The Unusual Codd Bottle

By Wayne Gilbert

In 1872, Hiram Codd realized that inserting and capturing a marble in the neck of a bottle would provide a new and effective way of sealing mineral water and soda bottles without corks or external stoppers. His bottle used the effervescent pressure of the mineral water to force a marble against the upper ring of the neck of the bottle. This made a very efficient and durable seal. Some of these bottles have remained sealed for more than 100 years.

At first glance, Codd's idea appears brilliantly simple. However, like all things that look to be simple at first; the Codd bottle is much more ingenious than it appears. For instance, a way would have to be devised to keep the marble from stopping the bottle when it was tilted for pouring or drinking. Designing the neck of the bottle to keep the marble in its place while the bottle was tilted to one side solved this problem. Cleverly tipping the bottle to the other side allows the marble to re-seat itself after only a measured amount of fluid passes, limiting the drinker to one swig or drink. The bottle could easily be re-sealed by shaking it vigorously, and then tilting it upside down to cause the marble to re-seat itself over the mouth of the bottle.

Codd also developed a bottle opener to be inserted into the bottle's neck to push the marble down enough to let the trapped gas escape. The marble would then drop, opening the bottle. Although Codd's opener was widely used in public settings, privately most people simply used their little finger to push the marble down. This habit was the reason why only a few Codd bottles were ever popular in the United States.

Because Americans were too impulsive to wait to find a proper opener, they used the finger opening method almost exclusively. This worked for those with clean fingers, but for the many who worked at tasks that caused their hands to be dirty, using a dirty finger was repulsive. As a result, the American bottling companies turned to a different internal stopper more suited to the American lifestyle.

However, Codd's invention was so successful in England that it was adopted by nearly all the English soda water manufacturers of the time. Eventually all bottles sealed by a marble became known as Codd bottles, regardless of their manufacturer, design or color.

Many Codd-style bottles are copies or variations of the original bottle designed by Hiram Codd in 1872.

Over a span of 60 years, Codd and his competitors continued to improve on both the design and the beauty of the bottle. They produced bottles of different sizes and some with oddly designed necks. Identifying an original Codd bottle, or even one made by a specific competitor, became extremely difficult. Some bottle manufacturers attempted to label their Codd bottles by making them in unique colors, or with a specifically colored marble or bottle lip.

The diversity of Codd-style bottles and the limited time they were produced make collecting them a difficult challenge. Adding to that difficulty, young boys often broke the bottles to get the marble out.

While collecting these bottles is still economically possible, with prices for some common bottles being less than $20, purchasing a cobalt blue Codd bottle may cost upwards to several thousand dollars. Cobalt blue was generally a color reserved for bottles containing poisons, and a smart mineral water bottler would have avoided using bottles of this color. It's estimated that fewer than a thousand cobalt blue Codd bottles were produced.

Codd-style bottles were sold throughout Europe and Asia, but as bottle manufacturers became more sophisticated and standardized their products, the way was open for development of the various external stoppers and caps used in most of the world. Over time the Codd bottle, with its strangely shaped neck and eye-catching marble, became just another artifact and collector's item.

Photo credit for codd bottle, file codd3.gif: (Photo courtesy, Larry Weide)

2003


 

A uniquely designed neck with a marble sealed Codd bottles without a cap.
(Photos courtesy,
Larry Weide)

 

 

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