Ground Glass Stoppers

Hello Digger:

You have helped me in the past and know you can help me answer this question. I have a Burnett apothecary bottle (embossed Burnett Boston) which stands 9 1/2" tall and is 10 1/2" around. The glass stopper is 2" tall and 1 1/4" across the top. It appears to be a perfume style top. I'm sure you are familiar with the bottle. The seem goes to the neck and, I think the top is applied (not sure). It has no pontil mark and no maker's marks. The bottle was found with the glass stopper. I wondered if it is the original top for the bottle? I have seem many of these, some in blue and amber, but none with this top. I've attached to images of the bottle for your info. If you need more, please ask.

Thank you, Paul

Good question Paul. I often get appraisal questions about bottles with stoppers which were not made for the bottle in question. The obvious poor fit is the first clue but many times the stoppers appear to fit better than yours but still are not original.

Your bottle stopper is what is called a ground stopper or ground glass stopper.  So named because the stem of the stopper was put up against a grinding wheel to smooth and shape it to fit exactly into the mouth of the bottle so that it would not leak or allow evaporation. Since the bottles were blown and the mouths of the bottles were hand finished, they would vary in size and roundness.  This necessitated grinding both the interior mouth of the bottle as well as the stem of the stopper.Digger

Here is a 1910 description of the process:

Glass stoppers are fitted to bottles by grinding. The mouth of the bottle is ground by a revolving iron cone, or mandrel, fed with sand and water and driven by steam. The head of the stopper is fastened in a chuck and the peg is ground to the size of the mouth of the bottle by means of sand and water pressed against the glass by bent strips of thin sheet iron. The mouth of the bottle is then pressed by hand on the peg of the stopper, and the mouth and peg are ground together with a medium of very fine emery and water until an air-tight joint is secured. The Encyclopædia Britannica

This excerpt from AN INTRODUCTION TO PRACTICAL PHARMACY 1859 gives greater detail about bottles with ground stoppers.


The various forms of apparatus required by the pharmaceutist in the preparation and dispensing of medicines, will be brought into view in connection with the pharmaceutical processes, successively described and illustrated throughout this work. In the present preliminary chapter, it will suffice to describe those most simple kinds of apparatus which are indispensable to the country practitioner in the performance of the manipulations coming within the range of his office practice, and are also useful as part of the necessary outfit of the apothecary. Fig. l.

The Furniture Bottles.—Much depends upon the selection of suitable bottles to contain a stock of medicines. They should be of flint glass, and fitted with well-ground glass stoppers. Recently our market has been supplied with a kind of German glassware, which possesses the advantage of cheapness and freedom from color. German bottles are generally of greater diameter in proportion to their height, and those designed for solids, possess wider mouths, and consequently larger stoppers than American bottles of the same capacity.

The American made bottles are of two kinds, those blown and finished without a mould (Fig. 7), which are the most transparent and smoothest kind, and those blown in a mould (Figs. 8 and 9), to which I usually give preference in fitting up a physician's dispensing office from their greater uniformity of size and shape. The hollow stopper, shown in Fig. 8, is also moulded and afterwards ground; it has advantages over any other description of stopper.

The form of a bottle mould has much to do with the beauty and utility of the bottle. That used for my salt-mouth and tincture bottles is a solid iron cylinder so thick as to retain the heat imparted by the successive charges of fused glass blown into it, and thus to avoid the unpolished surface often produced on the glass by suddenly chilling it in contact with the sides of the mould. On the top of this solid iron cylinder is a pivot, near the outer edge, to which movable shoulder American blown gait-mouth. Moulded salt-mouth, showing hollow Mould«d salt-mouth.stopper. Moulds are attached; each of these is in two parts, opening and closing by a lever attached; when closed, they form the shoulder and neck of the bottle; the lip is finished in the usual way by a tool. As the bottle is to be drawn out of the mould with facility when blown, the cylinder is tapered slightly towards the bottom, but this is so slight as not to be observed in the bottle.

The advantages of this kind of mould over those which open through their whole length, are that there is no liability to a ridge down the side of the bottle, and that the same mould, by adapting to it different shoulder moulds, will furnish at pleasure salt-mouth or tincture bottles. Figs. 8 and 11 are made in the same mould with different shoulder attachments.

Bottles with wide mouths and ground glass stoppers, designed for solids, are called salt-mouths; those with narrow mouths and ground glass stoppers, for liquids, are called tinctures.

Tinctures with very long necks and narrow mouths, as shown in Fig. 10, though desirable sometimes for containing very volatile liquids, are inconvenient for syrups and the fixed oils, and very ill adapted to dropping. They are also less readily cleaned than the ordinary tincture bottles shown in Figs. 11 and 12, which have necks no longer than that of a salt-mouth; it is necessary, however, that the stoppers of these should be well fitted and ground.

Besides the foregoing, there are two kinds of bottles frequently employed in furnishing the physician's outfit, where cheapness is the chief consideration, viz:—

Below are later examples of Apothecary shop furniture with ground stoppers.