additional images of various labeled liquor/spirits 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 (Liquor/Spirits) 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 not as diverse as the mouth-blown era since shape standardization and simplification was typical of machine manufacturing.  Also, bottle body embossing became much less frequent on machine-made bottles and a significant amount of the diversity of the mouth-blown production era was the different proprietary embossing on essentially the same shapes of bottles.


6/14/2014

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This website created and managed by:
Bill Lindsey
Bureau of Land Management (retired) -
Klamath Falls, Oregon
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