As Berge noted in referring to bottles, the " This bottle dating "key" is a relatively simple "first cut" on the dating of a bottle. Please be aware that in order to gain the maximum information about any particular bottle e. Unfortunately, the complexities of precisely dating bottles is beyond the scope of any simple key.
A substantial amount of bottle type specific information must be reviewed by a user to increase the probability of dating accuracy. Additional reference materials outside of this website must often be consulted to narrow down the date of any item as far as is possible and to really get a "feel" for the history of the bottle in question. The information on this website will, however, usually produce a reliable manufacturing date range for a majority of American utilitarian bottles manufactured from the early s to the midth century.
For the first time user of this site it is highly recommended that the following information be read prior to using the key below. First this cautionary note: Bottle dating is not a precise science! Using physical, manufacturing related diagnostic features, most utilitarian bottles can usually only be accurately placed within a date range of years i. There are numerous reasons for this: Like many industries making the leap from manual craftsman production to industrialization and automation, technological advances in bottle manufacturing were not immediately accepted by glass manufacturers or their workers.
Acceptance often occurred over a period of many years or decades in some cases. This technology lag makes some diagnostic characteristics better than others for dating.
This will be noted where known. As a corollary to 1, consider the following quote: We can always have some indication of a starting date for a technique if we can find who first put the idea into practice.
But any technique, once developed, can be used right up to the present - as many collectors know who have been so unfortunate as to rely too heavily on a popular termination date as sure evidence of true antiquity In short, there was and is nothing to stop a glassmaker from using an obsolete method in the production of a bottle.
Some technological changes were expensive and not adopted by glass makers until it became an "adapt or perish" issue and many glass factories just perished. The shift to the fully automated bottle machine from mouth-blown and some semi-automatic methods in the early 20th century is the classic example Toulouse , a. The same bottle could have been recycled and reused many times for many years before finally being discarded - entire or broken Busch This was almost universal with many beverage bottle types e.
The two products were from separate companies which were cross-town [Sacramento, CA. The author has also seen Star Bitters labels on Wait's bottles as well as both labels on the immensely period popular Hostetter's Stomach Bitters bottles!
Reuse, of course, does not change the manufacturing date of the bottle itself, but care must be exercised when using the known date of one or a few bottles to date other items found from the same context.
When a likely or known "older" item is found in a known "newer" site it is referred to as deposition lag. An example of this is the finding of a few pontil scarred utilitarian bottles among otherwise late 19th or early 20th century refuse. It is unlikely that this bottle was made during the same era, but instead was reused for a lengthy period or otherwise retained until broken or discarded.
Pontiled base fragments could also be from later produced "specialty" bottles which are described below. Other diagnostic tools must be used to date these items. Shape is more indicative of function - i. All this adds to the fascination with bottle making, but makes systematic dating similar to solving Rubik's cube - ostensibly simple on the surface but complex in practice.
To misquote an old saying as rephrased by the BLM supervisor that facilitated the initiation of this website project: That is the point of this website. A yet a couple additional factors to keep in mind in the dating of bottles Utilitarian items makes up the bulk of the bottles produced during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century.
They are defined as: Produced during the era where all bottles were an relatively rare and cherished commodity to be discarded only when broken i. Utilitarian bottles include the majority of the bottles in the following bottle categories or types: Click canning jar to view the typology page section devoted to that category. The beer bottle pictured to the above left is a classic example of a utilitarian bottle from the late 19th century that was typically reused.
The dating guidelines found on these Dating Pages and the entire website do not always work well with what the author calls "specialty" bottles click for more information.
For example, some bottle types which were intended to be kept indefinitely like the early 20th century barber bottle pictured to the right were produced with the use of pontil rods leaving telltale pontil scars on bottles into at least the early 20th century.
The base image below is of an late 19th to early 20th century barber bottle base with a very distinct blowpipe pontil scar with a little residual iron from the pontil rod. Another exception example is that the bottles for expensive, low production liquors e. Specialty bottles include a significant number of bottles in the following categories: Many specialty bottles were imported from Europe, though that fact may be at times hard to impossible to ascertain. Specialty bottles can be, of course, occasionally found on historic sites usually fragments, but occasionally intact but can rarely be used to help date the site because of the diagnostic problems and deposition lag issues noted above.
Having stated the above, there are still many diagnostic features or characteristics that provide a high probability of both dating and typing a bottle with some precision. A key concept in historic bottle dating is the high probability i. The general probability estimates noted on this website are based on a merging of reliable references with empirical observations made by this site's affiliated consulting experts see the About This Site page and the author who have been students of historic bottle dating and identification for many years.
Notes on embossing, labeling, and existing research Raised embossing and when present, paper labeling on a bottle can frequently provide important details to refine the probable manufacturing date range if information exists for the company that either manufactured the bottle i. For example, the early mineral water bottle pictured here is known to date between based on the information provided by the embossing company name embossed on the pictured side and the glass maker - Union Glass Works - embossed on the reverse and complimentary research done by collectors Markota Researched historical information of variable depth and quality exists for thousands of different - typically embossed - bottles.
Published works generally cover either a particular city, region, or category of bottles. Quality examples of references within each of these three categories are, respectively, Gordon Pollard's book on Plattsburg, NY bottles Bottles and Business in Plattsburgh, New York: See the References page for more information. For a large majority of embossed and unembossed bottles, however, there is little or nothing formally published on the details of their origins. Only a relative few geographic areas or areas of collecting interest have received more than cursory historical treatment and the majority of this is due to the efforts of collectors.
Time has taken its toll on records, of course, but much of what happened in the past was simply not documented well or at all as with most endeavors of common people in the past. As noted in Munsey's book, "When it comes to methods of dating bottles As Munsey also notes - "Most of what is used today to date bottles Still all true today.
This body of information will be utilized and extrapolated to make dating and typing estimates for the majority of bottles for which there is either no specific company or glass maker information available or such is not possible to determine because the bottles are unmarked i.
To the authors knowledge, the first and only serious attempt at using a key to date American bottles was done in a Historical Archaeology journal article entitled A Dating Key For Post-Eighteenth Century Bottles by T. Stell Newman Newman Newman's key made a noble attempt at simplifying bottle dating, but is weakened by the fact that the subject is much too complex to be conducive to such a simple approach by itself.
Also, the format and space constraints of a journal article do not allow for the elaboration and illustrations necessary to make a key function fully Jones b.
Newman wryly recognized all this with his reworking of an old saying: A pdf copy of Newman's article is available now courtesy of the SHA by clicking on this link: This website is designed to have the informational depth, pictures, and illustrations necessary to solve the problems of the Newman key though his warning still holds though hopefully less so.
This entire website is essentially a key to the dating and typing of bottles. Before jumping into the key, it must again be emphasized that no single key can get a user to an absolutely precise date for any bottle. The best the following key can do is get a user to a reliably close dating range estimate. Other information on this website usually must be reviewed to fine tune the information about a specific bottle.
In addition, other references beyond the scope of this website usually must be consulted to get as complete of a dating and typing story as is possible for any given bottle. Keep this all in mind as you progress through the key which follows and on into the other website pages Starting with Question 1 , follow through the questions as suggested. There is frequent hyper-linking between the diagnostic characteristics and terminology listed on this page and other website pages.
This is done to allow the user to get more information or clarification as they proceed through the key. Pursue these links freely since they will take a user to more details on bottle dating and identification and hopefully add to the users knowledge and understanding about the bottle being "keying out".
When a dating sequence dead ends, it will be noted and other website pages suggested and hyperlinked for the user to consult. The three questions found on this page below answer several basic questions about a given bottle. Answers to these questions will then direct a user to one of the two additional dating pages which are extensions of this key for the two major classes of bottles - mouth-blown bottles and machine-made bottles.
Read the questions - and accompanying explanations and exceptions - very carefully as the correct answer is critical to moving properly through the "key. This page guides a user through the key for seven different type and age bottles with several being side-by-side comparisons of very similar bottles of different eras. This page also shows how other portions of this website can provide information pertinent to the bottle in question. See the About This Site page for more information about the author and contributors.
For brevity, most of the specific references are not noted in the key's narratives. They are noted on the other website pages which expand on the information summarized in the key. If you know your bottle is machine-made click Machine-Made Bottles to move directly to that page. If you know your bottle is mouth-blown aka hand-made click Mouth-blown Bottles to move directly to that page. If unsure about what embossing or vertical side mold seams picture below are, click on Bottle Morphology to see this sub-page for a illustration and explanation of these and many other key bottle related physical features.
Return back to this page by closing the Bottle Morphology page. Vertical side mold seam on the neck of a beer bottle ending well below the finish, indicating that it was at least partially handmade - ca.
YES - The bottle has embossing or visible vertical side mold seams somewhere on the body between the heel and the base of the finish or lip. A bottle may have mold seams but no embossing, but all embossed bottles were molded and have mold seams even if they are not readily apparent.