Lightning Cobalt Putnam 451

Provenance: Darrell Plank Collection

Henry W. Putnam was born on September 1, 1825 in Essex, New York. He died in 1915 after accumulating an estimated $50 million dollar estate. This estate had accumulated from the royalties on wire inventions which included a safety pin, bottle and jar fasteners, a fence wire barbing machine, an adjustable clothes wringer, and a score of other successful devices. He is was also one of the builders of Brooklyn’s Elevated Railroad where he was president along with his son Henry W. Putnam Jr., who was a director.

In 1849, Putnam headed west to make his fortune with his 4-year-old son Henry, Jr. Instead of hunting gold along with California ‘forty-niners’ he bought two springs and supplied water to the citizens of San Francisco and miners in the hills, laying the foundation of his fortune.

On March 15, 1859, Putnam was granted a United States patent for the Henry W. Putnam Stopper Fastening (US patent #23,263) that was reissued (US patent #1,606) on January 19, 1864. In this patent, Putnam notes being from New York but formally from Cleveland, Ohio. The Putnam Lightning Stopper saw widespread use as a means to hold externally inserted corks into blob top soda bottles. He probably put together mechanically what he did with manual strings in California.

On September 10, 1878, a patent #207,982 was issued for an “Improvement in Bottle Stoppers and Bottle Fasteners.” On February 10, 1880, Putnam received patent #224,304 for the “Putnam Magic Stopper” which was an improvement to the Lightning Stopper. He received Patent #256,857 on April 25, 1882, adapting the Lightning closure to wide-mouth jars. This became a successful challenger to the Mason jar screw cap.

The Trade Mark Lightning jars are an absolute favorite with collectors. Embossed on the front is the copy TRADE MARK in an arch with LIGHTNING embossed in a straight line below. We’ve seen some wonderful collections of just this brand of jars. The colors run the spectrum from clear to aqua to every possible shade of amber. Light yellow-amber to deep red and almost black-amber. Then you get to the greens like citron, emerald, shades of olive and teal. Eventually you come to the rare blues like cornflower and this museum example of medium cobalt blue.

The jars come in pints, quarts, and half-gallons. Our pint example has PUTNAM 451 embossed on the base. The lid has LIGHTNING PATD APR 25 82 embossed ever so lightly it is difficult to read. You would want the original closure and glass top. Very few examples exist in this condition.

Support: Reference to Henry W. Putnam and the Lightning Fastener by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr

Support: Reference to Red Book #11, the Collector’s Guide to Old Fruit Jars by Douglas M. Leybourne, Jr.

Support Images of Jars: Jeff Wichmann and American Bottle Auctions

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