S. M. BIXBY & COMPANY
New York, New York
Samuel Merrill Bixby was born at Haverhill, New Hampshire on May 27, 1833. After a series of employment positions in Boston, Chicago, and later in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he eventually made his way to New York City circa 1858.
Bixby, along with a partner, operated a shoe store in New York for a period of time, and by approximately 1860, he was manufacturing and selling shoe blacking, according to a brief biography published in Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 8.
By 1865, he sold the store and went full steam ahead with his own line of shoe blacking. He eventually formed S. M. Bixby and Company, gradually expanding a line of dye-related products, concentrating on shoe blacking and ink.
The S. M. Bixby & Company entered bankruptcy in 1877, but was then re-organized under the same name in 1878. In 1895, Bixby & Company, because of long-continued financial problems, went into receivership and Samuel W. Milbank was appointed as receiver. Production continued for a number of years, apparently with reasonably good success, but with periodic highs and lows in profitability. Bixby served as the president of the company from 1876 to 1909, and passed away on March 11, 1912.
S. M. Bixby became a part of the F.F. Dailey Corporation in 1920, and Bixby brand products were continued to be sold for several years afterward. (If you have information on when the very last Bixby products were sold, please contact me).
A prolific producer of black and colored inks, shoe dressing (shoe blacking or shoe polish), and glue (“mucilage”) products, Bixby bottles are found in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. The type of bottle most strongly identified with Bixby among collectors is their shoe dressing container, embossed with an 1883 patent date, described below.
These unusually-shaped bottles (having a rather “feminine” shape, vaguely reminiscent of a woman wearing a dress), with the “PATENTED MCH. 6 ’83” (Patented March 6, 1883) embossed marking are, in most cases, shoe polish (shoe blacking, or shoe dressing) containers. At least three slightly different handmade variants exist of these shoe dressing bottles. The earliest version with the 1883 date marking is taller and somewhat narrow, the second version is a bit shorter and slightly “fatter” though still cylindrical, and the third version has a somewhat squared base “footprint”, gradually becoming cylindrical toward the top. This third style is probably the most commonly found of the ’83 marked types.
The most common glass color is aqua (light blue-green) but others are found in shades of light green, yellow green, yellowish amber, orange amber, dark amber (beer-bottle brown), near yellow, cobalt blue, light blue, clear, off-clear, light amethyst and citron.
Most of those bottles have the marking BIXBY on the base, (with a very large “X” with “BI” and “BY” placed on either side) along with raised dots or bumps. The dots probably are mold identification codes, serving the same purpose as a mold number, although it may be possible there were other reasons for these dots.
The typical bottles of this type appear to date from the 1880s and 1890s.
No doubt a number of glass manufacturers, probably most of them located in the Eastern states, produced these bottles. In particular, I’m strongly of the opinion that Bushwick Glass Works (Brookfield Glass Company), at their Brooklyn, NY facility, was one of the producers of the bottles in the late 1800s, but as far as I know, there is no proof of this.
NOTE: For a much more detailed look at the many, many variants of Bixby bottles produced over the years, (far more than I’ve touched on here), especially the handmade versions, I strongly encourage you to read the discussion thread posted on http://antique-bottles.net site by “Bixby Bill”. Be sure to view all the many pages within that thread, not just the first page. Click here: http://www.antique-bottles.net/showthread.php?574857-Bixby-Bottles
He has posted many beautiful pictures of Bixby bottles, illustrating the wide variety of glass colors and styles they’re found in.
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