Whitall Tatum Chemist Prescription Bottles

Whitall Tatum bottle shapes


Firstly if you would like an in depth discussion of Whitall Tatum base marks and dating techniques we’d highly recommend checking out the article “The Dating Game: Whitall Tatum & Co” by Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, David Whitten, Bill Lindsey and Pete Schulz – here.

There are two important base mark variations of which Australian collectors should be aware. Firstly from the 1870s to 1901 the mark was W.T. & Co (with some combination of other letters, numbers and patent dates). From 1901 to the 1930s the “&” is dropped and the mark becomes W.T.Co. (again usually combined with other identifying characters). As stated in the article mentioned above the W.T. & Co mark was probably used past 1901 for a year or two because of the use of old moulds but these would be exceptions rather than the rule.

Now the shapes. While some of the shapes were patented by Whitall Tatum many were just the names used generally in the bottle making industry. Indeed most of the patented shapes were later produced by other glass makers when Whitall Tatum’s patents expired.

The Phenix Described as being the latest Prescription Bottle in the 1902 catalogue, this shape was also used extensively by the Melbourne Glass Works (and later Australian Glass Manufacturers). This shape also became more prominent in the late 1900s and 1910s often seen with a sunken panel at the front for the embossing. Note spelling is from the Whitall Tatum catalogue. Available in 11 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32oz.
Philadelphia Oval This shape also regularly seen in Australian prescription bottles and again a shape that was also used by MGBW. Became less prominent later in the decade. This bottle was also produced with Metric measurements embossed on the shoulder with 6 sizes available between 30 cc and 250 cc. It’s worth noting that this range of Metric bottles was actually larger in 1880, suggesting that they were never really very popular. 18 sizes: 1/8 oz – 32oz, including two wide mouth sizes.
Knickerbocker (Patented December 11 1894) The patent date is usually embossed on the base as well. Most often seen in coloured glass examples. 11 sizes: 1/2oz – 32oz.
Manhattan Oval (Patented January 5, 1892) Another commonly seen shape probably best described as a rounded rectangle, often in very clear or slightly amethyst glass. Also comes in a variation with sunken panel at the front (as seen in the example shown at the right). 10 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32 oz.
Seal Oval (Patented January 24, 1888) Not often seen with Australian trade names, and the early patent date probably gives a clue as to why. The patent for this would have run out in 1902 and WT were promoting newer and “better” styles of bottles. Since WT really only hit full stride in Australia by the end of the 1890s this bottle was probably already a low priority. 9 sizes: 1/2 oz – 16 oz.
Millville Rounds (Patented January 22, 1878) Virtually a round section bottle with one flat side for embossing. This shape, named after the site of the WT Glassworks was another early patent (1878) and it seems by 1902 that this was no longer a popular pattern. Not a common shape in Australia. 9 sizes: 1/2 oz – 16 oz.
Penn Ovals (Patented January 18 1898) Another shape seen often in Australia, usually in clear/aqua glass but also some blues exist. Has a rather more intricate shape than most other prescription bottles with a small sort of pedestal style base. 10 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32 oz.
Baltimore Ovals Similar to Manhattan Ovals but with a more sloping, rounded shoulder and slightly wider at the base. Associated mainly with earlier WT bottles in Australia – i.e. 1890’s. 11 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32 oz.
Double Philadelphia Ovals Effectively the same as the Baltimore Oval but with Curved sides another shape usually seen on earlier WT bottles in Australia. 10 sizes: 1/4 oz – 16 oz.
Drug Ovals Standard Oval shape medicine bottle. The oval shape seems to have been very popular throughout the 19th century but by the late 1890’s was going out of favour with preference given to the newer designs. 9 sizes: 1/2 oz – 16 oz.
Union Ovals Oval shaped but with a thick ridge running down both sides from the base of the neck to the bottom of the bottle. An early design, featured in the 1880 WT catalogue as well. Unusual design seen rarely on embossed bottles in Australia. 10 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32 oz.
French Square Standard square section bottle seen in a large variety of colours and made by virtually every glassworks that produced prescription bottles. Australian bottles can be found in this shape in Cobalt Blue, Amber, Emerald Green, Clear, Aqua and Amethyst. Often these have the most exquisite designs and trade marks embossed on them and are probably more regularly found in large sizes than any other shape. 23 sizes available: 1 drachm – 64 oz.
Blakes or Oblongs Standard rectangular chemist prescription bottle. Although offered by WT this shape is definitely more regularly seen from MGW. 11 sizes: 1/2 oz – 32 oz. (Also available in a “tall” style with the same 11 sizes). 
Panels Common “cough cure” shape and usually found in the 3-4 oz sizes. Not a common shape with the WT base mark but certainly used by several chemists around the country. 12 sizes: 1/2 oz – 16 oz.
Tablet Bottles Unusual to find these embossed with chemists names actually made in a variety of shapes, all with threaded tops and metal caps. 7 sizes/styles: 2 – 7 drachms.
Customers Medicine Glasses Appear to have been made from around 1880 until at least the 1920s (see base marks for more accurate dating). The embossed style was available in two sizes in the earlier catalogues (One Tablespoon and two tablespoons). In the 1902 catalogue the small size could also have lettering in Spanish or Portuguese apparently.


– The Dating Game: Whitall Tatum & Co by Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, David Whitten, Bill Lindsey and Pete Schulz. Published Summer 2006 edition of Bottles & Extras (Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors).
– Drug, Perfume & Chemical Bottles 1902, Photocopied reprint, Antiques Research Publications, 1967.
– Whitall, Tatum & Co. 1880, American Historical Catalogue Collection, The Pyne Press, 1971.
– The Glass Gaffers of New Jersey, Adeline Pepper, 1971.
– Bottle Makers and their Marks, Julian Harrison Toulouse, 1971.

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