Bail Top Milk Bottles
The system of sealing milk bottles with a milk cap pressed into the bottle's cap seat was not patented until September 17, 1889 by Harvey and Samuel Barnhart of Potsdam, New York. Prior to this and even to some degree after, the bail style top was a common way to seal milk bottles. We have seen advertisements as late as 1912 offering tin top milk bottles. Caps on bail top milk bottles could be glass or tin and a wire bail was used to tighten the cap against the lip of the milk bottle. Often some type of packing material was used to make a seal between the bail top and the glass lip of the milk bottle. Click here to go to the page that discusses the 1889 patent for the cap seat and milk cap.
Many of these bail style closures are variations of a patent granted to Charles DeQuillfeldt on January 5, 1875 (and reissued on June 5, 1877). This original patent covered a bail style bottle stopper for use on small mouthed bottles typical of beer and soda bottles however it was adapted by various individuals for use on larger mouthed milk bottles as well as fruit jars. These are often referred to as "Lightning" closures. Lightning was a trademark used by Henry Putnam made famous by his Lightning fruit jars. Trademark "Lightning" is also found on milk bottle tin tops. It is often found with a January 31, 1888 patent date. This patent was issued to Frederick Morhous of Bennington, Vermont for a tin bail style milk bottle closure. This patent was assigned to Henry Putnam.
One advantage of the bail style of top, such as the Lightning top, was that the lid was permanently attached to the bottle. This made it much more likely that the customer would return the lid with the bottle. On some early milk jars, such as the Lester jar, most fruit jars, the Thatcher Milk Protector jar and the F. K. Ward jar, the lid was easily separated from the jar. These lids were an expensive part of the package and when they were not returned to the dairy it presented a significant cost to the business.
Since the tin tops were reusable it meant that the milk bottle could be opened and tampered with before it arrived to the customer. To solve this many dairies used a paper label that was pasted over the bail lever sealing it to the glass bottle. If the bail was lifted in order to open the lid, the seal would be broken. Here is a picture of a bail seal on a tin top milk bottle from an early Borden's trading card.
These are two early bail style milk bottles. The bottle on the left has a dome style tin cap. The lid is made of two pieces of tin joined at the edges and having a hollow center. The bottom piece of tin has a flange to fit in the mouth of the bottle and the upper piece of tin is domed. As the bail is pushed up the dome, the lid is pushed down into the mouth of the bottle. The bail mechanism is held on to the bottle neck by a twisted wire. This cap has a patent date of September 23, 1884. This patent was issued to Abram V. Whiteman of New York, New York. Abram Whiteman patented a similar domed lid on September 4, 1883. In that patent however the wire bail was held on to the bottle by fitting into dimples in the glass on either side of the bottle. The bottle above is embossed THIS BOTTLE TO BE WASHED AND RETURNED NOT TO BE BOUGHT OR SOLD. It is a quart bottle.
The milk bottle on the right has a bail top with a glass lid and was known as the Warren Milk Jar. The lid is loose when the bail is tightened to allow for a packing ring to seal the bottle and cushion the glass on glass. We have seen references to the packing material being rubber or cork. The underside of the glass lid is embossed with a patent date of January 5, 1875, revised June 5, 1877. This patent and revision was issued to Charles DeQuillfeldt of New York, New York for an improvement in bottle stoppers. This was the original patent for the Lightning style bottle closures found on many beer bottles. The closure found on this milk bottle was actually a variation patented by Louis P. Whiteman of New York, New York on March 23, 1880. This bottle possibly was made before the patent was granted since it references the DeQuillfeldt patent rather than the Whiteman patent. We have seen advertisements for this milk bottle that date prior to the patent being granted. Advertisements in June of 1879 placed by dairy supply houses mentioned the Warren milk jar and the manufacturer, the Warren Glass Works, placed advertisements in August of 1879. Note that this milk bottle predates the Thatcher milk bottle discussed below even though the Thatcher bottle is often credited as being the first milk bottle. Advertisements for these milk bottles claimed that the milk would only come in contact with glass. The base of this bottle is embossed WHITEMAN and the back is embossed THIS BOTTLE TO BE WASHED AND RETURNED. We have also seen these bottles embossed WARREN on the base. The bottle pictured here is a pint bottle but the advertisements also mentioned quarts and half pints. The ads referred to them as The Celebrated Warren Milk Bottles.
Whiteman advertisements credited the Echo Farm Company as being the first to use the Warren milk bottles. A 1917 reference stated that Echo Farm Dairy started milk delivery to New York City using glass bottles in late 1879 or early 1880. An article in a popular agriculture magazine in August of 1879 pictured this milk bottle as being used by Echo Farm and said that they had 7000 bottles in use at that time. In addition they used safety boxes which were also sold by the Warren Glass Works. These boxes were lined with granulated cork packing paper to prevent breakage to the bottles and held one or two dozen bottles. This was probably a wise decision by Warren Glass Works to market these boxes along with the milk bottles since one of the biggest fears of glass bottles was breakage. Echo Farm Company was formed by Frederick Ratchford Starr in Litchfield, Connecticut to bottle milk to sell in Brooklyn, New York. Although Starr bought milk from many dairies in the area he also had a dairy herd of his own known as Echo Farm Dairy.
Early users of this Warren milk bottle had some complaints. One was the need for a packing ring to seal the lid. These were seldom returned with the bottle and added to the cost of a bottle of milk. Also on this bottle when the bail was swung open the glass lid would hit the shoulder of the bottle. This often resulted in chips to the lid as well as cracks in the bottle itself, all adding to the cost of delivering milk. Despite these problems these milk bottles were heavily advertised in the farming publications of the period.
In 1874 L. P. Whiteman was advertised as the proprietor of the Walton Druggist Glass Works of New York City. They used an address of 39 Warren Street. Their main product was recessed glass labeled druggists bottles manufactured under a patent granted to William Walton on September 23, 1862 and reissued on May 28, 1867 to Elma Walton and assigned to William Walton.
In May of 1877 an ad listed L. P. Whiteman as the agent for the Warren Glass Works and the owner of the above Watson patents although the ad mentioned that Watson was no longer connected to the business. The address was still 39 Warren Street. The earliest Warren milk bottles must have been manufactured by this business. Whether the glass factory was the Walton Druggist Glass Works or another we are unsure of but L. P. Whiteman was advertising his milk jars by August of 1879 a full 8 months before the patent was granted. News articles also placed the bottles in use by August of 1879 and advertisements from dairy supply houses were offering the milk jars for sale in June of 1879.
In September of 1880, Louis P. Whiteman and his two brothers, Warren and Abram Whiteman, started the Warren Glass Works Company and opened their own glass factory. At that time the business became known as the Warren Glass Works Company (note addition of "Company") and the factory was listed as being in Cumberland, Maryland. The business address remained at 39 Warren Street until the middle of 1881 when it changed to 44 College Place, New York. In October of 1882 the address changed again to 72 Murray Street, New York.
The company used three different New York City addresses, mentioned above, in their early advertisements (39 Warren Street, 44 College Place and later 72 Murray Street) however the bottles were not made in New York after late 1880. These addresses were for their sales office. We have only seen the 72 Murray Street address embossed on milk bottles. In March of 1885 advertisements referred to the company as A. V. Whiteman and by 1889 listed the factory as being in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. One of the reasons for moving the factory to Uniontown was issues with the quality of the coal being used to fire the glass furnaces at the Cumberland, Maryland factory. The Whiteman's were promised a favorable, long term contract for natural gas in Uniontown, Pennsylvania to fire their glass furnaces. Unfortunately the Uniontown factory was hit with many problems. Right away in in October of 1889 there were shortages of gas and their gas supplier threatened to cut off the gas supply. After a year of fighting in court the the gas was cut off on October 27, 1890 and the plant was shut down three days later. In February of 1890 a terrible storm caused major damage to the factory and in November of 1890 a fire burned the plant. The plant was eventually sold in August of 1892.
In June of 1889 the sales address for A. V. Whiteman in the advertisements was listed as 144 Chambers Street in New York City. That address is also found embossed on milk bottles. William Whiteman, another brother, was in business with Abram Whiteman at this time. After the Uniontown, Pennsylvania glass plant failed Whiteman must have utilized other glass factories to make his milk bottles for him as we have seen Whiteman milk bottles with the T. MFG. Co. mark of the Thatcher Manufacturing Company on the base along with the 144 Chambers St. address. We have seen A. V. Whiteman advertisements as late as 1901 and the business was listed in New York city directories into the early 1900's.
The two quart bottles pictured above are Standard Cream Line milk bottles. They were also referred to as Standard Indicating milk jars. They were patented by A.V. Whiteman on February 18, 1890. These bottles have two lines embossed, one on the shoulder and one on the neck of the bottle. The top line was labeled 5% and the lower line 12 1/2%. The patent papers actually referred to three lines to indicate three milk qualities and we have seen a bottle with an additional third line labeled 15%. We have even seen an 1895 reference to a dairy that used milk bottles with a line at the 20% level. However many bottles only have the two lines. In fact on one of these bottles the 5% line is not labeled. The idea was that if the bottle was allowed to set with milk in it the cream would rise and the amount of cream could be judged by comparing it to the lines. This would allow consumers to quickly judge the cream content of the milk. However A. V. Whiteman's advertisements of the period were directed more at detecting inferior milk rather than high quality milk. His ads for the Cream Line milk bottles stated, "Impure milk detected at a glance" and "Downs fraudulent competition." Dishonest dairymen were known to skim some of the cream out of the whole milk before selling it or add water to the milk, diluting the cream and the milk. It seems that Whiteman's Cream Line milk bottle was directed at giving consumers and honest dairymen a solution to this problem. Whiteman's ads stated that the standard amount of cream in milk was 12 1/2 percent, very rich compared to todays milk.
Whiteman's ads not only targeted milk bottlers but also housewives and mothers. He advertised in magazines read by women suggesting that they purchase a dozen of his Standard Indicating milk jars and ask their milk dealer to use them for delivery of milk to their homes. In an 1898 advertisement Whiteman advertised these quart indicating jars at 12 dollars/gross. In the same ad he advertised non indicating quart milk jars at 9 dollars/gross, a 33 percent premium for the features of his patent. In his ads to housewives he priced the indicating milk jars at 2 dollars/dozen which would have been 24 dollars/gross, double the price he was selling the indicating milk jars for in bulk.
Now days the freezing point of milk is used to detect if water has been added. Any addition of water to dilute the milk will change the temperature at which the milk will freeze. Creameries and the state can test the freezing point to determine if water has been added.
The Standard Cream Line bottle on the left has an enameled tin bail top. It is made of two pieces of tin joined at the edges very similar to the domed lid patented in 1884 that was discussed above. The bottom piece of tin has a flange to fit in the mouth of the bottle similar to the domed lid however the top piece of tin is flat with an arch in the center to accept a bail wire rather than being domed. The bail wire pushed down on the lid when a lever wire was pushed against the neck of the bottle. This lid does not have a patent date however we believe that it was described in a patent issued to A. V. Whiteman on April 3, 1883. This milk bottle is base embossed WHITEMAN B 144 CHAMBERS ST. 2 N.Y.
The Standard Cream Line bottle on the right has a tin bail top with a patent date of October 25, 1892 on the tin lid. This patent was issued to Benjamin Sanborn and was assigned to A. V. Whiteman who patented the bottle. This tin top is different than the tin top commonly found on older milk bottles. The lid is a single piece of tin with a tube soldered to the lid to accept the bail wire. This tube extends almost the full length of the lid unlike the common tin top in which the bail wire is connected to the lid only in the center by a small cap soldered to the lid. In his patent Sanborn stated that this allowed the extremities of the tube to bear directly upon that portion of the stopper which fits over the edge of the bottle thereby more securely holding the stopper in place. We have also seen this patented tin top used on milk bottles made by Fidelity Glass Company. This is interesting because Fidelity Glass Company was in Tarentum, Pennsylvania not far from the glass factory of A. V. Whiteman in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. This milk bottle is embossed THIS BOTTLE TO BE WASHED AND RETURNED NOT TO BE BOUGHT OR SOLD on the back. It is embossed on the base: WHITEMAN MAKER 144 CHAMBERS NEW YORK.
A. V. Whiteman was granted or assigned many patents for milk bottle tin tops. He often used an April 17, 1888 patent date in some of his advertisements. This was a patent granted to George Carll of Brooklyn, New York for a tin top bottle cover and was assigned to A. V. Whiteman. We have never seen this bottle cover even though it was advertised by A. V. Whiteman. A. V. Whiteman was granted a patent for a tin top bottle cover as late as December 18, 1900, a full eleven years after the introduction of the cap seat and the use of paper milk caps to seal milk bottles. This last patent was for a tin top bottle cover that had the wire holding the tin lid bent upwards to create a spring-like effect to put more tension on the tin lid (picture).
There also was a more modern Kremeline milk bottle (picture). Note the difference in the spelling. This bottle was pyroglazed and had a line indicating a 4% cream line. The bottle was also graduated in cups on one side and ounces on the other. The bottle was marketed by Kremeline, Inc. and was marked Pat. Pending however we have never been able to locate this patent. These milk bottles seem to be found in the state of Washington and date to the late 1930's. Notice that on the Whiteman Cream Line milk bottle the cream line was at 5, 12 1/2 and 15 percent where as on the more modern Kremeline milk bottle the amount of cream had decreased to 4 percent. Milk with more than 5 percent fat would have been very rich.
Off page milk bottle:
Kremeline Inc., quart, location unknown, Liberty Glass Co., 1937
Pictured above is a close up of the bail tops from the first four Whiteman milk bottles on this page. On the top left is the enameled tin bail top from a cream line milk bottle that was patented on April 3, 1883. On the top right is a tin bail top on another cream line milk bottle that carries an October 25, 1892 patent date. On the lower left is the glass bail top embossed with a patent date of January 5, 1875 and revised June 5, 1877. In actuality this specific glass bail top was patented on March 23, 1880. On the lower right is the tin dome style top patented September 23, 1884. The first two bottles pictured above were a famous early milk bottle. These were the Thatcher milk jar. Early milk deliveries were made in cans and milk was scooped or poured into a container supplied by the customer. Click here to see a picture of milk being delivered in this manner by Golden Eagle Dairy of Sacramento, California. This obviously was not sanitary since the roads were dusty and the milkman was also using his hands to control a horse. The cream and skim milk would separate and some customers got more cream while others received more skim milk. Also as the milk can was emptied, the milk would start to slosh around and the cream would churn itself into balls of butter. It was this scenario that the Thatcher milk jar was aimed at eliminating.
The front of the bottle is embossed with a man milking a cow. Above it is embossed ABSOLUTELY PURE MILK and below THE MILK PROTECTOR. The back of these bottles, in a slug plate, are embossed TO BE USED ONLY AS DESIGNATED MILK & CREAM JAR. The base of one of these bottles is plain but the other is embossed THATCHER MFG. CO. POTSDAM, N. Y. Early variations of this milk jar will be embossed H. D. T. & Co., Potsdam, N. Y. in the slug plate on the rear of the jar. H. D. T. & Co. stood for H. D. Thatcher & Company, the predecessor to the Thatcher Manufacturing Company. This bottle is found in pint and quart sizes. This milk bottle was sealed with a dome shaped glass lid with a gasket held in place by a wire bail (picture). This fastening device was patented by H. D. Thatcher and H. P. Barnhart on April 27, 1886. The jar itself was not covered by the patent. The original glass lid is embossed with the patent date. The wire clamping device was removable for cleaning and engaged in two dimples on either side of the bottle neck. The glass lids were loose however and often got lost or dropped and broke. There were early variations of the wire clamping device that used a brass bead to engage the glass lid rather than the flat piece of metal shown in the patent papers (picture). Milk jars with this beaded fastener probably date prior to the 1886 patent.
A few Thatcher milk jars will have dairy names embossed in the slug plate on the rear of the bottle. One such bottle exists from a California dairy. It is embossed RANCHO CHICO DAIRY CHICO CAL. JOHN BIDWELL in the slug plate.
This milk bottle has many modern reproductions. If the bottle has any of the following characteristics be suspicious of a reproduction:
1) Green, amber, pink or blue colored glass
2) A porcelain stopper, this bottle used a glass lid
3) Any reference to Crownford China Company
4) Any reference to Made in Italy
5) A 1965 date
6) A pouring spout molded into the bottle lip
7) A reference to Thatcher's Dairy Bottle Patent 1884, the glass lid on the original milk bottle
was patented in 1886, the bottle did not have a patent date
8) The embossing THE MILK PROTECTOR below the man milking the cow is missing
Around 1878 Hervey Thatcher, along with Harvey Barnhart started a company in Potsdam, New York. Thatcher at some point married Barnhart’s sister so they were in laws. Their first product was a butter color. Originally the company went by the name of H. D. Thatcher & Company and was based in Potsdam, New York. Some of the earliest milk bottles were embossed with that name and literature from 1885 used that name. On August 7, 1883 Thatcher and Barnhart received a patent for a covered milk bucket. The bucket had a rubber or fabric sheath that covered the cow’s teat and was connected to the bucket by a tube. The cow’s teat was hand milked through the sheath and the milk passed into the bucket through the tube. In this way no hair, dirt or manure could fall in the milk nor could the milk touch the milker’s hands.
Soon after they started to sell their milk jar. They were not bottle makers however. They had Whitall, Tatum & Co. located in Millville, New Jersey make the bottles for them. A reference from 1917 reported that a Mr. Wilcox of Ogdensburg, New York was first to use these bottles to deliver milk. That reference placed the date as 1883 but it also said the jar was patented in 1883 and that was not true. Another reference placed the first use as August of 1884 and 1884 was also the date mentioned in many Thatcher Manufacturing Company advertisements as their first use of milk bottles. H. D. Thatcher & Company did advertise their milk bottles prior to the patent being issued in 1886. Thatcher’s marketing plan was to stress sanitation and he advertised his milk bucket and milk jar as an integrated system, referring to it as The Milk Protector. In fact if you look closely at the embossing on his milk jar you will see that the man is using their patented milk bucket to milk the cow. They also sold bottle fillers, bottle carrying racks and porch boxes. In 1886, Thatcher and Barnhart received the patent mentioned above for the glass closure and metal bail on their milk jar.
Soon after, in January of 1887, Thatcher sold his share of the company's bottle business to Harvey Barnhart and his brother Samuel Barnhart. Soon after in December of 1889 the company name was changed to Thatcher Manufacturing Company. Hervey Thatcher continued to market his sugar of milk baking powder under the name of the previous business, H. D. Thatcher & Company. The two Barnhart brothers continued to manage the company and on September 17, 1889 they were granted the patent for the milk bottle cap seat and milk cap that eventually took over the industry. Harvey Barnhart was granted another patent on May 10, 1892 for another milk jar closing device, however this one did not see any success. The two brothers were also granted a pair of patents on June 2 and July 28, 1896 for metal bail type bottle stoppers. Neither of these patents were successful, however it is interesting to note that the Barnharts were still working on bail type closures seven years after they introduced the milk bottle cap.
In 1900 Francis Baldwin, a lawyer from Elmira, New York, bought the company. He remained as president until 1927. One of the first changes was for the company to start manufacturing their own bottles. In 1904 Thatcher Manufacturing Company started to build a glass plant in Kane, Pennsylvania and also became the first milk bottle manufacturer to receive a license for the new Owens automatic bottle machine. Thatcher Manufacturing Company advertisements in January of 1905 announced the construction of the Kane milk bottle factory and predicted it to be in operation in March of 1905. The same ad also announced the the company headquarters would move from Potsdam, New York to Elmira, New York. Elmira was to remain as the factory for milk bottle caps and butter and cheese colorings. In 1908 they added a glass plant in Streator, Illinois followed by another plant located in Elmira, New York in 1912. Thatcher Manufacturing Company was very aggressive in acquiring glass plants, brokering a huge deal for five competing companies in 1919 and became one of the dominant forces in milk bottle manufacturing. Thatcher advertisements from 1923 listed additional plants in:
Lockport, New York
Dunkirk, New York
Clarksburg, West Virginia
Cedar Grove, West Virginia
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Mount Vernon, Ohio
Thatcher Manufacturing continued to add glass plants over the years and in the 1950's even had a plant in Saugus, California to supply the west coast. Thatcher Manufacturing Company's MTC mark is found on many milk bottles.
The bottle on the far right is very similar to the Thatcher Milk Protector jar. In fact it was also made by the Whitall, Tatum & Company of Millville, New Jersey which also made the Thatcher milk jar. The Crystal milk jar is base embossed W.T. & CO. as well as having a stylized version of the initials on the front of the jar. Since Thatcher and Barnhart only patented the fastening device for their Milk Protector jar, the bottle itself was not protected by a patent. Whitall, Tatum & Company advertised that their Crystal milk jar was patented on September 11, 1888. This patent was issued to Charles Tatum and assigned to the company. The patent was for the bottle stopper holder. They also used a glass lid sealed with a paper ring between the bottle lip and the lid. The patent date was embossed on the glass lid. The bail locked into two dimples in the glass just below the lip of the bottle just like the Thatcher bottle. The difference was that an arched metal clip was fitted into the glass lid and permanently attached to the bail by a ring. As the bail was pushed up the piece of arched metal on the glass lid, it put downward pressure on the lid.
Because of this design Whitall, Tatum & Company advertised that their lids were less apt to be lost since the whole assembly was joined together (unlike the Thatcher milk jar). If the bail was removed from the dimples in the glass then the top could be easily removed for cleaning (unlike the Warren milk jar). They also advertised that since their lid was glass no metal came in contact with the milk. They sold the Crystal milk jar in pint and quart sizes and advertised that they could be ordered with the dairies name blown in the side of the glass if ordered in lots of more than one gross. The milk jar pictured here has a blank, round slug plate on the back side that could have been embossed. These milk jars were listed in the Whitall, Tatum & Company catalogs in 1892 and 1896. This would have been after the milk cap seat was patented in 1889. One sees that even though the milk cap and cap seat later took over the milk bottle market, initially there was still much interest in bail type closures. The price in both years was 18 dollars per gross for pints and 20 dollars for quart jars. They sold the paper sealing rings for 25 cents per 1000. The 1902 catalog no longer listed the Crystal milk jar but did list conventional milk bottles with cap seats.
The milk bottle pictured above has a metal top that hinges and snaps on to the bottle lip rather than being levered down by a bail. This design was originally patented by Thomas Howe of Scranton, Pennsylvania on December 11, 1888. He refined the design and was issued a second patent on March 4, 1890. The tin top on this milk bottle reflects the features of the 1890 patent. In his original patent papers Howe called his top an automatic bottle fastener and these milk bottles were often advertised as the Howe Automatic Milk Bottle. Thomas Howe incorporated the Scranton Jar and Stopper Company in January of 1889 to market his bottles. The Scranton Jar and Stopper Company only manufactured the metal tops and did not make the glass bottles themselves. Thomas Howe as well as his partner, Rudolph Bloeser, owned many patents for bottle stoppers that were used on milk as well as fruit and beverage bottles.
The bottle itself also had some unique features in order to work with the Howe fastener. The lip of the bottle was a tapered design and the bottom of the lip had a 90 degree edge that the tin top could snap on to. One thing we have noticed about milk bottles with the Howe closure is that they are very crude. They are blown bottles with many manufacturing flaws. They often have large bubbles, extra glass and folds in the glass where it did not flow properly. The bases of the bottles often have the letter B followed by a number, such as B12 or B16.
One of the Howe milk bottles shown above has a September 17, 1889 patent date embossed on the base. This was the patent granted to the Barnhart's for sealing a milk bottle with a ligneous disk and a cap seat. The Howe lip definitely did not have a cap seat. We would assume that the glass house that made the Howe milk bottles was also making Common Sense milk bottles with the new cap seat. Could the glass blower have been blowing Howe milk bottles and used the mold base for the Common Sense milk bottle by mistake or was he blowing Common Sense milk bottles and put on the wrong lip?
They were sold in quart, pint and half pint sizes. Advertisements from the turn of the century listed the prices at $1.50 per dozen for quarts, $1.25 for pints and $1.00 for half pints. The opposite side had a round slug plate that could be blown with the dairy name and address. They were sold by the A. H. Reid Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which was a dairy and creamery supply company. Tibby Brothers Glass Company manufactured these bottles for A. H. Reid as we have seen a milk bottle with the Howe lip and closure that is embossed MFG. FOR A. H. REID in the slug plate and base embossed with TIBBY BROS. MAKER. Compared to the bail style tin top this method of sealing a milk bottle was not as secure and if bumped could open more easily than the bail top milk bottles. That probably explains why they are not near as common as the bail style tin tops. However they were popular with cow testers as sample bottles. This was because the Howe top would be snapped open with one hand, leaving the other hand free to sample the cow's milk. Some Howe tops will have a number stamped in the metal to identify the sample in the bottle.
The bail closure pictured above was stamped PGH BOTTLE STOPPER CO. LIMITED PAT SEP 10, 89 PITTSBURGH, PA. This September 10, 1889 patent was issued to Benjamin Greene of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The patent papers show a narrow necked bottle like a beer or a soda bottle but obviously the closure was adapted to milk bottles. In the patent papers there was a rubber disc attached to the bottom on the tin top but on the milk bottle version there was no rubber disc. The top sealed similar to the more common style of tin top probably with a paper packing. Also in the patent papers the bail worked opposite of what one is accustomed to on a tin top milk bottle. Lowering the bail against the bottle neck loosened the top and allowed the contents of the bottle to be poured out. Raising the bail up above the tin top sealed the metal top against the lip of the bottle. In fact Greene referred to this as a double lock since in the closed position not only was the tin top held on by the pressure created by the levering of the bail but also the bail wire itself was over the tin top. Again this feature was not utilized when this top was used on milk bottles. Rather the bail mechanism worked exactly like the more common tin top. In fact the only difference was that rather than the tin top being held to the bail wire by a soldered on cap, the bail wire actually passed through two holes in the tin top.
The Pittsburgh Top was sold by Burnap & Burnap of Toledo, Ohio which sold cheese, creamery and dairy supplies. The prices per dozen were $1.50 for quart bottles, $1.25 for pint bottles and $1.00 for half pints. This closure is not seen too often so we assume it was not that popular among dairies. In reality it probably offered no advantages over the more common tin top mik bottle.
Pictured above is a one pint F. K. Ward Milk Preserving Jar. Frank Ward was a successful dairyman in Washington D. C. who invented this milk jar for his delivery routes. We have only seen this style of milk jar labeled for his dairy, Ward's Alderney Milk Association. F. K. Ward was advertising his dairy business as early as 1877 and over time became very large, having 65 employees by 1888.
This jar had a ground lip and a heavy, ground glass stopper. The ground mating surface between the jar lip and the stopper had a groove in the jar lip that mated to a raised bead on the glass stopper to seal the jar. No packing or gasket was used with this jar. The milk could only contact glass. The jar had two ears molded onto the sides of the jar neck that held a wire bail that swung up and held on the stopper. In practice a bead of wax was used to seal the wire bail where it contacted the glass stopper to ensure to the customer that the jar had not been tampered with. The stopper had a large protrusion of glass on its base that set into the neck of the jar (it can be seen in the picture). There were also two vents cut into the base of the stopper. As the stopper was set into the jar full of milk the protrusion of glass forced the air (and probably some of the milk) out through these vent holes. In this way there was no air left trapped in the jar and thus churning of the milk during transport was eliminated. We have come across one reference that stated the jars were manufactured in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania but have no idea what glass factory would have produced them.
The jar is covered with embossing. On one side of the jar it is embossed:
WARD'S ALDERNEY MILK P & C ASSOCIATION WASHINGTON D. C.
The other side of the jar is embossed:
F. K. WARD'S MILK PRESERVING JAR SEALED STOPPER PATENTS 1890 & 1892
One side of the jar, along the seam line is embossed:
WASH CLEAN WHEN EMPTY
The other side is embossed:
WHEN EMPTY RETURN TO
The neck of the jar is embossed in script:
Cleanliness -w- Purity
The base of the jar is embossed:
THIS JAR HAS BEEN STOLEN IF OFFERED FOR SALE
The stopper is embossed:
REFUSE A BROKEN SEAL
There is also a cows head embossed onto the glass stopper with the words Trade Mark around it.
The jar refers to patents in 1890 and 1892. Frank Ward actually was granted five patents for milk jars in these years. His first patent was issued October 7, 1890. It pictured a different style of stopper which included a handle but the glass ears and bail to hold it down were similar to this jar. One interesting feature in this patent was that the glass jar had an air space in the walls of the jar that was to help insulate the milk from extremes in outside temperature. This feature seems as if it would have been a challenge to produce in 1890. Ward was granted a second patent on December 2, 1890. This second patent improved on the previous one by rounding the inside corners of the jar to aid in cleaning and adding a way to vent the air out of the jar when inserting the stopper. This patent still showed the air cavities in the walls of the jar.
Ward's third patent was issued March 22, 1892. This jar was very similar to the pictured jar with some small differences in the stopper. This patent introduced the sealing bead on the lip of the jar and stopper. The glass stopper no longer had a handle but the bail had an additional loop of wire that acted as a carrying handle that is not found on the actual jars. A way to vent the jar was also featured in the patent although it was different than what is found on the actual jar. The air cavities in the walls of the glass jar are no longer shown. Interestingly the patent calls it a milk and fruit preserving jar. Ward must have decided that his jar would also have a market for home canning.
It appears at this point Ward made more cosmetic changes to his jar but did not have any more unique features to patent. Thus he applied for two design patents, one for the jar and one for the stopper. Both of these patents were granted on April 12, 1892. The jar was again referred to as Ward's Milk and Fruit Preserving Jar.
Frank Ward's first patent was granted in 1878 for an improved milk cooler that he used in his Washington D. C. dairy business. Ward was also granted patents in 1892 for a milk mug to drink milk from, a device to skim cream from a milk jar and a body for a horse drawn milk delivery wagon.
It appears that Frank Ward's life got very complicated about the time these patents were granted. On June 18, 1889 Ward shot and wounded a man in a saloon who eventually died four months later. He was held in jail for nearly a year and was finally tried and acquitted in December of 1890. His defense was that the bullet ricocheted off a post and that possibly the doctors that cared for the man were responsible for the man's actual death. One wonders if the ideas behind Ward's patents were thought up while he was sitting in jail. We believe Ward was killed in an electric street car accident in 1892 or 1893 soon after his last patents were issued. His milk jar and stopper patents were sold at public auction on August 3, 1894. They were purchased by O. G. Staples for $53.50. This probably explains why F. K. Ward's milk jars are so uncommon. The jars must not date before 1892 since they are embossed with that date but probably were only manufactured a few years until Ward's death soon after.
The milk bottles pictured above were made by A. G. Smalley & Company of Boston, Massachusetts. These bottles were used to hold many products, one of them being milk. The patent for these bottles was granted to Albert G. Smalley of Boston, Massachusetts on April 5, 1898. These bottles have a unique metal handle held on to the bottle by a metal band around the neck and another around the center of the bottle. The glass bottle has an indentation in the glass to hold the metal band in the center of the bottle. These bottles have a tin bail top that is usually embossed A. G. SMALLEY & CO. FULL MEASURE. The bottles pictured above are a pint, quart and half gallon. A. G. Smalley bottles were also made in half pint and gallon sizes. Most A. G. Smalley bottles will have the patent date embossed on the base although a few will be base embossed "Patent App'd For". The patent date is also stamped into the metal handle. Most bottles will have a blank slug plate although a few have been found with embossing in the slug plate. A few bottles will have a city name embossed on the base. Some will be embossed BOSTON, MASS. and others will be embossed BOSTON & NEW YORK. A. G. Smalley & Company started in Boston and at some pointed also opened offices in New York.
The milk cap and cap seat was patented in 1889, prior to the patent for these milk bottles. Most Smalley bottles have a cap seat even though they are usually found with a tin, bail top. A. G. Smalley and Company advertised their bottles were available with tin tops, pulp caps or a combination, which was a tin top and a pulp cap on the same bottle. A 1910 invoice from A. G. Smalley & Company listed the price of these milk jars in the quart size with a tin top at 13 dollars for a gross. This meant the cost of a single bottle was a little over 9 cents. This seems very inexpensive but in the same year Sears, Roebuck and Company was selling quart milk bottles for $6.80 per gross.
One problem that was encountered in the manufacture of these bottles was that heat had to be applied to the glass bottle in order to solder the metal bands around the bottle. This resulted in damage to some bottles. A patent was granted to Henry Wright of Somerville, Massachusetts for a solution to this problem. The patent was dated June 6, 1899 and was for a bottle with a handle that was attached by a single wire that was twisted on rather than soldered. No heat needed to be applied to the bottle. The wire passed around the middle of the bottle, up through the sides of the handle and then wrapped around the bottle neck where it was twisted together. This wire also formed part of the mechanism for the bail top. Click here for a comparison of an A. G. Smalley quart bottle (left) and a Henry Wright quart bottle (right). Wright sold his bottles thru his company, Henry E. Wright & Sons of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1908 the price was $10.50 per gross for pints and $12.50 per gross for quarts. The Wright bottles are not found near as often as the Smalley bottles. From the bottle users point of view the Smalley bottle would have appeared much more substantial with the metal band instead of one thin wire to hold the handle on.
A. G. Smalley and Company also advertised a Duffy Handle milk jar. This milk bottle also had a tin handle but it was smaller and only attached at the bottle neck (picture). They advertised it as costing only a little more than milk bottles with no handle. The Duffy handled milk bottle was priced a few cents less than the Smalley bottle with the larger handle. They also usually came with a tin bail closure. The name Duffy handle came from the name of the inventor. Thomas Duffy of Boston, Massachusetts was granted a patent for this bottle attachment on July 17, 1900. He assigned his patent to Florence Smalley who was Albert's daughter, born in 1876. A 1901 order form for the A. G. Smalley & Company actually showed two styles of bottles with these handles. One they called the Duffy Handle and it was similar to the patent drawing. The second had a slightly larger hand hold and they called it the Florence Handle. Both jars listed the same patent date.
A. G. Smalley also sold milk bottles without handles, for both tin tops or pulp caps, as well as screw top cream jars. The milk bottles could be ordered with custom name plates. Regular plain milk jars were priced at $7.50 per gross for pulp caps and $8.50 per gross for tin tops. Compared to the handled jars at $13.00 per gross the plain Smalley milk bottles were much more economical.
Bottles left to right:
Pint base embossed: A. G. S. & CO. 4 PATENTED APRIL 5, 1898
Quart base embossed: A. G. S. & CO. 3 PATENTED APRIL 5, 1898
Half Gallon base embossed: A. G. SMALLEY & CO. PATENT APRIL 5, 1898 1 BOSTON MASS.
Off page bottles left to right:
Quart base embossed: A. G. S. & CO. 3 PATENTED APRIL 5, 1898
Quart, no embossing on bottle but handle stamped PAT. JUNE 6, 1899
Here is a bail style milk bottle that we have never seen before. It has a glass lid that is embossed LYON JAR PAT APR 10 1900. The April 10, 1900 patent was granted to Julian Lyon of Detroit, Michigan. The patent discusses the increase in the number of bottle made by machines and problems in sealing them do to imprecise manufacturing. His patent attempted to deal with these problems of warping and cracking that he termed "crizzled". Around 1900, semi-automatic bottle making machines would have been gaining in popularity. This bottle was made by machine and is very crude with straw marks, bubbles and poor glass distribution. The bottle has a ledge in the mouth that looks very much like a cap seat. It was designed for a gasket to seat on this ledge. The glass cap was designed with an angled surface that would press against this gasket. The bail is similar in design to the bail on tin top milk bottles but the glass lid is not attached to the bail. There is a groove in the glass lid that the bail fits into, very similar to bails on fruit jars (picture). This jar must not have been very popular but it is interesting that bail top milk bottles were still appearing over 10 years after the introduction of the cap seat and milk cap.