Deciphering bottle marks: The Owens-Illinois water jug pitcher

1937 Owens-Illinois Glass Company 1/2 gallon pitcher jug

Back in the early 1970s, we found this half-gallon pitcher jug under the house, along with a light aqua gallon jug and a ribbed soda bottle.  I think that may have started my collecting of old bottles and jugs, and now, of course, I am figuring out what to do with them all.

The jug itself is a refrigerator jug, with a finger handle, manufactured by Owens-Illinois Glass Company in 1937 at its Alton, Illinois plant # 7.  It bears the integrated O/I in the Diamond trademark that the company adopted when the Owens Bottle Company and the Illinois Glass Company merged in 1929.  Owens-Illinois manufactured for any number of products, and several variations of this design can be found on ebay and other online websites advertising vintage or antique items. 

The Speas Vinegar Company used this design, with slight differences in the ribbed marking, in their U-Sav-It pitchers filled with apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or white vinegar for pickling.  U-Sav-It debuted in the late 40s through the 50s, as a marketing tool.

The jar was designed to accept a standard canning jar lid, presumably in the event the old lid became corroded.  The lid on this jug is circa 1942, Presto Universal Jar Closure with a glass insert and aluminum ring cap.  It took quite a bit of sleuthing to figure out it was not the lid original to the jug, and once I discovered the O/I mark, it was a bit easier thanks to a great bottle-mark website with information on all the most common glass manufacturers.  The Speas half-gallon jug had the name Speas Co. and U-Sav-It embossed on the bottle, whereas this jug is unmarked other than the O/I data. The Speas U-Sav-It jugs and bottles I have located have had the latter trademark of the I inside the O, which dated from the late 1940s forward.

This jug could have been marketed just as a refrigerator jug, or contained a food item.  It may have been an earlier version of the Speas jug.  The flat panels would have held a paper label, and the Art Deco style design was found on many bottle types during the late 1920s-1940s.  Although I am about to dispose of my fairly sizable collection of bottles, I have a couple I will keep, and this is one of them.  Think of the women who bought vinegar or apple juice and then had a handy refrigerator water bottle when they were done with the contents.  The jug would have been used again and again, and some enterprising woman replaced the lid with one that is certainly more attractive as well as the glass insert keeping the rim of the pitcher cleaner.  I just have to admire that and wonder how many fingers have been in the ear handle.

Jug Handle

And to conclude with an interesting-to-me tidbit, I learned about the New Jersey jug handle on my first visit there when my friend and I traveled to a social work meeting and stayed with her grandmom in Jersey. One turns right to turn left–a traffic maneuver that debuted in the 1930s and is safer and more efficient than turning across opposing lanes of traffic.

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7 Responses to Deciphering bottle marks: The Owens-Illinois water jug pitcher

  1. Great detective work finding all this information! It all brings back memories to me. When I was a child, my aunt would drag me all around the woods in our area searching for old cellar holes and digging and collecting bottles. My uncle foraged for mushrooms and other wild foods while she did this, and sometimes I got bored and wandered off with him instead. Aunt Mary could look at a tract of forest and know not only where a house probably stood, but where the ‘dump’ was as well. She had hundreds of bottles and they lined every window and shelf in her house.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Betty says:

    I enjoy the advertisements you include in your posts. They add to the story of object. I can’t help but smile when I read them. Also, from the comments, I did not realize there were “bottle collectors” searching dump sites from the 30s and 40s.
    As an aside, I recently gave some of my Grandma’s and my mother’s sewing supplies to my daughter and daughter-in-law. Your posts about going through things and passing them on inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Betty. At first I used the newspaper archives to locate items for identification, because many of the online posts do not identify (or know) the accurate manufacturer or date of the item. It let me date when an item was covered in newspapers, and that helps narrow it down if it is not marked with a decipherable code. The ads are really amusing sometimes, and I have saved a few of them here and there. It is also exciting when I find one with a line drawing or picture of the item, too.
      I am happy to hear you passed on some items. I would not have many of the things I am now passing on had my grandparents and other relatives not passed them on to me before their deaths.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I often “turn right to turn left”; it’s frequently the safest way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzassippi says:

      In some places, it really is. I also avoid places where it is either difficult or dangerous to make a left turn, especially here where people thing the speed limit is just how fast your car can go.


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