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The shift to the fully automated bottle machine from mouth-blown and some semi-automatic methods in the early 20th century is the classic example (Toulouse 1967, 1969a). The same bottle could have been recycled and reused many times for many years before finally being discarded - entire or broken (Busch 1987).This was almost universal with many beverage bottle types (e.g., soda, beer, milk) but was variably common with just about any type bottle - especially prior to 1920.Produced during the era where all bottles were an relatively rare and cherished commodity to be discarded only when broken (i.e., the first third of the 19th century back many centuries prior) and does not otherwise fit the above two categories.Utilitarian bottles include the majority of the bottles in the following bottle categories or types: soda, mineral water, beer, milk, proprietary medicine, druggist (excluding shop furniture), chemical, foods & sauces, household (including ink, shoe polish, cleaners, personal hygiene related items), common wine containers (excluding decanters), champagne, and most non-decanter spirits/liquor bottles.Utilitarian items include canning/fruit jars and figured flasks since they were intended to be reused by the purchaser and have been observed to follow well the dating guidelines, though there are some manufacturing timeframe differences with canning jars.(Click canning jar to view the typology page section devoted to that category.) The beer bottle pictured to the above left is a classic example of a utilitarian bottle from the late 19th century that was typically reused.Acceptance often occurred over a period of many years or decades in some cases.
But any technique, once developed, can be used right up to the present - as many collectors know who have been so unfortunate as to rely too heavily on a popular termination date as sure evidence of true antiquity..." (Toulouse 1969b).
Of course, soda & beer were reused up until quite recently.
The bottle pictured to the right has a Wait's Liver and Kidney Bitters label pasted over the embossing of a Star Kidney and Liver Bitters bottle!
All this adds to the fascination with bottle making, but makes systematic dating similar to solving Rubik's cube - ostensibly simple on the surface but complex in practice.
To misquote an old saying as rephrased by the BLM supervisor that facilitated the initiation of this website project: "The universe (of bottles) isn't just more complicated than you think, it's more complicated than you CAN think." True to a large degree, though much information can be teased out of most bottles with a systematic approach to the matter. This Bottle Dating page (and website in general) is designed to address what the website author refers to as "utilitarian" bottles & jars (click for more information).A substantial amount of bottle type specific information must be reviewed by a user to increase the probability of dating accuracy.