J Kenneddy Pittsburg

Provenance: Doug Shutler Collection

This soda water bottle has the word ‘KENNEDY’ misspelled by using an extra ‘D.’ We wonder how James Kennedy reacted when he saw this error on his glasshouse delivered bottles.

The dark aqua bottle form is in a porter style and has an improved pontil, an inverted tapered mouth, is hand-blown, and would have used a cork stopper. ‘J KENNEDDY’ is embossed in an arch over a horizontal ‘PITTSBURG.’ As noted previously, Kennedy is misspelled. Pittsburg at that time was spelled without the ‘h’ at the end. The Pittsburgh spelling would be ratified later in the 19th century. The initials ‘J K’ is embossed on the reverse of the bottle. There are no periods after the initials though there are bottles with embossed periods. Those bottles have a more graceful shoulder. There are variants where the ‘J K’ is in script letters and examples where ‘MINERAL WATER’ is also embossed on the front of the bottle.

See the museum example of J. Kennedy Pittsburgh with a flourish motif.

In the 1850 United States Federal Census, James Kennedy had his occupation listed as Porter Bottles. He was 25 years old and was born around 1825 in Ireland. He was living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a number of gentlemen in what looked like a business that had been censused. Along with James, there was a clerk, mineral (water) machine operator, and porter bottler noted. In 1856, James Kennedy was listed as a Sarsaparilla Bottler in the Pittsburg city directory. The following two years he was just listed as a bottler. In 1859, he is listed as a Mineral Water Manufacturer addressed at 30 Decatur, 1 Union. His occupation is listed as Mineral Water Maker in the 1860 United States Federal Census while the 1861 Pittsburg directory has Mineral Water Factory next to his name. By 1870, James Kennedy had moved into the grocery business.

It is unknown where the bottle was made but it would not have been too far away. Pittsburgh at that time was the epicenter of glassmaking in the United States. In 1850, Reisinger, Weils & Co. were located on Market Street and were “manufacturers of green glass ware, keeping on hand and making to order, all kinds of Vials, Bottles. &c.; Porter and Mineral Water Bottles, of superior quality. Particular attention paid to private moulds.” Joseph D. Abell was running Eagle Glass Works during the same period saying they were also “Manufacturers of Green Glassware for Vials, Bottles, and Flasks; Porter, Scotch Ale, Mineral Water, Patent Medicine, and Wine Bottles, of every description.” They had a factory and warehouse at a separate location in Pittsburgh.

To make the mineral water during this period, you would need a Mineral Water Apparatus such as the ones being made and sold by William Heiss at the “Sign of the Golden Eagle and Fountain, No. 213 North Second st. above Vine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” His advertising in 1849 said he had “an experience of more than twelve years manufacturing of (his) Mineral Water Apparatus and the preparation of Mineral Water in Bottles and Fountains on an extensive scale.” He was also selling mineral water generators, pumps, and fountains, ornamental urns, and pedestals for stands, counters, and bars of hotels.

Support: Reference to Soda & Beer Bottles of North America, Tod von Mechow

Support: Reference to The American Pontiled Soda Database Project

Support Images: Select images from Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions

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