J. Lake with Bed-Bug Poison Label

Provenance: Doug Shuter Collection

The cobalt blue “J. Lake Schenectady N.Y.” soda is most likely the top and the most prized Schenectady, New York bottle. It is also the oldest known bottle in glass or pottery with Schenectady embossed on it. John Lake was a beverage manufacturer and had bottles produced as early as the 1840s that were pottery before he moved to glass. A stoneware “John Lake Root Beer” is pictured below.

John Lake was in business through at least mid-1859, when he sold out to Robert Weller and James Rodgers who were manufacturers and dealers in soda, sarsaparilla, mineral water, porter, ale, and cider located at nos. 62 and 64 College Street in Schenectady, New York. Lake then relocated and started his J. Lake & Co. in the early 1860s with Robert Weller who were listed as manufacturers and dealers in sarsaparilla and soda water located at Academy Street near Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs, New York. In 1868, John Lake was also listed as a mineral water manufacturer living at 83 Union in the Schenectady, New York City Directory.

Our labeled 7-½” tall by 2-½ wide, J. Lake Schenectady N.Y. bottle is embossed, ‘J. LAKE.’ in large block letters around the bottle midsection with ‘SCHENECTADY. N.Y.’ embossed horizontally along the facial base. The bottle is in somewhat of a Prussian blue glass color which is different than the light to dark shades of cobalt and sapphire blue examples that are typically found. The oval soda bottle is considered a ten-pin form and has an applied heavy collared mouth and an iron pontil. It was made in a two-leaf mold by an unknown glass house. It would have been sealed by a cork.

The bottle has been repurposed from containing soda water to contain poison as a “Bed-Bug Poison” label was adhered at a later date. Most soda bottles were made of a thicker and heavier glass as the bottles were the property of the proprietor and were reused and resold.

The horizontal yellow-ochre label is mottled and aged. It has a simple decorative straight-line geometric border motif. There are some tears and aging as you might expect. The copy reads, “BED-BUG POISON. FROM M. L. WILLIAMS, DEALER IN DRUGS & MEDICINES, Ballston Spa, New -York.” According to an 1860 United States Federal Census, M. L. Williams was a druggist that was born in New York around 1826. He was listed as 36 years old and living in Milton, Saratoga, New York. His wife was named Mary who was 10 years younger. We are unsure as to why his label specifically showed up on this John Lake soda water bottle.

Support: Reference to The American Pontiled Soda Database Project, Tod von Mechow

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

Support Images: Auction Lot 48: “J. Lake. / Schenectady. N.Y” Soda Water Bottle, America, 1845-1860. Ten pin form, rich cobalt blue, applied heavy collared mouth – iron pontil mark, ht. 8 inches; (light exterior high point wear, light patchy interior haze). Rich color and bold embossing. Fine condition. Dr. Charles and Jane Aprill collection. – Norman Heckler, Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #172

Support Images: Auction Lot 6: J. LAKE. SCHENECTADY NY. Applied top and graphite pontil. Another beautiful soda in a bit of a ten-pin shape this has some light highpoint wear but all iron is intact. Lots of whittle, you’ll be glad you bid on this one. A beautiful and brilliant blue. Grades a 9.4+. – Jeff Wichmann, American Bottle Auctions, Auction #58

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