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Archive for August, 2009

Lately I’ve begun to seriously catalog and date the bottles from the Brody site.  I have some previous experience dating bottles, but I have quickly learned how much more in-depth it can be.  There are huge amounts of previous research to help me find out as much as i can about each bottle.  Friends of mine have been asking a lot of good questions about manufacturing techniques and how I go about dating a bottle.  I won’t attempt to address it all at once, but here’s a start.

A large portion of the bottles that were collected from Brody hall share at least one thing in common.  They were machine made, not hand blown like their predecessors.  Before 1903, bottle making was a process that depended on skilled labor and was time consuming as well.  Michael Owens created a machine that could mass produce bottles without the need of hands on glass blowing.  The patent for the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine was granted in 1903.  By 1905, more than 90% of bottles produced in the United States were machine made.  Instead of producing one bottle at a time, bottles could now be produced at a rate of four per second.  This is a staggering revolution in the bottle industry.  Cost and production time were drastically cut, providing for the rapid expansion of the beer and soft drink industries.  Because bottles could be produced so quickly and easily by machine, they were no longer an item to be saved and reused.  As a result, many of them were tossed before breaking and can be easily  found in bottle dumps like the one at Brody Hall.

Check out this video of the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine in action!!!!!

So how does the Owens ABM work?  As you can see from the above video, the machine is a very complex merry-go-round that no one should ever be allowed to ride.  The machine measures out the correct amount of molten glass for each bottle and it is then forced into a pre-existing mold attached to the machine.  Molds could be changed and added to the machine in order to produce different bottle forms and types.  Much like previous production methods, the Owens machine leaves clues in the glass that are very helpful in identification and dating.  Very much like fingerprints, each method of production has unique identifiers.

The Owens machine has several:

  • Vertical seams run up to the lip, or at least very close to it.
  • “Ghost” seams run parallel to more the distinct, true seams.
  • Suction scar on base results from Press and Blow machine.
  • Owens used various identifiable makers marks on the base of each bottle(see photographs).
  • Numbering system provides reliable data on age and location of production(see photographs).

Any Questions?  I still have plenty.

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