Artifical mineral waters, nowadays
usually called 'soft drinks', 'soda' or 'fizzy drinks', have their origins
in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and grew out of the demand
for the natural mineral waters which had supposedly health-giving properties.
For many centuries natural mineral waters were sold at 'spa' health resorts
in Britain and the continent. Bottled natural mineral waters were imported
in large quantities into Britain from the continent, from towns such as
Pyrmont and Pouhon-in-Spa, from the early or mid 18th century onwards.
A mineral water bottle made, and filled with natural mineral water, in
Belgium in the first half of the 18th century and exported to England.
It was discovered in an old well in Cambridge in the 1980s. This almost
certainly predates any purpose-made English mineral water bottles (Photograph
by kind permission of Jude Swales. Photograph © Jude Swales 2008)
In 1772 Joseph Priestley, an
English scientist, published his Directions
for impregnating water with fixed air; in order to communicate to it the
peculier Spirit and Virtues of Pyrmont Water or, in other words,
how to make basic soda water. Within ten years artifical mineral waters
were being manufactured and sold in Britain, but it was not until the
first couple of decades of the 19th century that the manufacture of soda
water and other carbonated drinks became moderately widespread in Britain.
Probably the earliest datable bottle for British artifical mineral bottles
is that used by Nicholas Paul of London (see below).
A stoneware bottle used by Nicolas Paul of London for his 'Mephitic
Water'. Discovered in the river Thames, this is the earliest datable
British bottle for artificial mineral waters and can be dated to the period
1802 - 1805. (In the collection of John Foumakis. Photograph © John
There were two main practical
problems early bottlers of fizzy drinks had to address if they were to
be able to store their mineral waters for any length of time. Firstly
was the need for extra strong bottles, able to withstand the build up
of pressure inside them without bursting. Secondly, how were they to keep
the fizz inside the bottles? Cork stoppers are adequate for this job,
but only if they are kept wet (cork shrinks as it dries out, letting the
gas escape). The various solutions to these problems provide collectors
with a huge variety of, to our eyes, strange and wonderful bottles to
find and collect.
An early solution to both of these
problems, was the use of the 'egg bottle', or the torpedo or hamilton
bottle as it is usually known to modern collectors. This type of bottle
was widely used in the very early 19th century. The large number of early
(pre-1830) examples that survive illustrate that the shape was very robust,
but also that they must have been manufactured in their millions. The
need to lie the bottle on it's side also ensured that the cork stayed
An early 'Hamilton' bottle used by R. Johnston of Greek Street in Soho,
London, in the period c. 1810 - 1830. One side is embossed with the name
and address of the bottler (top photograph), while the other side is embossed
'Hamiltons Patent Aerated Waters'. This embossing was misinterpreted by
bottle collectors in the 1960s and 1970s, who thought it referred to the
bottle, and so these bottles were given the name of 'hamiltons'. In fact
Hamilton's patent was for the drink that the bottle contained. The term
'hamilton' has however stuck with collectors, although they are often
also called 'Torpedo bottles', especially in the USA and Australia. The
unusual shape was one way of addressing the problem of how to make strong
bottles that also kept the fizz in fizzy drinks. If corks dry out they
shrink. If they shrink all the gas escapes from the bottle and the drink
goes 'flat'. This side-lying bottle ensured that the corks stayed wet.
The name given to these bottles by the glass makers who made them and
the mineral water makers who used them was usually 'egg bottle'. (Bottle
in the collection of Wayne Wood. Photograph © Wayne Wood 2007).
Below we pick up the story at about 1830, and
use some of the mineral water bottles in our collections to show a tiny
selection of the full range of shapes, sizes and colours of antique glass
(and stoneware) mineral water bottles that can be found.
Neither of us specifically collects these types
of bottles, but as a category they are very common and extremely varied,
and over the years we have between us found quite a number of interesting
examples, many of which we have kept.
Torpedo or hamilton bottles. The earliest type
of bottle that was widely used for artificial mineral waters was
the very distinctive 'egg bottle', as it was called by the people
who manufactured or used them. They are usually called 'torpedos'
or 'hamilton bottles' by collectors today (see the early black
glass 'Hamiltons Patent' version above). This pair of hamiltons
show the evolution of the hamilton bottle shape between the 1820s
and the 1900s. The green bottle is pontilled,
and has the pre-1831 Margaret Street address of Schweppe &
Co. The example below it is from a Nottingham company, and dates
to about 1900.
Stoneware as well as glass. In the early decades of the
19th century stoneware hamilton bottles were widely used in Britain.
This salt glazed example was made in Derbyshire for the Calcutta
chemists Bathgate & Co. It has the Denby & Codnor Park
pottery mark that dates it to 1833 - 34. Stoneware hamilton bottles
are rare, but are known from companies in London, St Ives (Huntingdonshire),
Chesterfield, and Sheffield, amongst other towns. Plain examples,
with no markings at all, turn up from time to time on pre-1850
sites throughout Britain.
on a theme. There are numerous variations on the basic
'hamilton' shape. These two bottles are from the Nottinghamshire
market town of Retford, and were used in the 1860s - 1890s by
William Unsworth. Unsworth used at least ten different types,
including cylindrical, octagonal, and ten-sided bottles, ribbed
bottles, and round and point based types.
4. Round based
instead of point based. An alternative shape that was
widely used from about 1840 to 1900 was the round based cylinder.
This shape of bottle is commonly found embossed with the names
of the drinks they contained. For example this mid blue one from
the Boston, Lincolnshire, company of J. H. Thomas is embossed
'J. H. THOMAS'S / NECTAR / BOSTON'. Round based cylinders are
often found in ten or twelve sided variations, or with pronounced
longidtudinal ribs running from the neck to the base.
5. Or you could
just lie it on it's side. This bottle is a shape that
was widely used for non-alcoholic fizzy ginger beer in England
in the middle decades of the 19th century. This one was used by
the Lincoln partnership of Ford & Bayne in the early 1850s
(their very short-lived partnership was dissolved in 1854). Instead
of having a pointed or rounded base it is simply embossed with
the words 'TO BE KEPT ON IT'S SIDE'. The other side of the bottle
is embossed 'FORD & BAYNE / LINCOLN'. This is one of a number
that were discovered by workmen behind a pub on Lincoln High Street
in the 1980s. That hoard seems to be the only place where these
particular bottles have ever been found. There are also extremely
versions of this bottle. Given the early date of these bottles
it's surprising that none of them are pontilled!
6. Codds patent
of the early 1870s. Left is an early example of a Codd's
patent bottle, another approach to keeping the fizz in the bottle
which rapidly became phenomenally successful, and which remained
widely used in Britain for 60 years. The glass ball in the neck
of the bottle is the stopper. The bottle was filled upside down
so that the ball fell against the rubber washer in the neck, forming
an airtight seal. The pressure then held the marble in place.
No cork, so no drying, so no leakage! Codd's bottle was one of
the first, and was the most successful, of hundreds of types of
internally stoppered mineral water bottles. It spawned huge numbers
of imitations and refinements in ensuing decades. Check out Mark
Stuff website for more background to Codd's patent bottles
and the hundreds of competitors, imitatons and improvements to
it that can be found.
7. Old habits
die hard. When Codds patent came along the hamilton bottle
had been widely used for 40 or 50 yeasr, and the pointed base
had become associated in the public mind with fizzy drinks. As
a result the makers of codd bottles offered mineral water manufacturers
the option of having marble stoppered bottles made with the traditional
pointed base. The result was the slightly odd looking 'hybrid'
bottle. The example here was used by the Lincolnshire mineral
water firm of John Davies, from Gainsborough. On the back it is
embossed 'Codd's Expired Patent', dating it to after
Half - way house. This bottle dates to about 1900 - 1905
and is half way between being a point based hybrid and a more
'normal' flat based codd bottle. Called a 'skittle codd' by collectors,
this was a moderately popular type of bottle in some areas. Although
this example was made for a Worksop, Nottinghamshire, soft drinks
company (J. T. Shardlow), this style was particularly popular
in what is now South Africa.
codds. The two bottles at the left are what might be
described as ordinary codd bottles. Called the codd 'Original'
by glass makers at the time, they are flat based (but with curved
corners to make them more resistant to breakage) with two lugs
on one side of the neck, to prevent the marble rolling back into
the mouth of the bottle while the drink is being poured. These
are both from Lincolnshire companies. The smaller one is from
John Davies of Gainsborough, and the larger one was used by John
Marrat, a general dealer from Market Rasen who set up a small
mineral water business around the time of the first world war.
10. The Alpha.
This is one of the many variations on the basic codd
bottle to be found. Made by Turners glass works of Dewsbury in
West Yorkshire, this bottle makes use of the basic codds patent
for the glass marble sealed by a rubber washer, but the marble
is retained in the neck, when pouring the drink out of the bottle,
by square shaped shoulders. This bottle was made for B. G. Arthur
of Worksop, and has a trade mark of a sailing ship. It is one
of three found in a cellar in a small village near Worksop in
4-way pourer. The standard codd bottle, as shown in picture
9, could only be poured in one direction because it only had two
retaining lugs in the neck. This variation, known as a Dobson
type codd after the bottle maker who developed and most widely
manufactured it, enables the bottle to be poured in any direction.
Made for M. Whittaker of Matlock in Derbyshire, this bottle has
a trade mark which shows two men drinking. One asks the other
'How's that for a drink?'. The other replies 'Immense'. Victorian
marketing in a nutshell: direct and to the point.
Coloured codds bottles were widely used. These two Dobson
type bottles were used by Shardlow of Worksop. The larger one
in green is very scarce and quite late, dating to the 1920s. Apart
from colour it is identical to other codd bottles used by Shardlow
between the 1890s and 1920s. One reason these particular bottles
are so scarce is probably that Shardlows stock of codd bottles,
along with the bottle filling machinery, was sold to an Indian
company in the late 1920s or early 1930s. There are proabably
a lot of these bottles waiting to be found, somewhere in India.
|| 13. More
variations: Beavis patent, and Shaws patent. On
the left is a Beavis' patent from John Davies of Gainsborough. The
curved cross-pinch in the neck, intended to make the bottle easier
to clean, was patented by a mineral water maker from Bristol in
1897, and was quite widely used over the next ten years so, although
examples from John Davies are very rare, examples of the patent
used by other mineral water companies are not difficult to find.
On the right is a Shaw's patent bottle. This patent was granted
for the addition of strengthening ridges on the outside of weak
points in codd bottles to reduce the risk of breakage. Having been
granted in 1907, it is one one of the last patents granted specifically
for an adaptation to a codd type bottle.
Barrett and Elers patent. Very
different from a codd bottle, but still relying on an internal stopper,
is the Barrett and Elers patent. This is a patent in which the rubber
washer is incorporated into the stopper, rather than the bottle.
In this case the stopper is a short rod of lignum vitae (a very
hard, heavy and durable wood), with the washer towards one end.
This example was made for the Lincoln firm of Bayne, and dates to
the late 1870s.
stoppers start a comeback. Internal stoppered bottles
were eventually replaced by screw-stoppered bottles, although
it took many years. These two bottles have Bird & Fenby's
Patent screw stoppers, and were used by Alfred Foster of Retford
in the 1890s. Bird & Fenby's patent was moderately successful,
being popular with a small number of mineral water companies at
that time. The stopper has a very distinctive 6-sided design which
was part of the Bird and Fenby trade mark.
different. In the same way that soda water was traditionally
bottled in point based bottles, another type of carbonated drink,
Seltzer Water, was traditionally bottled in squat bottles with short
necks. The shape of these bottles remained more or less unchanged
from the 1850s through to the 1920s. This example, which dates from
about 1900, is in amber glass, but dark green and even aqua glass
examples are also common.
stoppers', in two sizes (10oz and 6oz) and various shades
of blue, including turquoise/copper blue, pale cobalt, mid cobalt
and dark cobalt. Like the Barrett & Elers patent (number 9,
above), so-called bullet stoppered bottles have internal stoppers
where the sealing rubber washer is incorporated into the stopper
rather than into the lip of the bottle. There were numerous different
patents for the design of stoppers for these types of bottles.