HOW OLD IS THAT BOTTLE? WRITTEN BY HARRY HALLER ILLUSTRATED BY FRANCESCA COSANTI
s long as there has been alcohol there has been a container for saving, serving, and drinking the stuff. Gourds, clay pots, stone urns, animal skins — anything able to hold a liquid was eventually used to hold hooch. And although glass has existed since the time of the pharaohs, it wasn't until the 19th century that what we consider today's glass bottle took hold of the mainstream. Initially, there were countless shapes and sizes of bottles available. In the 1800s everything was handmade which meant bottles had as much diversity as the personalities of the glassblowers making them. From tiny flasks holding mere ounces to multi-gallon carboys, the shape, size, thickness, and color could all vary according to the producer’s wishes. It wasn't until the 1900s and the advent of machine-made bottles that a few fixed styles truly kicked in. Another important event, one exclusively affecting liquor bottles, was Prohibition. More specifically, the post-Prohibition years. To prevent access to an over-abundance of bulk liquor (a cornerstone of the 19thcentury saloon, AKA the supposed wellspring of all the evils which lead to the Volstead Act in the first place) it was decided that liquor could only be sold in bottles. Casks were prohibited. Further to that, all bottles holding alcohol for non-medicinal consumption were required to be embossed with a warning — FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE — something which remained the law of the land until its repeal in 1964. So if you stumble across something which looks like an antique bottle, there are a few tricks to
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