Antique Soda & Beer Bottles

Your Information Source For Pre-crown Sodas & Beers

Bottle Closures:

Since the there were bottles, man has been looking for a better stopper.  A stopper held the contents in and protected them.  Early stoppers were leather or anything soft that could be pushed into the lip of a bottle to seal it.  Eventually, the cork became the preferred bottle closure.  At times tar or pitch was applied to the cork to help seal it.

Closing of soda bottles was problematic because of the pressure of the contents.  If the stopper leaked, the soda water would go flat.  If the cork remained moist, it would not shrink and thus protect the contents.  This is the reason some soda bottles will not stand up.  When a bottle rested on its side the contents would keep the cork moist.  Other  bottles were stored and shipped upside down to accomplish the same goal.  Often a string or wire was fastened around the neck and over the cork to secure it against the pressurized contents.

As the industrial age dawned, there started a slow but steady number of patents for closures for soda and beer bottles.  The earliest patent for a soda water bottle stopper was in 1859, and issued to Henry William Putnam. This patent was for a heavy wire bail attached to the bottle's neck that could swing over the cork to hold it in.   In 1885, there were over 80 patents granted for these closure.  As the number of bottlers deceased, as national brands flooded the market and as automation of the bottling process became standard, the number of closure patents decreased.  The crown cork effectively replaced all bottle closures and became the standard by 1920.  The crown worked well on the automated bottling lines and was more sanitary than other stoppers.

The closure used on a bottle has something to say about a bottle's age.  Closures used on soda and beer bottles have periods of use that are not reflective of the closures general used for other bottles.  For example, the screw-on top was used on many types of bottles, but try and find a true screw top soda bottle.  Other closures were designed for use on soda or beer bottles.  For example the Hutchinson and Codd stoppers were designed for carbonated beverages.  They both needed the pressure of the charged gases to seal them.  You will not find these stoppers on any other type of bottle.  Stoppers were often patented and the patent date establishes the earliest date of the bottle.  Some stoppers were only used on a single bottle, often on the bottles of the inventor.  The Roorbach and Tucker stopper is a prime example.  Other, like the ABC Patent, gained limited success. While some were extremely popular.  Those that were popular spawned imitators who made minor improvement to the widely used stopper.  There are no doubt over one hundred different patents for a bail type stopper for beer bottles that are all variations of the "Lightning" stopper.

As more economical and easier to use stoppers were invented, older styles fell out of style.  Health laws in the United States and eventually elsewhere in the world doomed many stoppers as unsanitary.  These events all help to mark the end of a stoppers use.

Stopper achieved different levels of popularity in different countries.  The Codd stopper was immensely popular in England and it's empire, but rare used in the United States.  The Hutchinson stopper was the stopper of choice in the United States, but virtually nonexistent in Britain.  Regions can also have an influence on a bottles stopper.  William Painter's 1885 patent bottle stopper, popularly called the Baltimore loop seal, was widely used in Baltimore and the Mid-West, but scarcely used in Philadelphia.

Below are listed some of the more popular stoppers, some rarities and those that have implemented some modification to the glass:

Cork, circ: pre-1600-1905,

By far the most common closure used on soda and beer bottles until about 1885 on American soda bottles when the Hutchinson stopper became the standard and in 1880 on American beer bottles when Lightning Stopper became standard.  Initially, string or a wire was used to secure the cork to the bottle.  Later, a wire bail became the standard.  Some bottlers still used corks into the Twentieth Century.

Putnam Stopper, circ: 1859-1905,

Invented by: Henry William Putnam

American Patent: March 15, 1859, Number: 23, 263

This cork fastener was the standard used on corked soda and bottles during the 1870s and 1880s when it was replaced with the more popular Hutchinson internal stopper.  The bail was reusable and the bottler was not required to rewire the cork with every refilling of the bottle.

Codd Stopper, circ: 1872-1920,

Invented by: Hiram Codd in 1872, England

American Patent: April 29, 1873

A marble in the neck was pushed up against a rubber gasket in the lip to seal the bottle.  The pressure of the carbonated beverage inside kept the marble in place. Theses bottles had to be filled upside down in order for the marble properly seat.  The indentations in the neck kept the marble from clogging when the contents were poured out.  There were many similar patents that all worked on the same basic principle.

Lightning Stopper, circ: 1875-1910,

Invented by: Charles De Quillfeldt,

American Patent: January 5, 1875, Number: 158,406

This stopper revolutionized beer bottling and was an almost instant success for Karl Hutter who acquired the patent rights and popularized this stopper when it was reissued in 1877.  In 1878, Henry Putnam also acquired and interest in this stopper and in 1882 adapted it for use on fruit jars.  There were many imitators of this patent over the years, but they all worked on the same principle of leveraging a rubber disk into the lip of the bottle to make a seal.

Hutter Stopper, circ: 1893-1920,

Invented by: Karl Hutter,

American Patent: February 7, 1893

This stopper was an improvement to the Lightning stopper and was extremely popular and eventually replaced the Lightning as the preferred beer bottle stopper.  A tapered porcelain plug was fitted with a rubber washer on the bottom and forced into the lip of the bottle to seal it.  This stopper was replaced with the crown cork.

Hutchinson Stopper, circ: 1879-1915,

Invented by: William H. Hutchinson,

American Patent: April 4, 1879 Number: 213,992

This was an improvement to Matthews gravitating stopper and worked on the same principle.  When the stopper was raised, the pressure of the carbonated contents sealed the rubber gasket against the base of the neck.  Unlike Matthews, it was cheaper and more efficient to use.  Also, the bottle did not have to be filled upside down.  To bottle, the stopper was put in the downward position, the contents were injected into the bottle with a nozzle.  This nozzle contained a hook that grabbed the top loop of the stopper and pulled it upward thus sealing the bottle. This stopper was deemed unsanitary because dust and dirt could settle above the stopper and contaminate the drink when the contents were dispensed. Its replacement was the crown cork.

Screw Stopper, circ: 1880-1920,

Invented by: 

American Patent:

This stopper was never popular in the United States, however it was widely accepted in England and its colonies.  A composite stopper was screwed into the lip of the bottle, which had screw threads on the inside.  In the United States this closure was known as the "American Screw Stopper."

Roobach Stopper, circ: 1883-1885,

Invented by: William L. Roorbach

American Patent: February 20, 1883

This stopper was similar to Codd's patent although it used a ceramic marble to seal the bottle.  The marble was held in place by the pressure of the carbonated contents.  Additionally, the indentations to hold the marble and keep it from clogging the neck during pouring were located near the base of the bottle. These bottles had to be filled upside down to properly seal the bottle. 

 

Floating Ball Stopper, circ: 1885-1910,

Invented by: William L. Roorbach

American Patent: June 23, 1885 and August 4, 1885, Numbers: 320,701 and 323,737

This was also known as the Twitchell Floating Ball stopper.  This stopper gained some popularity in the United States.  A hollow composite ball or marble was held against a rubber washer that was secured in a neck groove by the pressures of the carbonated contents.  This stopper was an improvement on Roorbach's 1883 patent.  The bottles can be identified by the large groove in the neck.

Self-Closing Stopper, circ: 1889-1895,

Invented by: William L. Roorbach and George W. Tucker

American Patent: October 14, 1889, Number: 429,482

This stopper was never popularity in the United States and George W. Tucker may have been the only user.  A hollow composite bullet with a rubber gasket was held against the neck by the pressures of the carbonated contents.  This stopper was an improvement to Matthews' gravitating stopper.  This stopper became the Trademark of the Pennsylvania Bottling & Supply Company of Philadelphia and is embossed on their bottles.

Matthews Gravitating Stopper, circ: 1864-1885,

Patented by: John Matthews

American Patent: October 11, 1864, April 15, 1872

This stoppers was an improvement to the Albertson stopper, which was patented in 1862.  This stopper consisted of a glass rod that was tipped with a rubber nipple.  The glass rod fitted into the neck of the bottle and the attached rubber nipple sealed the contents when the pressure of the carbonated contents pushed the rubber nipple against the base of the neck.  To open the bottle, the glass rod was pushed down to break the seal.  The bottle had to be filled upside down so that the glass rod could fall into place.  The stopper gained popularity after an improvement was made in 1872 and most of the bottles date after this point.  Glass rods of these bottles bear the Albertson and two Matthews patents.  If the stoppers are missing,  the bottles can be identified by the elaborate patent embossing on the base, which is not present on latter bottles, and the straight neck and inverted taper lip.  The glass rods were fragile and had a tendency to break.  As a result, the cheaper and more durable Hutchinson stopper quickly replaced the Gravitating stopper during the early 1880s.

No Picture Yet

Arthur Christian Stopper, circ: 1875-1880,

Patented by: Arthur Christian

American Patent: April 13, 1875

This stoppers was an adaptation of the Gravitating stopper.  Its improvement was the placing of the sealing gasket in the lip of the bottle and not on the stopper itself.  A tapered composition stopper was pulled up into the lip and wedged against the rubber gasket in the lip creating a seal.  The bottle was opened by pushing the stopper down into the bottle.  This stopper was never widely accepted, even though it was used by a number of bottler across the country.  Due to the limited numbers that are found, it was mostly tried and abandoned by those who were looking for an improvement over the cork stopper.

 

Still under construction!!!  More to come.