Bottle Attributes - Bases

The base of a bottle has a lot to say about a bottle's age. The main feature on a base is the presence or absence of markings. These markings can be a pontil mark, machine scar, or lettering.

Pontil marks are distinctive and are found on the earliest of bottles. A pontil was an iron rod attached to the bottom of a bottle after it was blown. After the pontil was attached, the blown bottle was severed from the blowpipe and the lip was applied. The bottle was then snapped from the pontil leaving its distinctive scar. A pontil mark usually indicates the bottle was made before 1860. However, different regions of the country abandoned the use of pontils at different times. For the most part, the transition period was 1855 to 1860. The pontil was first abandoned in New England, then in the Mid-Atlantic, and finally in the Mid-West over this period.

A machine scar is a light circular ridge of glass that was left on the bottom of a bottle as the result of the bottle being manufactured by an automatic bottle machine (ABM). These scars are often mistaken for pontils by novices. However, they are only found on bottles that were manufactured after 1900 and on some earlier bottles manufactured on semi-automatic machines. The first semi-automatic machines appeared about 1895, but were primarily used to manufacture fruit jars.

Lettering on the base of a bottle was usually reserved for mold or manufacturer's marks. Most of the embossing, such as "205A," were marks used by manufacturers to identify the specific mold a bottle was blown into. Many times bottlers would pick this number out of a catalogue and relay it as part of the order. Glass makers and some glass brokers, such as Karl Hutter, also used this area to add their mark on a bottle. Manufacturer's markings can also be found on the reverse or heels of bottles. On earlier bottles, the embossing was around the rim of the base so that the pontil scar would not deface it. When the pontil was eliminated, the whole base was available. Many times the bottlers initials or logo is on the base of the bottle. This is particularly true for Hutchinson and other bottles that were to be shipped base up. These letters allowed the bottler to claim his bottles without having to pick up each one from the shipping case. Often the lettering on the base is ghosted or double struck. This occurred when the gather of glass touched the base of the mold more than once.

The following bottle bases are documented on this site:

  1. Beer Bottle Bases
  2. Soda & Mineral Water Bottle Bases

Click on the links above to get more information on an attribute or to identify a bottle that you are researching.