So You Found an Old Bottle

Digger Odell Publications 2008

So you found an old bottle? You might have been tramping in the woods, walking in the park, camping, hunting or any number of other outdoor activities. Your old bottle might have been on top of the ground,  partially buried, or it may have been totally hidden until you found it. You might have found old bottles at a construction site, while making an addition on your home, in your garden or even at a thrift store. Thousands of others have shared your pleasure of finding an old bottle. There is something mystical about the experience of touching something no one else has touched in maybe  a hundred years or more. Maybe your old bottle is an antique bottle or maybe it's just trash.

Questions swirl in your mind - How did it get here? Who owned it? What was in this old bottle? What is the value of this old bottle? Few of us get to participate in studies of the past, in archaeology or stumble upon buried treasure. But you found an old bottle. Old bottles offer us a means to engage with the past.

Bottlebooks.com is a place for such reflections and investigations. I get so many stories and questions about old bottles from people around the world. Just this week, from Australia I got a question about a torpedo soda bottle someone found marked R. Harrison Fitzroy. He had dug it up and had been trying to research it. I was not able to tell him much but his enthusiasm was real.

Another email this week said: Hi there, Last weekend we unearthed many bottles and pieces of bottles from around 1870 to 1903, buried on our property. One is a Vaseline Jar, some are Blue Bromo Seltzer, and one I cannot locate on line. It's a glass jar with a glass lid - I thought it was Bayles Herring, but I cannot locate anything. Do you know about this jar?

I was able to tell her that her bottle was a product of Geo. Bayles, of St. Louis who started in business there in 1878 making sauces, mustard and similar items. His  business disappeared by 1921. How fortunate to have a such dump right there on your own property.

Some days before that, another reader wrote about his old bottle: Dear Digger: Strange find and cannot locate anything on this particular bottle. I've researched everything that I can possibly think of with no results. I would be grateful for anything you could provide on this particular bottle, that's if it doesn't stump you as well. Embossed: NICOLAR'S K'CHIT-KA-BI FOR CANKER IN ALL FORMS AND BLEEDING OR ITCHING PILES Need to know if possible where the company originated, how long in business, how scarce this piece is (if at all), approximate value (if can be determined).

I could turn up nothing about this unusual item. I found a reference to and F. Nicolar & son Dry Good dealer in Tiffin, Ohio in 1898 but could not establish any connection.  His bottle is is both rare and valuable.
UPDATE: A history teacher in NYC sent this wonderful information about K'CHIT-KA-BI .

The most amazing story came several days ago:

"My wife and i were on a camping trip on the Georgetown, S.C. coast at the mouth of a small creek called " The Hole in the Rocks ". we had set up camp and were taking a walk down the coast when at the same time we noticed something sticking up out of the sand right at the edge of the surf. it looked like a long neck beer bottle and it was sitting up perfectly with just the neck exposed. I walked over to pick it up and it was rather hard to pull out of the sand because of the large bottom. i couldn't believe it was just sitting there upright like that. we didn't know what kind of bottle it was but we were pretty sure it was old. our best guess was that it was an old rum bottle. its just been sitting at the house for a while so we decided to try to find out what it was. thank you so much for the information. this is not ever going to be sold. hopefully one day a long time from now it will bring up good memories of my wife and i walking down that beach together when we were much younger."

To have uncovered such a prized historical artifact is a once in a blue moon happening. Their bottle is called a black glass mallet wine. It is of English origin and dates to 1750-1760!!!! TWO HUNDRED FIFTY YEARS OLD - Only thirty years after the Pilgrims landed. You'd think something of that age would be worth millions...but there are a surprising number of them around. If I had found such an item, I would have it proudly displayed on a shelf somewhere as the crown jewel of my collection.