Welcome to Bottle Mysteries: information about rare and collectible glass bottles from a member of the glass bottle mold manufacturing industry:
CLARENCE MATTHEWS, R.I.P. July 21, 2018 at age 89
I have had a thing for glass since I was a kid at the age of seven. My parents had gone to a farm near us to visit with two people they liked and I was allowed to play and walk around in their yard. While there I came upon the lady’s rock garden. Her husband worked at the Corning Glass Works and he had brought home pieces of glass for her rock garden. The glass cast a spell on me and they gave me three pieces of glass to bring home. On a subsequent visit, I was given three more pieces and I still have them.
I got my first collected bottle by visiting a glass factory when I was about nine years old. My Grandfather took me to Elmira, New York and the Thatcher Glass Factory, where they made milk bottles. I brought home a little half-pint cream bottle, which I still have. These two things showed my early pack rat tendencies and I have collected bottles for many years.
My third development of glass interest became a reality doing one of my youth chores. Often I would walk the railroad, in back of our little farm and often this would go about three miles to Burdett and my Grandmother’s home – that promised good cookies. In the fall this trip ended up with me carrying a metal bucket to pick up pieces of soft coal dropped by the engine tenders, onto the tracks. These pieces were added to the wood fire in my Mom’s wood burning cook stove, to get a hotter fire when she needed one for cooking. While doing this, I developed an appreciation for the glass telephone insulators the workmen would throw away. Glass insulators started following me home, as a collectible.
In the spring the bucket was used to collect wild asparagus spears. This plant grew well and thrived on the cinders that fell from the steam train’s smoke. I carried a piece of old bed sheet or cloth with me and I would tie strips of it to the bushes or fence near the asparagus plants, to mark to their location for future harvesting. Wild asparagus is like wild strawberries – the flavor is beyond fantastic. It was an annual family mealtime vegetable.
I didn’t realize it until I got older, that my Dad was very mechanical and I learned a lot from him about “How things were made”. When I was about nine years old, my Dad went to work at the Morris Chain Works in Ithaca, NY. He would often bring home little pieces of metal scrap products and he delighted in how I thought they were made. He got big belly laughs out of the bizarre descriptions that I came up with. After that he would explain how they were made. Years later, I took Mechanical Engineering in college and minored in Metallurgy.
Later on, I went to work for the above mentioned Thatcher Glass Plant, as an Applications Engineer and asst. supervisor. I worked there for fifteen years and evaluated many aspects of bottle making and problems relating to mold life and mold durability in glass production.
From there I left the company and got a contract for selling metal products to the Glass Industry in many parts of the world. I have put on seminars and sales presentations to many of the glass mold people in the world. At one time I had over 3,000 names in my computer, all were Production and Engineering people, as well as Mold manufacturers and Mold repair supervisors. I spent thirty years plus doing this work and it was all centered on development of mold component materials and methods used on the ABM Automatic Bottle Machines.
All of this background is still with me in my glass studies and since retirement, I have been studying the methods of bottle making from (1500 to 1900). I have joined a couple bottle clubs and became interested in the methods of those earlier years of bottle making. I keep collecting printed information and books on the subject and I have assembled studies on various glass products and how they were made.
I have collected items from Early Black Glass to Case Gins, Civil War Glass, to Fly traps and minnow traps. I have also collected big store advertising bottles, that never held anything. Saratoga Mineral Water bottles, etc.. There are so many products one could not even comprehend the extent of glass applied to the human life cycle.
I have also been helping diggers evaluate their finds, eBay sellers with their descriptions and glass explanations – just for the fun of it and to be of help. When I pick up an old bottle, I let the marks on it tell me how it was made. If I find a mark I don’t know about it becomes a “bottle mystery”, thus the name for my home page. I expect to have a section of bottle mysteries, that I need solutions for; and with the hope that when someone recognizes them they will write to me.
— Red Matthews
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