Bottle Attributes Closures

Since there were bottles, man has been looking for a better closure. A closure held the contents in and protected them. Early closures were leather or anything soft that could be pushed into the lip of a bottle to seal it. Eventually, the cork became the preferred bottle closure. At times tar or pitch was applied to the cork to help seal it.

One of the problems of the cork was shrinkage due to drying out. This is the reason some bottles will not stand up. When a bottle rested on its side the contents would keep the cork moist. Other bottles were stored and shipped upside down to accomplish the same goal. Often a string or wire was fastened around the neck and over the cork to secure it against pressurized contents.

The cork was basically a one time closure.  Inventors began looking for a bottle closures that were reusable and would be cheaper than corks and towards the end of the nineteenth century, inventors were looking for a closure that would prevent the refilling or reuse of a bottle.  Some types of beverages had pressurized contents that poised additional opportunities for inventors.

As the industrial age dawned, there started a slow but steady number of patents for closures for bottles. The earliest mention of a closure's invention appeared in the Jeffersonian Republic of New Orleans on September 27th, 1845 as follows:

Pointing FingerAn invention, which we think may come into general use in this country, has been invented for confining corks, or their substitutes, into the neck of bottles or other vessels..  The invention consists in fastening caps of metal, earthen ware, or wood, furnished with wire clasps, that reach under the rim of the necks.  Corks need not, therefore, be so long as they commonly are, nor need they be put in so tightly.  The laborious process of corking and uncorking will also be avoided, and new corks may be substituted for old ones, without disturbing the contents.  Two wire hooks run through the caps and hook on either side of the rim of the necks.  These rims should be made a straight or slightly curvilinear edge at the bottom, so as to retain the hook.  Beer, soda water, and other bottlers will see this advantage.

One of the earliest actual patents was for a soda water bottle closure was in 1855 issued to Jules Jeannotat.  In 1885, there were over 80 patents granted for soda and beer closures alone. As industries matured and smaller businesses were consolidated into larger ones, uniformity was achieved in bottle closures.  For example, the crown cork effectively replaced all soda and beer bottle closures and became the standard by 1920. The crown worked well on the automated bottling lines and was more sanitary than other closures.

The closure used on a bottle has something to say about a bottle's age. Closures used on specific types of bottles have periods of use that are not reflective of the closures general used for other bottles. For example, the screw-on top was used on many types of bottles, but try and find a true screw top soda bottle. Other closures were designed for use on soda or beer bottles. For example the Hutchinson and Codd stoppers were designed for carbonated beverages. They both needed the pressure of the charged gases to seal them. You will not find these closures on any other type of bottle. Closures were often patented and the patent date establishes the earliest date of the bottle. Some closures were only used on a single bottle, often on the bottles of the inventor. The Roorbach and Tucker stopper is a prime example. Other, like the ABC Patent, gained limited success. While some, like the Hutter, were extremely popular. Those that were popular spawned imitators who made minor improvement to the widely used closure. There are no doubt over one hundred different patents for a bail type closure for beer bottles that are all variations of the "Lightning" stopper.

As more economical and easier to use closures were invented, older styles fell out of style. Health laws in the United States and eventually elsewhere in the world doomed many closures as unsanitary. These events all help to mark the end of a closures use.

Closures achieved different levels of popularity in different countries. The Codd stopper was immensely popular in England and its empire, but was rarely used in the United States. The Hutchinson stopper was the closure of choice in the United States, but is virtually nonexistent in Britain. Regions can also have an influence on a bottle's closure. William Painter's 1885 patent bottle closure, popularly called the Baltimore loop seal, was widely used in Baltimore and the Mid-West, but scarcely used in Philadelphia.

The following bottle closures are documented on this site:

  1. Beer Bottle Closures
  2. Soda & Mineral Water Bottle Closures

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