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Monday, 18 January 2016

The Amazing 'Globe Stopper'

The 'codd bottle', as it's best known, really caught my imagination. What an amazing piece of ingenuity! A bottle which has it's own internal stopper, is able to store carbonated drinks and was invented nearly 150 years ago - I thought I'd find out a little more about how these wonderful creations came to be...

My ebay find - displaying the name H W Stevens of Colchester and Ipswich

I've done some research on local soft drinks companies and often the codd bottle would be mentioned. I wasn't quite sure what one was, so I googled it and then had a look on ebay and got myself a local example for a good price!

Where Did It All Start?

Hiram Codd
Hiram Codd was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in 1838 (just 15 miles up the road from me - well fancy that!). He moved to London and early in his career became an engineer working for the British and Foreign Cork Company. He was promoted to ‘Traveller for the Business’ and by 1870 had left that company and was working for himself. He had his own soda water manufacturing business and, being an inventor, wanted to improve the manufacturing and bottling process. It was then that he devised and patented his own bottling machine.

He persuaded two gentlemen to invest in his business and then went into partnership with another mineral water manufacturer so he could concentrate on designing a new type of bottle and by 1873 had perfected his ‘globe stopper’ bottle—the bottles we know today as ‘codd’ bottles.

Mineral water manufacturers who wanted to bottle their products in his ingenious bottles paid a yearly fee for a licence to manufacture the new bottles. By 1874 Codd made his bottles free to make and use  so long as the companies manufacturing them bought the marbles, the sealing rings and the groove tool manufactured by Codd in his Hope Glassworks Factory in Barnsley. 

The Bottle

The clever neck
The Codd-neck bottles were developed specifically for carbonated drinks. They worked by using a marble as a stopper. The marble was enclosed in the neck of the bottle and was held in place with a rubber washer/gasket at the top. 

The bottles were filled upside down, and the pressure from the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle was pinched into a special shape to provide a chamber into which the marble was pushed to open the bottle. This prevented the marble from blocking the neck as the drink was poured. It also stored the marble so it could be used again.

Although my bottle (left) is in one piece, it's missing the sealing ring/washer and would therefore not work now. You can see the marble in the neck and the chamber to the right of the marble where it would be 'caught' while you drank from the bottle.

Another Idea

Hiram was always thinking of better ways to do things and in 1880 he had the clever idea of a bottle exchange where empty bottles could be returned to their original owners via bottle exchanges. Agents charged a small fee on each bottle for providing this service (one penny per 144 bottles). This idea went on for a long while and I’m sure some people can remember taking the ‘Corona’ bottles back to the shop and getting the reward (perhaps, like me, to spend on sweets!). 

The End of the Story

In February 1884 Hiram's wife of 28 years passed away and it appears that from that point he seemed to lose interest in inventions and ideas.  In October the same year, he sold his share of the business and did not renew any of his patents, so anyone was free to make his wonderful bottles.

In 1885 he married his second wife and just two years later at the age of 49 he passed away.

What a load of codswallop!

Well, yes it is actually! I have heard of the term codswallop and some seemed to think it came from a mixture of our friend 'Codd's' bottle and a slang term for beer 'wallop' which used by beer drinkers to describe the delights of soft drinks! After a long and detailed study to find out where the term came from no evidence has been found of the word before the mid 20th century and the idea has therefore been dismissed this as a valid theory.

However, the term was used with regard to the codd bottle itself. It was the name given to the wooden device placed over the neck which was given a push (wallop) to dislodge the marble in the neck (oh, so it sounds as if you couldn't push it in with your finger then - I can visualise many a broken nail!). The word has also been used to describe the process of opening a codd bottle.

Survival of the Codd Bottle

The bottles were popular in Europe, Asia, Australasia and I even found a website about their history in the USA named: Ann Act of Codd - Codd Bottles in America?  They are still being used today in Japan and India.

Not too many bottles have made it in one piece. The bottles were just too appealing for young boys who smashed them in order to get to the marble inside and therefore most bottles ended up in pieces. Today, as there becomes less and less people still with us who actually witnessed the bottles in every day use, they have become an unusual item -
I've explained the ingenuity of my codd bottle many times. They are also now sought after by collectors  - I spotted one on ebay today going for an astonishing £145.