Category Archives: Bottled History

The Food and Drug Act

The 1906 Food and Drugs Act and creation of the FDA

In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Food and Drugs Act, also known as the “Wiley Act” after its chief advocate. The Act prohibited, under penalty of seizure of goods, the interstate transport of food which had been “adulterated”, with that term referring to the addition of fillers of reduced “quality or strength”, coloring to conceal “damage or inferiority,” formulation with additives “injurious to health,” or the use of “filthy, decomposed, or putrid” substances. The act applied similar penalties to the interstate marketing of “adulterated” drugs, in which the “standard of strength, quality, or purity” of the active ingredient was not either stated clearly on the label or listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia or the National Formulary. The act also banned “misbranding” of food and drugs. The responsibility for examining food and drugs for such “adulteration” or “misbranding” was given to Wiley’s USDA Bureau of Chemistry.

Wiley used these new regulatory powers to pursue an aggressive campaign against the manufacturers of foods with chemical additives, but the Chemistry Bureau’s authority was soon checked by judicial decisions, as well as by the creation of the Board of Food and Drug Inspection and the Referee Board of Consulting Scientific Experts as separate organizations within the USDA in 1907 and 1908 respectively. A 1911 Supreme Court decision ruled that the 1906 act did not apply to false claims of therapeutic efficacy, in response to which a 1912 amendment added “false and fraudulent” claims of “curative or therapeutic effect” to the Act’s definition of “misbranded.” However, these powers continued to be narrowly defined by the courts, which set high standards for proof of fraudulent intent. In 1927, the Bureau of Chemistry’s regulatory powers were reorganized under a new USDA body, the Food, Drug, and Insecticide organization. This name was shortened to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) three years later.
Read more from Wikipedia

Some Quick Things To Look At To Date Bottles

Side Seams:

None: bottle may be free blown and uneven shape dating before 1860 or the bottle may have an even shape but spun in the mold to smoth out the seams- a common practice around 1900-1920.

BIM: side seams run from base and end below the top of lip. This is a result of Bowing In Mold (BIM). The lip is usually applied by hand later.

3PM: (3 piece mold) Bottom half (from base to shoulder) has no seams then there are seams near the shoulder that runs completely around the bottle. Two side seams run up the neck and end below the top of the lip. This was used from 1840-70. The lip was also applied by hand later.

ABM: if the side seams run through the top of the lip then it made this way. AMB stands for Automatic Bottle Machine. This type of bottle making started appearing in 1905 and by 1920 most bottles were made like this.

Bottled History


Before 1858 most bottles were made the same way using a punty rod that held the bottle over a fire and when the bottle was formed the punty rod was snapped off leaving a mark on the bottom of the bottle of the bottle.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century private molds were used. Many different molds were ordered from glass factories by medicine manufactures, soda, mineral water, and other household items. The goal was to make the product stand out and be recognized against it’s competitors. Soon not only were different shape bottles made but also embossing became very popular with unusual designs.

In the late 1930’s and into the 1950’s painted label bottle became popular.

When the American Medical Association formed one of it’s goals was to not only educate doctors but also the public to many dangerous and habit forming drugs.

Most of of these drugs were hidden in what was called “miracle drugs” which was used for just about everything. Some of them contained alcohol, opium (morphine and codeine), cocaine, chloral, and cannabis (marijuana). During the time that these drugs were popular there was an outcry because of numerous children’s deaths were reported resulting from overdoses of soothing medicines.

The word “Cure” appeared on many of these bottles prior the the Civil War until it was replaced by “Remedy”.

In later years other laws and organization have been formed to control what exactly is in the medicine you are about to take.


Picture of Three In One Oil Bottle

Vintage Perfume Bottles

These bottles were found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago. This picture is taken from my private bottle collection. Registered & Protected


Bromo-Seltzer Bottles

In 1888, behind the prescription counter of a small drugstore near Charles in Baltimore, Isaac E. Emerson first conceived the idea of the headache remedy. This led to the development of a granular salt he named “Bromo-Seltzer.”

He organized the Emerson Drug Company, in Maryland in 1891. Bromo-Seltzer was first sold in blue glass bottles that were manufactured by the Cumberland Glass Company, of Bridgeton, New Jersey.

Because of the demand for Bromo-Seltzer grew, Cumberland Glass was unable to meet the demand for the bottles. Captain Emerson then asked his vice-president in charge of manufacturing, to organize a glass factory to make the bottles. Acin light or dark blue glass. It is believed some were given to drugstores as freebies for ordering Bromo-Seltzer. Others were gifts to visitors who had a tour of the plant for thirty cents.

Maryland Glass continued to expand and, by 1964 it employed seven hundred people who worked around the clock. They were turning out approximately one million glass bottles and jars each day. The company became the leading producer of blue glassware in the world.

The Bromo-Seltzer Tower Building

Bromo- Seltzer Tower Building

The Bromo-Seltzer Tower Building has been a landmark in Baltimore since the early part of this century.

The tower was fourteen stories high. The top story was numbered fifteen because there is no floor numbered thirteen because of superstition. There was a flashing light on the huge revolving Bromo-Seltzer bottle atop the tower.

In 1935 the bottle was taken down, after twenty-five years.The base upon which it stood was disintegrating. The framework sold as twenty tons of scrap metal.


Scientists working with chemical formulas similar to “Bromo Seltzer” thought that a fruit flavored drink could be developed the same way. After long hard work, they finally figured out how to combine the right combinations of fruit flavoring, sweetener, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (a substance that is much like baking soda) into a tablet that when dropped into water. This turned the water into an instant sparkling fruit drink.

By 1962 Fizzies were available in every state but in 1968 one of the ingredients called Cyclamates, and artificial sweetner, was banned in the United States. This affected not only Fizzies but hundreds of other products. Scientist decided to voluntarily take Frizzies off the market.

By 1995 scientist finally found that NUTRASWEET was the perfect replacement for Cyclamates.

Make your own Fizzies
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup grape juice
Pour water into a tall glass. Stir in the baking soda. Pour in the grape juice
Emerson realized the importance of advertising. At the time of his death in 1931, he had accumulated an estate of $20 million, owning the controlling stock in four corporations: Emerson’s Bromo-Seltzer, Inc.; the Emerson Drug Corporation; the Maryland Glass Corporation and the Emerson Hotel.

Vintage Bromo Seltzer Bottle

This bottle was found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago. This picture is taken from my private bottle collection. Registered & Protected

Beer Bottles

Beer Bottles

Beer is of ancient origins. At the beginning it was restricted exclusively to the upper classes. Poor people would drank a beverage called mulsum- made from the leavings of grapes and other fruits, after the juice had been extracted for wine.

Beer was (supposedly) been taken on the Mayflower with the pilgrims in 1620. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both did their own home brewing as well as many early prominent early Americans.

Not until 1850 did beer bottles exist. All beer at that time was either made in the home or drank at taverns from which it was dispensed from wooden barrels.

Taverns tried to stop the bottling of beer for fear it would hurt their trade. By 1870 beer was made available in most parts of the country. Tavern owners offered specials like a free lunch with the purchase of beer.

The average beer bottle in 1870 was made of glass, contained a quart of beer and had a cork stopper. Breweries didn’t emboss their names and emblems on the bottles until early 1870.

Corks were replaced as stoppers on bottles by “crown cork closure”. These were tight-fitting metal caps with a thin slice of cork inside. This was an invention by William Painter in 1891. Registered & Protected

Poison Bottles

Poison Bottles

A Brief History

For centuries chemist dispensed toxic substances in bottles with corks. They were used in very small quantities as ingredients in medicine to serve as stimulants or relaxants.

In Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries they were used for very different purposes. There was a great demand for poisons from people who wanted to do away with enemies, rid themselves of an unwanted spouse, or collect an inheritance. Underground scientist worked to perfect special poisons. These were odorless, tasteless, and difficult to detect by autopsy. The favorite poisons for murder were “slow poisons”. This would be given daily in small doses and over a long period of time would cause the death of the unsuspected victim.

Because of the abuse of the substances their sale was restricted or prohibited in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was also much concern that the product would fall into children’s hands.

Society had a need for these preparations such as in cleaning fluids and to prohibit the availability of at this time was unfair to the public. Ways of drawing attention to the container then took preference to prevent accidental consumption.

(Picture of Bottles from Private Collection)

In 1853 the American Pharmaceutical Association recommended national laws to identify poison bottles. In 1872 a suggestion was made that the containers be identified by a rough surface on one side the word “poison” on the other. At this time no law was passed and it was left up to manufactures to identify their products.

The skull and crossbones became the traditional symbol of poisonous substances. Sometimes a coffin and long bones also was a used as a symbol. Containers would also have ribbed surfaces to further distinguish them from other products. The ribbed surfaces also served as a warning in poor light rooms or for the blind.

As early as 1886 John Howell designed the first safety closures. At this time the shape of the poison bottle was sufficient and the need for such a device was not needed. Registered & Protected

Cure Bottles

Cure Bottles


Cure bottles are interesting as they serve as a documentary evidence of how the general public was fooled in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were advertised to cure all types of physical and emotional problems. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission stopped the sale of these “miracle drugs”.

Many people were delayed or prevented from seeking proper medical aid. There was no rules at that time in the “cure all”. In 1816 J. Andrus placed a cancer cure on the market and some years before W. Stoy had a sure way to cure rabies.

The success of the “miracle cure” was largely based on the distrust of doctors. If a doctor pronounced a case incurable and then a “cure” was available through a medicine maker, people tended to believe the medicine maker over the doctor. Some people today still rely on store-bought medicine rather than a doctor.

Patent medicine cures were in such a demand that road shows were organized around them. They worked out of wagons and some were even booked into theaters throughout the country. There was a cast of who traveled with the “medicine man”. These included several persons who had been “chronic sufferers” but due to the repeated use of the cure were totally healed. They would come forward and tell their stories. The show would close with the product being sold by the bottle or case.

The more bizarre the product name the better. Some used foreign names and claimed the product was from that country. Some cures were suppose to be Indian in origination. It was a well known fact that Indians didn’t visit the white man’s doctors and didn’t take their medicines. They made their own cures from closely-guarded recipes. The ingredients of these cures were disregarded and the name was given to the product for the purpose of more sells.

These bottles was found in the 1960s when the expressway came through the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, KY. The site was a city dump many years before. When building began they dug down about 20 feet and unearthed many bottles that were thrown away years ago.
My father gathered many and put them in boxes behind his shed until around 2001 when I became interested in the history.
To my amazement the bottles were still intact and in very good condition despite the harsh winters. Registered & Protected