BIG BOTTLES BIG HISTORY Part 2

Digger Odell Publications © 2008

The tariffs boosted the potential for profit which spurred American glass-makers to ramp-up production but there was no operation big enough to immediately replace all the imported glass. Nevertheless, the effect was electric and it was one of America’s pioneer glass-makers who first rose to the challenge. The Niles Weekly Register Oct 29, 1825 announced:

Glass wares. A manufacturer, at Philadelphia, advertises about ninety thousand groce of apothecaries' vials and bottles of various descriptions, and 5,000 demijohn-all said to be manufactured at his own works.

“Said to be manufactured at his own works” suggests surprise at the accomplishment. The person to whom the notice refers could be none other than Dr. Dyott, Philadelphia druggist and glass-maker. Dyott had business dealings with the Kensington Glassworks because of his great need for bottles. He was part, if not whole owner of the operation by 1821. In 1823, although on the verge of bankruptcy (McKearin & Wilson), in part due to foreign competition, Dyott began a decade long era of expansion, adding various glass factories to his inventory and eventually organizing what he called the Dyottville Glassworks.

The effects of the 1824 tariff were reviewed in an article in the Niles Weekly Register August 1, 1829. entitled “Treaty with Great Britain”

The value of the glass, of all descriptions, used in the United States, is unknown; but it may he estimated, we think, at not less than three millions of dollars, annually: The duties at present levied on glass amount very nearly to a "PROHIBITION" on all the sorts in most common use, either by the wealthy or the poor, and especially window glass; and, in the hacknied phrase of the times our manufacturers may be said to have a MONOPOLY in this useful and beautiful product. And what is the effect of it? The fact is; that the general price of glass has been reduced not less than FORTY per cent.''' since 1824, the date of the all-destroying" tariff….

 

Now, it, as above estimated, the annual consumption of glass in the United States is equal to 3,000,000 dollars, It will appear that five-sixths of the whole supply is from our own factories. And, as the price has had an average reduction of forty per cent. since 1824, there is an annual saving to consumers in the sum of 11,200,000

A Binny, in a Report on Manufactures of Glass in the Nile Weekly Register, August 27, 1832 writes of the findings of the committee on the subject of the manufacture of glass, porcelain, and other manufactures of clay.

The committee are aware that there exists in the United States several manufactories of green bottles, demijohns and apothecaries' ware and shop furniture, but they have not been able to. procure detailed statements of their extent, except from the large establishment of Dyott, at Kensington, near Philadelphia. "This establishment is on a more extensive scale than any other of the kind in the United States, consisting of four furnaces, melting about 8,000 lbs. per day, averaging about twelve hundred tons-per annum, which is blown into apothecaries' phials, bottles, shop furniture, &c. This glass is composed of materials altogether the production of the American soil, and about fifteen thousand barrels of rosin, from North Carolina, are annually consumed as fuel, in preference to wood or coal, from 250 to 300 men and boys are constantly employed. Previous to the late tariff, this establishment struggled hard for existence, against foreign competition, and was upon the point of being closed, since its enactment, the importation of foreign glass ware of this description is nearly suspended: and the prices have been reduced fully fifty per cent. and the quality of the ware is at least equal, if not superior, to the foreign manufacture. It is believed that a reduction of the tariff would operate a destruction of this establishment, and, after a short time, produce an increase in the prices of the manufacture, as well as throw out of employ a great number of our fellow citizens” The committee have not been informed of more than one manufactory of black glass bottles, carboys and demijohns; this is near Boston, employing a capital of fifty thousand dollars, and making six thousand groce of bottles annually, employing sixty five men and boys, who receive in wages about twenty thousand dollars a year….

Even by 1832, few glass companies were producing demijohns and large bottles in any appreciable quantity because demand for them was less than for quart sized and smaller bottles. Aside from Dyott and the one other concern in Boston domestic production was small. The ‘other concern’ was almost certainly the New England Glass Bottle Company- located in East Cambridge, near the Charles River, and between Craigie's and Cambridge Bridges that began production in 1827. Deming Jarves and Edmund Monroe, the principals, organized the company in late 1826. However, advertisements for their black and green glass from the first two years of operation do not mention demijohns.

It is probable that the few demijohns blown by early domestic producers were similar in shape to the imports for several reasons. First, the public was somewhat dubious about the quality of American glass. That the imports were superior, particularly the British imports, persisted from the late 1700s for a number of decades. Second, circumstantial evidence from literature, art and advertising also suggest a form like the European demijohn as shown in the cartoon entitled “John and Demijohn” published in 1829. Another cartoon published in 1843 with a temperance movement poem shows a bulbous demijohn. Likewise, O’Brien’s Wholesale Business Directory and Circular for 1848 pictures an ad for Dyottville Glass showing a bulbous globular demijohn with a tapered lip which in America became the standard lip finish.

At some point however, things changed. Later American demijohns ranging from 1 to 5 gallons are typically cylindrical not ovoid. According to McKearin & Wilson, it was not until the mid 19th century that the cylindrical style of demi-john appeared. Examples of pontiled blown cylindrical demijohns are known and likely date in the early 1850s.

Mold blown examples replaced the earlier free blown bottles. It has been suggested that American demijohns, including Dyott’s were blown using clay, rather than wood or metal molds. Iron pontiled examples were blown in the mid 19th century probably into the 1860s.

LATER FORMS

The so-called “loaf of bread” demijohn was patented in 1884 by Edward R. Emerson of New York to furnish a demijohn convenient to carry, compact in form, so that a number can be packed together sided by side without loss of space. Kidney-shaped bottles are another later form. Both of these types would have been mold blown to form the basic body shape.

Label under glass wicker covered demijohns were patented by Richard Dempsey of Philadelphia in 1874. His intention was to provide a convenience for druggists, liquor-dealers and others who loan bottles and demijohns to their customers for temporary use….

Wicker-covered vessels frequently also require to be permanently marked with labels descriptive of the nature of their contents, and this has hitherto been done by a tag, which is easily displaced and lost. My improve is designed to obviate the difficulties referred to; and it consists in forming an opening of the required size and shape in the wicker-work, and fastening to the body of the covered vessel a label of glass…or other material containing the name and address of the owner.

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