The National Bottle Museum
This three-story commercial building was built in 1901 for the Tracy Brothers' Hardware Store. One wall of the first floor consists of shelving accessed by rolling ladders, original to the building. The bulk of the museum's collection of approximately 2,800 bottles is displayed on this open storage wall.
A staircase takes visitors to the second floor where there are more bottles on display, including the Ralph & Eleanor Work Collection of Saratoga-Type Mineral Water bottles. There is also a collection of art glass, consisting largely of the Beverly Bardwell Paperweight Collection.
The JRM Artists' Space takes another part of the second floor. Rotating art shows are displayed in this space, named in memory of the museum's longtime Director, Jan Rutland. Her decision some years ago to have a new staircase built to the second floor made the Artists' Space possible. It was named in her memory on the first anniversary of her sudden passing.
THE NATIONAL BOTTLE MUSEUM® - a storefront museum with a national perspective
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 1800’s. Ballston Spa is the site of many once-famous mineral 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 spring 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 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. Each year, millions of glass bottles were manufactured by hand for the mineral waters of Saratoga County alone, enabling the area to participate in world commerce during the early 1800’s. A glass factory set in the wilderness above the nearby town of Greenfield employed hundreds of workers and glassblowers from the 1840’s to the 1860’s. In that era, all bottles were manufactured exclusively with hand tools and lung-power.
The worldwide 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 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 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.
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.
Every year, usually in June, the museum sponsors its own annual antique bottle show and sale. Advertised nationally as “The Saratoga Show,” it draws visitors and antique bottle dealers and collectors from coast to coast in the United States and Canada, as well as area residents. The general public is welcomed and urged to join participants in enjoying this once a year spectacle. All proceeds benefit the National Bottle Museum and its programs. The museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution.
If you wish to become a member, you may contact the museum at 76 Milton Avenue, Ballston Spa, NY 12020. A membership form is available on the museum’s website at www.nationalbottlemuseum.org. Membership starts at $20.00 a year in the U.S., and $25.00 a year for residents outside the U.S. Members receive a quarterly newsletter including news of museum programs and activities, well-researched articles on antique and collectible bottles and their history, and a calendar of upcoming bottle shows in the U.S., Canada & England. The museum may also be able to put collectors in touch with a bottle club in their area.
Don't Miss This When Visiting
The Dutch Squats and the glowing glass
Season And Hours Open
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Year round; January & February - Th, Fr, Sat.; March-May & Oct.-Dec. - Tues-Sat.; June-Sept. - Fri-Tues.