Colored Milk Bottles
Most milk bottles were made of clear glass. This was logical since the consumer needed to see the milk to determine its quality. It was important that the milk was clean, pure and a nice color. Also seeing the depth of the cream line and the color of the cream was important in judging the quality of the milk. Having said that, some glass manufacturers advertised that the glass in their "clear" milk bottles was actually straw colored. They claimed that this subtle tint brought out the richness of the milk. True colored glass milk bottles were utilized by a few dairies for products that might separate during storage and not be so visually appealing to the consumer. The other reason for a dairy to use a colored milk bottles was to distinguish their brand or special quality of milk. Protecting the milk from sunlight and thus improving the keeping quality of the milk was the third reason for colored glass in milk bottle production.
These embossed milk bottles are all amber glass. We have read reports that these early round amber milk bottles were used for buttermilk and in fact some can be found with the word "Buttermilk" in the embossing. In the early 1900's, the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company advertised one quart, amber buttermilk jars. The reason they were used for buttermilk was because buttermilk had a tendency to "whey" off or separate and this was not appealing to the consumer. We have also read reports were some creameries just used the amber bottles so the milkman could differentiate between the different products. They were not popular for regular milk since the amber color hid the cream line and and any sediment in the bottom of the bottle.
A report from the Iowa Experiment Station in 1920 compared milk in amber and clear glass milk bottles. They found that milk in clear glass bottles was more affected by sunlight than milk in brown bottles and was more apt to develop a tallow flavor. However they also found that the brown bottles absorbed more heat from the sun and thus the milk was slightly warmer and more likely to have greater numbers of bacteria.
These amber milk bottles were much less common than the clear glass milk bottles. Round amber milk bottles can be found in half pint, pint, quart and half gallon sizes. The first three bottles on the left are all amber quarts from New York made by the F. E. Reed Glass Company. The fourth bottle shown above is a half pint embossed amber bottle from San Diego, California. The base of this amber milk bottle is embossed WEBER. We don't believe this was the glass manufacturer but rather stood for O.J. Weber Company of Los Angeles. O.J. Weber Company was a dairy supplier who sold milk bottles. In 1934 the company advertised they were the distributor for Owens-Illinois Pacific Coast Company. This amber half pint dates prior to 1934 and we are not sure who actually manufactured the bottle for O.J. Weber Company. O.J. Weber Company merged with the Geo. W. Prising Company in February of 1937 to form the Pacific Dairy Equipment Company who were also distributors for Owens-Illinois milk bottles.
Round amber milk bottles are not common from California and the half pint size is much less common than the quarts. California dairies that used round, amber milk bottles included:
Long Beach Dairy & Creamery Company, Long Beach
P.M.D. Assn., San Diego
Santa Monica Dairy Company, Santa Monica
United Milk Company, San Francisco
Western Farms Dairy Company, Los Angeles
The F. E. Reed Glass Company of Rochester, New York was a common manufacturer of round, amber milk bottles as well as the green milk bottles discussed below. A company advertisement in the late 1930's mentioned their colored glass (picture). In early 1926 F. E. Reed Glass Company was advertising their amber milk bottles specifically for buttermilk. They indicated that since the amber bottles were in their regular production run there was no extra cost for amber milk bottles. Other manufacturers of round, amber glass milk bottles included Fairmount Glass Works of Fairmount, Indiana and later Indianapolis, J. T. & A. Hamilton Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Thatcher Manufacturing Company of Elmira, New York. In California, Southern Glass Company of Los Angeles made amber milk bottles and we have seen generic, amber milk bottles with the mark of the Illinois Pacific Glass Company. O.J. Weber was not the only milk bottle reseller that had amber milk bottles manufactured with their name. We have also seen amber milk bottles base embossed R.G. WRIGHT & CO. BUFFALO. R.G. Wright was also a milk bottle reseller.
Later in the 1950's there was a concern that light could be breaking down the vitamins in the milk. There was an increased interest at this time in amber glass milk bottles to keep the light from altering the vitamins in the milk. At the same time, homogenization had become the norm and there was no longer a need to see the cream line of the milk. These milk bottles were usually square. Quart bottles were most common (picture) but half gallon and gallon size square, amber milk bottles are also found (picture). Pints are also found and a few dairies used a square, amber half pint milk bottle. At least six California dairies used the square, amber half pints.
Milk bottles left to right:
Big Elm Dairy Company, Rochester, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
E. F. Mayer, quart, Rochester, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
Peoples Milk Co., quart, Buffalo, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
P. M. D. Assn., half pint, San Diego, California, manufacturer & date unknown
First off page milk bottles left to right:
Challenge Cream & Butter Association, quart, California, Owens-Illinois, 1960
Golden Arrow Dairy, quart, San Diego, California, Glass Containers Corp, 1956
Borges Sanitary Dairy, quart, Chico, California, Owens-Illinois, 1956
Taylor's Dairy, half pint, Sacramento, California, Owens-Illinois, 1956
Second off page milk bottles left to right:
Porterville Dairy, half gallon, Porterville, California, Owens-Illinois, 1961
Campbell's Dairy. half gallon, San Diego, California?, Owens-Illinois, 1956
Borden's, gallon, California, Owens-Illinois, 1963
The F. E. Reed Glass Company also made a round, quart milk bottle with green glass. They were reportedly used by some dairies for eggnog and are even more scarce than the amber milk bottles. However we came across one 1937 reference that said one large eastern dairy was using green milk bottles for its vitamin D milk. Many dairies that used the green milk bottles also had amber milk bottles. The majority of dairies that used green milk bottles were located in the state of New York. The city of Rochester, New York had six dairies that used green milk bottles and in Buffalo, New York there were three dairies that used green milk bottles. Was there a competitive factor among dairies in these towns or was the Reed salesman in that area just very persuasive? There were no dairies in California that used a green milk bottle.
The F. E. Reed Glass Company made one green milk bottle that was unique. It was used by Alta Crest Farms and was a cone shaped milk bottle (picture) rather than the conventional shaped milk bottles pictured above. It was based on a shape that was patented by Henry Kart of Buffalo, New York on May 28, 1929. Click here to go to the page that discusses this bottle shape in more depth.
The only other glass company we are aware of that manufactured round, green milk bottles was the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. They made a green milk bottle for the Lang's Creamery of Buffalo, New York. The bottles we have seen have a 1932 date code and were made at the Owens-Illinois Glass Company factory in Fairmount, West Virginia.
We have seen references as early as 1906 by university professors claiming that green or red milk bottles would protect milk from sunlight. However we believe that much of the interest in green milk bottles was related to research done by the Department of Agriculture in the late 1920's. Mayne Coe, of Washington D.C., discovered that certain wavelengths of light would cause oil bearing foods to turn rancid. Milk, because it contained fat in the cream, would be considered susceptible. Coe found that only light in the green spectrum, between 4,900 and 5,600 angstroms, did not cause spoilage and thus promoted storage of milk in green milk bottles. Coe patented his discovery but granted free use of the technology to the government and the public. He applied for the patent on December 4, 1930 and it was granted on October 4, 1932. Many newspapers carried the story making the public believe that milk in green bottles would stay fresher, longer however green milk bottles never really caught on with consumers.
Green milk bottles appeared again the late 1950's and 1960's. Just as with square, amber milk bottles, break down of the vitamins in the milk due to light was an issue. At this time the bottles were square and half gallon and gallon sizes were more common (picture). Most of these milk bottles were made by Liberty Glass Company of Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
Milk bottles left to right:
Big Elm Dairy Company, quart, Rochester, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
Brighton Place Dairy, quart, Rochester, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
Weckerle, quart, Buffalo, New York, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
First off page milk bottle:
Alta Crest Farms, quart, Spencer, Massachusetts, F. E. Reed Glass Co., date unknown
Second off page milk bottles left to right:
Unmarked, quart, Liberty Glass Co., 1960
Sun Valley Dairy, half gallon, Highland Park, Illinois, Liberty Glass Co., 1965
Unmarked, gallon, Liberty Glass Co., 1961
Pictured above is the only red milk bottle. These were not actually used to sell milk but were a sample made by the Anchor Hocking Glass Corporation, based in Lancaster, Ohio, for the Borden Company in 1950. Based on the plant code on the bottom of the bottle they were manufactured at Anchor Hocking's glass factory in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. Borden decided not to use the bottle for milk sales however some of the bottles survived. The base of the bottle is embossed "Royal Ruby" and "Anchorglass" along with the H over an anchor symbol of Anchor Hocking Glass. There is also a date code of 50 and a plant code of 5. The base is also embossed with U.S Pat. No. 2,177,396. This patent was granted to John Watson on October 24, 1939 and was assigned to the Borden Company of New York, New York. The patent dealt with the neck and lip construction of the bottle with the goal to make a more rugged bottle that would stand up to heavy use as well as automated capping and washing machines. These bottles had a more short, squat shape than conventional milk bottles.
Royal Ruby glass used copper to give the glass it's red color. Previously gold or selenium was used as the coloring agent to make glass red and was more expensive. In Royal Ruby glass the main coloring agent was cuprous oxide along with bismuth oxide, stannic oxide and sodium cyanide. The other interesting thing about Royal Ruby glass was that the red color was not achieved in the molten glass but rather developed during the annealing or reheating process. Glass had to be reheated and slowly cooled in a lehr in order to remove internal stresses. It was during this reheating in the lehr that the red color would develop in the glass.
We have seen references as early as 1906 promoting red or green milk bottles as improving the shelf life of milk however red milk bottles were never used by dairies. Some of the resistance might have been the fear that a red milk bottle would make the consumer think the milk was bloody.
Some dairies also used Royal Ruby glass as a promotional item. They packaged their cottage cheese in Royal Ruby tumblers sealed by a metal lid that crimped on the bead around the rim of the tumbler (picture). Anchor Hocking called this style of tumbler the Roly Poly pattern and they came in various sizes. The one pictured here was five inches tall and held 12 ounces of creamed cottage cheese. Many dairies used this as a way to attract customers, as the Royal Ruby glass was very popular in the 1950's. One dairy was selling these tumblers filled with cottage cheese for 24 cents in 1950.
Thanks to American Bottle Auctions for the use of their picture.
This is the only blue milk bottle that we know of. It was not used for commercial delivery of milk but rather was used by the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, Illinois to serve milk in its College Inn restaurant. The College Inn was opened on January 23, 1911 and was a major night spot in Chicago in the 1910's and 1920's. It was still in business in the late 1940's. The Inn was known for its ice skating exhibitions and jazz performances. At one time it was claimed to be the largest and most beautiful grill room in America. It had a capacity of 350 persons.
The bottle has a cap seat just like a milk bottle and the sides have two scalloped indentations. The lip is hand applied. The bottle is embossed Hotel Sherman on one side and College Inn on the other. There is no size designation nor any maker's marks. The bottle holds a half pint.
All other milk bottles with blue glass are fakes. Two that come to mind are the cobalt blue Liberty Milk Co. and the blue Brookfield baby top milk bottle's that are often seen on ebay.
One will also find purple or amethyst tinted milk bottles. These milk bottles were not intended to be that color. Glass is naturally an aqua color with a blue-green tint. This was mainly due to iron impurities in the sand. If a milk bottle had a green tint in the glass it made the milk look skimmed or missing some of the cream. In order to make the glass clear, glass makers bleached the glass with various chemicals. In the early 1900's manganese dioxide was the chemical used to bleach the glass. What the glass makers at that time did not know was that exposure to the UV light from the sun would cause the glass to turn a purple color. The main source of manganese was in Europe and when WWI broke out in 1914 glass manufacturers were unable to maintain a supply of manganese. Other chemicals had to be used to bleach the glass. Selenium was a common alternative but it will not cause the glass to turn purple. Thus the latest one will find purple colored bottles will be shortly after the start of WWI depending when a glass manufacturer's supply of manganese was depleted. We have bottles dated 1916 that have a strong purple color and it may be possible that some glass makers might have had manganese available for a year or two after that.
Occasionally one will see very deep purple milk bottles (picture). These have been altered to get the purple color that dark. They have either been irradiated or placed under strong UV lights. Exposure to natural sun light will not change the color of the bottle to a deep purple. Often this is done to plain milk bottles in an attempt to increase their value.
Milk bottles left to right:
Fairfax Dairy, quart, Fairfax, California, Winslow Glass Co. (DeLaval), pre-1918
City Dairy, pint, Hanford, California, Illinois Pacific Glass Co., pre-1918
Millbrae California Milk Co., pint, San Francisco, California, manufacturer unknown., pre-1918
Wallace Dairy, pint, Ukiah, California, Illinois Pacific Glass Co., pre-1918
Off page milk bottle:
C.C.S.E., half pint, location unknown, Essex Glass Company, pre-1918