Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Backyard Archeology: Bromo Seltzer Bottle circa 1900

As I was extracting rock the size of soccer balls from my backyard yesterday, I heard a small clink as the shovel sunk into the dirt. Like a caveman, I chose to keep poking at it with the steel shovel for another minute rather than just reach down and see what it was.

Fortunately, my lack of sense was thwarted by turn of the century craftmanship, and a little luck. When I finally got my hands a little dirty, I was rewarded with a little backyard archeological find: a cobolt blue Bromo-Seltzer bottle, manufactured by the Emerson Drug Company of Baltimore, MD.

I vaguely remembered "Bromo" as a reference from old cartoons and movies, but was rather surprised when I later Googled the bottle to find numerous entries about it. What I thought was going to be a sparse search resulted in a wealth of information. It even had it's own Wikipedia page!

It's not a particularly rare or valuable bottle, but still cool as hell. I'm glad I didn't break it with my bumbling.

Below is an extract from a page about medicinal bottling:

The small cobalt blue bottle pictured to the left contained one of the most popular medicines sold in the 20th century - Bromo-Seltzer - which continues to be popular today as a headache and stomach medicine. This is a typical early 20th century Bromo bottle and is embossed horizontally with BROMO-SELTZER / EMERSON / DRUG CO. / BALTIMORE, MD. The product came in many different sizes of similar shaped bottles which were mouth-blown in the earlier years (1890s to about 1911), machine-made in identically shaped cork stoppered bottles beginning about 1911, and most likely completely machine-made by about 1915. Between 1911 and 1915 it appears that the bottles were both mouth-blown and machine-made. The cork as a closure began to disappear by 1920 with total disappearance by 1928 when the bottles were sealed by a metal seal or cap; the finish for the metal seal looked about the same as the cork bead finish. The bottles switched to external screw thread finishes in 1954 and went to plastic bottles in 1986 (Easton 1965; Fike 1987). Click mid-20th century Bromo to see an later (1950s) example with a lug type external screw thread finish which is embossed with the brand name on the heel.

Bromo-Seltzer was first trademarked in 1889 by Isaac E. Emerson. The distinctive blue bottles were first mouth-blown beginning in the 1890s up until 1907 by the Cumberland Glass Company (Bridgeton, NJ; the likely producer of the pictured bottle), though one author notes that they were also made by Hazel-Atlas (Toulouse 1971; Fike 1987). From 1907 on the bottles were produced by the Maryland Glass Corporation (Baltimore, MD), which was essentially created to produce these bottles for (and owned by) the Emerson Drug Company. Mouth-blown and likely machine-made examples with the makers mark "M" on the base date from 1907 to about 1915 which was also when Owens Automatic Bottle Machines were installed to work alongside the semi-automatic machines first installed in about 1911. Bottles with an "M" in a circle on the base date from 1916 and after. In 1956, the Emerson Drug Company was absorbed by Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. which is now part of Pfizer, Inc. (Toulouse 1971; Fike 1987). The pictured example was mouth-blown in a cup base mold and has mold air venting marks; it likely dates from about 1895 to 1907 since it there is no "M" marking on the base. Click on Bromo-Seltzer base to view the base of this bottle which only has a numerical mold number.

10 comments:

Matthew said...

Awesome find.

David Mark said...

Great information. I just found a BROMO SELTZER bottle in our local river. We had a flood in March and much of the bottom sand and silt were washed away. Clearly machine made (mold lines up sides), but not a screw top and no "M" on the bottom. And interestingly, no "MD" after "BALTIMORE." Height 4".

Also found a Coca-Cola glass bottle, 6.5 ounces, and beer bottles circa 1950s. My guess is that a LOT of trash used to go into the river.

dougwig said...

Ha, I found the same thing today, cobalt blue bromo seltzer #23.

1dogeez said...

i found one at low tide in the carquinez straits crockett calif it still has the rubber stopper in it along with the bromo

1dogeez said...

i found one at low tide in the carquinez straits crockett calif it still has the rubber stopper in it along with the bromo

ken pylant said...

I have #4 on the bottom of mine

BERMANN said...

I found one of these just laying in the yard while I was mowing the lawn. The groundhogs do my digging. I found it on top of some dirt they dug up. Mine has no M or number, which means 1897 or so. This makes sense. This house was built in 1897, and years ago, from an old telephone book, I found out the guy who owned the house then was a pharmacist (your occupation was listed in phone books back then). I have found a lot of bottles while replanting grass, building retaining walls and whatever washes up by rain. The most interesting one is the smallest one I found, a small, square bottle with "pyrex" embossed on it. Also a lot of bottles with measurements embossed on the side, and a perfume bottle with the glass toothpick-like stopper in perfect condition. And old coke bottles and something called Cheer-o Cola. The old pharmacist had is own landfill here, i guess.

Unknown said...

I found one unearthed in my back yard in Michigan ...I have a 2 on mine anyone know what that is for?

Unknown said...

I found one unearthed in my back yard in Michigan ...I have a 2 on mine anyone know what that is for?

Ruth Simpson said...

I have a colbalt blue one with the original cork that saus estd 1824. Diamond with a dot in the middle. Anyone know the value of it?

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