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Dating old ink bottles, determining the age of old bottles

What type of bottle is it?

Old Ink Bottles

In the experience of the website author, these machine-made bottles are rarely encountered and likely a function of early machine-made wares to s that had less precise mold fitting and resulted in the need for fire polishing to enable proper closure.

For example, the process that produces a tooled finish frequently erases traces of the side mold seam an inch or more below the base of the finish whereas the typical applied finish has the seam ending higher - right at the base of the finish Lockhart et.

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This very large complex of pages includes bottle type specific sub-pages with extensive style based dating information, including complete scans of 5 different early 20th century to bottle makers catalogs spanning the mouth-blown to machine-made bottle manufacturing era!

Can usually tell that lip is crude and was applied by hand.


This bottle dating "key" is a relatively simple "first cut" on the dating of a bottle. If you know your bottle is mouth-blown aka hand-made click Mouth-blown Bottles to move directly to that page. Turn-mold bottle body showing faint concentric rings. 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 Toulousea.

Before jumping into the key, it must again be emphasized that no single key can get a user to an absolutely precise date for any bottle.

A bottle may have mold seams but no embossing, but all embossed bottles were molded and have mold seams even if they are not readily apparent.

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As above, click on the image to view a larger and much more readable version with the various features pointed out. There is frequent hyper-linking between the diagnostic characteristics and terminology listed on this page and other website pages.

The best the following key can do is get a user to a reliably close dating range estimate.

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Base type for examples, click here: Some technological changes were expensive and not adopted by glass makers until it became an "adapt or perish" issue and many glass factories just perished. This website is intended for Pontiled base fragments could also be from later produced "specialty" bottles which are described below.

Mold Seams of Bottles" chart Figure 9. Click on utilitarian bottles or "specialty" bottles to view the portion of the Glossary Page that covers these subjects. 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.

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The following charts and pictures on the dating bottles pages listed below should help. Bottle dating is not a precise science! Also linked to the Dating page is a sub-page called Examples of Dating Historic Bottles which tracks a few different bottles through a dating and general information quest to illustrate how the dating process and this website work.

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This website was prepared based primarily on information about bottle manufacturing technologies, processes, and styles specific to the United States.

The opinions expressed are those of the author of this website and not necessarily those of The Society for Historical Archaeology nor the Bureau of Land Management.

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When possible, the information on this website is given general reliability rating estimates e. For this website the distinction between the two categories is related to the varying time frames that different glass making techniques were used for for the two classes of bottles.

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Or the bottle may have a nice even shape, but was spun in the mold to smooth out the seams; a practice common around