Milk Bottle Neck & Lip Styles
Milk bottles can be found with or without neck embossing. The necks of milk bottles were embossed to make it easier to grasp the bottle as well as to aid in creameries identifying their bottles. The five pint bottles pictured above represent different neck embossing. The first bottle has up side down arrows, the second has fluted panels on the neck, the third has 3 rings (we have seen as few as one and as many as six rings), the fourth has short vertical lines (the most common neck embossing) and the last milk bottle has raised dots. We have also seen milk bottles with zig zag lines, diamonds, spiral lines, the dairy's initials and slogans such as "It Whips" embossed on the bottle's neck.
The Cherry-Burrell Company offered nine neck markings for milk bottles made by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company in their 1939 catalog. The Creamery Package Manufacturing Company also offered nine neck markings in their 1940 catalog however they recommended against their use since the glass used in forming the neck embossing could be redistributed elsewhere to further strengthen the milk bottle.
Milk bottles left to right:
Santa Clara Valley Creamery, pint, Palo Alto, California, Illinois Pacific Glass, pre-1930
Swiss Dairy, pint, Susanville, California, Owens-Illinois, 1936
Turlock Milk Company, pint, Turlock, California, Illinois Pacific Glass Co., 1921
Haussler's Dairy, pint, Davis, California, Illinois Pacific Glass Co., 1922
Monterey Bay Milk Distributors, pint, Monterey, California, Owens-Illinois, 1942
One neck embossing that was patented was the Dripless milk bottle, which is pictured above. Due to the wide lip on a milk bottle they were prone to drips running down the side of the bottle. On October 3, 1933, Carl Swanson of Minneapolis, Minnesota patented a design for an antidrip milk bottle. His bottle had a series of indents around the neck, similar to a honeycomb. The idea was that this would stop the drip from moving downwards and increase the surface area so it would dry. Unfortunately this design was hard to clean, weakened the glass in the neck area of the milk bottle and was difficult to remove from the mold during manufacture. Swanson was granted a second patent on August 27, 1935 that addressed these issues. This bottle had a pattern of embossing on the neck that looked like brickwork. The lines, however, were above the surface of the glass so the neck was not weakened. This design was easier to clean and also inhibited the downward movement of drips. The horizontal lines tended to spread out the drip letting it dry faster.
These bottles are embossed patented but have no patent date or number. Under the brickwork pattern they were embossed DRIPLESS in a V shape. We have seen these bottles embossed or pyroglazed and in sizes of half pint, pint and quart. Many, if not all, of these milk bottles were made by The Lamb Glass Company of Mount Vernon, Ohio and the bottles will have their L52 mark. A 1936 advertisement from The Lamb Glass Company stated that these Dripless milk bottles were produced exclusively by them.
Milk bottles left to right:
Oak Park Dairy, half pint, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Lamb Glass Co., late 1930's
Franklin Co-op, pint, Minnesota?, Lamb Glass Co., late 1930's
Guernsey Dairy, quart, Benton Harbor, Michigan, Lamb Glass Co., late 1930's
Probably the most distinctive feature of a milk bottle is the use of a milk cap to seal the bottle. However early milk bottles used glass or tin lids, often with a packing material between the glass bottle and the lid, to seal the bottle. Since milk bottles were to be returned and refilled, the ease of cleaning and sanitizing the bottle was a major consideration. A major drawback of bail type milk bottles with glass or metal lids however was the difficulty in cleaning the bottle, the lid and the bail that held them on. Metal parts were prone to corrosion and if the lid was not attached to the bail it was often lost. Thatcher advertisements for the cap seat or common sense milk bottle from 1893 also claimed that customers were more apt to keep bail top milk bottles rather than returning them since they had a reusable cap and could easily be converted to domestic use. Another problem was that metal bail caps were prone to damage in freezing weather. When milk bottles were left on the porch in freezing cold, the milk would expand and bend or break the metal lid since it was attached to the bottle. A paper cap would simply push out of the mouth of the bottle.
On September 17, 1889 Harvey and Samuel Barnhart of Potsdam, New York were issued a patent for a system of sealing milk bottles with a ligneous disk. Their preferred material was a white soft wood immersed in boiling paraffine although they also said wood pulp, fiber, paperboard or paper mache' could be used. In order to receive the milk cap, the milk bottle had to be finished with a shoulder or cap seat in the milk bottle lip for the cap to seal against. Although the patent was not officially assigned to the Thatcher Manufacturing Company, the Barnhart brothers were officers in the company and Thatcher was the first to use this new system of sealing milk bottles. They referred to it as the Common Sense Milk bottle. It would eventually become the standard for the milk bottle industry.
Pictured above are two milk bottles. On the left is a milk bottle with no cap seat and on the right is a bottle with a cap seat and also bottom embossed with the Sept. 17th, 1889 patent date. Note the ledge or shoulder for the milk cap to seal on but also notice that both bottles are fitted with metal bail style lids. At first glance this would seem wrong but finding milk bottles with bail tops and a cap seat is not all that uncommon. It appears bottle manufacturers quickly designed their milk bottles with cap seats yet some customers preferred the older style bail tops and others used the pulp caps in combination with the tin tops. In fact Harvey and Samuel Barnhart were issued patents on June 2 and July 28, 1896 for bail type bottle closures a full seven years after they introduced the milk cap. In both sets of patent papers they mention that these bail tops were especially desirable for use with the milk caps described in their September 17, 1889 patent. A paper published in 1907 by C. C. Johnson concerning the nation's milk supply estimated that 60% of milk bottles in use at that time were equipped with a tin cap as well as a paper cap. Bail tops were available well into the early 1900's before they were completely replaced by milk caps. We have seen advertisements as late as 1912 offering tin top milk bottles and also milk bottles with manufacture dates of 1914 that had original tin tops.
Even more surprising, Harvey and Samuel Barnhart were issued patents in 1889 and 1890 for milk dispensing cans that were used by milk dealers that were still ignoring bottles and delivering milk to homes and filling the homeowner's own container. So even at the time the cap seat was introduced there were still milk dealers that had not yet even adopted glass milk bottles.
Sears, Roebuck and Company sold the Common Sense Milk Jar that used a milk cap in their 1897 catalog and Montgomery Wards advertised it as early as 1895. Both companies sold quart and pint size bottles. Sears price for quarts was $1.25/dozen or $13.50/gross while Wards had them priced at $1.50/dozen or $16.00/gross. Both companies used the same prepared ad and it mentioned that large dealers and milk depots could stamp the date or other information on the cap to allow them to trace back cases of unsatisfactory milk. This was the start of personalized milk caps. The milk bottles that Sears and Wards sold were similar in shape to the Thatcher Milk Protector bottle that used the 1886 patented glass lid. They were embossed on the front with a cow and ABSOLUTELY PURE BOTTLED MILK where as the 1886 bottle with the glass lid was embossed with a cow and a man milking it and ABSOLUTELY PURE MILK above and THE MILK PROTECTOR below. Both bottles were embossed TO BE USED ONLY AS DESIGNATED MILK & CREAM JAR in a slug plate on the back of the jar. The common sense bottle with the cap seat will be embossed PAT. SEP. 17, 89 where as the older milk protector jar will have no patent date on the jar since it was the glass lid that was patented and not the milk jar. The base embossing on the common sense milk jar was THATCHER MFG CO POTSDAM NY similar to the embossing found on some of the earlier milk protector jars. Click here to see a picture with the older Thatcher milk protector jar that used a glass lid on the left and the Thatcher common sense milk jar that used a paper cap on the right.
There was also another version of the Common Sense Milk Jar that had the Common Sense embossed right on the bottle and did not have the picture of the cow (picture). On the face of the bottle it is embossed: COMMON SENSE MILK JAR PAT. SEPT. 17 89. THIS BOTTLE TO BE WASHED AND RETURNED. The base of the milk bottle was embossed THATCHER MFG. CO. POTSDAM, N.Y. The bottle had a slug plate on the other side for a dairy name although it is uncommon to find these bottles with slug plate embossing. We feel this Common Sense Milk Jar dates after the version with the embossed cow.
The paper caps on these first common sense milk jars were larger than the caps that we are used to seeing. The early caps were around 48 mm in diameter where as later caps were standardized around 43 mm (picture). Part of this was to make cleaning the jars easier. Since milk jars were to be reused and milk quickly spoiled it was important that the insides of the jars could be cleaned. Over time, as cleaning techniques became better, the size of the milk jar mouth decreased. Note that the larger, early milk cap is stamped with the September 17, 1889 patent date. Thatcher Manufacturing Company sold three grades of caps. The best grade they called the Thatcher cap. The second quality was called the star cap and it was made of the same material as the Thatcher cap but was not as heavy. The third quality was the crescent cap (shown here). This cap was a cheaper cap and was not suited to being packed in ice. In 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Company sold caps for 7 cents per 100 or 63 cents/1000.
One will also find milk bottles that are embossed COMMON SENSE MILK JAR. These will be shaped more like typical milk bottles and we believe would date later than the milk bottles with the cow on the front and the 1889 patent date.
Interestingly, the use of a paper cap coated in paraffine did not originate with the Barnhart's and their 1889 patent. In June of 1880, Purches Miles was granted a patent for sealing milk bottles using a paraffine coated paper cap underneath of a metal bail top. His paper cap was cup shaped so that when it was set in the top of a full bottle of milk it would displace some of the milk and remove all the air from the top of the bottle. This was thought to be important in early milk containers to prevent churning during shipment. There was an air pocket between the paper cap and the metal tin top to allow the milk to expand or contract. In Purches Miles patent there was no ledge in the bottle lip for the cap so sit on. Rather the cap sat on top of the milk bottle lip and acted as a seal between the glass and the tin top. The advantage of the Barnhart patent was that the cap seat totally eliminated the tin top. Although this patent he retained for himself, many of Purches Miles' jar patents were assigned to Henry Putnam of fruit jar fame. Miles was also a prolific inventor of barbed wire.
One would think that the Thatcher Manufacturing Company would have sole use of this idea and thus a monopoly on the market for the life of the patent but this did not seem to be true. Many other glass companies adopted the cap seat and disc method of sealing milk bottles. We even found a reference from February of 1889, prior to the patent being issued, that described a dairymen that was using the Warren milk jar with the new paper cap under the bail cover. He described the paper cap as being able to keep the milk from spilling from the jar even if the bail cover shook off. Thatcher tried to defend its patent rights in court against companies that were infringing on the patent however they often were not successful. The problem seemed to be that the Barnhart's were too specific in their patent description and competing companies would make minor changes and thus their designs did not infringe on the Barnhart patent. In one patent infringement case in 1899 against the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company this was the case. The original patent specified that the walls on the milk bottle mouth just above the cap seat were exactly parallel to the outside of the bottle mouth similar to a cylinder. Creamery Package Manufacturing Company was able to get around the patent by making the walls of the bottle mouth just above the cap seat taper out slightly as they got closer to the cap seat. This would seem to just be a technicality and that the spirit of the idea was being copied but in the eyes of the court it was enough for Thatcher Manufacturing Company to loose the case.
Click here to go to the page with bail top milk bottles and the Thatcher Milk Protector Jar.
Milk bottles left to right:
Thomas Gibson, quart, White Plains, New York, Fidelity
Unmarked, quart, Thatcher Manufacturing Company
The milk bottles pictured above have crown style lips. They were made to engage a metal cap with a cork or paper lining. This method of fastening the cap was much more common on beer and soda bottles but some milk bottles do exist. One advantage of this system was that the lip of the milk bottle was covered and thus it was claimed to be a more sanitary cover than a milk cap seated in a cap seat with the bottle lip exposed. The milk bottle on the left is a quart bottle that is embossed on the back: FOR MILK PASTEURIZED IN THE BOTTLE ONLY and at the neck there is a line embossed FILL TO THIS LINE. A 1913 ad from The Crown Cork and Seal Company of Baltimore, Maryland, which owned the rights to the Dacro Crown cap, promoted the fact that milk in bottles sealed with these caps could be pasteurized in the bottle. This is how beer is pasteurized today. The advantage of this was the milk did not have to be handled after pasteurization and the chance for recontamination was eliminated. Milk in bottles with cardboard milk caps in a cap seat could not be pasteurized in the bottle. The reason for the line that said FILL TO THIS LINE was that milk bottles made for pasteurization in the bottle needed to be slightly oversize. This was because the milk would expand when it was heated and there need to be an air space for this expansion to occur at the top of the bottle. Most state codes required that milk bottles be accurate capacity when filled to within one eighth inch of the cap seat. However bottles that were marked for pasteurization in the bottle were not required to be filled this full to allow for expansion of the milk but the bottles did need to have a line that showed where the milk bottle's full capacity was measured to.
The crown cap was patented by William Painter of Baltimore, Maryland. Painter had patented a successful bottle closure on September 29, 1885 called the bottle seal, loop seal or sometimes called the Baltimore loop seal. He was granted many patents for improvements of this closure, a tool for forming the special bottle finish and a tool for removing the closure. He was the general manager of the Bottle Seal Company which was assigned many of these patents and sold the loop seal. On February 2, 1892 Painter was granted three patents dealing with the crown style closures shown here. He formed the Crown Cork and Seal Company in 1893 to market this new closure. On April 26, 1892 he patented a machine for installing crown caps and on February 6, 1894 he patented a crown cap bottle opener. He was granted many more patents for improvements in the crown cap, equipment to make and install them and gluten compounds to use as a seal inside the metal cap. Advertisements for the company as early as 1911 referred to the crown cap used on milk bottles as the Dacro Crown. The trade name "Dacro" was a shortened version of "dairy crown". The company remained in business for many years. The west coast division of the Crown Cork and Seal Company was called the Western Stopper Company and was based in San Francisco, California.
The process of pasteurizing milk in the bottle was perfected by Harvey Coale of Baltimore, Maryland. He was granted two patents on April 11, 1911, one for a crown closure to be used when pasteurizing milk in the bottle and another patent for the process itself. He assigned both of these patents to the Crown Cork and Seal Company where he was employed as the assistant secretary since the company's formation. The unique feature of his crown closure was that the metal cap would flex. When the milk was heated to kill the bacteria the milk would expand and the cap would bulge upward and allow the air above the milk to escape. As the milk cooled and contracted the cap would become concave and a slight vacuum would be created in the bottle.
The crown top milk bottle was not used in great numbers however. Initially there were problems with the cork lining inside the metal cap imparting a flavor to the milk during pasteurization. This was solved by switching to wood or paper linings. The crown caps were slower to cap than conventional milk bottles and required a specialized capper. The cost of a small hand capper was 20 dollars in 1914 and rose to 25 dollars soon after but even this was a large expense for a small dairy. Chipping of the glass bottle lip was also mentioned as a drawback. If there was any damage to the bottle lip the crown cap would not make a tight seal. Milk delivery men did not like the crown caps for one of the very reasons they were recommended. With the crown cap they could not tamper with the cap without it being obvious to the consumer. This prevented milk delivery men from opening quart bottles and splitting them in to pints while on their route (or combining pints into quarts) since the crown cap could not be replaced in the field like the paper disc cap could.
Crown caps were more popular with soda works and breweries because carbonated beverages required a tight seal like the crown cap supplied. With milk however the paper milk cap was sufficient. Also the cost of the capping machines was probably easier for a larger brewery to justify than a small creamery.
The quart milk bottle shown above on the left is turning a purple color due to manganese used to bleach the glass when it was made. The milk bottle on the right was for certified cream. Click here for a picture of the crown cap from this milk bottle. It is labeled CERTIFIED CREAM - CERTIFIED BY SANTA CRUZ COUNTY MEDICAL COMMISSION. Certified dairies were held to stricter standards and more frequent inspections than regular dairies. Many medical commissions recommended the use of the crown top milk bottles since they were more sanitary.
Pasteurization is named after Louis Pasteur who conducted experiments in the 1860's that showed heating wine could stop unfavorable fermentation. Some dairies started pasteurizing their milk in the 1890's but it wasn't till 1908 that Chicago became the first city to require milk to be pasteurized if it did not come from cows that were tested negative for tuberculosis. Other cities soon followed, with New York and Philadelphia requiring milk to be pasteurized by 1914.
There are various methods of pasteurization. In the early 1900's a batch method was used where a tank of milk was held at 145 degrees for 30 minutes. Pasteurization did not sterilize the milk and it still needed to be refrigerated afterward. It did greatly reduce the number of bacteria in the milk so the chance of bacterial illness was minimized and the shelf life of the milk was increased. Now days a HTST (High Temperature - Short Time) method is used in large creameries where the milk is heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds. There is also a UHT (Ultra High Temperature) method where the milk is heated well above boiling under pressure for just a few seconds. This product is essentially sterile and does not have to be refrigerated until it is opened. This is used with coffee creamers in this country and is common in Europe on most milk products. Pasteurization is not without its downside. Some vitamins, enzymes and nutrients are destroyed by the heating process and the UHT process can create a cooked flavor. However this trade off is minor compared to the benefits.
Pasteurization should not be confused with homogenization. Homogenization is the breaking up of the fat globules in milk so it will not separate from the skim milk.
Milk bottles left to right:
Kell's Dairy, quart, Stockton, California, Thatcher Manufacturing Co., 1916
Newman Bros, pint, Elk Grove, California, Thatcher Manufacturing Co., 1917
Linwood Farm Dairy, half pint, Santa Cruz, California, Thatcher Manufacturing Co., 1915
The milk bottle on the left above is an example of a newer Dacro style lip. The Dacro Crown was the trademark used by the Crown Cork and Seal Company for their crown top milk bottle seal (pictured elsewhere on this page) and was designed to be more sanitary by covering the pouring lip on the milk bottle. It also was more sanitary than conventional milk caps since any milk seepage could not sit on top of the cap and possibly reenter the bottle. Originally the Dacro cap was a pre-formed tin cap with a paper lining but for this style of bottle the cap was changed to aluminum foil with a paper lining. The material was shipped flat and the cap was formed as it was pressed on to the bottle. Over time the size of the Dacro cap also decreased to reduce costs. Early Dacro caps were 45 millimeters but later a 38 millimeter size was introduced.
The patent for this bottle was granted on January 19, 1932 as a design patent to Frank L. Lloyd of Baltimore, Maryland and was assigned to the Crown Cork & Seal Company of the same city. It is interesting that this was considered only ornamental and granted a design patent. It would seem that the Dacro bottle would be considered functional since the lip was integral to the capping of the bottle. Advertisements for this new system of capping appeared in September of 1931. These bottles were usually embossed Dacro and have the patent number. These milk bottles have no cap seat since the cap on these bottles engaged the outside of the bottle lip. The largest roll at the lower portion of the lip was not involved with the sealing of the cap but was a protection so that the cap could not be hit from below during handling and pop off the cap.
If you look closely at the bottle above on the left you will notice two glass lugs below the sealing lip. These were not actually shown in the 1932 patent but were shown in a patent issued to Stanley Dennis on August 1, 1939. This patent was also assigned to the Crown Cork and Seal Company. It was also a design patent so no functional details were discussed. However we have seen a pyroglazed bottle that mentioned these new lugs and indicated that they could be used for leverage to remove the cap. This same bottle also shows that the Dacro cap is now re-sealable which would not have been true of the original crown top cap (picture). This milk bottle however is embossed with the patent number of the 1932 patent and not the 1939 patent.
The Dacro sealing system was marketed in California by the Western Stopper Company, Inc. which was the western division of the Crown Cork & Seal Company. They had offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The milk bottle on the right is marked with a patent date of March 17, 1931. This patent was issued to John E. Sharp of New Kensington, Pennsylvania and Raymond W. Niver of Elmira, New York and was assigned to the Aluminum Company of America. This milk bottle lip was designed to work with an aluminum foil cap. The goals stated in the patent were to provide a cap which covered and protected the lip, which could be easily be reapplied and which could readily identify if the cap had been tampered with. The projections on the lip were intended to engage with the foil cap and keep it in place. There was a pattern of a long then a short projection going around the bottle lip. This bottle has 8 pairs of projections but we have seen some bottles with 10 pairs. This style lip is found on many Meadow Gold and Golden State milk bottles from California. Meadow Gold referred to this cap as the Silver Seal and many of their bottles are marked with that phrase (picture). These bottles are often embossed with the patent date. We have seen these milk bottles with and without a conventional cap seat. Early ads from 1931 advertised that these milk bottles did not have a cap seat and thus the smooth bore of the neck was more sanitary.
The Aluminum Seal Company of New Kensington, Pennsylvania eventually became the distributor for the Alseco Aluminum Hood that worked with these projections (and later versions) on the milk bottle lip. World War II had a huge impact on this style of milk bottle seal however. During the war the demand for aluminum increased immensely since almost every United States bomber and fighter plane was made primarily of aluminum. Due to the need for aluminum in the war effort, no aluminum was available for milk bottle hoods. This presented a problem for the Aluminum Seal Company. If dairies quit ordering milk bottles that were compatible with an aluminum hood, they would not be able to start using them again when the war was over. The Aluminum Seal Company continued to advertise during the war urging dairymen to order their bottles with the ability to accept aluminum hoods even though their sales had essentially dried up. During this time many of these milk bottles were also made with a cap seat so that a common cardboard cap could be used until the aluminum caps became available again. The silver lining to all this was that after the war the production of aluminum had increased seven fold resulting in more availability and 25 percent lower prices for aluminum.
Milk bottles left to right:
Piers Dairy, quart, Palo Alto, California, Owens-Illinois, 1945
The Fairmont Creamery Co., quart, location unknown, Thatcher Manufacturing Company, 1941
First off page milk bottle:
Jackson/Calaveras Creamery & Ice Co., quart, Jackson & Angels Camp, California, Owens-Illinois, 1941
Second off page milk bottle:
Meadow Gold, quart, no location, Thatcher Manufacturing Company, 1946
The bottle on the left is marked with a patent date of November 22, 1927. This patent was issued to Edward F. Glacken of Brooklyn, New York for a milk bottle with gripping projections under the bottle lip. The pouring surface of the bottle was still smooth but under the lip were raised ridges in the glass. The bottle pictured here has 32 ridges. In his patent Glacken stated that milk bottles were often dropped and broken because in the early morning hours the milk bottle would slip out of the milkman's hands. These ridges improved his grip on the bottle and also would aid him in identifying his bottles by feel in the dark morning hours when milk was delivered. We have also seen a milk bottle with a diamond or criss-cross pattern on the underside of the lip instead of the parallel ridges that also referenced this same patent (picture).
In 1929 the Atlantic Bottle Company advertised a Hold Fast Grip Milk Bottle that referenced this patent. Edward Glacken had an ownership interest in the Atlantic Bottle Company as well as being the president and general manager of the company. Interestingly they often advertised that this lip made it easier for children to handle the bottle. Atlantic Bottle Company's advertisements said that they would prosecute patent infringements. They threatened to prosecute manufacturers, purchasers and users of these bottles. Some bottle manufacturer must have been infringing on the patent at the time. Owens-Illinois acquired this patent when they bought Atlantic Bottle Company in 1930. By 1932 they were offering this bottle style on the west coast through the Owens-Illinois Pacific Coast Company. In 1935 Owens-Illinois advertisements stated that only one dairy in a community could be licensed to use this style of milk bottle.
These bottles often have the patent number and patent date embossed on them. These milk bottles will have a cap seat since this embossing was not involved with sealing the bottle. Besides the patent for the Cream Top milk bottle this is the most common patent date one finds embossed on milk bottles.
The bottle on the right is an example of the milk bottle lip described in the April 6, 1937 patent issued to James E. Greenwood of Sapulpa, Oklahoma and assigned to Liberty Glass Company, also in Sapulpa. This patent is a combination of the ideas behind the 1927 patent that dealt with providing a better grip on the milk bottle and the 1931 patent that dealt with engaging the foil milk cap. Greenwood states that his invention will provide the user with a better grip of the milk bottle to reduce breakage, allow a means of identifying bottles in the dark, be able to be formed readily in the usual bottle making machines and providing a gripping surface to securely engage and hold aluminum foil milk caps. The patent papers showed three different styles of this lip. One has just the horizontal ridges, one has horizontal and vertical ridges (this style is pictured above) and one has horizontal and slanting ridges (picture). There also were milk bottles embossed with this patent number that had a much shorter lip that was very similar to the Glacken lip (picture). It was interesting that Greenwood also mentioned that a source of milk bottle breakage was by children who were not strong enough to handle the bottles. We don't know if this milk bottle was any safer around children.
We have seen bottles manufactured in 1935 through 1938 with this lip that are embossed PATENT APPLIED FOR. Since this patent was assigned to Liberty Glass Company, many of these milk bottles will have their L-G mark on the bottles. However we have also found milk bottles made by Owens-Illinois Glass Company that used this style lip. All the bottles we have seen have had a cap seat.
Milk bottles left to right:
Arden Farms Co., quart, Los Angeles, California, Owens-Illinois 1946
West Coast Dairy, quart, Everett, Washington, Liberty Glass Company, 1945
Off page milk bottle
Winder Dairy, quart, Salt Lake City, Utah, Liberty Glass Company, 1939
We had once seen a reference in a milk bottle catalog for a Sansby milk bottle. We were aware that a design patent was granted to Joseph Sansby of St. Paul, Minnesota on May 19, 1936 however we had never seen the bottle. This patent was for a double lip configuration but since it was a design patent very few details were revealed in the patent papers. Pictured on the left above is a milk bottle we recently found embossed HEALTH-TOP BOTTLE that was also embossed with this patent number. The bottle has no cap seat so the cap must have engaged on the outside of the bottle similar to a Dacro cap. It is interesting that the bottle embossing implies a health benefit yet the patent papers only claim a unique ornamental design and make no claims for sealing the bottle or its health benefits.
After further research we came across a second patent granted to Joseph Sansby on August 3, 1937 for another double-lipped milk bottle. This was a utility patent so the patent papers describe more detail. It does appear that his idea concerned a health benefit. Our research indicates that Joseph Sansby was a medical doctor which would explain his health concerns. His idea for a double lip was two-fold. First it would stop milk from dripping down the side of the bottle during pouring and second it would keep ones hand from touching the upper pouring lip when grabbing the bottle. He was attempting to isolate the part of the bottle that was touched by the hand and the parts of the bottle that would be contacted by the milk. Interestingly this second patent was actually applied for on July 1, 1935, prior to the design patent granted in 1936 for the bottle pictured above. Sansby obviously had these health benefits in mind and applied for a design patent on a similar milk bottle while his utility patent was pending. It just happened that the design patent was granted before the utility patent.
We have only seen this patent on milk bottles from Oak Grove Dairy, which was located in St. Paul, Minnesota, but we have seen versions manufactured by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company as well as Owens-Illinois. A 1940 ad said the Oak Grove Dairy used 51mm Alseco aluminum hoods to cap these milk bottles.
Pictured on the right is a milk bottle that has embossing on the bottle lip. These lips were referred to as slogan rolls. These bottles appeared in the late 1930's and we know of five companies that offered embossed slogans on the bottle lips. The bottle pictured above has the slogan A BOTTLE OF MILK IS A BOTTLE OF HEALTH which was used by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company. The Lamb Glass Company used the slogan A BETTER BOTTLE OF MILK while the Owens-Illinois Glass Company used the saying MILK FOR HEALTH IN A BOTTLE FOR SAFETY, the Liberty Glass Company used the phrase DRINK MILK FOR HEALTH and the Universal Glass Products Company used the slogan MILK THE PERFECT FOOD. It appears that all the major milk bottle manufacturers at this time offered slogans on the bottle's lip. These sayings probably had some advertising benefit in allowing the consumer to recognize a dairy's milk bottle as well as being some benefit to the milkman in identifying his bottles in the dark similar to the Glacken patent mentioned above. They also probably improved the grip when carrying the bottle by the lip.
Cop the Cream milk bottles, which were introduced in the late 1930's, also had embossing on the lip of the bottle. Rather than a slogan though the name of the company franchising the bottles, COP THE CREAM BOTTLE CO. INC., was embossed on the lip. Click here to go to the page with Cop the Cream milk bottles. Some creameries had their name embossed on the lip of the bottle. Paterson Milk & Cream Co. of Paterson, New Jersey was one company that marked their bottles in this manner. Other creameries used their own slogans on the bottle lip. Zehringhurst Farm of Germantown, Ohio used the slogan FOR BETTER MILK USE ZEHRINGHURST, while Hol-Guerns Dairy of Canton, Ohio used the slogan INSIST ON HOL-GUERNS MILK.
The first appearance of embossing on a milk bottle lip however was much earlier than the late 1930's. We came across a very early milk bottle made on a semi automatic bottle machine that had an April 1, 1902 patent date embossed around the bottles lip.
Milk bottles left to right:
Oak Grove Dairy, quart, St. Paul, Minnesota, Owens-Illinois, 1940
Garner Dairy Company, half pint, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Thatcher Manufacturing Company, date unknown
The milk bottle on the left has what was called a syrup finish as opposed to the milk bottle on the right that has the more frequently used common sense finish. The syrup finish extended down further on the neck of the bottle and was straight compared to the rounded common sense finish. It took a standard milk cap just like the common sense finish. The syrup finish was commonly seen in manufacturer's catalogs in the 1920's and prior. However the milk bottle pictured above was made in 1941 so the finish was still available then. Some dairies just liked the unique look of this finish well others thought it held up better in use.
The milk bottles above were made by Cleveland Container and were patented by George Cleveland of Fairmount, Indiana on March 1, 1910. These bottles have a cap seat for a normal milk cap but the lip has a pouring spout formed into it to make it easy to pour out the contents of the bottle. The patent papers describe a hinged cover that went with the bottle although the papers say the bottle could be used in modified form with a standard milk bottle cover such as these bottle have. The bottles pictured here are a pint and a quart size. The front of the milk bottle is embossed CLEVELAND CONTAINER PAT'D 1910 on the pint and the quart is embossed CLEVELAND CONTAINER PAT'D MAR. 1-1910. The backside of the bottle, under the pouring lip, is embossed with the size. The pint bottle, above, is turned to show the pouring spout. Click here to see a close up of the lip of this milk bottle. As one might expect the spout was prone to damage during handling and chipping was a problem.
Milk bottles left to right:
Cleveland Container, pint, location and maker unknown, 1910-20
Cleveland Container, quart, location and maker unknown, 1910-20
Pictured above is a unique milk bottle lip with a notch in it. These milk bottles were manufactured by the Belle Pre Bottle Company of Alexandria, Virginia. Some of these bottles will be embossed with a November 21, 1899 patent date. This patent was issued to John Miller of Washington D.C. As described in the patent, the intent of the notch was to accept a special milk cap that had a lateral extension that would extend past the bottle lip through the notch and act as a handle. This would allow the cap to be easily removed without damage and then reinserted to seal the bottle as needed. The notch in the patent drawings had a flat bottom to accept this extension of the cap rather than the curved notch shown in the picture. We have never seen this special milk cap. Also Belle Pre Bottle Company advertisements for their bottle did not show a cap with an extension either. The advertisements showed a conventional milk cap being removed by a finger with the notch shaped just like the one in the picture above. Somewhere along the line the company must have deviated from the patent design. We would suspect that the extension of the cap extending outside the lip could have been a problem. Handling of the milk bottles could have easily dislodged the cap. Also we suspect that leakage would have been an issue if the notch in the lip was cut down to the level of the cap seat for any distance. The notch was not intended to aid in pouring the milk from the bottle. The patent makes no mention of that purpose.
John Miller was actually granted two design patents on March 28, 1899, one for a milk bottle with a cut down lip that preceded the November patent and a second for a cap to go with the bottle. Since these patents were design patents no claims were made as to the purpose or function of the bottle. Miller assigned a portion of these two patents to F. R. Horner who would become an officer of the Belle Pre Bottle Company and the owner of a dairy that would use bottles with the later November 21, 1899 patent date. Miller also was granted a patent on August 27, 1901 for a glass moulding tool to form the lips of these milk bottles and would assign that patent to the Belle Pre Bottle Company.
The Belle Pre Bottle Company was started on October 30, 1902 and we have found advertisements for these notched milk bottles as early as December of 1904. In November of 1905 they took out large ads trying to sell these notched milk bottles (picture). They also advertised that they were the largest milk bottle factory in the world with an output of 2 rail car loads each day or a million milk bottles per month. Unfortunately the company was not successful and filed for bankruptcy in October of 1912. These notched milk bottles are very seldom seen. Based on their rarity it is unlikely that the Belle Pre Bottle Company produced as many milk bottles as they claimed.
The Evergreen Dairy of Washington D.C. utilized these milk bottles. The dairy was owned by F. R. Horner who was also listed as an officer of the Belle Pre Bottle Company which made the milk bottles. We have also seen a milk bottle with this lip embossed H. M. Wright, Bristol, Pennsylvania.
Picture of bottle lip courtesy of The Potomac Pontil, June 2003.
One unique feature of some western milk bottle lips or finishes was that they had a date code embossed on the top surface of the lip. As seen in the above picture there is a 6 on the left side of the lip and a 26 on the right side of the lip. This would indicate a manufacture date of June of 1926. More often the year code on the right was a single digit indicating the last number in the year. The month code on the left will range from 1 to 12. This date coding system has been found on milk bottles from five California glass manufacturers. The plants that used these date codes were Illinois-Pacific Glass Company (and the later Illinois Pacific Glass Corporation), Latchford Glass Company, Owens-Illinois Glass Company, Pacific Coast Glass Company and Southern Glass Company. The period that this system was used was between late 1924 and 1933. One flaw in the system was that some numbers could be read differently depending which way one looked at the bottle. For example a 6 and and 8 could be read as an 8 and a 9 if the bottle was looked at from the other side. The same problem occurred with a 9 and an 8 or with a pair of 6's or 9's.
Knowing the date a bottle was manufactured was important to a dairy so that they could evaluate how long their milk bottles were lasting. Bottles were a significant cost to a dairy and the more round trips a bottle was able to complete meant more profit to the dairy. Click here for a 1926 advertisement from the Illinois-Pacific Glass Company that mentions the benefits of this dating system.
The above information is from an excellent article published in Historical Archaeology 2009, 43(2):30-39 by Schulz, Lockhart, Serr and Lindsey.