Whitall Tatum Company

Whitall Tatum & Company (1857-1901)

Whitall Tatum Company (1901-1938)

Armstrong Cork Corporation (1938-1969)

Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation (1969-1983)   (last production of insulators was in 1978)

Whitall Tatum bottle and insulator

Millville, New Jersey

The first glass factory in Millville was built in 1806 on the banks of the Maurice River by James Lee along with several other men. Thereafter the factory went through a puzzling succession of ownerships, including Gideon Scull (by 1814); Nathaniel Solomon; and Burgin, Wood & Bodine.

In 1838, at which time the glassworks was then known as the “Phoenix Glass Works”, Captain John M. Whitall entered the business in partnership with G.M.Haverstick and William Scattergood. Shortly afterward, the firm name became Scattergood & Whitall after the retirement of Haverstick. Franklin Whitall, John’s brother, then joined the firm in 1845. In 1848 the name of the firm became “Whitall, Brother & Company” after Edward Tatum became involved. In 1857 the name was again changed to “Whitall Tatum & Company”, and finally in 1901, to “Whitall Tatum Company” which was the name used until 1938 when the works were bought by Armstrong.

There were two locations used by Whitall Tatum, first the original site (upper works) located in Millville proper, and later the “lower works” in South Millville (formerly known as Schetterville).  Eventually the South Millville site would become the center of activity for the glassworks.

Whitall Tatum produced very large quantities of bottles and fruit jars throughout much of the mid- and late 19th century.  Pharmacy, druggist, barber, perfume, chemical and other types of bottles in various colors and styles were produced, and some of them are now avidly sought by antique bottle collectors. W-T is especially well-known for the production of tremendous quantities of prescription bottles, blown for hundreds of local pharmacies across the country, embossed with their names and addresses using interchangeable slug plates inserted into the mold. Most of those types of pharmacy bottles marked “W.T. & Co.” on the base generally date from approximately 1875 to around 1901, and are most frequently found in a good-quality clear (colorless) glass. Less commonly-seen are examples found in a beautiful rich teal green glass, as well as cobalt blue.

After the firm name was changed to “Whitall Tatum Company” in 1901, the marking on bottle molds was changed slightly to “W.T.CO.”  Many of their pharmacy bottles have a letter or letters embossed (along with the “W.T.CO”) on the base which were typically mold identification marks (not date codes).

Note: some of these earlier clear glass bottles may turn a pale amethyst color if subjected to long exposure to sunlight. However practically all “W T & CO” or “W T CO” marked prescription bottles found in a very dark purple color have been irradiated (color-altered). See this page on Artificially Purpled Glass.   (Confusingly, many Whitall Tatum telegraph insulators, especially the “WHITALL TATUM CO No. 1″ style made during the 1920s, are found in naturally-occurring light to medium purple shades.)

In the 1900s and on into the 1920s and 1930s Whitall Tatum continued to produce large quantities of bottles of many types, sizes, and colors.   W-T manufactured bottles that were sold and used by a large number and variety of product manufacturers, especially those making and packaging “brand name” medicines, remedies, cleaning products, chemicals, cosmetics, lotions, etc.    Many of these bottles, along with their electrical insulators, are found with a “W and T inside an inverted triangle” trademark (as shown in photo here, embossed on the side of a CD 154 “Whitall Tatum Co. No 1″ insulator).    The “W and T” triangle, if present on bottles, is usually embossed on the very base.

W-T inside triangle mark used by Whitall Tatum Company circa 1924-1938

Whitall Tatum didn’t enter the insulator manufacturing market until 1922, very soon after Brookfield Glass Company had closed it’s doors the previous year.  However, W-T made up for lost time by producing millions of insulators during the ensuing years.  No doubt they supplied insulators to many firms (especially in the Eastern states, but over the entire country as well) that had previously purchased from Brookfield.

Armstrong Cork Corporation purchased Whitall-Tatum in 1938 (with insulator production continuing at a remarkable rate, and the existing molds eventually being re-engraved with the ARMSTRONG name), and finally Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation took over ownership of the plant in April of 1969.  Many of the insulators continued to carry the “Armstrong” embossing, until about 1973, by which time all carried the “KERR” embossing.

With the rapidly decreasing demand for glass insulators, production at the Kerr plant continued to diminish as the 1970s wore on. From information supplied to me by collector/researcher Richard Wentzel, the last glass insulators made at the Millville plant were produced either in late 1975 or early 1976.  Soon afterward, the insulator molds and equipment were moved to the Kerr Glass plant located in Dunkirk, Indiana. (The very last “KERR” embossed insulators made at Dunkirk are evidently the ones marked with 1978 date codes, and no Kerr insulators are known with a more recent year date code on them). Those insulators made in 1978 are probably the most recently made (authentic) small to medium-sized PINTYPE glass insulators produced within the United States.

Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation sold the Millville manufacturing facility in 1983, along with 3 other plants, to the American National Can Company.   Ball-Foster took control of the factory in 1995, and in 1999, after 193 years of nearly continuous glass production, the factory was shut down permanently.

An update (posted 2006): I’ve received word that the former Lower Works site is reportedly a self-storage facility, and the buildings that once housed WT’s glass furnaces have been demolished. A sad ending indeed for one of America’s greatest glass manufacturing enterprises. If anyone has more recent information on this property, please contact me!  Thank you!

For a more comprehensive article on the background history and marks used by Whitall Tatum, check out this article here:
http://www.sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/WTandCo_Blockhart.pdf .

 Note: for a webpage on this site with an extensive list of glass insulator manufacturers, please click here.

Click here for the Glass Bottle Marks pages, page one.    

Click here to go to my Home Page.

 

(Pictured: W.T.& Co. pharmacy bottle in teal green (1880s), and a CD 154 style Whitall Tatum No. 1 telephone/telegraph line insulator in medium purple (1920s).
[ Richard Wentzel (info from his article in McDougald, 1990, and personal communications); Adeline Pepper- The Glass Gaffers of New Jersey(1971); other sources]

8 Responses to Whitall Tatum Company

  1. amber says:

    I have a bottle with a capital A on the bottom and a circle around the A….does this alone mean it is from Armstrong cork company (glass division) between 1938-1969? It also has the number 26 on the right hand side of the A and a 66 to the left hand side of the A…what do the numbers mean? The bottle is like an Amber or brown color…no bigger than 6 inches long…. It also says 1/10 pint on it

  2. Mary Jane Allen says:

    I have a clearish bottle I purchased with a light purple color. The seller said it may have mercury in the glass and that is the reason for the color and it is called sunkissed purple? However I’ve researched this and have seen this may be Magnesium used in the glass. The markings (all on the bottom) say:
    W.T.
    U.D. CO.
    40
    There is also a vertical “2” next to CO.

    there is no triangle. I cannot find any information on what the UD means? And what year and approximate value it may have. Looking at it in the light, it shows as very purple. Can you please help me out in identifying the markings – especially the UD and can you give me an idea of the year and value? Thank you in advance and I appreciate your help.

    Mary Jane

    • David says:

      Hello Mary Jane,
      The purple color you see is not caused by either mercury OR magnesium. (Sorry, but the internet is overloaded with lots of misinformation :-). but it’s caused by the element MANGANESE. Manganese was added to the “batch” (molten glass mixture) to counteract (“mask”) the aqua – light bluish or greenish color- which would otherwise by present, that color being caused by iron which is an impurity that occurs to some extent in most sand. Continued exposure of the glass to sunlight may cause the color to deepen somewhat, but it depends on how much manganese is present in the glass. Higher amounts of manganese will cause the glass to turn shades of purple. This is called SCA (Sun-colored Amethyst).
      (Not to confuse this with the increasingly pervasive practice of “nuking” or “irradiating” old glass bottles that contain manganese, thus “activating” the manganese and causing them to turn an artificial, very dark, odd “grape kool-aid” purple color. This practice is frowned upon by many bottle & antique tableware collectors and glass historians. Unfortunately, alot of unscrupulous flea market dealers and ebay sellers are doing this for a “quick buck”….. selling nuked bottles as decorative “window bottles” (at highly inflated prices) because ‘pretty purple’ sells to the uninitiated. More information on Artificially Purpled Glass / Irradiated Glass / Altered Glass glass is posted here ). End of rant.

      “U.D.CO” stands of United Drug Company. The bottle was presumably made by Whitall Tatum (for United Drug Co.) probably sometime in the 1900s, 1910s or 1920s. No specific “blue book” value can be assigned to this bottle, but typical prescription / pharmaceutical bottles (if there are NO MARKINGS ON THE FACE OR SIDES, BUT ONLY ON THE BASE!) of this general type and age are quite common. Best regards,
      David

  3. Esther says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the great info on these neat insulators! I am having a hard time identifying one that I have: Whitall Tatum Co. No 1 with a 37 below Tatum, Made In USA on the other side with WT in the triangle. I see that it was made between 1922 &1938, but how much is it worth? I am guessing it’s a 154 CD. Thanks for your help!
    Esther

    • David says:

      Hi Esther,
      In general, I try to avoid discussing values on this website, but I can say that the Whitall Tatum Co. No. 1 style insulator was made in very large numbers, and so the most common colors (clear, bluish aqua, light greenish aqua, light straw) are typically valued at around $1.00 to 2.00 in VNM condition. (Peach, pink, purple shadesare less common and will be higher in value). Although insulators such as these are often priced much, much higher in venues such as antique shops or flea markets. “VNM” (very near mint) is a term used commonly in insulator collecting, and describes a very respectable example with only slight damage (perhaps with a few very small ticks here or there). The CD 154 was the earlier type of WHITALL TATUM CO. NO 1 insulator, the same shape as the very common “Hemingray-42″. In 1938 a “new improved” style was introduced, the CD 155, also marked Whitall Tatum NO. 1 (most examples have the “CO” removed, although not all). The main difference: The CD 154 shape has a more pronounced curvature immediately underneath the lower wire ridge on the “skirt” (underneath the wire groove). On the CD 155, the lower ridge is more “squared off” (with more of a clean vertical drop) and this is easily apparent comparing a CD 154 and CD 155 side-by-side. The CD 155 feels noticeably heavier. A search of Google Images with “CD 154″ and “CD 155″ will show this difference. On your insulator, the “37” is a mold number. Btw, there are insulator price guides available, both online and in hardcopy. An online search with keywords “Insulator Price Guide” will bring up more information.
      Hope this helps,
      David

  4. tammy says:

    I have a little bottle on bottom wt co.under that is D under that is USA then on front just below shoulder has the pharmacy sytle 3i. Wonder how old it is

    • David says:

      Hi Tammy,
      As listed on my site, the “W T CO” marking on Whitall Tatum Company bottles dates after 1901. However, I am not sure exactly when it was discontinued. Most W-T bottles after around 1924 are marked with “W over T inside a triangle”, and that mark was used until 1938. Therefore I am guessing (with no proof) that the “W T CO” mark was phased out probably around 1924. Circa 1901 to 1924. I might also mention that the pharmacy bottles with the “fancy pharmacy style 3″ seem to have come into popularity in the 1910s. In any case, I cannot give you a specific year on the age of your bottle. Thanks for writing!
      David

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