The National Bottle Museum is located on Rte. 50 in the heart of the village of Ballston Spa, New York. The museum occupies a three story brick commercial building in the historic business district of what was once a flourishing resort community in the 1800s. Ballston Spa is the site of many once-famous mineral water springs and was a popular "watering hole" for the rich and famous during the hey day of the mineral water industry.
No longer advertised or widely marketed as cures, only two mineral water springs continue to flow in the village. The Sans Souci flows freely during the summer months, and the Old Iron Springs flows year round. Both are within a short walking distance from the museum, and the museum stands directly across the street from where the world famous Sans Souci Hotel once stood.
The village itself has been aptly described as an outdoor museum of architecture. Many of the beautiful Victorian homes are being appropriately restored to their former grandeur, and are emerging once again as "painted ladies" of the past.
The museum's mission is to preserve the history of our nation's first major industry: bottle making. Millions of glass bottles per year were manufactured by hand for the mineral waters of Saratoga County alone, enabling the area to participate in world commerce during the early 1800s. A glassworks set in the wilderness above the nearby town of Greenfield employed hundreds of workers and glassblowers from the 1840s to the 1860s. In that era, all bottles were manufactured exclusively with hand tools and lung power.
The world-wide mineral water industry was just one of many industries creating a tremendous demand for glass bottles. America was the world's largest producer of fine essence oils. The west was being settled, creating a demand for millions of whiskey flasks and spirits bottles to help men cope with loneliness and hardship. Every pharmacy, every producer of patent medicines, every brewery, dairy farm and manufacturer, required hand-made glass bottles.
Machine made bottles were not manufactured until after Michael Owens patented his inventions in 1903.
Well planned museum exhibits allow visitors to view a myriad variety of beautiful and colorful glass bottles produced by strong men who toiled in intense heat for twelve hours a day, six days a week. The demand for glass containers was staggering. It was an era when vast commercial empires rose and fell. In many cases, only the glass bottles remain as witness to the drama.
One entire wall of the museum's first floor is covered with approximately 2000 bottles of many colors, shapes and forms. This is considered "open storage," and all of these bottles are accessioned into the collection to be held in trust for the public. When creating interpretive exhibits, borrowed bottles and related objects are often combined with those from the collection. In some cases, all exhibit objects may be borrowed. The museum has access to collections all over the United States, and borrowing objects from members makes frequent changes and more spectacular exhibits possible.
The latest museum program is the development of a "Museum Glassworks." A separate building in close proximity to the museum has been purchased and equipped with torches and hand tools for teaching lampworking, a process of working with glass rods and tubing to create smaller objects from hot glass. A full-size glass furnace has recently been installed so that students and visitors will soon be able to experience for themselves techniques employed by glassblowers of the past, and still employed by the glass artist of today. See "Class Schedules" for more information.
Current members of the museum reside in all but two of the United States, and several Provinces of Canada. A few members reside in Europe. Over thirty bottle-collecting clubs from across the nation help to support the museum as well. Individual clubs can have as many as 2,000 or as few as ten members. Almost every club holds an annual Bottle Show and Sale.
The museum itself sponsors a 160-table antique bottle show and sale every June. A special area set aside from the sales floor is reserved for the beautiful educational exhibits. This popular event will draw visitors and antique bottle dealers from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, as well as area residents. The general public is welcome and encouraged to enjoy this once a year spectacle.
Contact: The National Bottle Museum