J. Ogden Pittsburgh
John Ogden, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Emerald Green Blob Top
Provenance: Doug Shutler Collection
Our museum example represents an iron pontiled blob-top soda style bottle with very large embossed outlined letters reading, ‘J. OGDEN’ encircling the bottle. ‘PITTSBURGH’ is embossed and centered beneath in much smaller letters. There is an iron pontil and an applied collar on this beautiful dark emerald green bottle that was produced in the early 1850s by an unknown glass house.
Not much is known about the early life of John Ogden other than he was born in Hollinghurst, Lancashire, England on March 14, 1816. He attended school in England and came to the United States in September 1841, and for some time was employed in the Rogers Locomotive Works in Patterson, New Jersey. He would move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and start the next chapter of his life.
John Ogden married Elizabeth Shawcroff in Lancashire, England in 1848 and they had four children, William, Lydia, Elizabeth, and Mary E. Ogden. William may have died early.
The first time we see a Pittsburgh business listing for John Ogden is in 1847 when he is a partner under the banner Ogden, Gibson & Co. They were listed as mineral and soda water manufacturers located on Smithfield Street between 1st & 2nd according to Harris’s General Business Directory for the cities of Pittsburgh & Allegheny. William Gibson was an established grocer in the 1840s on Fifth Street near Springfield.
The difference between ‘soda water’ and ‘mineral water’ during the 19th century was often vague. Soda water was generally considered flavored artificial mineral water with the purposeful addition of carbonation and various compounds and flavoring. Mineral or spring water as it was also called, would generally be natural waters from spring sources that were typically highly mineralized with carbonates like alkaline, sulfurous compounds, and or various salts which often carbonated naturally. The confusion sometimes arises when mineral water was used as a generic term applied to various natural and artificially carbonated, non-artificially flavored waters including many utilized for their perceived medicinal qualities. Please visit the museum Spring & Mineral Water Gallery.
We are picturing two bottles from the Ogden and Gibson relationship (both pictured above). The first is a 7 1/8 x 3″ teal-aqua porter embossed ‘OGDEN & GIBSON PITTSBURGH’ in four lines. It has an improved pontil and a double tapered collar. The typography is serifed. The second example is embossed, ‘OGDEN GIBSON & CO. MINERAL WATER PITTSBURGH.’ The bottle is 7 7/8″ tall and multi-sided with ten (10) panels. It is embossed vertically and the ‘o’ in ‘Co’ is raised. The bottle has an improved pontil with a tapered collar.
See the museum example of a Ogden Gibson & Co. Mineral Water Pittsburgh.
John Ogden continued on his own from 1848 or so to 1855 where he is listed as John Ogden with various occupations such as bottler, mineral water, cider, and porter manufacturer next to his name. He starts out the first year at 184 First Street in Pittsburgh while all the other years he is addressed at 187 First Street.
There are a handful of bottles with his name on them such as the ‘OGDEN’s PORTER’ with a big embossed ‘O’ on the reverse (pictured above). This 7 ¼ x 2 ¾ porter style bottle has a rounded collar and is iron pontiled. The ‘s’ of Ogden’s is smaller, raised, and has a dot beneath. ‘OGDEN’s’ is also arched and set within a recessed top half window shape with a horizontal ‘PORTER’ beneath.
A second porter style bottle by John Ogden, one we hold in the museum, is simply embossed ‘JOHN OGDEN’ (1st line arched) over ‘PITTSBURGH’ on the face of the bottle. A large verticle letter ‘O’ is embossed on the reverse of this dark aqua bottle (pictured above). It has an inverted tapered collar and an iron pontil. See the museum example of John Ogden Pittsburg O.
Another is the soda style bottle embossed ‘JOHN OGDEN’S MINERAL WATER PITTSBURG’ in three lines on the face of the bottle. The first line is arched over two straight lines. There is an improved pontil and applied blob top. The bottle is pictured above in a beautiful teal glass color.
From 1856 to 1863 or so, John Ogden went into a partnership as John Ogden & Co. remaining at the 187 First Street address in Pittsburgh. He must have been excelling in business as the 1860 United States Federal Census, which lists his occupation as a bottler, declares real estate value of $15,000 and a personal estate value of $1,000.
Small advertisements placed in the Pittsburgh Daily Post in 1857 and 1858 read, “BOTTLERS. – John Ogden & Co. Bottlers, No. 187 First street, would respectfully inform the public that they have constantly on hand a large supply of Sarsaparilla, Mineral Water, Ale, and Porter, of the bust quality. The attention of families is particularly directed to the fact that they bottle Wainwright’s Ale in its purest state. Physicians recommend it to families on account of its wholesome and strengthening qualities.”
There are bottles that represent his new company, one being a champagne cider bottle embossed on one side, ‘JOHN OGDEN & Co. NO. 187 FIRST STREET’ in three lines and on the other side ‘CHAMPAGNE CIDER PITTSBURGH’ in three lines (pictured above). On both sides, the first line of embossed copy is arched over straight line copy. There is an improved pontil and a big blob top collar.
John Ogden drops from Pittsburgh directories in 1867 where he is last listed living in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh the previous year and most of the years during his business dealings in Pittsburgh. The name Oakland first appeared in 1839 in a local paper, the Harris’ Intelligencer. The area got its name from the abundance of oak trees found on the farm of William Eichenbaum, who settled there in 1840. Oakland developed rapidly following the Great Fire of 1845 in downtown Pittsburgh, with many people moving out to suburban territory.
John Ogden would move to Lisbon, Ohio following his Pittsburgh years and for a number of years operate a large woolen mill under the firm name John Ogden & Co. He would die as Lisbon’s oldest citizen on April 9, 1908.
Support: Reference to Soda & Beer Bottles of North America, Tod von Mechow
Support: Reference to The American Pontiled Soda Database Project
Support: Some secondary images from Glass Works Auctions, eBay, Urban Remains, FOHBC, and the Internet.
Support: Digging up the past in the Fifth and Wood corridor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette