ANOTHER "GREAT FEATURE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
Green Mountain State
By Don Fritschel
"Cmon, now folks, whataya gonna bid? How much for
this old green bottle with a cork?" The auctioneers
voice crackled into the microphone, while my heart skipped a
beat. As the bidding started, I looked cautiously around the room
to see several antique dealers, but no "bottle people."
Somehow, this little evening auction in rural Florence, Vermont,
had escaped the scrutiny of most knowledgeable bottle collectors.
At the end of the bidding, I proudly clutched a quart Saratoga-type mineral water bottle, boldly embossed MIDDLETOWN HEALING SPRING / GRAYS & CLARK / MIDDLETOWN, VT. The bottle is relatively common in shades of amber, but this one was emerald green! I had only seen one or two examples of this color variant before, so I knew it was quite scarce.
|The common "Middletown
in uncommon emerald green glass.
|A Middletown "Nature's
Bottle, containing its paper label.
From earlier research, I also knew that this bottle represented one of three different mineral springs in Middletown, Vermont, that had bottled water during the mid- to late-1800s in the distinctive Saratoga-type quarts. During that period, the bottling of mineral water was a sizable business for not only this area, but for many towns throughout the state.
The first recorded discovery of a medicinal spring, in what was to eventually become the state of Vermont, relates back to 1776, when one of the early settlers had a "dream" that revealed a miraculous spring whose waters could cure his diseased body. As the account goes, he set out through the wilderness and within several days discovered the mineral spring gushing from the side of a hill, whose waters soon restored him to complete health.
|An 1869 promotional booklet
for the "Central Spring"
|A.W. Gray of Middletown, Vt.,
sold horse powered farm equipment.
During the next hundred years, more than 50 of these mineral springs were discovered in the state, each with its own tales of miraculous cures, good health and long life. Many towns, such as Middletown, developed their particular spring and established large hotels nearby with a wide variety of accommodations and recreational facilities. In addition to providing a restful atmosphere where people could stay while taking the curative waters internally, several hotels contained bath facilities for those wishing to take advantage of the waters alleged healing powers for various skin diseases.
The "Central House" was one of several hotels in the Sheldon area.
Of prime interest to bottle collectors are those towns and springs that bottled their water and shipped it to various parts of the country. Several towns, such as Saxtons River and Barnet, Vermont, sold their product in embossed, blob-top sodas, while others, such as Brunswick, Clarendon and Newbury Springs used paper-labeled, crown cap bottles.
The largest demand today for Vermont "mineral waters," however, continues to be for the Saratoga-type bottles of the mid- to late-1800s, typified by squatty pints and quarts, with gently tapered necks and applied lips. In fact, Vermont provides the largest single series of these bottles outside of Saratoga itself! They are found in the full range of usual color variants aqua, emerald green, amber, as well as several unusual light greens and variations of citron.
A representative collection of Saratoga-type mineral water bottles from Vermont, contains at least 20 differently embossed quarts from 12 different Vermont towns. In addition, there is presently a pint version of at least one, with continuing rumors of still others, yet unverified. Depending on the age of the glass, some specimens are very crude and full of bubbles, while others are found in the purer glass of the 1890s, when the era of mineral springs began to close. One could accumulate nearly a hundred of these bottles, if one set out to collect every possible glass and color variation of the basic embossings.
Early photograph of the Highgate Springs Hotel, adjacent to the mineral spring.
Todays aspiring collector of Vermont mineral waters searches for the following Saratoga-type quarts:
- ALBERGH / A / SPRINGS, VT.
- ALBURGH / A / SPRINGS, VT. (also, pint version)
- CALADONIA SPRING / WHEELOCK, VT.
- CAMPBELL MINERAL SPRING CO. / C/ BURLINGTON, VT.
- CENTRAL SPRING / GREEN & CO. / SHELDON, VT.
- CHAMPLAIN SPRING / ALKALINE CHALYBEATE / HIGHGATE, VT.
- GUILFORD / MINERAL / SPRING / WATER / GUILFORD, VT.
- IODINE SPRING WATER / L / SOUTH HERO, VT.
- LAMOILLE SPRING / MILTON, VT.
- MIDDLETOWN HEALING SPRING / A.W. GRAY & SON / MIDDLETOWN, VT.
- MIDDLETOWN HEALING SPRING / GRAYS & CLARK / MIDDLETOWN, VT.
(Also, a high-arched embossing variation of above)
- MIDDLETOWN HEALING SPRING / NATURES REMEDY / MIDDLETOWN, VT.
- MISSISQUOI / A / SPRINGS
- MISSISQUOI / A / SPRINGS (embossed squaw & papoose on reverse)
- SHELDON SPRING / SHELDON / VERMONT (state spelled out)
- SHELDON / A / SPRING / SHELDON, VT.
- SHELDON / A / SPRING / SHELDON, CT. (error bottle)
- VERMONT SPRING / SAXE & CO. / SHELDON, VT.
- WELDON SPRING / ST. ALBANS, VT. ALTERATIVE / CHALYBEATE
- WINOOSKI ROCK SPRING / WINOOSKI, VT.
An 1869 promotional booklet for the "Central Spring."
The popularity of the Vermont mineral springs, and the water that was bottled there, was at its peak during the 30 years following the Civil War. No doubt, the curative properties associated with the waters were among the prime reasons. Although the medicinal effectiveness of natural spring water has been periodically challenged, there is some scientific basis for its claim. Natural mineral water is formed by the absorption of various elements, and in some cases, gases, from the rocks and soils along its underground path. Mineral springs are commonly classified as alkaline, sulfur, saline or chalybeate (iron salts), denoting the common dissolvents. A few contained sulfureted hydrogen, or another gaseous compound, which added carbonation. All of these compounds, or combinations of them, had varying medicinal effects on human ailments, some apparently superior to other treatments available at that time.
A typical claim to the wondrous properties of this water can be read by anyone fortunate to own a bottle still containing the paper label. An example from the Middletown Springs "Natures Remedy" label reads: "MIDDLETOWN MINERAL SPRING WATER...NATURES REMEDY DRINK IT. IT WILL CURE YOUR ILLS. CURES KIDNEY DISEASES, SCROFULA, SALT RHEUM, ERYSIPELAS, DYSPEPSIA, GENERAL DEBILITY, CHRONIC CONSUMPTION, CATARRH, BRONCHITUS, CONSTIPATION, TUMORS, PILES AND CANCEROUS AFFECTIONS."
An early business card, advertising "Missisquoi Spring Water"
Nearly identical claims appeared on the labels of bottles sold by the Middletown "Healing Spring," a competitor located within a mile of the "Natures Remedy" bottlers. This co-existence lasted for nearly a year, until the fall of 1869, when the companies merged to operate the springs jointly under the name of the Middletown Springs Hotel Co.. The following spring they began construction of the large, four-story hotel that became their trademark, when completed in 1871.
It measured nearly 140-feet square and contained 137 rooms. It depended heavily on the attraction of the springs for its clientele, many of whom returned year after year.
In addition to the facilities at the springs, their water was bottled and shipped to all parts of the country. A total of four different embossings appear on Middletown bottles, reflecting various ownerships of the two primary springs. The bottles are commonly found in shades of emerald green and in the distinct amber glass attributed to the early glassblowers of southern New Hampshire. From fragments found at the sites of the old Stoddard glass factories, positive identification has been established for the amber Middletowns, as well as the amber bottles from the Albergh, Caladonia, Iodine and Missisquoi springs. It is likely that the Sheldon A and Lamoille bottles, as well as the amber variant of the Welden bottle, were also blown there, but these are not confirmed by shards from the sites. Collectors of Stoddard glass often compete with Saratoga collectors for these bottles.
The monetary value of any mineral water bottle is established mainly by its scarcity and condition. A more plentiful one, such as GUILFORD / MINERAL SPRING / WATER / GUILFORD, VT. can still be found for under $100, while the scarce WELDEN SPRING / ST. ALBANS.VT. would command nearly $3,000. Of course, if you discover one that has been buried in a long-forgotten dump, then you are fortunate indeed.
|The "Saxe & Co."
quart, one of
four Saratoga-types from Sheldon, Vt.
|A "Saxe & Co."
quart in an
unusual shade of yellow-citron.
About 30 years ago, a local resident of Milton, Vermont, was digging in her garden when she unearthed an amber quart bottle embossed LAMOILLE SPRING / MILTON, VT. At that time, it was the only one of its kind known to collectors and it touched off a flurry of digging in that town. Numerous others have found their way into circulation since, although this particular bottle is still considered comparatively scarce. As recently as 10 years ago, a WINOOSKI ROCK SPRING / WINOOSKI, VT. quart was dug in an old town dump, next to the railroad tracks, in St. Albans, Vermont. To this date, it is still the only known example.
Even though several of the Vermont mineral springs shipped bottles in relatively high volumes during the late 1800s, most of the bottles today have reputations for being somewhat scarce. One elderly resident of Vermonts Champlain Islands told me, "The Iodine Spring Water bottle? Sure Ive seen them, by the hundreds! When I was a kid, we used to line those bottles up on the fence and throw rocks at them!" Today, one of "those bottles" would bring more than $1,000 at any auction in New England.
Embossed "Squaw & Papoose" on the back of a "Missisquoi" bottle.
Of the three mineral springs known to South Hero residents in the 1860s, the Iodine Spring was the only one bottled and shipped. It was originally discovered by early settlers following the tracks of deer and moose going to and from the spring to drink. Having a need for salt, they were attracted by its saline qualities, especially in the summer, and would pass by fresh waters for these.
In 1867, Fred Landon, its enterprising owner, erected a fine spring house over it and planted the surrounding area with shade trees. In June of the following year, he opened a boarding house, which drew distinguished guests from New York, Boston and as far as Detroit, who visited the spring for their health and enjoyment. Mr. Landons spring boasted many medicinal properties, but people inclined to consumption seemed to be most benefited by the water. Many of them carried water home with them in the amber IODINE SPRING WATER bottle, whose embossing arches over a block letter "L", symbolic of the Landon ownership.
The largest single concentration of mineral springs in Vermont lies along a five mile swath in the northeastern corner of the state, roughly parallel to the Missisquoi River, in the quiet, pastoral town of Sheldon. At least 15 named springs existed in the area at one time, although only five are known to have been developed commercially. Water was bottled and shipped from these to all parts of the country in olive-green or amber bottles carrying four different embossings from as many bottling companies.
The "Campbell Mineral Spring" Bottle, the only one in aqua glass.
Also in Sheldon, although not carrying either the town or state name, was the MISSISQUOI A SPRING. This water is believed to be the most widely distributed of any in the state. At its peak, well over a thousand bottles a day could be filled and shipped. Surviving records show that in 1868 alone, the "A Spring" shipped nearly 15,000 cases of 24 bottles each, a remarkable feat, considering the level of technology at the time.
One interesting variation of the commonly found Missisquoi bottle is one containing the embossed relief of an Indian squaw with papoose on the reverse. This has been found in the full range of green to black color shades and is the only Vermont spring bottle of this type with a figural in the glass.
About 10 miles southwest of Sheldon lies the city of St. Albans, and at one time, the site of the Welden Spring Co. By contrast to the gently rolling fields and wooded slopes surrounding the springs of Sheldon, the Welden Spring water was bottled in a backyard shed on Edwards Street, in the middle of a residential area, less than a mile from the center of the city. It was originally discovered in the spring of 1867, during the digging of a well. Before the eight foot mark had been reached, work had to be abandoned as water, with an almost medicinal odor, rushed into the hole. Within a year, its fame had spread and it was being distributed throughout New England in emerald-green and "Stoddard" amber quarts.
|The "Alburgh A
Spring" quart and pint.
The pint is extremely scarce.
botttle.A "Sheldon A
Spring" quart, embossed "CT."
This bottle is particularly interesting in that it contains backside embossing: ALTERATIVE CHALYBEATE. This indicated its claim to contain salts of iron, which would favorably "alter" the course of an ailment. Little is known about the operation of the Welden Spring Company, but it may be assumed its success was relatively short lived. An advertising folder, published in St. Albans in 1868, listed a General Agent in Boston, who was devoting an office and storeroom exclusively to the sale of Welden Water. The following year the circular was reprinted, word for word, except it deleted all references to its Boston distributor. This appears to be an indication of the rapid decline that was already underway.
Today the bottling shed is gone, the spring filled in, and even second generation residents in the neighborhood have never heard of Welden Water, nor of its curative powers, to say nothing of the elusive bottles it was once sold in.
The bottle shed for "Vermont Spring, Saxe & Co.",
on the bank of the Missisquoi River, Circa 1870.
Twenty miles northeast of St. Albans, on the northernmost of Vermonts Champlain Islands, lies the town of Alburgh. There are three Saratoge-type bottles from this little town, an amber pint and two variations of quarts. Two different "old-timers" in town gave me the same information related to the spelling of the towns name on the bottles. According to their stories, the Vermont and Canada Railroad was extended through Alburgh in the 1880s and a small depot erected in town. The depot master had a sign made for the depot, and when it was hung it read "Albergh, Vt.", a misspelling of "Alburgh". At the same time, the owner of the mineral spring was beginning to bottle his curative waters and ordered many cases of bottles blown with the same spelling as the railroad station sign. When it was discovered that the sign was misspelled, it was eventually replaced with a sign that read "Alburgh". The mineral spring subsequently corrected their spelling and all future bottles read ALBURGH / A / SPRINGS, VT.
Probably the most mysterious of the Vermont waters was contained in an aqua quart bottle embossed, CAMPBELL MINERAL SPRING CO., BURLINGTON, VT. Several years of research failed to reveal anything conclusive as to when or where the water was bottled, or even who Campbell was, for that matter. Even the bottle itself is a mystery, as it is the only Vermont spring known to have bottled in Saratoga-type quarts in an aqua color.
The 1886 History of Chittenden County, Vermont contains a reference to a woman physician, Mrs. M.A. Campbell, on the corner of Union and Main Streets.
The bottling house for the Sheldon Spring", under construction, 1860's.
It called her a "pioneer in the curative use of magnetism, manipulation, electricity, dietetics, out-of-door exercise, and all natural means of restoring and promoting health." Could it be that she was the "Campbell" behind Burlingtons only spring company? I doubt we will ever find out.
The existence of a mineral spring in Vermonts largest city is undisputed, however, although it was never given a formal name. The Burlington Free Press and Times, on July 16, 1869, described it this way:
"A MINERAL SPRING IN BURLINGTON No little excitement has been created by the discovery of a Mineral Spring in this city. It is situated on Main Street, by the side of the road, just in front of the premises of Nelson White. Its waters, which boil out of the earth, are clear and cold, strongly impregnated with sulphur, and bear close resemblance to the taste of the famous Alburgh Springs, which have proved so valuable in the cure of cutaneous diseases. The Spring has been visited during the past days by hundreds of our citizens, with bottles and jugs, anxious to secure a supply of the water. We have heard it suggested that measures be taken by the City Council to develop it. The experiment could be tried at an outlay of a few dollars, and may prove to be a paying investment. Who knows but what Burlington is destined to rival Saratoga as a watering place?"
Neither the Burlington spring, nor any of the many others in Vermont ever grew to "rival Saratoga as a watering place". But collectively, they did succeed in providing an entirely separate family of Saratoga-type bottles for todays collectors. And to the history buff, they provide a keepsake from a nearly forgotten era; a time when diseases were often treated, not by pills from a plastic vial, but instead, by natural mineral water from an "old green bottle....
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