Ever find a bottle embossed with the phrase "THE BEST WHAT GIVES"? You are not alone (if you have). John Graf was one of the most prolific bottlers of sodas and weiss beers from Milwaukee. One thing that was amazing about the company (besides their command of the english language) was the vast number and types of bottles they used. I am convinced that John Graf was a marketing genius. He changed bottle types often to reflect changing bottle styles and used an amazing array of closure mechanisms. He also advertised, made stoppers, glasses, seltzers, openers, ash trays, . . you name it, trying to get the name out there at every opportunity. I thought that it might be neat to begin a post showing some of the various bottles that he made. It will certainly be easy to add new pics on a regular basis because of the many variants out there.
One great thing about Graf bottles is that anyone trying hard enough can get their hands on one. Common examples can easily be purchased. They turn up on the bay often enough. On the other hand, some Graf bottles are so rare that stacks of hundreds wouldn't help (because none are out there for sale).
Many people nowadys still remember Grandpa Graf's root beer. It may even be still available. Last I heard, an Illinois company called Canfields was still selling it. Graf's was, however, a prolific brewer of weiss beer at the turn of the century. There are some great examples to come that will show that better.
Graf began his bottling career in 1873 in a partnership with Phillip Madlener. (date is credited to Roger Peters - Thanks Roger!) About ten years later, Graf bottles no longer had the Madlener embossing. It seems appropriate to start with a few pics of those early bottles.
I wish this example was in my collection. A friend sent me the shot a few years back. While these blob style sodas are typically rare - they are almost never seen in amber. This example is one of very few known. It really is a gem. (Thanks Peter!)
Here is one of John Graf's unique weiss beer bottles. The bottle has eight vertical facets along the entire height of the bottle. Very few other bottlers nationwide seemed to use this attractive bottle design. While the bottle is not rare, it is fairly collectible (I think because it is so cool).
Later versions of the amber bottle can be seen with rim for a crown cap. Early versions of these bottles almost look like the crown was added to the blob! There are also crown versions that say WEISS BEER on one panel.
In addition, after prohibition, Graf continued to use this faceted bottle for sodas. This gorgeous example has an overfill at the base. Some of these sodas say LEMON LIFE or soda water on the panels.
Here is a 1930s deco soda with an embossed Zeppelin on it. The bottle is tall and slender with the dirigble visible on each side. It has ribs going the length of the airship, little fins at the back and weights (or bombs?) on the outside edges. The ships have a pebbled texture.
I'm guessing that Graf took some pride in the airships in their heyday because of his German heritage. Obviously, these were popular before the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.
Yep an Elmer's glue stick. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one. If you want to needlessly pay more for some museum quality adhesive go ahead. I've used glue sticks on early 1900's bottles...