Demijohn bottles

I have recently picked up these demijohn bottles, I know nothing about bottlesc could someone tell me me the age of these and if they have any value. The greenish bottle has pontif mark on botteom and the other has smooth bottom. they are both 19 inches tall by about 15 inches wide.


  • edited June 2019

    Thanks for posting.

    These are nice examples. I refer to the shape as kidney. In my mind the amber example is somewhat better than the green for this shape...less common. They are both mid to later 19th century. Could very well be American but many were made in Europe.

    I think most collectors would agree that those with a long tapered lip are more likely to be American.

    Value $100-200 range (each)

  • What an eye-pleasing pair! I would call these "flattened ovals" rather than "kidney-shaped." The high shoulders remind me of German bottles by H. Heye in Hamburg (certainly the green one). Note the long tapered lip typical on these German demijohns.

    Here are kidney-shaped and flattened ovals, three of each. Most of these six are very likely German or French.

  • According to McKearin & Wilson . . .

    “It was in the middle of the 18th century that large bottles, normally wickered, for shipping and storage of liquids were first called demijohns and carboys by some manufacturers. They had long been blown and often were covered with leather or wicker, but probably in comparatively in small numbers before their commercial use in shipping became prevalent. Botae -- that is, bonbonnes (demijohns) -- were being blown in France by the beginning of the 14th century. . . By the middle of the 18th century imported bottles of four to twenty gallons were advertised occasionally in American newspapers, among them “wickered bottles that will hold up to 5 gallons.”

    That is not to say that all demijohns were produced abroad. McKearin & Wilson goes on to list a number of American glasshouses which advertised demijohns in the 1700s. Those ads used the term “demijohn” sporadically, sometimes using “dime’johns” (1788) or “demie johns” (1790). The earliest use of the term the authors could find was in a 1762 advertisement of arrack (alcoholic beverage) in “demy johns.” Earliest use of carboy was in a 1767 offer of “wickered bottles or carboys from 1 quart to 7 gallons.”

    These early bottles were typically “big-bellied, globular or ovoid in form. Occasionally, they might have what we call now a “flowerpot” shape. By the end of the 18th century, they might have an oval (or laterally compressed) shape. Big cylindrical bottles were more common in the ninteenth century.

    “After about 1810 or 1820, the common lip finish was a thick, deep, and flat sloping collar. Prior to that time, demijohns and carboys usually had either a narrow flat collar or a heavy string ring laid on below a plain lip, or sometimes -- in the case of large size -- a rough lip, neither fire-polished nor tooled.”

    Based on advertisements and price lists from the early years of the 19th century, it is apparent that demijohns and carboys became steadily more important products of the USA glassworks. “Even so, that the demand was not satisfied seems implicit in the continued importation of demijohns, which were frequently advertised in Atlantic seaboard newspapers as arriving in lots of a thousand or more. Because of importation, because of widespread domestic production, and because ... the bottles were not marked with a manufacturer’s or glassworks’ name, it is virtually impossible to attribute an individual specimen to a particular glassworks.”

    AMERICAN BOTTLES AND THEIR ANCESTRY; Helen Mckearin & Kenneth M. Wilson; Crown Publishers, New York; 1978.

  • Thank you all for the information. These were thrift store finds in Wisconsin were I live. , so I got them at very reasonable price. Greatly appreciated for taking the time out of your days to clue me in as to what I have.

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