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Vogue For Pictorial Bottles
Collectors and historians can be grateful to the Connecticut businessman who is reported to have thought of decorating bottles with men and scenes from American history. Our republic was new in the 1820s. The effects of a second short war were just passing. The following decades were full of conflict for industry and government. There were lively events to record and many forceful figures to portray.
Bottles were probably the first articles of glass to be made in America. During the first two centuries of our history, they continued to be the chief product of our glasshouses. From the time they were first made in pre-Christian Egypt and Syria, bottles were used for other liquids than alcohol. Since they were needed for serving, storing, and transporting fluids, many sizes and shapes were manufactured. The majority of bottles were made from glass of the cheapest of soda formulas and by the least expensive methods. Local sands were used with no attempt at removing impurities.
A few types such as scent bottles, ranging in size from those for slipping into a glove to those for dresser sets, were treated in the best fashion of the day. Stiegel listed miniature ones for smelling salts. Later, cologne and perfume bottles, as well as cruets and some other types, were also specially designed and decorated. But as a rule early bottles were left undecorated.
The first bottles were free-blown. Later they were blown into wooden molds to shape the bodies. For some time two-piece molds were employed to form all of the bottle but the mouth. This was hand-finished with glassblower's tools. Eventually, the whole bottle was blown into a mold. Then in 1899 Michael Owens at Toledo, Ohio, designed the first automatic machine for making bottles. The evolution of bottles from the squat, flat bottomed, "black glass" type to the tall bottle of today is an interesting phase in the history of glass.
Early nineteenth-century factories always listed a variety of bottles such as "Druggists and Confectioners Show Bottles," "Apothecary Vials," spirits (bottles for wine), "case" or gin bottles, blacking, ink, and snuff bottles, "Cologne Water" bottles, peppersauce, mustard, cayenne, and pickle jars, "Acid Bottles," and bottles for "Patent Medicine, Mineral Water, Tincture," liniments, and smelling salts. There were nursing bottles, gemel or twin bottles, saddle bottles, and quantities of flasks. Bottles were round, flat, octagonal, square (for packing), and of odd shapes. These containers were advertised in various sizes-demijohns, carboys, quarts, pints, "pocket bottles," and "Packing Bottles, in assorted sizes."