Glenn Poch's Bottle Collecting Newsletter 10

Feb/Mar. 96'
Newsletter #10

I would like to start a regular feature in this newsletter about great
bottle finds and stories:  This could be finding the best bottle at a garage
sale or having dug an unbelivable bottle: tell us your wacky story that
you were lucky enough to stumble upon.  Even if it's just a great deal at
a bottle show let us know, it's fun to read about others good luck (even
if we wish it was ours)!

send your best find stories to

Bottle Blowing

Glass was the first factory in the American Colonies beginning in
Jameston, Virginia around 1610.

Up until 1797 Wood was the primary fuel in furnaces consuming tremendeous
amounts of timber and requiring that glasshouses be built around forest
areas.  In 1797 Coal was discovered near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania leading
to the big Pittsburgh glass industry.

When preparing to form a bottle the glass blower will perform a number of
crucil steps:  I am going to briefly describe these steps that would of
been used in a glass factory before the turn of the century (1900).  Many
of these steps are also used by glassblowers today!

1. Glass is first melted in a furnace (or oven) which is heated up to
tempatures upwards of 2500 degrees, inside the furnace is whats know as
pots (in small factories) and tanks (in large glass factories): these are
fire clay containers that sit inside of the furnace and contain the batch
of glass ingredients which may contain some or all of the following:
silica, soda, potash and lime: cullet may be added (which is raw pieces
of broken glass or scrap glass) this batch is then mixed together and
kept molten.

2. The pots are filled with the batch and is allowed to melt for thirty
to forty hours until it is completely fluid, during this process the
workmen needed to stand-by the melting glass to remove impurities (which
float to the surface as a white film), if this process was not watched it
could cause bubbles in the glass - a mark of poor quality glass.

3. When the glass batch has reached the proper stage it is allowed to
cool-a-bit, to a workable state.  The glassblower will then insert the
blowpipe (usually 4-6 feet in length) into the furnance window and
withdraw a glob of molten glass.

4. This mass of molten glass is first rolled on a marver (a polished slab
of stone) this being done for uniformity.  The worker will then take the
pipe in his mouth and will give it a small puff of air to form an inner
bubble (all the while the glass glob must remain turning to keep its
symetrical shape).

5.  Since the glass gather cools quickly it is necessary to re-heat the
glass sometimes several times in the glory hole (a window in the furnace)
while being shaped, and expanded with more air being blown into the
bottle.  If the bottle is to be formed in a mold for lettering and
design, the bubble of glass would then be blown into the closed mold, as
it expanded it would fill the mold and take on its attributes, then the
mold was opened and the bottle was removed.  The most common molds
consisted of two parts, but there were molds of three and more parts.

6.  If the piece was to be free-blown the gather is shaped in a wooden
half rounded block which is kept wet, and is rolled to keep its
symetrical shape. With the aid of a pincher-shaped tool called a Pucellas
- the worker manipulates the bottle, at this stage the tool would also
aid in elongnating the neck, altering body shape, or to snip the bottle.

7.  The bottle bottom is flatened by rubbing it across a flat wood piece
known as a battle dore.  To be finished the bottle usually will receive a
bottle lip.  Another worker will bring another iron rod known as a pontil
or punty rod which will have a small amount of hot glass on it.  This is
pressed against the bottom of the bottle forming a strong adhesive bond.
The bottle neck is now snipped from the blowpipe with shears and the neck
is finished with a lip.   The pontil rod was removed by dropping some
water at the point of adhision (which forms small cracks) that when
tapped will produce a clean break from the bottle resulting in a open
pontil scar (this method was used between 1618*(in Jamestown) - 1860). 
Between 1850-1970 another method was used where the pontil rod was dipped
into powdered iron or lead-oxide and pushed into the base of the bottle
allowing the pontil to be broken free without the jagged scar, leaving a
metalic mark on the bottle what is now known as a graphite or iron
pontil.  The very most that a glass-maker and his helpers could make in a
day was about 240 bottles (not nearly enough for the demand at that time!)

-- between 1850-1890 the snap case began replacing the pontil.  Basicaly
a five foot metal rod, the end of which had tongs to grasp the bottle.  A
snap locked the tongs into place to allow the bottle to be finished
without the use of a pontil.  This was used up until the time when the
automatic bottling machine took over, roughly 1903, soon this machine was
turning out an amazing amount of bottles - one million bottles a week!

This information was the original research of Glenn Poch and was compilied
from many sources including: American
Glass (McKearin); Story of Glass (Hodges); A Treasury of American Bottles


Here's a story submission:


You know how a prive digger likes to talk about his hobby. During a recent
plane trip returning from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Roy Mize from Midwest
City, Oklahoma was talking about bottle collecting and privy digging to a man
sitting next to him. When he told me about it, I couldn't help conjuring up
memories of the 1980 movie " Airplane " which starred Robert Hays. In the
movie Hay's character was talking and talking, while the person seated next
to him was on the verge of suicide from listening to the endless story.

While Roy was putting the person next to him into a coma, another passenger,
who had overheard the conversation, started talking about a property he owned
in Ada, Oklahoma and how they had recently uncovered a bunch of old pop

Roy knew that the Ada bottling works had been uncovered a couple of months
ago, so he began to questoin the guy on what had been found. After a
conversation that lasted most of the flight, Roy had permission to dig as the
owner seemed to think that not all of the bottles had been found.

I'm not sure, but I think Roy called me from the airport. I could tell he was
excited when I answered the phone. The first thing out of his mouth was, "I
told you we should have gone to Ada the day we found out about the bottling
works." I must have heard him repeat that statement ten more times during the
next seven days. We set up a dig for Sunday.

Roy pulled up about 7:30 a.m. and naturally the first thing he said was, "
Next time you hear about a bottling works move a little faster." We loaded my
tools a headed for Ada.

When we got there, it didn't take long to find the lot. We tried to find the
owner but we were told he was gone until noon. We pulled out our tools a
started looking around. Iv'e learned from digging other bottling works that
there are usually a few bottles missed.

We started sinking test holes in the lot searching for a pocket of bottles.
We would dig a hole then move on. After looking for three hours we still
hadn't found anything.

About noon the property owner showed up. We talked for a while and he showed
us where they had found most of the bottles. They had found over 150 Oklahoma
soda bottles. He then pointed out a spot where they had just removed a slab
of concrete and told us nobody had dug under it.

We grabbed our shovels and started digging. You could tell that the dirt
hadn't been disturbed. I got down about twelve inches when my shovel hit a
bottle. I reached down and pulled out a ADA BOTTLING WORKS ADA, I.T. crown
top in great shape. I looked over at Roy and said, " I think we found the

Apparently I was wrong because after an hour of digging we had found nothing
else. How many times can that happen, you find the best bottle in the first
five minutes and spend the next hour just moving dirt. we'll we both knew it
was time to give up, but we had been lucky enough to find one good territory.

We loaded up our tools and headed home and oh yes, I had to listen to Roy all
the way.

Scott Leiter               -----THANKS SCOTT-------


Barber Bottles:

Barber bottles were produced from the 1870's through the 1920's, they
were colorful bottles usualy with a high degree of decoration and were
often filled with cologne and tonics (sometimes including alcohol).  The
food and drug act of 1907 restricted the use of alcohol in unlabeled
bottles and the barber bottles began their decline in production.  Many
barbers before the turn of the centuryu mixed their own tonics and would
then order the containers (sometimes personalized with customers names)
from glass factories.  The bottle was finished with a pewter or porcelian
top spout.  These bottles can be found in all colors, with paint
decoration and/or varing bottle shapes.  There are label under glass
examples and hobnailed examples, but the standard shape is a wider base
narrowing to the top (sometimes with a slight lady's leg shape).  More
generic brands were labeled: Witch Hazel, Bay Rum, Hair Tonic, Shapoo
ect.  The earlier bottles are pontiled and are very light in weight.  The
most common barber mass production barber bottles with no paint can be
found for $20-30, common painted earier examples can be found for
$60-100, more desirable pieces such as label under glass and personalized
customer name bottles are harder to find commanding $200-$500, with some
extremely rare bottles asking upwards of $1000.  Fenton glass company has
been reproducing some nice pattern barber bottles for a number of years
some as early 1930's these are still worth around $50 but they can easily
fool the novice collector!  For those wanting to learn more about
collecting barber bottles the reader is refered to Collecting Barber
Bottles by Richard Holiner (1986).


For Sale/Wanted Ads:

(if anyone has submitted me something I have not posted please re-mail me)

Wanted Fine bottles of all catagories (

For Sale:

Peach Flow Darner  $225-
Zingari Bitters (open bubble)  $135-

Extremely rare printing block (hops & buchu bitters) semi-cabin bottle
pictured with readable embossing $60-

for any of the above send to

Happy Collecting


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