This bottle belonged to my grandparents who lived in Darien, CT in the 1920's and '30s. Their first home in the area was built during the Revolutionary War and was called "Old Hundred". Obviously modified through the years, it did have original beams, fireplaces and, I believe, a fair amount of the original interior structure.
This bottle is one of the few things my grandmother saved after they built a very large home in Darien in 1939, a home in the International Style which could not have been farther away in architectural design from a Revolutionary War era home.
Any information you could throw my way regarding the bottle would be most welcome.
Great demijohn! I don't doubt that it dates to the late 1700s. Do you have any more details of the provenance . . . like where your g'parents acquired it?
It would be nice if this demijohn were American-made, but ascribing origin is difficult for these bottles. The important glass industry at the time was in England (and France), and many demijohns have been imported to the USA over the decades. Read more about this history on my web-site (link below).
Nice demijohn, but definitely from the 1800s. They weren't making bottles that big until maybe the 1830s, definitely by the 1840s.
According to McKearin & Wilson . . .
“It was in the middle of the 18th century that large bottles, normally wickered, for shipping and storage of liquids were first called demijohns and carboys by some manufacturers. They had long been blown and often were covered with leather or wicker, but probably in comparatively in small numbers before their commercial use in shipping became prevalent.Botae -- that is, bonbonnes (demijohns) -- were being blown in France by the beginning of the 14th century. . . By the middle of the 18th century imported bottles of four to twenty gallons were advertised occasionally in American newspapers, among them “wickered bottles that will hold up to 5 gallons.”
That is not to say that all demijohns were produced abroad. McKearin & Wilson goes on to list a number of American glasshouses which advertised demijohns in the 1700s. Those ads used the term “demijohn” sporadically, sometimes using “dime’johns” (1788) or “demie johns” (1790). The earliest use of the term the authors could find was in a 1762 advertisement of arrack (alcoholic beverage) in “demy johns.” Earliest use of carboy was in a 1767 offer of “wickered bottles or carboys from 1 quart to 7 gallons.”
These early bottles were typically “big-bellied, globular or ovoid in form. Occasionally, they might have what we call now a “flowerpot” shape. By the end of the 18th century, they might have an oval (or laterally compressed) shape. Big cylindrical bottles were more common in the ninteenth century.
“After about 1810 or 1820, the common lip finish was a thick, deep, and flat sloping collar. Prior to that time, demijohns and carboys usually had either a narrow flat collar or a heavy string ring laid on below a plain lip, or sometimes -- in the case of large size -- a rough lip, neither fire-polished nor tooled.”
Based on advertisements and price lists from the early years of the 19th century, it is apparent that demijohns and carboys became steadily more important products of the USA glassworks. “Even so, that the demand was not satisfied seems implicit in the continued importation of demijohns, which were frequently advertised in Atlantic seaboard newspapers as arriving in lots of a thousand or more. Because of importation, because of widespread domestic production, and because ... the bottles were not marked with a manufacturer’s or glassworks’ name, it is virtually impossible to attribute an individual specimen to a particular glassworks.”
AMERICAN BOTTLES AND THEIR ANCESTRY; Helen Mckearin & Kenneth M. Wilson; Crown Publishers, New York; 1978.
Mckearin & Wilson might date this bottle to the first decade of the nineteenth century based on the "thick, deep and flat sloping collar." Maybe this demijohn served in the War of 1812 rather than the Revolutionary War.
Thank you for your detailed input. Knowing nothing of antique glass, I can't offer an opinion of any kind. That said, I can't help but think your evaluation is the correct one. The bottle is "tippy", or "wobbly". Wouldn't bottles made in the early 1800's been more stable on the bottom? I have so many additional pictures that might shed more light on the age of the bottle. I'm happy to send if you'd care to see them.
As the home in Darien, CT my grandparents owned was, without question Revolutionary War era, and this bottle was a part of that home, I do believe it is likely of that era. Darien's narrow roads are named "Red Coat Pass", Tory Hole Rd., Nearwater Lane. As a boy, in the 30's my father found a revolutionary war musket hidden in a cave. My mother still has it. And that has been authenticated.
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