History of Wisconsin Antique Hutchinson Bottles by Bob Libbey
Hutchinson soda bottles are a unique type of antique bottle that had a wire stopper inside the neck and blob of the bottle. We collectors often refer to them simply as "Hutches". The wire piece that makes up the stopper on the bottle is slightly hourglass shaped. It is made out of one piece of wire (bent in half) to form this shape. On one end, there is a rubber gasket (held in place by washers welded to the wire). Once the stopper is placed inside the bottle, the rubber gasket winds up on the inside (where the contents are). The gasket is designed to seal the bottle below the neck at the shoulder of the bottle from the inside. The rest of the wire loops upward and allows the bottle to be opened or resealed by the part of the stopper that extends up and out of the blob. The hourglass shape creates tension against the inside of the blob holding the stopper in position. It cannot be pushed completely inside the bottle when the metal wire is not corroded. Likewise, it is very difficult to pull the rubber gasket back out of the bottle because it is a very tight fit. The name "Hutchinson" refers to the original inventor of this type of stopper.
The bottle today is essentially named after the stopper. The bottles were designed to be cleaned and re-used by the bottler. This partially explains why many examples found today have 'case wear'. Original patents were issued in 1879, however, widespread use did not occur until into the 1880s. The bottle then had nationwide acceptance until the 19 teens. At this time, automatic bottle making machines appeared and crown-topped bottles effectively replaced hutches. Hutchinson bottles were originally shipped in crates upside-down. These crates or cases had odd sized holes in them. This may be why so many bottles have the bottler's initials embossed on the bottom. They would be easier to identify in the crate without having to remove every bottle. It may also partially explain why you see so much case wear at the base of these bottles (where they were unprotected).
Hutchinson sodas typically feature a strong (rounded) shoulder with a small neck. Earlier bottles in the evolution of bottle form often had longer necks with more sloping shoulders. (Please see the blob soda gallery for examples). In Wisconsin, there are three general sizes of Hutches. The most common is pint sized but there are over sized examples (usually taller and thicker) and quart sized bottles as well. The bottles are usually aqua in color with a green or blue tint. There are some examples in clear glass, and others in unusual colors such as cobalt, saphire, amber, olive green or citron (yellowish green). The bottles were hand-blown by glassblowers and at times (if you are lucky) they can be found crudely formed. They can have whittle marks, bubbles, swirls of slag glass, thickly blown bottoms, sunken in blobs or they can lean to one side. There are many different bottlers who used Hutchinson soda bottles scattered throughout the entire state.
The day of the Hutchinson bottle was a different era without expansive shipping networks or preservatives to extend the shelf life of the contents. When Hutchies were first used, sterilization through pasteurization had not yet been discovered! One odd myth about Hutchinson soda bottles is that the phrase "soda pop" originated with these bottles. This is ostensibly because of the popping sound made when the bottles were sprung open. While these bottles may have popped, the term 'pop' was used in print and advertising earlier than the invention of this bottle type. Thus, the term probably originated alongside carbonated beverages in closed containers.
If you have bottles or bottlers from Wisconsin that are not shown in this gallery, I would love to hear from you. There are many bottles both rare and not so rare that are not shown because I don't have them and no-one has sent me photos. If you could add to the gallery, I will post and accredit your photos if desired. I have already uploaded the bulk of my Hutchinson collection but I will add new bottles as I get them. Once again, if YOU can fill some of the many gaps in the gallery, I would appreciate it. Any questions, comments, feedback, or other input is also appreciated. I can be reached via email. I hope you enjoy the gallery and that you love collecting these beauties as much as I do! Thanks, Bob