It May Not Be Diagnostic But It’s a Rad Design: The Crescent Moon Owl Bottle Story

I have never spent as long thinking about a single glass bottle as I did while attempting to pry any ounce of information out of the internet about this guy. Now, to be fair, I can’t say I normally spend that much time thinking about single glass bottles, but even if I was a renowned glass bottologist, I’m sure this one would still take the cake.

Here are the facts:

This bottle is handmade, cylindrical, and has a patent finish. Basic, visual comparison with the SHA catalogue suggests it is some sort of medicinal, druggists bottle. The base is a molded 2-piece cup bottom, with two seams that extend up the sides of the body to a bit into the finish. The only decoration is an embossed makers mark on the base of an owl sitting on a crescent moon.

That’s it.

What really gets my goat about this bottle is not the fact that I was unable to find any solid information on it, but more that its makers mark is so unique, and I was STILL unable to identify this particular vessel. What I was able to identify, however, was the mark.

The guilty party

The embossed owl perched upon a crescent moon that reads “TRADEMARK.” Now that’s a way to let people know that a logo is restricted. The mark is one that decorates the body of Gillett’s HIGH GRADE Extract bottles, manufactured in the mid-1800’s by the Gillett-Sherer company in Chicago. However, the bottle in question is undoubtedly not high-grade extract, or the same as any of the Gillett bottles I was able to find. Not only is its shape not one used for any Gillett (or Sherer) products the internet has to offer, but it’s basal makers mark is also anomalous!

Each moon here reads "TRADEMARK"

Each moon here reads “TRADEMARK.” I think.

 

This is clearly the same mark as on the base of the mystery bottle

This is clearly the same mark as on the base of the mystery bottle

There's a lot of information about the Owl Drug Company, whose logo is disturbingly similar... and yet..... unhelpful

There’s a lot of information about the Owl Drug Company, whose logo is disturbingly similar… and yet….. unhelpful

 

After circling around these same photos (and pinterest posts and ebay listings and the seventh circle of antique hell), I turned to the manufacturer for guidance. Which was not given. While I was able to find the street address of the men who started the company, this function of this bottle evaded me. Eventually, I had to give up.

My only explanation for this bottle is that it was some sort of test run, proof, or spoof of a Gillett bottle. I can think of no other way for this vessel to be so historically invisible– as a product of the digital age, where all information is available to me at the click of a button, this was particularly frustrating. Still, in some ways I appreciate this mystery. If anything, it is a great example of how, in archaeology, so much time and energy can be poured into artefacts that never give away their secrets. In some ways it is also an exercise in reading between the lines of history: there is a reason we are unable to place this bottle. While this reason may be nothing more than circumstantial, I feel it is still meaningful– which is, to me, the essence of understanding archaeological interpretation.

 

2 thoughts on “It May Not Be Diagnostic But It’s a Rad Design: The Crescent Moon Owl Bottle Story

  1. This is the second year in a row someone has tried to ferret out more info on this bottle. My hunch is that it is indeed a Gillett’s extract bottle, but perhaps made for commercial purposes. It is rather amazing how difficult it can be to source something so distinct!

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