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 1865.  The middle picture shows an open pontil on the base of a cylindrical medicine bottle.  The third picture shows the base of a milk bottle from just after the trun of the century.  The disk-like mark is sometimes confused with a pontil.  the pontil is actually broken glass where the metal rod used to hold the bottle while the lip was form was broken off leaving a sharp scar. 

Close up of iron pontil

1840-1865

Close up of an open pontil

1800-1865

1900 milk base for comparison

A Close Look at the Owens Ring

Beginning collectors often confuse an Owen's ring with a pontil mark and it is easy to see why this happens.  The pictures below are from two early machine made medicine bottles.  I have put up pictures of the lips so that the readers can see how they mold goes all the way over the top as shown below.  Notice how sharp and fine the mold seam line is.  This is different than an older hand tooled, hand blown bottle.  The pressure from the automatic machine was strong and the molds fit tight leaving only a very thin line.  In the neck on the right notice how just below the collar the mold seam goes complete around the neck.  This was the manner in which the early Owens bottles were blown.  the neck and the body had different molds. But the process was completed in a single blow.

Both of these medicine bottles look much like their earlier counterparts. the step out collar of the example on the left is characteristic of bottles of the late teens and 1920s.  the bottle on the right appears to have a tapered collar a form which was very popular for more than 60 prior to the making of this bottle.

This is the base of the bottle whose lip is shown above left.  Note the diagonal line which cuts across the base is obliterated by the Owens Ring (the large off-center curcular feature).  Inside the Owens ring are several numbers.  the base is crudely made for a machine made bottle.  Owens' early bottles were often cruder than their hand blown hand tooled counterparts. The glass is rough (not sharp) around the circumference of the Owens ring. Notice also how unlike most pontil marks, the Owens ring covers the whole base of this bottle.

The base of the second bottle whose lip was shown above right is displayed here.  The the lower left corner you can see evidence of the diagonal mold seam which at one time bisected the base.  The Owens ring again covers the entire base and even intrudes out to the side of the bottle slightly.  In the center of the Owens Ring the Owens mark is shown the diamond.  the right side is crude and was disturbed by the action of marking the marking with Owens Ring. Owens rapidly made improvements as eh redesigned his machine numerous times and eventually over came the problems of uniformity see here.

1920-1940 Early Screw Top Bottles

All of the bottle mouths shown below were machine made.  In the 1920s, the bottle mimicked early forms which were hand tooled and sealed with a cork.  The automatic bottle machine was much more precise in gathering an exact amount of glass and the same amount of glass for each bottle this consistency lead to more uniform products.  With the uniformity, came the possibility to create a solid seal with a screw cap.  Slowly the corked top bottle began to disappear in favor of the screw top.  Perfumes and whisky and other alcoholic beverage  bottles of this period often retained their cork closures.  The food and household product industries on the other hand widely adopted the screw cap quickly.

1921

1922

 

1924

 

1926

 

1927

1928

1928

1928

1929

1934

1935

1936

1937

1938

1938

1939

1939

1940

 

1941

1941

1941

 

1942

 

 

One unique closure to the late 1930s was a three point screw top.  Unlike most screw caps, the three point screw top had three lugs jutting out from the lip which were to engage a metal cap.  This closure can be found on Whisky and medicine bottles of the 1837-1940 period.

Three point closure. circa 1938

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