AB (connected) mark on antique glass beer bottles
Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company (1886-c.1926) and/or the American Bottle Company (1905-1929)
Most bottles with the “AB-connected” mark on the bottom are mouth-blown (handmade) and were made to contain beer. They date from the circa 1905-1917 time period, and (possibly) primarily from an earlier stretch within those years: c.1905-1909. The mark may have been used only at the two Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company plants (located in Belleville, IL and St. Louis, MO) that became part of the American Bottle Company merger in 1905. It may be that the mark was originally used by Adolphus Busch, and was later “adopted” (circa 1905) as the standard mark used on the base of generic beer bottles produced by American Bottle Company for some period of time thereafter.
Interestingly, the accompanying base mold code markings (such as A 5, C 14, V 9, etc) seen on bottles of this type are also seen on many export beer bottles marked “A.B.G.M.CO.” which points to a strong connection between those two marks. Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company made huge quantities of beer bottles for their affiliated Busch family company (the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association), and marked many, if not most, of those bottles with “A.B.G.M.CO.” Bottles marked with “A.B.CO” (which we know to stand for American Bottle Company) are also seen with similar letter/number codes on the bottom.
Again, at the present time, some uncertainty exists on the “AB-connected mark” and it’s proper attribution and the exact period of time when it was being used. This mark was attributed to Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company (1886-c.1926) by author/researcher/glass historian Julian Toulouse in Bottle Makers and their Marks (published in 1971) and he believed that it dated to circa 1904-1907.
More recent research (by Bill Lockhart, Alamogordo, NM) seems to indicate the American Bottle Company as the correct attribution for the bottles with the “AB” (letters attached) mark (dating those bottles circa 1905-1909), as well as the A.B.CO. marks.
However, to be fair, some time ago I received emails from researcher Austin Fjerestad who somewhat disagrees with Bill Lockhart’s findings. He asserts that the “AB-connected” mark was indeed used specifically by Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company for an uncertain stretch of time before the incorporation of American Bottle Company in September of 1905, coming to that conclusion from research concerning certain AB-marked hutch soda bottles (with the AB-connected mark on the heel). He finds that those bottles were used by several bottling companies located in Minnesota and elsewhere before 1905. This would seem to indicate the AB mark was used by Adolphus Busch for an undetermined stretch of time preceding 1905.
(The crown-top closure, as seen on most of these bottles, dates from c. 1892, and the Adolphus Busch plant at Belleville started glass production around that same time. If the AB-connected mark stands for Adolphus Busch, it could conceivably date as early as 1892, but currently this is mere speculation). Please see Austin’s Youtube 2-part video at these links: Austin Fjerestad~AB connected mark, part one.
Perhaps time will settle this question for certain. (If you have information pointing to the use of the AB-connected mark in or before 1904, please contact me.)
Since the identical “AB connected” mark is also found followed by the letters “CO” that would seem to show the actual name of the company in question would conform to the A B CO initials’ “structure” i.e., American Bottle Company. In other words, Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company, as far as I know, was never known as the “Adolphus Busch Company”!
An additional note: The “AB” and “A.B.CO” marks are frequently misunderstood by bottle collectors to mean “Anheuser-Busch”, which I think is incorrect. Although many of those beer bottles DID contain one of the several brands of beer produced by Anheuser-Busch, it appears as though the initials were never meant to actually stand for the brewery name itself. However, I would guess that officials at Anheuser-Busch were not particularly concerned about which interpretation was assigned to those letters (by the casual observer) since they do fit the name of both the brewer and the glassmaker.
For an in-depth discussion of the American Bottle Company marks, including this particular variation, see Bill Lockhart’s article here:
In any case, these bottles (the most commonly seen type) are typically marked on the base, along with letter/number combinations placed beneath which are believed to be mold and/or shop codes used at the factory.
I don’t think there is any solid proof on what the codes represent, but I suspect that the letter stands for a particular “shop” (that is, a specific group or team of glassworkers at the factory) and the number is a mold number which identified that particular bottle mold being used by that shop. There may be other theories on the interpretation of these codes, but that is what I am going with, for the time being! (Please see a list of confirmed codes I am compiling in this article here).
A few of these bottles seem to carry date codes, which, if present, are typically found on the heel, not the base.
These are “generic” crown-top style beer bottles, with no embossed marking on the sides, and in most cases presumably had a paper label affixed by the individual brewery or bottler before sale to saloons and to wholesale distributors / jobbers. Many of the bottles were re-used multiple times, and could have contained sodas or other beverages later on during their “use-life”.
Nearly all of these bottles are handmade (not machine-made), with crown-top style tooled lips (indicating production no earlier than 1892 as the crown style lip was introduced in that year, as mentioned above), and the great majority are seen in light blue-aqua glass. Being handblown, usually the two vertical mold lines can be seen to “fade out” toward the top of the bottle, and the area immediately below the “crown top” may appear “wiped horizontally”, smoothing out the line of demarcation between the body of the bottle and the lip portion.
Besides blue-aqua, some of the AB-connected bottles are also seen in a light green glass (not aqua), amethyst (light to medium purple) and, occasionally, dark amber (“beer bottle brown”) glass. They come in “quart” (actually 24 ounces) and “pint” (12 ounces) sizes.
They were evidently made in tremendous quantities, as they are still quite commonly found, having been recovered in large numbers at various sites especially in the West. Thousands of them were used in the building of the famous “Rhyolite Bottle House” in Rhyolite, Nevada, which was constructed by Tom Kelly between September of 1905 and February of 1906. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tom-kellys-bottle-house
Note: as mentioned above, some marked soda bottles are found with the AB-connected mark placed on the heel, as shown in the video by Austin Fjerestad.
If you have information that can help prove which company used the “AB-connected” mark, (or can prove that BOTH companies used the mark), please let me know!
NOTE: For a list I’m compiling of base letter/number codes seen on these AB-connected beer bottles, click here. (If you have an unlisted code, please email me to have it added to the list.)
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