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A Passion For Milk Bottles
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I started collecting milk bottles back in 1972 when I was eight, held my first exhibition at my local library when I was ten and have been hopelessly addicted to collecting milk bottles ever since. I currently have about two thousand bottles although size is not important to me which is just as well since space is a constant restraint. I tend to look for those examples which challenge the general conception that milk bottles are plain and boring and all the same.
I have bottles dating back to the 1880's, when bottles started to be used for milk deliveries, and also from around the world. I find it incredibly interesting how milk bottles through the ages, and from different places, tended to reflect the social environment in which they were used. For example, those used in the U.S. varied enormously in design with bold and colourful lettering and captions, weird and wonderful shapes such as bottles with a bulb in the neck to highlight the cream (some of these bulbs even had faces embossed in them), and bottles with dents which when poured a particular way separated the cream from the milk. To my mind, these bottles reflected the bold, confident and outspoken nature of the country. Pre-war milk bottles in France were generally a heavy conical shape with a glass stopper and stylised lettering painted on the side which can be aptly described as chic. Milk bottles in the UK, in comparison, were somewhat reserved and were a no-nonsense shape with a straight forward cardboard disc or foil cap seal. Click here for a close-up of this bottle. Gurden's Sterilized Milk
St Cuthbert's Co-op Centenary There have been some interesting designs used here and much of the fun of collecting milk bottles, for me, is hunting out these rarities from the majority which most would regard as plain and uninteresting. The fifties were an interesting time here when, following the war and rationing, a number of dairies put bright and colourful slogans on their bottles in two or three colours generally promoting such products as eggs, cream and butter available from the roundsman. Again, I see this as having reflected the social scene at the time when the country as a whole was trying to liven and brighten life up following the gloomy years of the war and before. Click here for a close-up of this bottle.
We always get the Co-op creamA renaissance of bright and colourful milk bottles occurred through the eighties when advertising appeared on the side of bottles. This also started a collecting fad at the time. It started with advertisements for products for which milk would be used such as drinking chocolate and corn flakes but was later to include a whole manner of products and services, anything from horoscope telephone lines to cars. The introduction of infra-red bottles scanners in the early nineties, to check the cleanliness of cleaned bottles, saw the painted bottles disappear almost as suddenly as they appeared. A small number of smaller sized dairies still use colourful bottles to this day but with the ever increasing demise in the doorstep delivery service, it may only be a matter of time before the use of glass milk bottles are confined to the history books. Click here for a close-up of this bottle.
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