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Object Record

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Catalog Number 1999.048.307
Description Medicine Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1830-1920. This bottle is round shaped. The rim has prescription finish which is narrow (vertically) and the outside surface distinctly tapers in from the top surface of the finish to bottom. The bottle is clear and shows evidence of glass machine manufacture.
Object Name Bottle, Medicine
Collection 3D - Medical & Psychological Tools & Equip.
Title Medicine Bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1830-1920.
Date c. 1830-1920
Creator Unknown
Role Manufacturer
Inscription Text none
Provenance 20 boxes of archaeological material excavated from the City Centre Plaza site at 950 Main at Middlefield in Redwood City. Excavation for development, done by Basin Research Associates.
Notes Cylindrical (round in cross-section) bottles were used frequently by druggists to dispense their products, although the other flat paneled shapes also covered in this section appear to have been more popular and more commonly used. Round prescription bottles with embossing identifying them as being used by druggists - like the bottle pictured to the left - seem to have been somewhat more popular during the earlier portion of the era covered here, i.e., 1860s into the 1880s. However, the shape was still being offered without proprietary embossing (used with labels) and external screw threads (1930s on) well into the 20th century (Obear-Nester 1923; Whitall Tatum 1937; Owens-Illinois Co. 1952). The 1880 Whitall Tatum & Company catalog gives some hints about the early popularity by noting in their "Round Prescriptions" section that these type bottles were used " some of the first pharmacists..." (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1880). Their 1880 catalog also offered a much larger variety of square, rectangular, and oval "prescriptions" than it did round varieties. Whitall Tatum & Co. specialized in and was a major producer of prescription/druggist bottles in a variety of shapes from the late 1870s into the 1930s.
[ Druggists]
Three-piece mold body seams: In conjunction with the true two-piece mold, one of the earliest mold types to be used in the U.S. was the "three-piece mold" which was likely first used in about 1814, patented by the Henry Ricketts (Bristol, England) in 1821 or 1822, and likely adapted into the U.S. by the 1830s (McKearin & Wilson 1978; Hume 1991). Although earlier versions of a three-piece mold may pre-date the Rickett's mold it is not certain. If so, they would have been essentially a dip mold with two shoulder mold sections added. Rickett's patent added several other features, including hinged shoulder parts and foot controls for opening and closing the mold, both of which were significant improvements in efficiency (Jones 1986). The Rickett's mold also consisted of at least four parts - two opposing shoulder parts, dip mold body portion, and a moveable base plate which could be changed to achieve different base configurations or for different embossing. This was likely the first plate mold (McKearin & Wilson 1978, Jones 1983). Most true Rickett's produced bottles are embossed on the base with H. RICKETT'S & CO. GLASS WORKS BRISTOL, date between 1821 and the 1850s, and usually have a sand pontil scar.

HOW OLD IS "OLD"? Recognizing Historical Sites and Artifacts
There are four important characteristics for dating bottles:
-Mold Seams
-Finish Types
-Glass Color
Because bottle-making technology changed over time, it is often possible to determine
roughly when a bottle was made by looking at one (or more) of these attributes. Of
course, any labels or embossed lettering are potentially helpful, as well.
Free-blown (no mold)
No mold seams
Asymmetrical and non-uniform
Up to about the 1860s in the archaeological record
Simple Two-piece mold (“Hinged mold”)
Mold seam extends from just below finish, down the neck and side, across the
bottom, and up the other side
Symmetrical, uniform shapes
May have embossed lettering on body, especially after 1869
Ca. 1810-1880
"Cup" mold
Mold seam on each side that extends from just below the finish down to the edge
("heel") of the base
Most-common technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (ca. 1850s-
Post mold
Bottle made in a three-piece mold with separate base plate
Side seam continues onto base, then is interrupted by the circular (sometimes oval)
Dominant mold type used between about 1870 and 1900
1840s–early 1900s (sometimes later)
Ricketts mold
No mold seams on body; horizontal seam around circumference where body joins
shoulder, and vertical seam part-way up each shoulder
Often used for liquor and pharmaceutical bottles
Turn mold
Bottle turned while in mold, obliterating seams
Often used for wine/champagne and brandy bottles (usually dark green)
No embossed lettering; glass highly polished from turning in mold
Ca.1870–World War I
Automatic bottle machine
Bottles made by machine, rather than blown
Seams run all the way up the bottle and over the finish
Made in large numbers beginning after World War I (though the first machine was
invented in the 1890s)
Dimensions H-3.25 W-1.25 D-1.25 inches
Search Terms Archaeology
City Center Plaza
Drug Stores
Redwood City
Subjects Bottle industry