Appalachia

Old Bottles

old bottles

Several weeks ago Blind Pig readers Joanne and Ben Nelson contacted me to see if I’d be interested in some old bottles they had.

Joanne’s uncle was an avid collector of a variety of items, one of which was bottles.

She inherited his bottle collection several years back and wanted to make sure they were given to someone who would truly appreciate them.

Here’s a what Joanne told me about the bottles and her uncle.

Man with gun

“He loved it when anyone showed attention to his hobbies. This was all back in the 1970s when I was a teen. He was one of a kind and loved by all that ever met him. His name was Paul Matthews. His wife, Laura was my daddy’s sister. They had no children of their own, but more than half raised all of the nieces and nephews. They were like grandparents to me. We lived with them for a good part of my childhood.

My uncle scoured this area thoroughly, but there were many people he knew that sent him bottles and other things from other areas and other states. We have a cousin that lives in South Carolina, another cousin that lives in Tennessee that really enjoyed adding to his collection. He was well known far and wide for his hobby. “The East Texas Eye,” a local Polk County paper that has since closed their doors, came out and did a write up on him and his hobby. He was quite the character. He not only collected bottles, but also glass insulators, cups, saucers, old whiskey jugs, pottery, and that’s just scratching the surface of the things he collected.”


I was so excited to get the old bottles from Joanne and Ben. As I opened the boxes I would think oh this is my favorite and then I’d pull another one out and decide it was my favorite 🙂

The girls and I love to dig around old trash dumps to see if we can find bottles and jars. As we hold the glass in our hands we wonder who held it before us and what sort of life they lived.

I think Joanne’s uncle Paul would be pleased she gave the bottles to a family, who just like him, loves to find a piece of history.

Over the years I’ve written about old bottles a few times.

Tipper

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    February 20, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    Old privies used to get whiskey and medicine bottles thrown into the pit. As long as they’re very old, they’re okay to excavate–but only a dedicated bottle collector would go to those lengths. The site of an outhouse is fairly easy to spot. There will usually be a depression–same as with an old grave.

    I’ve owned only two really neat bottles. I still have one, a brown, fish-shaped bottle my mom gave me that once held cod liver oil. It is almost identical to Dr. Fisch’s Bitters bottles, which have more value than mine. I sold my other prize to a collector. It was a “S. C. Dispensary” whiskey bottle made back when the state produced its own licensed-and-taxed product. I don’t know the time period, but those bottles are in demand.

  • Reply
    Randy
    February 18, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    I had forgot about Avon bottles. I have several Avon bottles, one is like a 1970’s Ford truck, a couple that look like shotgun shells and two that look like a Coleman lantern. These have a yellow middle that makes them look like they are burning. While they have little to no money value, I am especially fond of them, I got into collecting and restoring the older Coleman lanterns, nothing newer than very early 1980’s. I have slacked off now. There is a NC story about what started me to collecting the lanterns.

    If anyone is interested , you can tell the date of a Coleman gasoline or kerosene lantern by turning it upside down and looking on the bottom of fuel tank, the month will be the left number and the year will be the number on the right. A few of the older models have the dates on the side of fuel tank. The stoves have the date on one of the tabs on the fuel tank. They are not as accurate as lanterns because the tank may have been swapped with another stove.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    February 18, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    I have a large apple box full of old coke bottles and insulators. The insulators came from utility poles that were being replaced in Kentucky back in the early 70’s. There’s no telling how long they were in use. The coke bottles are from back when Coca Cola put dates on them. I’ll keep you in mind if I ever decide to get rid of them. {Or should that be ‘get shed of em’?}

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    February 18, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    I love cobalt blue glass!!!!!!!! Years ago I went to a yard sale and the lady of the house had rows of the cobalt blue glass bottles lined up on her window sills and with the light shining through them, they were just beautiful. Right then and there I decided that I would be on the lookout for blue glass. That was a long time ago and I now have quite a collection lined up on my window sills. I love it when the morning sunlight shines just right and shows their beautiful color. It’s a simple pleasure but it gives me so much enjoyment. I’m thankful for my collection and I enjoy each and every one of those blue beauties! Simple pleasures are the best!

  • Reply
    Sherry Thacker
    February 18, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    I have a Wildroot hair oil bottle that I found at my Grandma’s house. Probably was my uncle’s. Do you want it?

  • Reply
    Catherine J. Spence
    February 18, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    When I was a kid, my mom’s favorite hobby was finding old houses and digging bottles out of their trash piles. She found some really neat ones!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 18, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Way back when I was a young man I bought a bottle that caught my eye. It was new at the time so it’s about 45 years old. I’ve kept ever since! It’s an Avon bottle. It’s blue and shaped like a jeep. It has a white plastic top and labels on the doors. It’s made to look like a US mail jeep. It still has the cap at the back and is almost full of cologne (I didn’t like the smell). I don’t have the box it came in.
    It probably ain’t worth much now but maybe someday it will be.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    February 18, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    I have always collected bottles. When my children were little, I put my collection on top of my row of tall bookcases then added small white Christmas lights behind them. The soft light shinning through the multi colored glass was a perfect night light for children roaming around at night. Years later, an uppity woman once dropped by unannounced and asked me if the lighted display was like stained glass for POOR WHITE TRASH . Sure it is,I said. Never saw that woman again, thank goodness.
    Last year I needed all the good vibes I could get after my year on chemo . I had heard of BOTTLE TREES. Trees made of blue bottles were said to be extra good at catching evil spirits . So I started asking friends that drink wine to give me their blue bottles…I looked through my collection to get fat little Vicks bottles and Milk of Magnesia ones…added a few modern blue drinking glasses. I decided to make an ANGEL BOTTLE Tree . From 4 by 4s, My husband put together her six ft. tall body and helped get her in the ground in my front yard. I put a orb made of wire and crystals for a head, added hands made from metal, ., and using big Gutter nails driven in at an angle, added 30 or so all BLUE BOTTLES….it is beautiful. Months later, My six yr. old grandson helped me with 3 additional tall BOTTLE TREES to use many of our collected treasures. I look at my BOTTLE TREES every day and I love them. ….and the special blue BOTTLE tree, My ANGEL…she must be working…. I’m still off chemo.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      February 18, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Kat-your Angel bottle tree sounds amazing! So glad you had it for encouragement and that you’re feeling better!

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    February 18, 2021 at 10:13 am

    You may be too young to remember when vanilla extract came in small jugs, a little smaller than an Aunt Jemima jug of maple syrup. Most everything when I grew up came in glass rather than in plastic. And when they finished with stuff like that, they buried it out behind the barn, somewhere out of the way.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 18, 2021 at 9:59 am

    I like seeing those old bottles from when I was a kid, like the brown Clorox, the deep blue Vicks VapoRuband and the old painted label pop bottles. If I were collecting, I think I would want to collect bottles of those small bottlers that have now been gobbled up by the big names. There was a Cumberland Bottling Co. in Corbin, KY when I was small. Their label was painted and showed a coal train coming around the shoulder of the bottle. I think there was a slogan to but I have forgotten it.

    With craft sodas now things have kinda gone back the other way. Some of them will be collectors items in the future.

    I remember those old tin signs to. I have often wondered where Cracker Barrel gets their decor. It always looks genuine to me.

  • Reply
    JohnT
    February 18, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Back in the day, at work when we would dig up the road to replace an old rotting centerline culvert, we would watch for old bottles that would get unearthed and usually there was a scramble to get to it first. A lot of times the back hoe operator, who was very good, would set that old bottle on the ground by me. Many were in perfect condition and only needed to have the dirt cleaned out.

  • Reply
    Jeff Brewer
    February 18, 2021 at 9:35 am

    I too was a collector of old bottles, mostly in my youthful days growing up in Michigan. I ran across an unusual find behind an old barn. Apparently, someone had dumped a load of obsolete telephone company materials there. I found many glass insulators and unusual items there. Thankfully my folks have saved many of those insulators. I might have to go through them and see exactly what I have!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 18, 2021 at 9:18 am

    We love old bottles and have a pretty extensive collection. My husband does excavation and he found most that way. We have one that I was able to research & found it was Civil War era and was a pepper sauce bottle probably carried by a soldier to help flavor the food. Also 3 beautiful early mineral water bottles from the Saratoga Springs area–these are from High Rock Congress Springs. We have several medicine bottles–one was bitters. Two pottery ink bottles–one probably held a half pint and one much smaller. I could go on & on. We love all of them but they are truly dust catchers!

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    February 18, 2021 at 8:37 am

    I awoke to several inches of what can only be described as SLUSH AND FROZEN RAIN. I’m actually getting a late read this morning but the bottles are FABULOUS in my opinion!!! The insulators are going for about 50$ now. Glass bottles I don’t know a lot about. I collect glass makeup powder jars, DERMAY glass, hair receivers, glass cats, tea sets, Fenton and Blenko. I have some from all around the USA and UK. I know for a fact 4 pieces of my DERMAY could easily fetch 1G. I have some jars with powder still in. I hope you the best with your glass bottles. I love to see my glass glistening in full light and sun. I long for a Tiffany lamp or stained glass panel, but I highly doubt I will own them. I enjoy stained glass a lot- reminds me of heaven….

    • Reply
      Cynthia
      February 18, 2021 at 9:45 am

      Antique stores and second-hand stores often have Tiffany reproductions or old Tiffany style lamps. I bought a lamp at our neighborhood antique and collectibles store for $40. I know it’s not a Tiffany, but it’s beautiful. The glass will have bubbles in it, but it is not a flaw, it it a sign of old glass. If you are able to find a Tiffany type lamp you can afford, clean it with lemon oil furniture polish. It will take off all the grime without damaging the lamp. I couldn’t believe how pretty it was after I cleaned it. I love stained glass, too.

    • Reply
      Ray Presley
      February 18, 2021 at 10:19 am

      If you lived here in Hanover, PA (about five miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line,) you’d be completely inundated with the white stuff. It seems that for the past several weeks we’ve been on a 36-hour snow snow/sleet cycle. But it’s not like living in E. Tenn where they have very few pieces of equipment to handle it.

  • Reply
    Randy
    February 18, 2021 at 8:34 am

    It use to be in the country ever family would have a trash dump on their property. I would find these dumps when hunting on their property I would always stop and look or dig around . I have found a lot of things in these dumps that struck my fancy at the time. I have a few old cork stopper medicine bottles and a milk bottle or two that I found in my granddaddy’s barn.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 18, 2021 at 7:13 am

    Those bottles are absolutely beautiful! I don’t collect old jars and bottles but if I come across them I always like to pick it up and feel it for hints of history. Those are a real treasure. I would have loved to seen the rest of his collection and sit and talk to him!

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