ANOTHER "GREAT FEATURE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
Seal bottles of varyingshapes.
There is an additional method of embossedlabeling which was used in the 17th century and continued intothe 19th century. That method involves the use of a slug or globof molten glass added to the outside of the bottle. After thebottle is formed, but still hot, a hot glass slug is placed onthe side of the bottle, usually on the shoulder or high on theside, and then formed flat against the bottle with a tool, thatis inscribed with letters or a symbol. This produces a round oroval glass form, attached to the bottle, with the desired wordsor symbol permanently visible. These embossed slugs are referredto as seals or applied seals. The application of the seal ispermanent to the bottle and cannot be removed without damagingthe bottle.
Much has been written about European seals andEnglish wine bottles with applied glass seals. Sometimes theembossing was a symbol, name or initials, and often it included adate. The first examples of European seals date back to the mid1600's. These first glass seals on bottles were a sign ofownership, proprietary identification, or stature of thewell-to-do.
The use of a seal pre-dates anyuse of a written language. The first seals date to about 6500 BCand were used by the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia, inpresent day Iraq. These earliest seals were called amulet-seals(amulet being a charm often inscribed with a magicincantation or symbol to protect the wearer against evil likedisease or witchcraft). The amulet-seals had areligious motif along with crude markings which represented theowner's signature. These amulet-seals were carried on the owner'swrist or neck. It was believed that the amulets had power againstthe evils of the world and provided a source of confidence. Theseearly amulet-seals were each unique, being different from anotherwhile maintaining the common religious theme. The mark of theowner's seal could be pressed into moist clay pots to defineownership. This mark from the seal represented the owner and wasrespected.
In the late 1600's., English law prohibited thesale of wine in glass containers. This required that the wine beconsumed at the vendors pub or the customers had to supply theirown containers to be filed with wine to take home. Thearistocratic owner would have his bottles filled when needed,knowing he was going to get his own bottles back because theywere marked with an embossed seal. It was a sign of affluence toserve wine in a bottle containing a seal.
A bottle with an applied seal is determined tobe an American Seal if it has an American's name on the seal andwas sold or used in America. This means the bottle with contentswas owned or sold in America even though it may not have beenmade in America.
The Black Glass period of American seals isgenerally the 18th century with a little extension into the 19thcentury, possibly as late as 1830-1835 During this time, theunderlying use of seals changed from being a personalidentification to that of a commercial identity. Some of thelatter Black Glass seals were for wine merchants i.e. I.L.M.Smith and Robert Cochran.
|18th Century Black Glass Seals.||19th Century American Made Seals.||The standard 19th Century sealed whiskey.|
Initial examples of American seals fromJamestown and Williamsburg were probably made in England for someof the wealthy new settlers. In the early 1700's, the bottles ofearly Philadelphia and New York settlers were also a sign ofownership and stature and were possibly made at the WistarburgGlass Manufactory on Alloway N.J. The bottles of the later periodof the 1700's were a large style mallet used as a supplycontainer for serving wine instead of a small personal sizebottle.
In the early 1800's, the applied glass began tobe used for commercial purposes and started to take on themeaning of quality. This meaning of quality, or portrayal ofhigher class and value, was derived from the previousaristocratic ambience of the use of seals in England and Europe.There was minimal use of the applied glass seal from the 1820'sto about 1850.
By the mid 1800's, may Americanwhiskey merchants were using bottles with applied seals to toutthe superior quality of their whiskey. This was especially truein Philadelphia and New York where 70% of the recorded whiskeyseals were used. Typical of this quality issue was MonongahelaWhiskey mentioned on many seals of Philadelphia or Kentuckybottles. The Monongahela Whiskey was evidently a good qualitywhiskey, made in the Pittsburgh area and probably bulked, bybarge or wagon, to Philadelphia or Kentucky for bottling anddistribution. These bottles were mostly squatty type cylinders ofa light to dark amber. The embossing on the seal usually includedthe proprietor's name, the city , and a date which is probablythe date which is probably the date the establishment wascreated. Sometimes the glob of glass was too small for theembossing and part of the name was lost. Additionally, some sealswere embossed upside down. Some whiskey bottles had only initialson the seal with a paper label on the opposite side. Many of thepre-1850 whiskey containers were odd shapes, like a jug with ahandle.
During this same time period, olive oil wasquite popular, and the grocery merchants began using sealedbottles for olive oil. This was especially true in Philadelphiawhere 38 seals have surfaced, 75% of the total recorded examplesof olive oil seals. Even if the olive oil was bottles in Europe,the embossed seal would contain the American merchant's name andusually the city name. These bottles were generally cylindricaland the color ranged from very dark olive green to aqua or clear.The size could be from a 1/2 pint to a quart.
These merchants of whiskey, wine, and olive oilin the late 1800's, who were using the seal bottles for theirproducts were trying to convey a sense of superior quality(purity, character, premium value, or excellence) as a reason forpatrons to buy their brand instead of some other brand. Whatbetter way could there be to show this quality than to have anembossed glass seal on the side of the bottle? Having the sealapplied was not difficult when the bottles were hand blown.Additionally, this seal portrayed quality much better than justembossing the side of the bottle. There is no indication thatthese seal bottles were re-used to any great extent. They do nothave the familiar This bottle not to be soldphrase on the back as many other bottles of the time contained.The embossed applied glass seal eventually evolved to a flatunembossed seal for a paper disk label.
Sealed olive oilbottles.
Seal bottles were used to some extent until theautomatic bottle machines corralled the molten glass in theentire bottle industry around 1910. The automatic machines wouldproduce bottles at too fast a rate to have a hand applied sealplaced on the shoulder. From there the machine-made bottles had amolded seal seat, on the shoulder of the bottle, for a paper disklabel. Finally, the concept of a seal died for many years untilrecently when there have been some efforts to use a wax orplastic seal as Grand Marnier has on their liqueur bottles.
There have been a couple of reproductions ofwhiskey type squat cylinder bottles with applied glass seals. Inthe early 1960's, Wheaton Industries made the ROBERTBROS. 1863, which is very similar to theauthentic NATHANS BROS. 1863. This squatcylinder style bottle was also produced by Wheaton in the late1960's with a fully molded seal of ROGERS BROS. 1850. There is one authentic effort in recent years ofusing a glass seal by OVERHOLT 1810,which had an applied glass seal on a machine-made bottle fromabout 1960. This bottle still has the paper labels which aresomewhat convincing that the bottle is authentic and not a reprolike the above mentioned ROBERTS BROS. bottle.
There was some limited use of seals onapothecaries, bitters bottles, cordials, beer and case ginbottles. Robert Gray of Philadelphia used a seal bottle for hisbeer about 1830 with GRAY'S BRN / PHILA /STOUT on the seal. All of these 19th Centuryuses of bottles with applied glass seals were an effort toportray higher quality of the ingredients inside the bottle...
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