It was illegal to sell wine in bottles for centuries. There were so many different bottle types and volume variations, and no standards of measurement for producing bottles so each was a unique container. Honest merchants measured out wine from their barrels into containers that customers supplied themselves. Wine bottles were very expensive items, handcrafted by artisans.
Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665), an English adventurer, privateer, alchemist and knight, is cited as the “father of the modern bottle.” He turned sand into gold by adding metals, oxides, and some secret ingredients with a very hot fire to make the dark glass that was used to bottle wine. This dark glass was thicker, darker, stronger, and cheaper. Most of all it protected the wine against ultraviolet rays.
The U.S. glass-making industry was born when settlers in Jamestown built the first glass-melting furnace in the 1600s. Bottles for wine were common in the United States from the mid-seventeenth century. Many of the bottles from the early seventeenth century until well into the twentieth century were from Europe with European wine in them.
Black glass bottles used for wine, spirits, or ale and cider between 1825-1845 were blown usually by the New England Glass Bottle Company. The standard utility bottle was usually mouth-blown in a two and three-piece mold between 1830-1850. A Bordeaux-shaped bottle which originated in Europe by the mid-nineteenth century caught on in the United States shortly thereafter. The origin of these bottles has also been identified as created by the New England Glass Company.
The Illinois Glass Company (now known as the Owens-Illinois, Inc.) was one of the largest producers of bottles during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America. They produced a number of late-nineteenth to early twentieth century (pre-Prohibition) turn-mold tooled finish bottles.
Well into the middle of the 20th century, there was no standard size for wine bottles. Not until 1979, as part of a push to establish the metric system, did the United States government decree that wine bottles must contain 750 ml of wine.
The lipping tool was developed around 1830 in England and around 1850 in America. The device would have been used to form the lip of bottles. This is the typical “calipers” type finishing tool with a central “centering” plug and two connected springy arms. The device usually consisted of a rod, which was inserted into the mouth of the bottle, and an associated part that could be clamped to the outside of the mouth and neck of the bottle. By rotating the device, the lip was “finished”, and the seams erased.
Blown-in-mold (BIM) bottles were mostly finished with an applied top. The actual finish glass for tooled finishes was not typically added to the neck like with an applied finish. This “lipping” tool was an innovation to allow the applied tops to be sculptured to more uniform designs. The jaws produced a type of “blob” finish which had a slightly protruding ledge at the widest point on the finish’s outside surface. This tool produced a “hand-tooled” or “hand-finished” top not an “applied finish.” The lower part of the jaws would extend onto the extreme upper neck of the bottle “wiping” out the vertical side mold seams when rotated to “finish” the lip.
Most bottles with tooled finishes typically date no earlier than 1885 to 1890. The changeover from applied finishes to tooled finishes was a relatively significant technological shift in bottle manufacturing. By the mid-1890s tooled finishes were the norm for a very large majority of American-made bottles. All hand-tooled finishes disappeared between 1910 and the early 1920s. By that time there was a dominance of semi-automatic and then fully automatic bottle-making machines.
Using this would have constituted significant savings in the labor necessary to finish a bottle. Besides the labor savings, the tooled finish was a major innovation in that the bore and upper neck of the bottle could be made properly tapered, smooth and of uniform dimensions as compared to the applied finish. This allowed for more reliable sealing of the bottle with a cork in particular since more of the inside surface of the finish was in contact with the cork.