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Glass scraper ID

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  • Glass scraper ID

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    Recent find posted under title 'Deep Site' is this aqua historic glass fragment that has been fashioned into a scraper with spur. The fragment features a distinct mark (either pontil or maker's) allowing a possibility to ID it, given enough research.
    Luckily, there are folks out there who've spent their lives researching their interest and I was able to enlist my friend Bill Lindsay, who runs the Historic Bottle site to ask for his opinion. Also fortunate and grateful to have got Lou at Old West Bottles (.com) to take a look.

    Bill says:

    It is hard to say what that base with the "asterisk" or "star" in the center was from with just the images but it appears to be a spice bottle like those described at the following link: In particular, take a look at the illustrations in that section; specifically, the one on the left in the row of three illustrations. It shows such base embossing (if enlarged) which I've also seen many times on those bottles found in the West.

    I'm just about positive that asterisk/star was the makers marking for one of the SF glass works where it was made as versions of it are seen on many bottles known to have been blown at the San Francisco & Pacific Glass Works or the predecessor SFGW or PGW. (They were combined together in 1875 or 1876.)

    The bottle on his site was a match , so sent him some more pics.

    Yes, that base is a perfect match for the illustration in the spice bottle section of my website...and yours appears to certainly be a spice bottle base. They were thin sided and thick based usually so when breaking, little of the sides remained attached but the bases are often complete more or less. That spice bottle illustration was from a report of some archaeological excavation in California. I don't remember quite where...but almost certain it was in the Bay Area. The illustration was provided by one of the state archaeologists that I know and I actually saw the bottle in their collections warehouse in Sacramento back 13 or 14 years ago when I was doing a study there of their bottles for the website.

    Aqua is by far the most typical glass color for those 8 sided spice bottles; all other colors very rare (like the yellow green one I have on the website). I thought your fragment had a blowpipe pontil scar but it wasn't clear in the base image you first sent (or I didn't evaluate it close enough); certainly obvious in the ones below.

    The first use of that (or similar "star" or "asterisk") markings by Bay Area glass makers I don't know for sure, but at least by the late 1860s I think...and likely before. The first glass works in operation in that area (and entire West Coast) was mid-1859 (Cutting & Baker as you noted) and the first called the San Francisco GW. It appears pretty well established that the first bottles blown there were in 1860 if not well within the late period of pontil rod use.

    The first (and only) positively identifiable bottles made there were pickle bottles; Baker & Cutting being producers or sellers of pickles (and other food products) dating back into the mid-1850s. Those uber-rare gothic style pickle bottles (only one or two known intact; many broken) are embossed with BAKER & CUTTING / GLASS & PICKLE MFRS. / SAN FRANCISCO. So establishing a glass works to make their own bottles - including possibly those spice bottles - makes sense but can't be proved irrefutably.

    I've seen a few of those spice bottles with that marking over the years, all of which were found on the West coast. Of course, I've lived on the West coast all my life and that is what I would likely see. Yes, the bottles could be eastern made but I think they are an SF product given fragments like yours and the one I have illustrated...and likely the first use of that marking which shows up on bottles into the 1880s. They also have that bright blue aqua glass that was typical of aqua Bay Area blown bottles during the 1860s to 1880s at least...but again, not uniquely there only. However, it isn't too much of a stretch to attribute those star base spice bottles to a Bay Area glass works...and gives a date of just before to sometime during the American Civil War.

    Lou says:

    I actually at one time had the exact same bottle. What you have is the base fragment of a Western spice bottle. Blown by the “Pacific Glass Works” in San Francisco, circa 1863 to about 65. This particular mold with the star and open pontil is actually quite rare. Attached is a picture from a friends collection of what the bottle would of looked like intact. As you can see they come in a host of colors with aqua like yours being the most often seen. Consider too that this bottle could have been kicking around for years before it was worked into the scraper. The Napa Valley still had an Indian population up into the the 1920s with most by then living either completely isolated or on ranches.

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    Terrific information from two experts. Thanks, Bill and Lou.


  • #2
    Tom I’ve found many glass scrapers here on the South Plains of Tx. Most of which I believed belonged to NA slaves of buffalo hunters. Also, as the buffalo were kilt for hides and tongues, the enslaved NA people at the very least had plenty of meat to strap. The glass scrapers are not uncommon. Congrats on recognizing the work on the bottle bottoms. JJ
    Lubbock County Tx


    • tomf
      tomf commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, JJ. I'd love to see some worked glass from Texas sometime. It's different from most things we pick up because we can date it so specifically. Typology is pretty loose by comparison. Also we understand some of the circumstances of the people that made them. So I'm happy to find them, though sometimes a little sad when I think about what they represent.
      Really interesting to learn they were used by settlers too. In a way that makes sense when you realize the comparative value of bottles and glass back then. Bottle worth many times their contents. Glass seen to have value if when broken.
      Back east indians quickly adapted to mettle and largely abandoned stone but in the west there wasn't time, I suppose. I have never found a metal arrowhead in California. How about in Texas?

    • Lindenmeier-Man
      Lindenmeier-Man commented
      Editing a comment
      I keep what I’ve found separate, I’ll post you some pics I’ve just got to remember where I stashed the glass scrapers.

  • #3
    Amazing to think about the bottle material bridging the settler and indigenous cultures, albeit not that great for the natives. The situation might have been the maker didn’t have access or the freedom to get to the obsidian but still wanted to create something traditional. I dunno, might have been a hold out group that liked the glass. Special piece though.


    • #4
      Cool thread Tom! I got a couple worked glass pieces. I'll show ya if I can find em and ya don't mind me putting em in here
      Last edited by redrocks; 05-08-2021, 10:54 AM.
      SW Connecticut