a photographic study of 1850's soda and/or mineral water bottles unearthed in chicago between 2014-2017

as i continue to fine-tune the "unearthing chicago" book, i decided to share my documentation of several soda and/or mineral water bottles dating to the 1850's. the bottles depicted (courtesy of the bldg. 51 museum photo archive) were dug in and around downtown chicago from 2014 up to the present day.

william h. hutchinson "whh" soda and/or mineral bottles. the cobalt blue bottle with the bottlers initials began appearing around 1855, featuring iron pontiled bases and wide "block" embossed lettering.

my initial goal was to publish unearthing chicago last year, but i have decided to postpone as i continue to amass data and artifacts that inspire additional chapters. i hope my recent finds can broaden the scope of the project as it was first conceived three years ago, when i discovered my first residential privy pit (and soda bottle - cobalt blue william h. hutchinson with applied top) located behind the non-extant john kent russell house (1855).

through the years i've collected a large cache of materials ranging from bone toothbrushes to a little over a hundred shoes belonging to men, women, and children. within this wide array of long-forgotten remnants, once discarded as trash, i tend to repeatedly gravitate toward soda and mineral water bottles dating to mid-19th century.

aside from bottle crudities, colors, and configurations, these artifacts were made - in my opinion - during one of the most fascinating decades in chicago's history, and that alone makes them important from a storytelling standpoint. i will shy away from creating a comprehensive survey of the bottlers of this decade, and do not intend to outline the litany of characteristics used to identify their age. for further reading on such matters, i strongly suggest acquiring the book "bottled in illinois," by  john walthall and kenneth farnsworth, where any and all bottlers across the state from 1840-1880 are identified and discussed in great detail. the book is a great resource to learn about the methods and materials of various bottles used during this timeframe.

gallery of selected chicago iron-pontiled bottles from the bldg. 51 museum collection & archive:

the "unearthing chicago" project will continue on despite my intention to have it wrapped up by october of 2016, shortly after i discovered what some consider to be the "oldest" bottle fragment (open-pontiled amber flask) dug in chicago. however, there have been so many important discoveries since then that bundling them up in an epilogue simply would not suffice.



From the blog