ARTICLES WITH INFORMATION FOR WISCONSIN ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTORS:::.
Anyway, for the next year and a half I was either on their gigantic jon boat cataloging finds or diving myself. I got to know Mr. Bottles, Blobbottlebob, and Divers Jim and Ed quite well. Once certified, diving became an obsession for me. I honestly cannot say that there are many things more rewarding than finding a rare bottle on the bottom of a lake that was discarded over a hundred plus years ago. Especially ones from your own hometown where you get to truly understand it’s origins and history and rarity.
Well zooming ahead to the Summer of 2002, it was the 4th of July and my girlfriend and I set out to spend some “quality” time together. Was it a movie, or a day shopping, or perhaps time at her families place in the Dells? Not a chance, we were walking the Delafield creek! I had no air and the dive shops were locked up tight for the Holiday. So we set out on our adventure, I can guarantee you she would never do this now that we are married, it was in those early courting days when it didn’t matter what we did so long as we were together. Just before loading my truck with a couple pairs of scuba boots and a few Kevlar gloves and a shovel I took a moment to study my bottle book penned by West Bend native Dan Gross. It showed all kinds of soda bottles from Wisconsin. Some were rare and some super common. The one that really peaked my curiosity because the book stated that there are only a few specimens known and that it should be considered very rare was a bottle from the 1860’s called the coil spring stopper. It was used by only two Wisconsin bottlers, Otto Zweitusch, of Milwaukee and the Lindstram firm out of Madison. I thought about how incredible it would be to find the best bottle in the whole book. I thought what would Mr. Bottles and his inner circle think about this if I were to somehow get my hands on one of these. Then out the door I went, letting the thoughts of the Spiral spring stopper bottle disintegrate like all the other shattered dreams of hoping to find something incredible, but coming home with nothing more than a Yacht club salad dressing, and a couple of bromo seltzers.
We slipped into the creek behind the antique center and began the walk downstream. Tanya was on one side of the creek and me the other. The gravel bottom shined in the July sun and visibility was phenomenal. The river bottom was like a kaleidoscope of colors. Years worth of discarded pottery shards and glass fragments. It was OLD! I began the first 20 feet or so finding a couple of local ½ pint milks and a few Waukesha beer bottles. Tanya was getting frustrated because she hadn’t found a thing. We pressed on and I continued to find a few patent medicines as well as more local beer bottles. My cargo shorts were falling off because I had bottles slammed in every pocket, as well as my waist band, and probably even my crack!
When I came to a large pipe that was elevated and crossing over the river, I ducked down to shimmy underneath it and noticed a large wash out hole. A deep aqua blob and neck of a bottle was protruding from the side of this depression. I called Tanya over to say “Come here, here is a nice penis top bottle for you, it’s definitely old!” This is verbatim what I said. I had no idea what type of bottle it was due in part to the fact that it was a fast current here and the riffle in the water was pretty heavy, also because if she didn’t find something soon, she was going to pull the plug on this pretty damn quick! She came over right next to me and peered down through the water and saw what I was talking about. She said “that’s neat”, but why don’t you pick it up? I don’t want to get wet.
I then bent over and pulled on the neck of the bottle, but it wouldn’t budge. I gave it another tug and a large cylinder shaped bottle emerged. It was, wait! It was the bottle from the bottle book, the O.ZWIETUSCH MILWAUKEE spiral spring stopper soda, and as I spun the bottle around, sure enough! There was the embossing. I handed it to Tanya, and trembling I sat on a log and said please tell me it’s not cracked. She said as she shook out 140 years of sediment it looks perfect to me, Is it any good???? I think I said something like it is the rarest bottle from Wisconsin or something like that. Hey it was early in my collecting career, and all I knew was that it was a damn good bottle, and I had done it! I had found my holy grail of bottles. I did get to call Mr. Bottles and I think I left him a message or something about finding this bottle. I don’t know how many times he called me back before I agreed to meet with him to do the deal. The bottle now resides in his collection, the place where it belongs, where the rarest sodas from our state go to be with all of the other bottles of peoples dreams.
Never give up, and always look for things where you least expect to find them.
Editors note; This bottle is featured on the front page of this web site. The actual stopper is features in another HUNT story 'Bottle Diving for Wisconsin Sodas'