Owens-Illinois Glass Company
(Owens-Illinois, Inc. — since 1965)
Owens-Illinois Glass Company was the result of the 1929 merger between two glass-making giants of the industry: Owens Bottle Company (Toledo, OH; predecessor Toledo Glass Company began operation in 1896) and Illinois Glass Company (based in Alton, Illinois, with glass production dating from 1873).
Formerly headquartered at Toledo, OH; now based at Perrysburg, OH, Owens-Illinois, Inc. had (and has) many glass manufacturing locations worldwide. (See list of 19 currently operating glass container plants in North America, farther down on this page).
Several trademarks have been used over the years by Owens-Illinois. Shown on this page are pictures of typical trademark variations used on their containers, especially during the early years. Most of the pics show the first and most widely recognized mark used beginning in 1929. As pictured, it can vary slightly from one container to another. It consists of a “Diamond and O (oval) entwined, with an I in center” and dates from circa 1929 into the mid and late 1950s. (Latest confirmed date code with this older trademark known on a bottle is 1966). The diamond/oval/i mark may not have been, in actual practice, implemented onto all bottle molds until some time in 1930, simply because of the time and effort involved in re-tooling/altering molds already in use.
On very small bottles, the mark may be rather indistinct and the “I” may be virtually invisible, or just a tiny dot. It may be misinterpreted as the number “1”. On the typical bottle, there is usually a number to the left of, to the right of, and below, the trademark.
(Note: The above arrangement is the most commonly seen, at least on soda bottles, but some containers, such as liquor flasks, are frequently marked in other ways and thus the codes may be arranged in a different configuration. See the paragraph titled “Liquor Bottle Permit Numbers”).
Typically, the number on the LEFT of the diamond logo is the plant code number, the number on the RIGHT is a year date code, and the number below the logo (if present) indicates the mold number (mold identifying number, “mold cavity number” or serial number).
Examples: plant code #2 stood for the Huntington, WV plant; “3″ was the Fairmont, WV plant(number used up to 1981, later “3” was used by Muskogee, OK); “4” was Clarksburg, WV; “7″ indicated Alton, IL; “9″, the Streator, IL factory; “12″ was Gas City, IN; “14″ was the Bridgeton, NJ plant, #21 is Portland, OR; #22 is Tracy, CA; #20 is Oakland, CA; #23 is Los Angeles, CA, etc.
Note: Several of the plant numbers used by O-I have been re-used by other plants opened in later years, so it is important to take into consideration the date code, the bottle style and other characteristics to positively identify which plant location made a particular bottle.
On many bottles, a single-digit date code along with the diamond/oval/I mark may indicate the 1930s. From information compiled in Bill Lockhart’s article (link below) on Owens-Illinois’ date code markings, it appears that, on containers with this earliest trademark, if a single digit date code (such as “O” or “1” placed to the right of the logo) is followed by a period, the chances are very good the bottle in question dates from the 1940s, especially the 1940-1947 period. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule, and single-digit date codes were also used in later decades along with the later “I inside an O” mark (but without a period placed to the right of the code).
Most bottles from the late 1940s into the 1950s and 1960s have two-digit date codes. (For more info, please check out the extensive article by Bill Lockhart and Russ Hoenig; link farther down on this page).
The “I inside an O” trademark
The second mark used by Owens-Illinois Glass Company was phased in during the mid- 1950s with the removal of the diamond. Julian Toulouse (Bottle Makers and their Marks, 1971), states this mark was used beginning in the year 1954. However, more research over the years has shown there was actually a gradual changeover from the “old” to the “new” trademark on containers, which occurred over a period of four or five years beginning in 1954 (with a few known exceptions—see note below discussing a bottle made in 1966 which carries the “old” trademark on the base!).
Some bottle molds already in use were not re-engraved until as late as 1957, 1958, 1959, even, as mentioned, in 1966. However, after about 1958 the great majority of O-I containers carried the “new” (second) principal trademark, which merely consists of an I inside an oval, or circle.
“OWENS” appears on the base of some clear prescription bottles. Illustrated among the pics on this page is the base of a bottle made at the Columbus, Ohio facility (plant #18) with a date code of “7” which in this case probably stands for 1937. I don’t know how late the word “OWENS” was embossed as a trademark on the base of those medicine bottles.
LIQUOR BOTTLE PERMIT NUMBERS
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many liquor bottles and flasks made by Owens-Illinois have a DIFFERENT mold code configuration on the base, as compared to the way the numbers are arranged on most other types of bottles they made. Typically, it is marked with a number called a “Liquor Bottle Permit Number” followed by a dash and a second number which is the date code. many of the liquor flasks made by Owens-Illinois have the “Diamond and Oval with an I” logo embossed sideways on the base of the container.
You can find more info on those bottle base variations by searching the internet with the phrase “liquor bottle permit numbers”. Also, there are several posts (scattered through the comments farther down on this page) where we have discussed this question. (You can use your computer keyboard pressing the “CTRL” and then the “F” buttons, and typing in those keywords to find those comments more quickly.)
NOTE: Recently [July 2013] I have received a photo, submitted by Taylor McBurney, showing the base of a Yacht Club Beverages ACL soda bottle, carrying a 1966 date code, but bearing the old logo! This is the very latest instance of use of the “old” O-I mark that I am aware of. Presumably, when this particular mold was pulled out of the storeroom, and used to produce some more bottles (probably for a relatively small order), it wasn’t considered important enough to take the time to re-engrave the trademark.
The mark “O-I” has also been in use for some time in very recent years (but I’m not sure when it first appeared on containers). The “O-I” mark shown on this page is on the heel of an emerald green ALE81 soda bottle made in 2011. I believe it was instituted sometime in the 2005-2010 period, but I’m not sure. If anyone has information on exactly what year the mark O-I was first used on their bottles, please contact me!
Other marks include “ILLINOIS“, a brand name apparently used for a line of prescription bottles (similar to their bottles marked “OWENS”); “DURAGLAS“, a trademark used after 1940 and which appears embossed on innumerable bottles of many types; and “LOWEX” another brand name which was used for their borosilicate glass forumula employed especially for power line insulators.
Although Owens-Illinois has made containers of many different shades of color over the years, the great majority of glass bottles commonly found (especially older containers that show up often at flea markets, antique malls, yard sales, junk shops, ebay, etc) are made of clear (colorless), green (emerald, forest green or “seven up” green) and amber (“beer bottle brown”) glass.
The diamond/oval/I mark is by far the most common identification mark on glass containers found in trash dump sites in the United States from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. (The second most common mark encountered is probably that of the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company.)
Owens-Illinois took over operation of the Hemingray Glass Company factory, located in Muncie, Indiana, in 1933. Hemingray was a prolific maker of electrical insulators (of many types and sizes) for power lines, telegraph, telephone and other uses. Within a year or two, most glass insulators produced at Muncie were carrying date codes. Owens-Illinois continued to have the great majority of insulators marked with the “HEMINGRAY” brand name, with very few exceptions in later years. Other brand names used by O-I on insulators include “Lowex” and “Kimble“. Many millions of insulators were made at Muncie, up to 1967. (Please see my webpage on the Hemingray Glass Company for more information on Hemingray insulators.)
Known as Owens-Illinois, Inc. since 1965, (and officially known as just “O-I” since 2005), this corporation is currently (2018) one of the largest manufacturers of glass containers in the world, if not THE largest.
Owens-Illinois Inc. currently operates 19 glass manufacturing facilities within North America. They are located in: Atlanta, Georgia; Auburn, New York; Brockway (Brockport), Pennsylvania [2 plants]; Ringgold, Virginia; Lapel, Indiana; Los Angeles, California; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Streator, Illinois; Toano, Virginia; Tracy, California; Waco, Texas; Zanesville, Ohio; Lexington, North Carolina; Windsor, Colorado; and in Canada: Montreal, Quebec and Brampton, Ontario.
For a page with some of the principal plant code numbers used on bottles, courtesy of Dick Cole (fruitjar.org), click here . (That list is several decades old and does not cover all of the recently started plants).
For more detailed discussion on Owens-Illinois Glass Company and the date codes, plant location and mold codes used, check out this comprehensive article written by Bill Lockhart and Russ Hoenig: The Bewildering Array of Owens-Illinois Glass Co. Logos and Codes.
Click here for one of many pages from O-I’s official website.
Note: For a page on this site with an extensive list of glass companies that made electrical insulators (many of which are now considered collectible items), please go here: Glass Insulator Manufacturers .
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Please check out my summary page on Sea Glass / Beach Glass. Many old Owens-Illinois bottle and jar bases might be found among so-called “Beach Glass”.