and Vanity Vessels
that held perfumes have adorned vanities in American
bedrooms for more than two hundred years. Early examples
made in the late 1700's, were small crude containers
that could be carried in pockets or in ladies' reticules.
As fashions changed and glass technology improved, the
perfume bottles also evolved. Larger, decorative examples
with ground stoppers and pewter screw caps became popular.
By the Victorian era, rich cut glass cologne bottles
with sterling silver mounts and vibrant, multicolored
designs bedecked the proper lady's dressing table. Iridescent
colored bottles and atomizers were in vogue in the early
The earliest containers
for perfume in America were called smelling bottles.
These tiny vessels served a dual purpose. They were
not only for perfume, but also for smelling salts that
helped revive ladies from "the vapors" and
The first American glass
company to produce smelling bottles was the Manheim,
Pennsylvania glass factory of William Henry Stiegel
between 1769 and 1774. By the late 1700's, the word
"pungent" was also being used to describe
Pattern-molded smelling bottles blown into small carved
molds were available from several factories, mostly
in New England, between 1815 and 1830. Free-blown pungents
called Dolphin or Dolphin tail pungents were also available
and are referred to as "seahorse" bottles
by collectors today, because of their hollow bodies
and spiral tails. Small blown smelling bottles with
applied rigaree and trailed embellishments were also
popular at this time. Many examples were made in South
Jersey glass factories.
Small pattern-molded smelling
bottles with metal screw caps which were first produced
in the 1820's continued to be made well into the 1880's
at factories such as the Boston & Sandwich Glass
Company. While pungents and smelling bottles were still
available, larger cologne and perfume bottles were in
demand as early as 1820. Fancy or figured cologne bottles
were manufactured in the United States and France.
Druggists and merchants
were selling perfume and cologne in the larger American
cities, while many housewives made their own cologne
using recipes published in helpful books.
bottles were produced at several factories, including
the Williamstown Glass Works of Williamstown New Jersey.
The Williamstown price
list dating from about 1853 lists thirty-one different
figured colognes ranging in price from 37 1/2 cents
to $1.50 per dozen
Paper labels are seldom found still applied to late
18th and early 19th century cologne bottles. Those that
retain their labels often just identify the contents
as "cologne," "eau de cologne" or
"rose oil." Rarer still are bottles from this
time period with paper labels containing a perfumer's
Beginning during the Civil
War and continuing for some time thereafter, the United
States levied a tax on nonessential items, including
perfume and cologne. U.S. Internal Revenue Proprietary
Stamps, ranging from one cent to four cents, can still
be found on early commercial bottles.
By the last half of the
19th century and early 20th century, the number of perfume
companies increased, and names such as C.B. Woodworth
& Sons, Tappan Perfume Co., Solon Palmer, Colgate
Co., Eastman (a division of Andrew Jergens Company),
B.D. Baldwin, and Richard Hadnut became recognized for
The bottles from these
companies were simple in shape, with colorful paper
labels and packaging
During the Victorian period
in America in the late 19th century, glass reflected
this era of prosperity with elaborate designs and colorful
innovations. Rich gut glass perfumes and colognes, brilliantly
illustrate the ornate fashions designed by Victorians.
A wide range of sizes,
from small lay-down pungents to larger carved colognes,
decorated dressing tables. Bottles with all-over cutting,
combined with sterling silver mounts, were available
from many cutting houses. Only a few firms manufactured
their own silver fittings and cut glass. One of these
companies was the Unger Brothers firm of Newark, New
Jersey, which offered eight colognes with three different
silver tops in their 1904 catalog. Only a small fraction
of all cut colognes produced were color-cut overlay
Vibrant, multicolored glass was popular during the Victorian
era. Exotic shades, such as amberina, and the striking
contrast of silver overlay and colored glass appealed
to Victorian tastes.
The Art Nouveau style in glass in America was introduced
by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1892. His naturalistic themes,
shimmering iridescent colors, and organic forms, lent
themselves perfectly to perfume bottles.
Other factories, such as
the Steuben Glass Works, Durand Art Glass division of
the Vineland Flint Glass Works, Quezal Art Glass and
Decorating Company, and the Imperial Glass Company,
all produced stunning iridescent perfume bottles or
sold glass to perfume atomizer makers.
Atomizers, which vaporized
liquid into fine droplets using air, were first used
in the medical field about 1859. By the late 1870's,
French perfume makers were using vaporizers to scent
the air in their sales booths.
The DeVilbiss Company of
Toledo, Ohio, recognized as the largest producer of
atomizers in the United States, introduced their line
of perfumizers in 1907.
In 1924, DeVilbiss expanded their line, and purchased
art glass from Steuben, Durand, Quezal, Imperial, Cambridge
Several additional American
firms also purchased glass and combined it with their
atomizers. They included the Mignon Corporation, Gironde
Atomizer Company, Volute' Superior Products Corporation,
and the S. Langsdorf & Company.
During the 1920's through the 1940's, glass factories
continued to manufacture perfume and cologne bottles.
The A.H. Heisey & Company of Newark, Ohio, had been
producing cologne bottles since 1906. Many pieces of
the fine quality colorless glass, produced by Heisey,
were purchased by silver-overlay firms to form the armature
for the silver.
The Cambridge Glass Company
of Cambridge, Ohio, made superb opaque colored glass,
which was blown into delicate perfume bottles. Cambridge
also produced iridescent colored pressed wares, called
Design changes in perfumes
emerged as Americans slowly rejected the overdone Art
Nouveau motifs for the new clean, modern angular style
of Art Deco.
Figural perfume bottles
in the shape of objects, people, buildings, monuments,
and much more, were also popular in the late 19th century.
A perfume bottle in the shape of the Liberty bell was
patented by Samuel C. Upham in 1874, and was sold at
the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.
In 1888, the Bryce Brothers
glass company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, manufactured
a colored pressed glass slipper, that held a clear glass
The Tappan Perfume Company
of New York City marketed many of their perfumes in
In 1892, Tappan took out
patents on two of their most famous designs, Man on
a Tricycle, and the Street Lamp.
Figural bottles continued
in popularity and were produced in large quantities
by the Avon Company in the 1960's and 1970's.
After World War II, the number of glass companies manufacturing
hand-blown glassware diminished, limiting the production
of individually made cologne bottles. Commercial perfume
companies had to purchase decorative bottles made by
automatic bottle blowing machines.
To compensate for the uniformity
of the bottles, designers created meal and plastic attachments,
enameled colors, and ornate packing. In fact the boxes
became so elaborate, they often overpowered the bottle.
The T.C. Wheaton Company
of Millville, New Jersey, made the majority of commercial
perfume bottles in America just after the war. Wheaton
also had the capacity to press stoppers, and became
the largest stopper pressing firm in the world. Very
often, a company would only order the press stopper
from Wheaton, and would have the bottle made elsewhere.
Other companies, such as
Carr-Lowery Glass Company of Baltimore, also made commercial
bottles for many perfumers.
In the early 1960's, artists began to utilize new technology
and built small glass studios to create glass art. From
these small beginnings, the contemporary studio glass
movement was born.
During the early years,
artists rediscovered the techniques of Tiffany and Steuben
which lent themselves to perfume bottles. One-of-a-kind,
highly decorative bottle designs were created. The wide
range of vessels is illustrated by the delicately carved
cameo images by Barry Sautner, or fragile flame-worked
forms by Milon Townsend, to the bold cut glass bottles
made by William Carlson. Not restricted to the necessary
identical form of commercial bottles, glass artists
have the freedom to make the most decorative perfume
bottles created today.