Amusing information dating antique medicine bottles pity

Medicinal bottles are probably the largest and most diverse group of bottles produced during the era covered by this website - the 19th through mid 20th centuries. To quote Fike on medicine bottles - "Literally hundreds of thousands of brands and variations of vessels were manufactured This variety is not too surprising since one's health was and still is probably the most important personal issue of all time, made even more important during the era of primitive medical knowledge and practices and universal ignorance about hygiene and even the causes of disease. As noted in the opening line of Odell , "Medicine is as old as man, no doubt born of necessity and wrought by trial and error. Thus, the allure of patent or proprietary medicines Young The picture at the top of the page shows just a tiny bit of medicinal bottle diversity which is frankly staggering in depth and variety as virtually any shape imaginable was used at some point. The bottle pictured to the left is a midth century medicine with a general shape rectangular with indented panels that was used for tens of thousands of different medicinal products from the midth century until at least the Depression in the 20th century.

From this point in the glass producing process, the final color of the glass is a matter of both controlling off-coloring impurities and achieving the desired color. This is done by adding certain types of compounds to the glass batch in certain quantities. In general, with lesser amounts of iron of less oxidation of that iron, shades of bluish to greenish aqua are achieved. For instance, cobalt oxide added in proper quantities to a properly prepared glass batch results in a distinctly intense blue as shown in the bottle to the left.

In fact, this color is known as "cobalt blue" in the glass manufacturing world Scholes Glass composition formulas were and probably still are closely held glassmaker secrets as the experience of extensive trial and error experimentation in glass making was not readily shared with others. Variations in glass color resulted from a myriad of different causes including the strata of the sand source, the mineral in the soil of the of the trees burned to produce "potash" a "flux" alternative to sodaand many others known and unknown Toulouse a.

Many colorizing compounds work in different ways depending on whether the glass pot environment is oxidizing or reducing Tooley ; Kendrick ; Toulouse a. However, discussing the simple addition of chemical additives makes any discussion of glass making and glass coloring too simplistic. Glass chemistry is a complex science that is beyond the goals of this website and will not be pursued here. In the following color descriptions, the different coloring and de-coloring agents or compounds for the different colors are briefly noted.

This is just informational because the actual chemistry is of little utility here and glass colors only contribute slightly to the process of dating or typing historic bottles. It is, however, part of the overall "story" of bottles covered by this website.

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Having quoted this, color is still an important descriptive element for the recordation and classification of bottles. Bottle colors also warrant coverage here simply because they are of fascinating interest to people. As implied in the quote above, there are some time related trends in color that can be of utility for dating.

The specific "diagnostic utility" of a given color is noted and discussed in the descriptions below. There are also some colors which where very rarely used for one type of bottle e.

Thus, some information can sometimes be gleaned from knowing what color is or is not likely to occur in a given category or class of bottles. This may be especially useful in the identification of bottle fragments Bottle Fragment Identification.

26 rows  OLD BOTTLE IDENTIFICATION AND DATING GUIDE. This webpage is intended to . Chart 1 The Basics of Dating Bottles. Readers first need to develop the vocabulary necessary to distinguish early and late forms of bottles. The following charts and pictures on the dating bottles pages listed below should help. First this cautionary note: Bottle dating is not a precise science! Using just physical, manufacturing related diagnostic features, most utilitarian bottles can usually only be accurately placed within a date range of years (i.e., to or ).

Color Naming Simply put, people observe or interpret colors or in Canada and Great Britain - colours differently. Even the same bottle to the same person can vary widely in color depending on differing lighting situations - direct and indirect sunlight out in the field, fluorescent lights in the office, and LED and incandescent lights at home.

Adding to the confusion is the jumble of terminology that is used to describe colors and the seemingly infinite color variations. As noted on Greg Spurgeon's fruit jar oriented website there is no "governing authority" on glass or bottle colors Spurgeon There always has been and will continue to be confusion as to color nomenclature even though many attempts have been made to try to standardize it.

The collector world is rife with unusual naming, like "strawberry puce with apricot overtones" being one example of a lengthy color name which is intended to help clarify the exact color of bottle but can often end up causing more confusion than clarity.

When describing colors, modifiers can and should be used to help narrow down the specific color. Examples of common modifying terminology adjectives include dark or deep for the denser end of the colormedium mid range densitylight paler densityas well as clear for noticeably translucent glass of any color or murky glass with diminished clarity.

Dual color naming e.

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For example, "yellow olive" is a dominantly olive color with a shift towards yellow, whereas "olive yellow" would be a dominantly yellow color with a slight, but noticeable, olive tint Spurgeon This author of this website has no delusions of this being the "final" word on colors or color naming. It is considered useful, however, to briefly describe, name, and picture some basic bottle glass colors that are noted on this website.

The information on this page is a composite taken from numerous references which are noted where appropriate throughout the text.

DATING BOTTLES BY THEIR TOPS AND BASES. A Look at Bottle Bases. One approach to helping beginner identify their old bottles involves show them the bases of old bottles. The picture below at the left shows an iron pontil on the base jof a historical flask circa The middle picture shows an open pontil on the base of a cylindrical medicine. Diagnostic/Dating Utility: Aqua is a very common color in all types of American made bottles that date prior to the s back at least to for U.S. made bottles; even earlier for European made bottles though even there, aqua glass bottles were not common prior to about (McKearin ; Van den Bossche ). New Listing Antique Hood's Sarsaparilla Aqua Glass Medicine Bottle Circa s Embossed. Guaranteed by Sat, Feb Dr. Taft's Asthmalene Rochester NY Asthma Cure Bubbles, Crude, Sparkling N Mint. Ending Saturday at PM PST. New Listing Blown Bottle BAKERS FLORIDA WATER PORTLAND s Small Size Deep Aqua Nice!! Ending Mar 2 at PM PST.

The following glass color description categories are not in any significant order except that the list moves from the generally lighter to darker colors. A user can either click on the color specific links below or just scroll down through the descriptions to find the color that you are interested in or that matches the color of a bottle you are trying to gain information on.

Return to the top of this page. Colorless aka "Clear".

This color is the actually the absence of any color. Colorless is preferred over the term " clear " or " white " glass since the former term refers more accurately to the transparency of the glass not its color, e. Colorless glass was a goal of glass manufacturers for centuries and was difficult to produce because it required the use of virtually impurity-free materials. Venetian glass makers produced their crystallo as early as the 15th century and glass makers in 18th century England made what was known as "flint glass" from virtually pure quartz rock i.

Improved chemistry and glass making methods of the late 19th and early 20th century allowed for process efficiencies which made colorless glass easier and cheaper to produce using various additives in the glass mixture. The term flint glass was and still is used somewhat erroneously by glassmakers to describe colorless glass that is made with low iron sand.

It is, however, not true flint glass. Colorless glass was also called "crown" glass by early glassmakers Hunter Colorless glass is not always, or even usually, absolutely colorless. It will usually have very faint tints of pink or "amethystine" faintly visible in the base of the bottle to the leftamber or "straw", grayish green, gray, or grayish blue. These faint colors are viewed easiest when looking through the thickest portion of the bottle, i. Colorless glass is usually attained by using the purest sand source possible and by adding "decolorizing agents" to the glass batch to offset the residual iron impurities Dillon Common decolorizing agents were manganese dioxide, selenium dioxide usually in conjunction with cobalt oxideantimony and arsenious arsenic oxide - which is also used as a stabilizer of selenium in decolorizing glass - or some combination of these compounds Trowbridge ; New York Herald ; Scholes ; Tooley ; Lockhart a.

Colorless glass actually does have more utility in dating and typing than most other colors, though still of limited application. Some of the better dating reliability is for bottles with manganese dioxide decolorized glass.

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Upon exposure to sunlight, this glass will turn a light pink or lavender to moderately dark amethyst or even a deep purple depending on the amount of manganese in the glass mix and amount of ultraviolet UV light. This is called "sun-purpled" or "sun colored amethyst " SCA glass. This bottle began its life as colorless glass and has "turned" a much darker than average color of amethyst most likely due to the application of artificial UV light or other artificial source like sterilization equipmenti.

The light lavender tint produced by manganese offsets the green tint of the iron impurities in sand creating a largely colorless glass. For an interesting article on the artificial irradiation of historic bottles, see the late Dr.

Manganese became known as "glassmakers soap" due to the ability to "cleanse" or neutralize the effects of other impurities in the sand, particularly iron Hunter Manganese dioxide induced colorless glass was most commonly used from the s to about the end of World War 1. At that time manganese dioxide use was greatly reduced for a variety of reasons, although in part because it did not work as well as other chemical decolorizers see next paragraph in the open, continuous glass tanks used by the increasingly dominant bottle making machines - both semi-automatic and automatic.

If you are attempting to estimate the approximate manufacturing date - or age - of a particular bottle (or significant sized fragment) the first page to visit would be the Bottle Dating page and its related sub-pages. These pages lead a user through a series of questions about the physical/morphological characteristics of historic bottles which help to narrow down the age of . Bottle Dating. Examples of Dating Historic Bottles HOME: Bottle Dating: Examples. INTRODUCTION. This page provides some examples of how to use the website (primarily the Bottle Dating pages) to determine the approximate date or date range for various types of bottles made between the early s and the midth century. NOTE: Attached to the "Bottle Types/Diagnostic Shapes" grouping of pages is a complete copy of a never re-printed, page, Illinois Glass Company bottle catalog scanned at two pages per JPEG file. Click IGCo. Catalog to access the page that links to all the scans of this very useful catalog. Medicinal bottles are listed primarily on pages , ,

It is often noted in the literature that the reason for the switch from manganese dioxide to other decolorants was due to the cut-off of imports usually from the Caucasian Mountain region of Russia to the U. However, it is more complicated than that with other reasons being wartime allocation of the now scarcer manganese to the more important need for producing steel and the dramatic increase in the application of chemical knowledge to glass manufacturing which lead to the eventual realization that glass batch mixes with selenium as the primary decolorizer simply worked better Peter Schulz, unpublished manuscript Colorless glass which was decolorized with selenium or arsenic or typically a combination of the two in conjunction with cobalt oxide results in a very faint " straw " or amber tint to the thickest portions of the glass Scholes ; Tooley ; Lockhart b.

The picture to the left shows this color evident in the thick portion of a milk bottle underneath the line pointing out the valve mark that dates between and based on the makers mark for the Pacific Coast Glass Company Toulouse Click Cloverdale Dairy Co. This colorless "color" can be very diagnostic of a machine-made bottle made from about to typically no later than the s Giarde ; Lockhart b; empirical observations.

The straw tinted colorless glass in bottles does show up frequently in later mouth-blown bottles although such can be found occasionally in bottles from the midth century. Click French mustard bottle to view an s era bottle with a faint straw cast - evident at the heel - to the otherwise colorless glass.

Selenium was the best decolorizer for glass made in open glass tanks versus the earlier closed pots which was used with most all automatic bottle machines. Such glass can also be irradiated to produce a medium yellowish brown color which looks abnormal for glass color empirical observations. One can be quite confident that if the fragment is colorless with a slight straw tint, it very likely is from a machine-made bottle, unlikely to date from much prior to World War 1 i.

Conversely, a colorless fragment with a slight amethyst tint is quite likely to date to or prior to World War 1 and is more likely than not to be from a mouth-blown bottle. Bottles with a grayish tint seem to date between an although numerous examples outside that range have been noted by the author Giarde ; empirical observations. Generally speaking, bottles of colorless glass were relatively uncommon prior to the s but became quite common after the wide spread use of automatic bottle machines in the mid to late s Kendrick ; Toulouse a; Fike ; U.

Nothing is absolute in these date range estimates, but they are believed to have reasonably high reliability; other contextual information or evidence should be used also. Be aware that non-glass bottle products e.

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Keep this in mind if trying to identify glass fragments which may be from bottles or other non-container glassware. Bill Lockhart's Historical Archaeology journal article from is available on this website at the link below.

This is by far the best reference on the subject! Lockhart, Bill. Historical Archaeology 40 2 Aqua Aquamarine.

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This color - like all the colors that follow - had many subtle variations and shades. The "gothic" or "cathedral" style pickle bottle ca.

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Shades of aqua are the most common color for these utilitarian food bottles which were a common stylistic design particularly between the s and s though some examples date before or after that period. The term aqua is a preferred by this website shorthand version of the term aquamarine. Use of modifying terminology is frequently employed to make more precise the color shape, intensity, or hue.

For example, the fruit jar pictured below right would be considered deep blue aqua. Aqua glass is a "natural" result of the iron impurities found in most sands. It is very rare maybe unknown that sand does not contain some traces of iron. Sand deposits with very low iron content were - and probably still are - a highly valued commodity.

Dating antique medicine bottles

Although good quality sand was plentiful in the Eastern United States, some was still being imported from Belgium for Western American glass factories as late as the s. Aqua glass is the result of sand which is relatively low in the amount of iron which was not off-set by de-colorizing agents as noted in the colorless glass discussion above. Higher levels of iron produce darker greens, black glass, and even amber.

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Natural aqua glass was often called "green glass," "bottle glass," or "bottle glass green" by glass makers Kendrick ; White Different shades of aqua and the related blue-green colors which are often observed in the same bottles blown in the same mold may be explained - at least in part - by the following information quoted from Dr. This excerpt is making reference to some of the effects - desired or not - that occur when mixing and melting glass.

It also points out one of the many complexities inherent in producing desired glass colors:. Little was known about the influence of the flame. A "reducing" flame, or one with less oxygen supplied for burning, might produce a bluish-green because the iron in the sand might then be reduced to one of the bluer iron oxides - an excess of air might make the oxidized green iron oxides predominate.

Early glassmakers knew little about this. Thus a fire banked for the night and with the air intake flues closed down, could produce quite blue glass for the morning's start, and change slowly during the day when the air vents were opened wide for a hotter flame.

Click 1st or 2nd century Roman aqua "unguentarium bottle" to see such a bottle in aqua glass, though it is so patinated that it is hard to see the actual glass color. One significant exception to this dating is soda bottles, e. Another notable exception is that many fruit jars were also made well into the the s in aqua though colorless glass probably became the majority color by that time. For example Ball fruit jars were made in a distinct "Ball blue" from at least until at least the late s and even later for some specialty items Creswick The picture to the above left shows two sizes quart and pint of Ball's very popular Perfect Mason fruit jar.

This color is light but a more intense blue than blue aqua but does not quite fit the other color groups described below; thus its coverage here.

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Inthe Ball Company was making This market domination during the first half of the 20th century explains the commonness of these fruit jars today and in historical sites from the early s through the Great Depression. Opaque White or Milk Glass. Opaque white glass - commonly called milk glass but sometimes called opal or white glass - was typically produced by the addition of tin or zinc oxide, fluorides fluorsparand phosphates Illinois Glass Co.


In a sense, milk glass the preferred term on this website is like colorless glass in that it is defined by the absence of color, except in this case the bottle is truly not "clear". An interesting feature of most milk glass is that very thin milk glass i. Milk glass production was also reputedly hard on the longevity of glass melting tanks and pots so was avoided by some glass factories.

A typical cosmetic bottle example is the Owl Drug Company lotion and likely other cosmetic products bottle above which dates from the around Jensen ; Fike Many of the milk glass druggist style or type bottles like discussed next were most likely for that particular druggist's cosmetic products as milk glass was well linked with cosmetics in customers minds Fike ; Cannon Another often encountered milk glass bottle is pictured to the right.

It is embossed with PROF. It is faintly embossed on the base with W. Millville, NJ. The noted base marking orientation dates the bottle between about and Lockhart et al. Click more information on Hubert's Malvina Lotion to view the discussion on the "Household Bottles" typology page. Milk glass was infrequently used for ink bottles, bitters, non-cosmetic medicinals, liquor, and sometimes even fruit and food jars primarily during the late 19th and early 20th century.

It was rarely used for bottles prior to abouti. An interesting ct of some milk glass is that it was made with manganese dioxide in the glass batch. This interesting milk glass will react to sunlight - as described in the colorless glass section above - producing a milky lavender color. This has primarily been observed in cold cream and other cosmetic jars from the first couple decades of the 20th century, though it is seen in occasional bottles.

It sometimes appears that the lavender color was produced purposefully with a UV light or radiation so it is not always possible to differentiate between sun colored and intentionally colored lavender milk glass. There are probably more different shades of green to be found in bottles than any other color. It rivals the multitude of amber glass variations which, as noted next below, can grade into various greens. Iron, chromium, and copper all produce different green glass.

Chromium oxide will produce yellowish green under oxidizing conditions and emerald green under reducing conditions in the glass furnace Dillon Reducing and oxidizing furnace conditions was briefly discussed earlier in the under aqua glass section.

Combinations such as cobalt blue mixed with chromium green will, not surprisingly, produce blue-green glass Kendrick ; Munsey Just as there were many ways to produce different green glasses, there are endless naming variations for the green colors, e.

As in describing all bottle colors, modifiers are useful in clarifying the specific greens. Readers first need to develop the vocabulary necessary to distinguish early and late forms of bottles.

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The following charts and pictures on the dating bottles pages listed below should help. Chart 1 The Basics of Dating Bottles Readers first need to develop the vocabulary necessary to distinguish early and late forms of bottles. Screw Tops and the Owens Ring.

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Dating Bitters. Dating Medicine Bottles. Dating Soda Bottles. Dating Ink Bottles.

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