Bromo-Seltzer / Emerson Drug Co. / Baltimore, MD.
Bromo-Seltzer was an extremely popular drug, in the form of a powder, introduced circa 1891. This concoction was heavily promoted as a remedy for “sick headache”, upset stomach, headache, hangover, and other maladies. The exact formula varied somewhat in the earlier years, with the main ingredient (originally) being sodium bromide. The bottles are usually found in cobalt blue glass (they are also rarely seen in aqua glass), in a variety of sizes. The earlier bottles are hand-blown with a tooled lip, and the later examples are machine-made. The last machine-made types have a screw-threaded lip.
WARNING: (this paragraph first posted February 23, 2014, updated July 19, 2015). It has come to my attention that unscrupulous ebay auction sellers have recently listed old Bromo-Seltzer bottles in a peculiar dull greenish color…… I would give the color a term such as swampy moss green, olive green amber, burnt olive green or dirty mustard green!
Some bottles are also showing up in peculiar shades of dark teal blue, “midnight blue”, “dark ink blue”, very dark teal green or “Prussian Green”, colors that the Bromo bottles were not made in originally.
Although these bottles could theoretically show up virtually anywhere, some of them appear to be originating from sources in Florida. ALL OF THESE BOTTLES WERE EVIDENTLY ORDINARY COBALT BLUE BOTTLES WHICH HAVE UNDERGONE “NUKING” (irradiation) to change their color to a “rare” color shade, increasing the “perceived” value to bottle collectors. Be aware that the color is not believed to be “original” or “authentic”. Also, please see my webpage on this site about Artificially purpled bottles. Artificial irradiation can change glass from an original aqua or blue color to other shades including purple, depending on the exact content of the glass batch “recipe”.
(Note: Someone has written to me recently [3/2016] who states he has personally dug a few Bromo-Seltzer bottles in a dark teal green from an old dumpsite and they are definitely authentic, not nuked, so I am adding this paragraph 4/12/2016.) I will reserve judgment on these color variants to others…….. diggers/collectors who are more knowledgeable on dug Bromos and the colors that have been found .
(Note: Hand-blown (mouthblown) bottles will have two vertical mold seams along the sides of the bottle that gradually “fade out” or appear to be “erased” as the seam reaches closer to the top rim. In contrast, machine-made bottles have mold seams that are usually visible clear up to the top of the bottle, often extending up onto the very top rim).
The product is still being sold, as an antacid, and comes in small individual packets as opposed to bottles.
The largest size bottles are somewhat scarcer, and harder to find than the typical small size (most common) which measures, in general, about 2 and 5/8″ in height.
Many, many millions of these bottles were made, and the embossed lettering varies somewhat with slight variations in the exact placement, size and shape of the letters. Some bottles exhibit the results of mold-cutting errors, for instance sometimes the “Z” in “Seltzer” is embossed backwards (as in the case of the small bottle on the right in the accompanying photo). Incidentally, that particular bottle is an older version, with a “squared band” lip, believed to date from the early years of Bromo production, circa 1890s. In contrast, the great majority of the small Bromos have a “rounded band” lip.
It is likely that hundreds of different molds were utilized in the long stretch of time that these bottles were made. An examination of bottles shows many that carry only mold numbers on the base. These mold numbers (one or two-digit numbers) do not convey any precise information as to when the bottle was made. (However, because of the high quantities of machine-made Bromo-Seltzer bottles seen with these mold numbers, it is very likely, but so far not proven, that they are products of Maryland Glass Corporation).
The first bottles were believed to have been produced by Cumberland Glass Manufacturing Company, Bridgeton, New Jersey in the early 1890s. Maryland Glass Corporation, starting production in 1907, was a glass manufacturer originally owned by Emerson Drug Company and built to be operated as a vehicle for producing the vast quantities of Bromo-Seltzer bottles necessary. As time went on, Maryland concentrated most heavily on the manufacture of many types of cobalt blue bottles and jars and other blue glassware. Maryland Glass, no doubt, produced more of the B-S bottles than any other manufacturer. The most common mark used by Maryland Glass Corporation is the “M inside a circle“. See more info on the mark on this page.
All of the earlier Bromo-Seltzer bottles were handmade, presumably including all of the Cumberland Glass production, and the first few years of Maryland Glass production. It is not possible to pin down a specific year that Bromo-Seltzer bottles were first made by automatic bottle machine methods, but by 1915 Maryland Glass Corporation had automatic machinery in operation, and presumably most, if not all, of the Bromo-Seltzers made after that year were machine-made.
Illinois Glass Company, of Alton, Illinois, evidently made quantities of this bottle, some marked with a “dot inside a diamond”. Those examples would date from the late 1910s and 1920s. (NOTE (added 7/19/2015): this statement is now open to debate……….author/researcher Bill Lockhart believes the “dot inside a diamond” mark, along with some other very similar “geometric” marks found on some Bromo-Seltzer bottles, is a mold identifier (serving the purpose of a mold number) but does NOT serve as a glass manufacturers’ mark. If anyone has found a Bromo-Seltzer bottle with a definite “diamond with an I inside” on the base, please contact me, as I want to find out if Illinois Glass Company should be crossed off our list of makers of the Bromo bottles. (Contact me through the email address at the lower right hand corner of any page on this site.)
Some Bromo Seltzer bottles were also believed to have been produced by Hazel Atlas Glass Company (or it’s predecessor, Hazel Glass Company). However, that information is now in doubt as well, as discussed on Bill Lockhart’s exhaustive webpage on Bromo-Seltzer bottles here.
Another confirmed maker of Bromo-Seltzer bottles would be George Jonas Glass Company, Minotola, New Jersey (1896-1908), as this is specifically mentioned on page 271, The Glass Gaffers of New Jersey, by Adeline Pepper (1971).
Exactly when the last glass Bromo-Seltzer bottles were made is uncertain, but probably in the 1950s or 1960s. (If you have evidence to assign a specific date for the last Bromo-Seltzers made in cobalt blue glass, please contact me!!). UPDATE: Please see a letter sent to me by Ron, inserted farther down in this page. He states that the glass bottles might have been discontinued not too long after 1956.
Bromo-Seltzer bottles are so plentiful that they do not have a high intrinsic value, but because of their highly attractive cobalt blue color, they are very popular with glass and bottle collectors and non-collectors alike, and can even add color and interest to interior room design. Many of them are sold on internet auction sites such as ebay, and other antique and collectible sites.
For a little more background information on Bromo-Seltzer, check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromo-Seltzer .
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