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Catalog Number 1999.048.286
Description Williams Brothers soda bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1864-1908. This bottle is round in cross section /cylindrical. The bottle has gravitating style stopper closure on a type of "blob" finish dating from the 1864s. The front side of bottle a banner that outlines the name "WILLIAMS BROS SAN JOSE CAL" embossed. On the bottom the words "GRAVITATING STOPPER / MADE BY (around the outside edge of the base) JOHN MATTHEWS / NEW YORK (inside the first ring of embossing) PATD / OCT 11 / 1864 (in the middle)" embossed. A .5 inch short and narrow neck flares out .1 inch shoulder to a .5 inch body. The bottle is in deep aqua color and hand made.
Object Name Bottle, Soda
Collection 3D - Containers
Title Williams Brothers soda bottle recovered from City Centre Plaza, c. 1864-1908.
Date c. 1864-1908
Creator Williams Bros Co.
Role Manufacturer
Inscription Text "WILLIAMS BROS SAN JOSE CAL" (The front side of bottle)
"GRAVITATING STOPPER / MADE BY" (around the outside edge of the base) "JOHN MATTHEWS / NEW YORK" (inside the first ring of base) "PATD / OCT 11 / 1864" (in the middle of base)
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 Soda and mineral water (generally just called "soda water" or "soda" here unless a distinction is necessary) was bottled in a relatively diverse array of bottle styles. However, like with the beer/ale bottles, the (usually) carbonated nature of soda and mineral waters narrowed the possible bottle variety in several ways. Most importantly, the bottles had to be made of relatively heavy/thick glass in order to withstand the gaseous pressures of the product itself. he bottles also had to be able to survive the rigors of the high pressure bottling process as well as the extensive post-bottling handling and use since soda water bottles were typically re-used many times. This is evidenced by extensive base and side wear to many examples. The bottles also had to be able to survive the rigors of the high pressure bottling process as well as the extensive post-bottling handling and use since soda water bottles were typically re-used many times. This is evidenced by extensive base and side wear to many examples. Also of critical importance to the bottling of soda water was the type of closure/finish combination. The closure had to be simple for people to use, cheap to produce, and of course be effective in not releasing the contents nor the carbonation until final consumption. For clarification, the difference between "soda water" and "mineral water" during the 19th century was often vague. Soda water is generally considered flavored artificial mineral water, i.e., "regular" water made better with purposeful addition of various compounds and/or flavoring, and of course, carbonation. Mineral water would generally be natural waters from spring sources that were typically highly mineralized with carbonates (alkaline), sulfurous compounds, and/or various salts and often carbonated naturally (they were also sometimes flavored confusing the issue). "Spring water" is another name sometimes used for natural, unaltered mineral water and in fact is used to this day. However, mineral water was also a generic term applied to various natural and artificially carbonated, (usually) non-artificially flavored waters including many utilized for their perceived medicinal qualities. Suffice to say at this date, the distinction between them is often unknown. Because of this the term "soda water" is primarily used here (Riley 1958; Munsey 1970; McKearin & Wilson 1978; Schulz, et al. 1980). As a side note, carbonation was desired in these products for reasons beyond sensory pleasure. Carbonation also helped prevent spoilage allowing for the shipment of the product to more distant places, even prior to refrigeration and pasteurization (Wilson 1981).
Internal Stopper Soda/Mineral Water styles
This class of soda water bottles are differentiated by having internal stopper closures (i.e., not cork sealed) and often body and/or finish shapes that were designed to accommodate these unique closures. Both of the major covered styles (first two below) have long, moderate diameter bodies, short to non-existent necks, and are topped with some variation of the blob finish. Be aware that there were scores of different patented styles of internal stopper - and related bottles - invented and made during the era between the 1860s and the early 1900s (Graci 2003). Most of these types were very short lived (and not covered here) though two major types of stopper defined bottle styles - used primarily for soda and mineral water - are primarily discussed in this section. These were the Gravitating stopper and Hutchinson spring stopper styles. Just for pure interest, one other closure related style - the Roorbach ball stopper - is covered briefly at the bottom of this section. It is seen occasionally but is much more uncommon than the Matthews. These bottles are a hybrid of sorts between the Codd ball and Baltimore Loop Seal closures and the Hutchinson and Matthews bottle shapes.
Gravitating Stopper (Matthews Patent) Style
This is an example of a bottle style where its name is related to the closure device, though not to the high degree of the next bottle covered below (Hutchinson soda). The majority (and probably all) of bottles that took the gravitating stopper have the distinctive shape.
All of the embossed (more later) gravitating stopper bottles that have been noted by the author of this site were shaped like this bottle with a relatively tall, parallel sided body, moderately long steep shoulder, and an almost non-existent neck topped by a relatively short (usually) blob finish. Soda bottles that were made for use with this closure type are early enough that most of the ones have a true applied blob finish. Early advertisements for "Matthews' Improved Gravitating Stoppers" were illustrated with bottles of the exact conformation pictured and it appears the steeply sloping shoulder best facilitated the proper sealing of this closure (Graci 2003).
The base of many (but not all) bottles that could accept this closure are embossed with something like the following: GRAVITATING STOPPER / MADE BY (around the outside edge of the base) JOHN MATTHEWS / NEW YORK (inside the first ring of embossing) PATD / OCT 11 / 1864 (in the middle).
These bottles, with and without the "Gravitating Stopper...Matthews Patent..." embossing on the base, were made by various glass companies primarily between the late 1860s through the 1880s (Feldhaus 1986; Peters 1996; Markota 2000; Farnsworth & Walthall 2011). By the mid-1880s, the Hutchinson stopper in bottles with a more distinctly abrupt shoulder began to dominate the soda bottle market and the gravitating stopper largely disappeared from common use. However, as noted above, gravitating stopper bottles were still being offered as late as 1908, though bottles that conclusively date from that late have not been noted. Although Matthew's gravitating stopper bottles were never as common as other types of bottles/closures during the time frames noted (e.g., blob-top with corks and Lightning stoppers, Hutchinson styles) they nevertheless were used by soda bottlers across the continental U.S. and Hawaii.
[http://www.sha.org/bottle/soda.htm#Gravitating Stopper]
Dimensions H-7.25 W-2.5 D-2.5 inches
Search Terms Archaeology
Bottles
City Center Plaza
Mineral Water
Privy
Redwood City
Soda
Water
Subjects Bottle industry
Bottles
Mineral waters
Soda
People Albertson, Albert
Matthews, John