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Exhibition shines spotlight on history of glass bottles

A small selection of about 100 unique glass bottles that are part of a larger collection of historical materials from Owens-Illinois Inc. preserved in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections is on display on the fifth floor of Carlson Library.

The bottles are part of historical records deposited by Owens-Illinois in the Canaday Center in 2005. In addition to the 300 linear feet of Owens-Illinois records, the Canaday Center also preserves the records of the former Libbey-Owens-Ford Inc. (now Nippon Glass) and Owens Corning.

The Owens-Illinois Inc. bottle exhibit is on display on the fifth floor of Carlson Library through Friday, May 6.

The Owens-Illinois Inc. bottle exhibit is on display on the fifth floor of Carlson Library through Friday, May 6.

“The Canaday Center sought to preserve the collections because of the importance of the glass industry to Toledo’s history,” said Barbara Floyd, interim director of UT Libraries and director of the Canaday Center. “We are fortunate that Owens-Illinois agreed to place these materials here.”

The exhibit showcases vessels ranging from circa 100 A.D. to present. Represented are Ancient Roman vessels created just after the advent of blown glass technology, imported colonial wine vessels, early American glass, and a large selection of 19th-century bitters and proprietary medicine bottles.

The exhibit includes these bitters bottles, which were produced circa 1867 to 1880 by Walton & Co. in Philadelphia.

The exhibit includes these bitters bottles, which were produced circa 1867 to 1880 by Walton & Co. in Philadelphia.

Most people don’t realize that Toledo had a very rich beer brewing history prior to Prohibition, Floyd said. Also on exhibit are several bottles from this long-defunct Toledo industry.

In order to choose which pieces to put on display, David Remaklus, director of access services for UT Libraries, said they selected a range from oldest to newest to best represent advancements in glass technology, giving preference to pieces that are visually interesting due to shapes or color.

Not only do the bottles on display have history, but the shelving used to display them has a story as well. The cabinets were built in 1917 at the University of Michigan and made their way to UT in the early 1970s. After years in the geology lab, the shelves were destined for recycling until they were donated to the library for repurposing.

The free, public exhibit is on display through Friday, May, 6, and can be during Carlson Library’s regular hours.

The rest of the bottles not on display can be found in the Canaday Center archives.

“These collections are some of the most important in the world documenting the glass industry, and they attract researchers from all over who use the collections,” Floyd said.

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