History of Wisconsin Antique Blob Soda Bottles by Steven Libbey

The rich history of Wisconsin antique blob soda and mineral water bottles::....

The origin of collecting Wisconsin soda and mineral water bottles dates to 1845 when William M. Cunningham, a Milwaukee druggist, expanded into producing and bottling soda water. As of now there are no known surviving Cunningham bottles. Milwaukee, the fastest growing Wisconsin Territory 'metropolitan' area of the day, in the Wisconsin frontier, quickly spawned more of Wisconsin's earliest bottlers.

The earliest Wisconsin soda/mineral water bottles were manufactured through a process whereby the glass blower used an iron rod pushed into the base of a bottle after popping the bottle out of the mold to hold the super heated glass as the artisan manufactured the blob top. These, "Pontiled," sodas are some of the most beautiful relics of Wisconsin's past. The cobalt blues, the big kicked up pontils and the extremely crude lip finishes make them prized specimens for Wisconsin antique bottle collectors.

Levi Blossom was a wealthy banker who in 1848 became the owner of the Eagle Brewery in Milwaukee through a foreclosure action. Blossoms BADGER ALE bottles were made in black glass, olive green, shades of amber and deep emerald. Blossoms bottles were probably blown at the Lancaster Glass Works of New York in 1849 or 1850, given the unusual reversed 200 mold on the bottom similar to the GV-2 railroad flask.

The decade of the 1850's began the golden age of origin for collectors of antique Wisconsin soda and mineral water bottles. Milwaukee again led the charge into the 1850's with Hopkins, Taylor Brothers, Hickey and Zwietusch of Milwaukee. The balance of the rest of the state had a number of early bottlers just about equaling Milwaukee including Gray of Janesville, Lindestrom of Madison, Bliss of Racine and Eaton of White Water.

Wil Martindale one of the premier experts on Pontiled American soda water bottles worked though my grouping of Wisconsin pontiled soda bottles. Wil compares lip, mold and embossing styles in order to figure out where the earliest American soda bottles were blown. About our earliest Wisconsin soda's Wil speculates, "The Lindestram with those big offset periods between the J. and the A. is VERY similar to the H & J ALWES soda from Cincinnati. They don't look like the majority of the Pittsburgh molds (like the Hickey) so I wonder if they were blown in Zanesville or what?

Wil continues, "Now these Midwestern glass houses - Louisville, Zanesville and of course Pittsburgh (and others) must have supplied a LOT of the Midwestern cities. I would say that the Eaton and Hickey are definite Pittsburgh, probably also the Bliss and the Hopkins with the wire bail. The straight letter Hopkins and arched deep blue one with the correct city spelling - no idea. The "Hat top" one with the backward "N"s looks exactly like the (WH) Hutchinson pontil soda in the same form (a pontiled Chicago soda) but blown where?"


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