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 posted February 23, 2014). 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, pukey sick green, burnt olive green, dirty oily mustard green). THESE BOTTLES ARE ACTUALLY 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 “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 besides purple, depending on the exact content of the glass batch “recipe”.
(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).
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 with mold numbers on the base. These mold numbers (one or two-digit numbers) do not convey any information as to when the bottle was made, or by whom.
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 glass 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 an “I inside a diamond” on the bottom, or just a “dot inside a diamond”. Those examples would date from the late 1910s and 1920s.
Some Bromo Seltzer bottles were produced by Hazel Atlas Glass Company (or it’s predecessor, Hazel Glass Company). 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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