Milking It

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Lester Smith

These two shelves in a King House Museum display case hold milk bottles from ten different Suffield farms that sold milk in their own labeled bottles. Only one does so now: The Hastings Family Farm on Hill Street.

Tall, slender and curvy. Squat, no curves and a flat square bottom. Suggestive descriptions. However, these descriptors also can determine the age of glass milk bottles. The tall and round bottles were manufactured in the 1930s or earlier; the square, short bottles appeared in the 1940s and later.

How a bottle is labeled can help indicate the date of its manufacture. Bottles with embossed labels (the letters stick out from the bottle) were made prior to the 1930s. After that date, bottles were not embossed but featured an applied label in a single color. This was a cheaper way of labeling the bottle, and it was durable. The paint technique could withstand the pressure of the dishwashing machines, as these bottles were reusable.

Armed with this knowledge, it is easy to date the Suffield milk bottles on display in the King House Museum. The farms represented are from:

          Rampone & Son
          S.H. Reid & Son
          H.S. Reid Inc.
          F.A. Fleming Westside Farm
          B. Bielonko
          Stiles Farms
          Flower Farm
          Stony Brook Farm – with a red label slogan “Milk That Is Milk!”
          Hilltop Farm
          Hastings Farm

The bottles from Rampone & Son, S.H. Reid & Son and F.A. Fleming Westside Farm are tall, round and embossed. They were probably selling and delivering milk before 1930. The bottles from B. Bielonko, Stiles Farms, Flower Farm and Stony Brook Farm have an applied color label. These farms were selling milk after 1940. Included in the collection is a Hastings Farm plastic bottle. Currently, there are three dairy farms in Suffield, but Hastings is the only Suffield dairy selling milk directly to the community.

The display includes quarts, pints, half pints and a 10-ounce bottle from Hilltop Farm with a swing top metal bail which is a puzzle. Why that size? On Stony Brook Farm’s pint bottles, the slogan is “From Farm to You.” The collection also includes a Stony Brook Farm “Store” bottle. The farm wanted to distinguish the store bottles from its delivery route bottles.

There are a few additional milk bottle items on display. Some of the paper bottle caps are from Rollingridge Farm, its location in town is unknown. Lester Smith, the curator of the King House Museum, would be interested in the answer. He would also like a quart bottle from Hilltop Farm for the collection. A 1959 invoice for 16 quarts of milk for $4.00 is a revelation when considering today’s prices. A curious device is a cream dipper from the late 1800s. When dipped into a milk bottle, it separated and pulled out the cream.

Also included are Suffield beer bottles. One is from the Suffield House, which was next door to the Gay Manse, across from the Suffield Academy. Another is from the Smith Hotel, which was located where the Food Bag is now. That hotel was run by the stationmaster at the nearby Suffield depot. He could walk across the street to the depot when the infrequent trains arrived. The bottle features a blob top with a porcelain stopper, which was in use in the late 1800s through the turn of the century. The blob top, rounded on the outside, provides a good anchor for the stopper.

A Wabeek spring water bottle is also on display. The spring was on land now owned by Hastings Farm. It was run by the Fords, who first bottled and sold the spring water and later sold carbonated flavored water. At one time, the Fords were vendors of water bubblers, including to the State Capitol.

The Museum of Connecticut Glass in Coventry can provide more information on milk bottles and other types of glass bottles and glassmaking. However, the King House has, in addition to its Suffield milk bottle collection, a large collection of antique flasks and bottles found elsewhere in the house. This collection was donated by the widow of Karl Kulle, who was the last of the big Suffield cigar manufacturers. The King House is open by appointment until spring, call (860)668-5256.

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