News / Arts & Entertainment

Bottle Museum Showcases Centuries-Old Handmade Glass Bottles

Bottle Museum Showcases Centuries-Old Handmade Glass Bottlesi
January 15, 2014 11:12 PM
Until the beginning of the 20th century, glass bottles - for pharmacies, breweries, and dairy farms - were all produced by hand. Demand in the 1800's was so tremendous that bottle making was the first mass production industry in the United States. The National Bottle Museum in Saratoga County, New York preserves that history. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to interesting and centuries-old handmade bottles in the museum.
June Soh
Until the beginning of the 20th century, glass bottles - for pharmacies, breweries, and dairy farms - were all produced by hand.  Demand in the 1800s was so tremendous that bottle making was the first mass production industry in the United States.  The National Bottle Museum in Saratoga County, New York preserves that history,  displaying Interesting and centuries-old handmade bottles

The liquor bottles, called Dutch Onions because of their origin and shape, are the oldest in the National Bottle Museum's collection.  They were made by hand in the early 1700s.  The milk bottles are the most recent additions, produced by modern techniques a few years ago.

Most of the more than 2,000 bottles, in various colors, shapes and sizes, were crafted with hand tools in the 1800s.  Bottle No. 32 was made in the early 1890s. 

“That is your first Coca Cola soft drink bottle," said Gary Moeller, the museum’s director. "The first company that bottled the soft drink was Biedenharn Candy Company of Vicksburg, Mississippi."

Some bottles bear the owners' names, giving a hint about the early value of recycling.  
“Because having the bottles made cost a lot of money.  So they wanted them back so that they could use them over and over again," said Moeller.

Some bottles here have never held anything.  They are collectibles and often feature famous politicians or entertainers.

“These bottles are commemoration of the 1972 presidential campaign.  The elephant one has Richard Nixon on one side, Spiro T. Agnew, who was the vice president, on the other side.  The two donkey-shape ones are for the Democratic Party," explained Moeller.

The three-story historic building that houses the museum is situated in what was a flourishing resort community in the 1800s, with many popular mineral water springs.  Now, there are only two left.

“Actually in the 1800s, across the street from the museum stood what in its day was one of the largest resort hotels in the United States: Sans Souci Hotel.  My understanding is Sans Souci had four running springs in the hotel," said Moeller.

Moeller says during the peak of its popularity, millions of bottles for the spring water were produced each year in Saratoga County alone and sent throughout the world.  The bottles were made exclusively with hand tools and human lung power until the automatic bottle machine was invented in 1903.

Peter Nash, who came to visit with his son, has been collecting bottles for years.

“I have a recreated old time bar in Boston. Most of the bottles I have are whiskies and rums from back in 1910 and 1920 era. I try to collect ones that were used in the bar back then," he said.

This was his son William's first visit.

“I was surprised to see all these bottles and some of the big ones and the little ones.  I like a lot of the little ones, and it is kind of a big, giant, fat one over there," William said.

Visitors also can view the hand tools and blow pipes, the molds used to shape bottles, and some whimsical glass sculptures the workers created at the end of their shifts.

“On a regular basis people will wander into the museum knowing absolutely nothing about what the museum is here for, what we are showing," Moeller said. "Some of those people end up staying for a long time and when they leave, they will tell us what a cool museum this is."

And, Moeller says, they leave with a new appreciation for these important, but often overlooked, historical artifacts.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley












Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”