One of the most famous shapes in the world is the iconic contour fluted lines of the
How did the bottle become so iconic?
It began with the desire to protect brand
In 1899, two Chattanooga lawyers, Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas, traveled to Atlanta to negotiate the rights to bottle
The contract the two signed was a geographic one and The
The bottles used in those days were simple straight-sided bottles that were typically brown or clear. The
By 1912, The
“We are not building
On April 26, 1915, the Trustees of the
In Terre Haute, Indiana, the Root Glass Company received the brief and had a meeting to begin to work on their design. The Root team was composed of C.J and William Root, Alexander Samuelson, Earl Dean and Clyde Edwards. Samuelsson, a Swedish immigrant who was the shop foreman, sent Dean and Edwards to the local library to research design possibilities. When the team came across an illustration of cocoa pod that had an elongated shape and distinct ribs, they had their shape. The team developed the bottle idea and Dean carefully sketched the now recognisable shape on heavy linen paper and under Samuelsson’s direction, a few sample bottles were struck.
The Root Glass Company put forth a patent registration under Samuelsson’s name which was granted on November, 16th, 1915. That date was later incorporated into the lettering on the final design of the bottle. It is interesting to note that the patent submission was made without the signature embossed
In early 1916, a committee composed of bottlers and Company officials met to choose the bottle design. The Root version was the clear winner and The
Even though the bottle had gone into production in early 1916, not all bottlers immediately jumped to change out their glass stock. For many bottlers, the glass bottles were the most expensive portion of their business and they needed to be convinced to make the change. The company began to do that with national advertising featuring the exclusive bottle. The first national calendar featuring the bottle appeared in 1918 and by 1920, most of the bottlers were using the distinctive bottle.
In 1923, the patent for the bottle was renewed. It was the custom of the patent office to issues the patent on the Tuesday of each week. For the 1923 patent, that Tuesday just happened to fall on December 25! As the new patent was issued, the date on the side of the bottle was changed to December 25th, 1923 and the bottle was quickly nicknamed the “Christmas Bottle.” Patents expire after 14 years (the bottle patent was renewed again in 1937,) by 1951, all patents on the shape had expired. The company approached the Patent Office that the bottles shape, “distinctively shaped contour,” was so well known that it should be granted Trademark status. While it was highly unusual for a commercial package to be granted that status, on April 12th, 1961, the
Now you know why the bottle happened, so how has it permeated culture over the years?
The Coke bottle has been called many things over the years. One of the more interesting of the nicknames is the “hobbleskirt” bottle. The hobbleskirt was a fashion trend during the 1910s where the skirt had a very tapered look and was so narrow below the knees that it “hobbled” the wearer. The bottle was also called the “Mae West” bottle after the actress’s famous curvaceous figure. The first reference to the bottle as a “contour” occurred in a 1925 French Magazine, La Monde, which described the
One of the interesting notes about the shape is that while it is almost universally recognised, the form has evolved over the years. Just as the original patent from 1915 was a slightly fatter shape than the bottle that went into production, todays aluminum bottle is a 22nd century update of the classic design. When King and Family sized packaging were introduced in 1955, Raymond Loewy was part of the team that worked to recast the bottle but still keep the proper proportions. The Company took advantage of this classic shape on the cover of the 1996 Annual Report when we placed a silhouette of the bottle with the caption, “Quick, Name a Soft Drink.”
While Andy Warhol is the artist most known for using the Coke bottle in art, the first popular artist to incorporate the bottle in a painting was Salvadore Dali, who included a bottle in his 1943 work, Poetry in America. Later artist like Sir Eduardo Paolozzi also used the form in the late 1940s. Robert Rauchenberg included
What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see
Today, as we celebrate 100 years of the patent of the famous contour shaped
Ted Ryan is director of heritage communications at The
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