J. R. Watkins Company

The J. R. Watkins Company

The J. R. Watkins Company began in 1868 as a small home-based business in Plainview, Minnesota, founded by entrepreneur Joseph Ray Watkins.

Watkins distributed many different types of household products including cleaning products, food extracts and  flavorings, cosmetics,  home remedies, and other products.  (They did not actually make the bottles in which these products were contained.)

As business increased, in 1885 operations were moved from Plainview  to Winona, Minnesota.

The very first bottles sold are assumed to date as far back as 1868, but I doubt that the very earliest containers were actually embossed with the “Watkins” name, but would have likely been “generic” handblown bottles with just a paper label to indicate contents. (If anyone has more information on this, please contact me!)

By the very early 1870s, as business continued to expand,  it is likely that bottles were being embossed with Watkins or “J. R. Watkins Co.”   The earliest versions would be in aqua glass, handmade (tooled lip) and have the lip fashioned for a cork closure.

Later versions (I don’t know the exact date, but probably by the 1920s or the early 1930s) have a threaded-style lip for a screw lid.   There are probably hundreds of slightly different Watkins bottle variants in existence that have been used over the last 140 years, with a variety of differences in font style, exact wording arrangement, size and shape of the bottle, and I imagine it would be a monumental task to find just one example of every single one of them.

Many of the bottles from the 1920s-1940s are quite common, and are usually in clear glass. Sometimes the embossed name is in a cursive font, and sometimes in a plain “block style lettering”. White milkglass salve or “ointment jars” were also sold.

The J.R.Watkins company is still in business (as of 2013) .  Their current website address is:  http://www.jrwatkins.com/ .

Most bottles now sold have just a paper label showing the contents, without an embossed marking in the glass itself (if the bottle is even made of glass).  Apparently, Watkins has been gradually switching over to plastic containers for most of their products.

No doubt a  number of different glass companies have produced bottles for Watkins over the years, but Illinois Glass Company (“I inside a diamond” mark) and Owens-Illinois Glass Company  have produced large quantities of them.    Rawleigh’s (see entry, page three) was a competing firm that sold many similar products by mail-order and whose bottles are also found in large numbers.

To return to the Glass Bottle Marks pages, please click here

 

18 Responses to J. R. Watkins Company

  1. Rosalyn Bullock says:

    I have a smaller bottle. Brown colored glass and made for a cork. I found it in the yard of a house I was renting. It was buried about 2 ft deep. I am just curious as to what it may have contained. Most of the J.R. Watkins bottles I have found online are clear glass.

    • David says:

      Hi Rosalyn,
      Watkins used amber glass for some of their products. Some possibilities might include flavorings such as maple or vanilla extract, and various cleaning products as well as medicines. You might try searching ebay over a period of time for bottles with the label still intact.
      David

  2. Timothy Frantz says:

    My bottle has Watkins printed on the front and above the Watkins name it says Trial Mark. On the bottom it has the number 10 and says Container Made in USA. Any value for this? Thanks in advance.

    • Timothy Frantz says:

      Oops, it was also made for a cork stopper and not a metal cap.

    • David says:

      Hi Timothy,
      Millions of Watkins bottles have been made over many years, and most of them have only slight value to bottle collectors. I don’t know about the exact bottle you are describing, but I would guess the value is slight, perhaps one to 4 dollars. As I have tried to state in various places on my website, I try to keep the emphasis here on background information on the glass companies and marks they used, and I do not mean to turn this into an appraisal site answering lots of questions like “what is this worth?”. I find myself doing that, but it is not my real intention. There are no easy answers to such questions. Ebay is the best way to find out the “average” or “typical” value of an item, by searching ACTUAL auction ENDING PRICE results (for similar items) over a long period of time.
      Best regards,
      David

  3. Dick boosted says:

    I have a bottle, has a handmade tooled lip watkin’s tooth power the j.r. watkins med.co. winona.minn. is embossed in a in a circular pattern around edge of bottle. It is in the shape of a watch fob,with a pedestal base. 3″ dia. across circle 4″ high 1″ thick.

  4. BECKY says:

    We have a J R Watkins bottle #281 that says WATKINS FACE CREAM JR WATKINS COMPANY WINONA MINN. It is a cork bottle not a screw top. Do you know the value?

  5. Todd says:

    The bottle i ha e is a clear glass cork top. Watkins sideways on front. And a number 5 on the upper left corner of thr bottom. With container and made in Usa on bottom

  6. Becky says:

    The bottle that I have has a screw top clear glass the number six on the bottom and The J.R. Watkins name on the front does it have any Value?

    • David says:

      Becky, most of the Watkins bottles are very common (since they were made in huge numbers over many years) and don’t have alot of ‘monetary value’ to antique bottle collectors. Please search ebay over a period of time and see what various types sell for.
      Best regards, David

      • albert m.jacquez says:

        I just found a Jr.Watkins facecream Cork bottle does it have any value to it

        • David says:

          Albert, many different kinds of Watkins bottles have been made over the years. Most of them have minimal value to collectors at the present time, simply because they were made in such large quantities, and there is not a strong collector base for Watkins bottles. That may not be true for certain old or scarce varieties, but in any case I don’t have value information on the earliest Watkin’s bottles that were made.

          My advice to you (and to all the many other people who write to me asking about Watkins bottles) is to search ebay periodically and see what other similar bottles actually sell for. (NOT the minimum bid or “Buy-it-Now” price, but check the ACTUAL SELLING PRICE via an ebay COMPLETED AUCTIONS search). Hope this helps,
          David

  7. chaz wilgers says:

    I have a old bottle wondering what it is worth

  8. Marty Iwen says:

    I found a bottle with the front saying Watkins, Trial Mark. On one side it says Winona, Minn. U.SA., on the other side it says, The J.R.Watkins Med.Co. And on the bottom it is either a number 7 or an L.

    • Samuel says:

      I have one very similar only it has #3 on the bottom an a line through the words Trail Mark .. I found it by a old abandon building in some woods just next to my house made of concrete trees growing through an out of it.

  9. Jason says:

    I’ve got a Watkins Liniment bottle which I found about 1 foot underground behind the foundation of a cabin that had been on the Old Mormon Emigrant Trail. It is molded with the words, “J.R. WATKINS MED. CO.” on one side and “WINONA, MINN. U.S.A.” on the other side. The front says, “WATKINS LINIMENT”. It has a cork top (no surviving cork), and no marks of any letters or symbols of any kind on the bottom. The glass is extremely clear, with a very slightly aqua tint to the thickest parts. It looks like a brand new bottle. Any information you might have would be wonderful.

  10. Cherry says:

    I have a Watkins bottle with the contents still inside. It is 8.5 inches. Clear bottle with cork. Number 5 on bottom of bottle. I’m trying to determine the cost.

Comments/Replies: All comments are moderated so will not be published immediately. Because of mail volume received, and time and energy restraints, some questions may not be answered individually, especially if the subject is already addressed elsewhere on this site. This website is not intended as an appraisal service, but as a resource for background info on glass companies and the marks they used, so I usually delete "What is this bottle worth?" types of queries. Thank you very much for your patience & understanding !!