Antique Bottle mysteries

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01 Aug

Snuff Bottle Dot Marks Mystery

Through the years of bottle collecting I have never bought a snuff bottle. I have looked at them, fondled them, but never got the bug to buy one. Now I have done it.

I have heard and read in eBay listings that the dots on the bottom of these jars, were an indication of the strength of the snuff. I have been studying vent dots on old bottles for about 15 years and I have a good explanation for them. But I haven’t read in any of my reference books about the dots, being an indication of the content’s strength.

Snuff Bottle Snuff Bottle Base

This first snuff bottle has six dots on the bottom. For the size of the bottle, I am sure that two would have been enough to let the air out of the mold below the parison expansion in the final blow of the jar.

So I am looking for your help…

Red Matthews

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12 Responses to “Snuff Bottle Dot Marks Mystery”

  1. 1
    Warren Says:

    The snuff jar in the photo looks a little to old for vent marks. My dad explained the marks on the bottom of the jars when I was young. Later molds had the dots in straight lines until four and five dots which were usually in a square and X pattern. Earlyer jars seem to have them put in more random patterns. Vent holes would be placed in different places on the jar not just on the bottom.

    The jars were filled before the labels were put on because of the staining properties of the snuff so the packers needed the dots to know what went where. Most folks were illiterate back then so dots were used instead of words. 5 and 6 dots would indicate heavy snuff for the mouth which was not to be sniffed.

  2. 2
    Red Says:

    When you talk about too old for vent marks, it makes me wonder because some form of venting has to be there in a closed mold so the air outside the parison shape can be exhausted from the mold cavity,

    The earliest that I know about were knife vents on the mold face that got larger v-shaped as they went away from the mold match and the use of round dowel plugs with flats on their sides, that were pressed into the bottom plug or dip mold bottom. Those same knife vents were used on dip mold bottoms also.

    I have a demijohn that I am sure was blown in a wooden mold and it shows six drilled air vent holes at the start of the shoulder. One of the holes was obviously plugged with dirt because there is a large 3″ dimple just above the vent mark where trapped air kept the glass from making mold surface contact. RED Matthews

  3. 3
    Matt Knapp (Guntherhess) Says:

    Here are the facts as I see them regarding the snuff dots…
    1. The dots are pretty much unique to snuff bottles so they have SOMETHING to do with snuff.
    2. There are varied numbers of dots. I have seen between 0 and 6 dots so a value of some sort is indicated.
    3. These marks have been used on snuff bottles for a long period. I have a pontil marked 1840-1850s snuff that has two marks purposely made with iron rods on the bottom. 20th century machine made snuffs had the dots too.

    So given that data I think I would conclude that either the marks were used to indicate what snuff was to be put in the bottle OR who got paid for making/filling the bottle. Some bottles where known to have marks that indicated what glass blower made them. This allowed payment for piece work to be done. This could also be the case for the packers also.
    Just some stuff to think about…

  4. 4
    Kathleen Robb Says:

    I own two bottles that look exactly like the picture.Both are corked and are filled with a very fine brown powerdy substance. (I opened one to see what was inside) One bottle has three dots on the bottom, and the other has four dots. Does anyone know how I could get these checked, for authenticity?

  5. 5
    stacey white Says:

    Hello i have snuff bottles ranging in no dots to 4 dots tottaling 5 bottles. i’m looking to sell these!

  6. 6
    April Says:

    Do you know a year for this bottle?


  7. 7
    Scott Smith Says:

    The explanation about the dots indicating what type of product was to be packed in them is correct. The number of dots indicated the "strength" of the product. They let the workers know which labels went on which bottles as the bottles were packed prior to being labeled. I was told this by an aged and wise old tobacco farmer from Kentucky. I don't remember which indicated the "stronger" stuff, but I seem to remember being told "more dots, stronger snuff".
    Prior to being "straightened out" by the old tobacco farmer, I had been told that the number of dots indicated the State where the bottle was made. This is not true.

  8. 8
    Dennis Elder Says:

    I have 5 of these 2 dot,two 3 dot and two 4 dot and would like to sell.I also have old milk bottles,medicene bottles,whiskey bottles blue ball mason jars etc. that have been in my attic for years and would like to sell. Thanks. Dennis

  9. 9
    John Freund Says:

    Boy,I learned alot about the snuff bottles, Thanks to all of you John.

  10. 10
    Genni Buie Says:

    My husband found an old snuff bottle that looks to be of the same molding as the one pictured here. Ours has no dots and instead has a large X that is raised and covers a large area of the bottom of the jar….
    Any comments would be appreciated.

  11. 11
    Lauren Says:

    My husband has a snuff bottle with a small X on the bottom. It's about 1870's, at the latest. It has a really crude lip. I wonder if we can solve this mystery.

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