Albuquerque man pours himself into bottle amassing passion »Albuquerque Journal
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Sometimes a hobby grabs you and just takes off.
So it was with Lynn Loomis – an old bottle with a family history link seemed in need of company, and he soon had a collection running.
Fast forward 24 years and his Nob Hill house is practically a museum with nearly 3,000 bottles of every shape, size, color, and function.
“It’s like a disease that just spreads,” said Loomis with a humble smile.
There are milk bottles, medicine bottles, all kinds of soft drinks and liquor bottles, ceramic bottles and an 18th century bottle that Moro Montoya unearthed in Algodones. Collectors say it is the earliest bottle in New Mexico. The oldest bottle in his collection is a tiny vase-like vessel that a second-century Roman supposedly used to collect tears.
Loomis, 76, a former highland high school choir director and wrestling coach, is now helping families prepare funerals for French funerals and cremations.
He was browsing an antique store on Central Avenue in 1993 when he discovered a Gholson bottle and bought it on a whim because his wife’s grandfather was Clarence Gholson, whose Gholson Candy Company first bottled Coca Cola in Albuquerque in 1904 in a few weeks later he found another Gholson bottle, then heard from a man in Tijeras who had a collection of it that he had gotten from a warehouse.
Within two years, Loomis became a founding member of the New Mexico Historical Bottle Society, which will participate in the annual isolators, bottles, barbwire and collectibles exhibition in Albuquerque on September 30th.
The New Mexico Historical Bottle Society, with 40 to 50 members, is the only one of its kind in the state, but there are similar organizations across the country. Collectors from several other states in the southwest will attend the event in Albuquerque, said show organizer Mike Gay.
Loomis buys mostly because he likes the color or shape, but he’s seen rare antique bottles auctioned for up to $ 60,000.
The shelves around his kitchen are lined with milk bottles, almost 300 of them. Through his research in the library for special collections in downtown Albuquerque, Loomis found clues to 125 different dairies in the city. The earliest date from the 1880s.
The milk bottles are available in pint, quart, and half-gallon sizes. Messages relevant to the war are printed on some; a picture of an airplane, a soldier with a rifle, the words “God bless America”. Some from the days leading up to routine milk homogenization come with a spoon that has been used to block the milk so you can remove the cream from the top.
Loomis has an entire display area dedicated to soft drink bottles with names of cities in New Mexico. Among those from elsewhere is a Coca-Cola bottle from Vicksburg, Miss., Where the drink was first bottled by Joseph Biedenharn in 1894.
There are medicine bottles from long-defunct pharmacies in communities across the state – “The Eagle Drug Mercantile Co.” in Lordsburg Woodward Bros. Druggists in Raton, WC Porterfield Pharmacists in Silver City. He even has a couple from San Marcial, a parish south of Socorro that was wiped out by floods in the 1930s.
“A lot of people see trash – I see history,” Loomis said.
On a brief tour of the roughly 2,000 bottles in his Loomis cave, there was an overview of bottle-making techniques, details of color and chemistry, and he pointed out some design features.
The first automated bottle making machines were developed in 1903 by the American inventor Michael Owens. Before that, they were hand-blown and often had tiny flaws in the glass. Many wear a scar on the bottom where the glassblower broke off the pontil, a long rod that was used to keep the hot bottle out of the artisan’s hands during the finishing process.
Bottles made before 1880 are often amber or blue because of the chemical composition of the glass. At that time, bottle makers started adding manganese to the glass to discolor it so people could see the contents. Glass containing manganese turns purple when exposed to sunlight for a long period of time.
During the First World War, when manganese supplies imported from Europe were not available, selenium was added to the decolorizing glass. Over time, sunlight turns it straw-colored, Loomis said.
He has several bottles with the Hutchinson patent stopper. Introduced in the 1880s as a replacement for corks, it featured a wire spring attached to a rubber gasket. There was a popping noise when the stopper was removed. Some say this is the origin of the term “pop” for carbonated beverages. Others attribute it to the English poet Robert Southey, who wrote in a letter to his wife in 1812 that the drink “is called pop because pop wears the cork when it is pulled”.
Loomis showed an example of the “torpedo bottles” made for Schweppes, which were placed on their sides so that the cork would not dry out. (Jacob Schweppe pioneered the production of carbonated beverages in Geneva in 1783.)
Some of the bottles are associated with dark events in history. He showed a nineteenth-century baby bottle that could be used to feed the baby through a rubber tube. Loomis said they were linked to the deaths of many babies due to the bacteria that built up in the tube.
The bottles, marketed under names such as “Little Cherub,” eventually became known as “Murder” bottles, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Pediatric History Center.
Another bottle from Loomis contained “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, ”sold in the 19th century to relieve teething and other illnesses. The main ingredients were morphine and alcohol.
Loomis said the hobby used to be more popular and collectors dug for bottles, but most popular places, like old military forts, are now banned. The type of bottles has also changed.
“Now everything is in plastic and it’s hard to get neat things in glass,” Loomis said.