The history of the industrial age is written in glass. The ‘slug plates’ that make the embossed labels in Canadian whiskey, soda, dairy, liquor and medicine bottles, read like pages in a book. The names of the merchants and the contents of the vessels are from a simpler time of men and machines.
There is no better place to study this history then at a large bottle show in an urban center. The area’s most valuable glass is on display and the dealers are storytellers with lots of rare and precious knowledge locked up in their heads.
The annual Toronto Bottle Show, was Sunday April 17th 2011.
The annual Toronto Bottle Show event is produced by the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors, one of Canada’s oldest and most respected clubs. On this wet and rainy Sunday afternoon, more than forty antiques dealers tables proffered over 5,000 glass bottles, crocks, jugs, cans, cards, comics and period advertising pieces on tables inside the Humber College gymnasium.
In the picture above you can see Dwight Fryer sitting behind a massive collection of pretty blue and green ‘window bottles’. These are actually poison bottles and he’s one Canada’s foremost poison bottles experts – almost all of the very pretty cobalt blue and green and amber glass you see here was priced to sell quickly between $30 and $50 each, and Dwight was selling off these gorgeous glass bottles hand over fist. It was a moment in time.
If you study glass bottles you’ll find there’s no better place to see such a huge assembly of everything that’s decent and worthy of display in the antique glass bottle collecting discipline. Here’s some of the great stuff.
These are absolute treasures – look here at the aqua green and cobalt blue torpedo bottles in Terry Matz display case . These are all dated between 1855 -1885 and they are all super rare. The average price for any bottle in that display case is approx $1200. The guy sitting behind all those pretty torpedo bottles is Terry Matz, and he’s an expert and very passionate storyteller.
There not making anymore of these salt glazed stoneware jugs.
A real sweet spot for buying antique bottles,
Old advertising signs are growing harder to find and more valuable because they look great in modern offices and condominiums. The contrast between the new building and old signs is cool. The white walls need old paper posters, framed glass pictures and painted metal panels , and two or three colour wood or good condition cardboard advertisements. There are a lot of freshly painted white walls in our society that need embellishing with antique signs
People generally bring really rare, one-of-a-kind pieces to the bottle show.
The fellow named Ed Locke, seen in the photo to the right, brought in a Solnhofen Stone printing slab which was used in the early days of lithographic printing – $150 this piece shows an early advertisement for a Brandon Manitoba brewery which is also extremely rare.seen below
This is real early lithographic printing technology with a period advertisement stamped on the surface of the limestone. The piece stands as a reminder of how far we have come; there is a lot of water under the bridge in the evolution of this platform to the digitally replications done today. Our modern printable coupons have barcodes and expiry dates. To make such a system in the 1800s would mean hand carving a new stone for every coupon issued Yet there are examples of the world’s first discount media buyers doing exactly that in the early 1900s. This exremely fine limestone block may only be obtained from one quary in Solnhofen Germany.
The history of pop bottles and beer bottles is another fascinating chapter in this Canadian history book. The screw cap is a very recent invention, and today’s most dominant closure method.
The closure mechanisms slowly evolved from simple corks to cod stoppers and complex ‘gravitating stoppers’, hinged plugs and Charles G. Hutchinson’s five bottle-stopper patents.
Here’s a cream and tan stoneware ginger beer bottle from a proprietor named H. Christin who was a brewer in Ottawa in the 1880s. This vessel was made by Brantford Pottery right here in Ontario, or ‘Upper Canada’ as it was then known.
This bottle had a cork stopper and from this point forward there would be many different closures vying to be the dominant method. The crown cap became industry standard for this type of beverage in the 1920s.
Sharpen your eyes for cottage kitsch
Cottagers know that Kitcsh is King and the most simple furnishings and colourful trappings look great in cottages. The bottle show has lots of stuff with charm and character like some Mennonite furniture and folk art,
The chemistry of our culture dictates that cottages needs campy collectibles to feel cozy.
The modern Muskoka cottage suffers from being too sophisticated, clean and culturally void of character
Each new domicile in the Muskoka Lakes needs large amounts of kitsch to look and feel more quaint. So many of the million dollar mansions that border Lake Muskoka are ultra modern constructions. They’re not made of pine or poplar anymore – they’re not timber frame houses at all, but rather insulated concrete forms , steel and glass monstrosities. They lack the quaint charm of a cottage and often feel too sanitary. They dont have the charm of a family cottage, but rather feel like a house in the suburbs.
Things that look great in new cottages include, utilitarian items like 1950’s 60s and 70s kitchenware and beer coolers, antique fishing lures, vintage boating equipment, art deco furniture and native crafts. These items find ready buyers in antique markets and in online auctions
I wrote a longer and more detailed account of the 2011 Toronto Bottle Show on Dumpdiggers blog; it’s about ten pages of text with over twenty pictures. The piece profiles 15 of the 35 dealers present at the show.