ABOUT THE NATIONAL BOTTLE MUSEUM
Situated in the heart of Ballston Spa, NY is a museum whose mission is to preserve the history of our nation’s first major industry: Bottle making. Exhibits inside of the National Bottle Museum allow visitors to view thousands of glass bottles that were produced by strong men who toiled in intense heat for 12 hours a day, six days a week when the demand for glass containers was staggering. It was an era when vast commercial empires rose and fell. In many cases, only the bottles remain as witness to the drama.
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 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.
One entire wall of the museum’s first floor showcases approximately 2,000 bottles of many colors, shapes and forms. 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 historic three-story brick commercial building on Milton Avenue (Route 50) that houses the National Bottle Museum is situated in what was a flourishing resort community in the 1800s that boasted many popular mineral water springs. Indeed, Ballston Spa was a popular “watering hole” for the rich and famous during the heyday of the mineral water industry.
No longer advertised or widely marketed as cures, only two mineral water springs continue to flow in the village. Both are within a short walking distance from the museum. The Old Iron Spring on Front Street flows year round while The Sans Souci flows freely during the summer months. (The museum is directly across the street from where the world famous Sans Souci Hotel once stood.)
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.
The latest museum program is the development of a Museum Glassworks. A separate building on nearby Washington Street is 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.
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. More than 30 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 10 members. Almost every club holds an annual Bottle Show and Sale.
The National Bottle Museum sponsors its own Bottle Show and Sale, which draws dealers and collectors from across the United States, Canada, and sometimes Great Britain. The Saratoga Show, as it is known, serves as the Museum’s main annual fundraiser.
For Museum Hours click here.
The National Bottle Museum is a not-for-profit (501 C-3) educational institution
chartered by the Board of Regents of the New York State Education Department..