W. T. Rawleigh’s / Freeport, Ill.
This embossed marking “W. T. RAWLEIGH’S” in cursive font is seen on many antique and vintage glass bottles, the most common variants dating from the early to mid-twentieth century.
The W.T. Rawleigh Company operated in Freeport, Illinois circa 1889 to 1989. (The modern incarnation of the company appears to be still around, based in West Palm Beach, Florida). This firm was established by William Thomas Rawleigh, who was born in Iowa County, Wisconsin, in 1870. This company sold a wide variety of household products (cleaning agents, flavorings, medicines, ointments, etc) , which were sold by mail-order and by traveling salesmen (similar to the way in which the Watkins products are sold).
The company headquarters was based in Freeport, though there were other manufacturing plants located elsewhere in the US during the heydey of the company, including a huge manufacturing facility located at Memphis, Tennessee.
There are many minor variants of the bottles with this marking, both BIMAL (Blown in mold by hand, applied lip) and ABM (made by Automatic Bottle Machine methods). Some include the city “FREEPORT, ILL”, others are marked with the phrase “BOTTLE MADE IN U.S.A.”.
The earlier versions of the bottles have a ‘smooth’ lip designed for a cork closure, and the later variants (probably after the mid to late 1920s) have a screw-threaded lip. The bottles are seen in aqua, clear and, not quite so often, in amber (brown) glass. Most of the aqua examples have a cork-type lip.
I don’t have an exact timeline but I assume the aqua ones are mostly pre-1920s, and the clear versions were phased in sometime in the 1920s or very early 1930s. The amber bottles were made over a long period of time, being found in both mouth-blown (handmade) and machine-made versions.
The height of popularity of this company and it’s products appears to have been during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The bottles are very commonly found, but are still of interest as there are so many slight variations in their exact appearance. Many, many individual bottle molds would have been used over the decades during which these bottles were made. Lots of the bottles are found with mold numbers on the base, or no letter or number marks, or just an “Owens scar” (irregular, circular scar on the base, caused during machine manufacture).
For some period of time, huge quantities of the bottles marked RAWLEIGH’S were made at their OWN glass bottle manufacturing facility which was erected (or finished) in 1926, according to contemporary newspaper reports. The exact period of time (especially the ENDING year) in which bottles were made by Rawleigh’s at their own Freeport glass factory is open to question. Here is a brief article from the September 21, 1932 issue of the Freeport Journal-Standard, Freeport, IL. , appearing on page 24:
“One of the most fascinating of the industries within the Rawleigh Industries is the bottle factory, where flames leap and writhe in the terrific heat of 2650 to 2675 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature which must be maintained day and night for many months at a time to manufacture the bottles Rawleigh’s use. The annual capacity of the factory, first started in 1926 and since enlarged several times, is close to 100 million bottles.
A huge bottle warehouse completed last year will house 12 million bottles at one time. New equipment includes a cooling system superior to any existing system and the first of its kind to be used; new bottle-forming machines which make bottles with almost incredible swiftness and perfection; new reversing valves to add to the efficiency of furnace heat; new batch equipment; a new annealing oven or lehr; improved air compressors, etc.”
I suspect that the numbers of bottles quoted may be an exaggeration. If anyone has information indicating when the Rawleigh glass factory at Freeport discontinued making their own bottles, I would like to hear from you.
I did a casual search of a few ebay listings, and from the base photos of several bottles we can identify at least 5 glass companies that produced Rawleigh’s bottles for some period of time (there are probably others) :
Illinois Glass Company, Alton, IL . The “I inside a diamond” indicates those bottles would date between approximately 1915 and 1929. (If Illinois Glass Company made bottles for Rawleigh before 1915, it is uncertain what, if any, mark was placed on the bottom. It is possible they made some of the many Rawleigh’s bottles that only carry a mold number, or no mark at all, on the base). Owens-Illinois Glass Company made bottles with their “Diamond and Oval with an I inside” which date from c. 1929 into the mid-1950s.
Other marks seen on Rawleigh’s bottles include a “P in a circle” (Pierce Glass Company), “O in a square” (Owens Bottle Company, circa 1919-1929) and an “F” (Fairmount Glass Company, Fairmount and Indianapolis, IN).
If anyone knows when the last glass Rawleigh’s bottles were produced, please contact me, and I can add that information to this site!
Currently (2017) all (or most) products sold by Rawleigh’s are apparently being packaged in plastic containers of various types and sizes.
For more information on products currently sold under the RAWLEIGH’S brand name, please check out this website at https://www.rawleigh-products.com/
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