Thursday, November 16, 2023

The National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa, New York


The southeast corner of the Adirondack Mountains is home to many small towns with long histories, and often quirky museums. One such place is Ballston Spa, NY and its National Bottle Museum.

Ballston Spa was settled in 1771, and is about 30 miles (50 Km) north of Albany, NY. It is located near several of the natural springs that permeate the area, making it an early destination for those seeking a health cure. Ballston Spa became the county seat of Saratoga County, and was home to the first factory that produced flat bottomed paper bags. The historic center of town is lined with homes, businesses, and churches, some of which date back over 100 years, now repurposed to restaurants and antique stores. 

Ballston Spa was also the center of local glass bottle manufacturing, before it became industrialized, back when all bottles were blown by hand. The process came to the area because of the world-wide demand for the naturally carbonated mineral water from the local springs. During the middle of the 19th century, hundreds of people worked at the local bottle factory.

In 1978, the Federation of Historic Bottle Collectors (who knew?) pooled their resources and created a museum. It was placed in Ballston Spa because one of their members was the Saratoga County Clerk, and he was able to facilitate this. Now known as the National Bottle Museum, in a facility on Milton Ave, their collection surpasses 3500 historic bottles, whose ages span close to 200 years. The self-guided tour through the museum starts with a little history. First, an explanation describing how bottles are found in “privy pits”. Then a description of the early manufacturing processes.


From there, the museum offer its collections, and they are vast, especially for such a small space. Display cases and shelves are packed. One offers bottles used for mineral water, another shows beer bottles. The next one has ink jars. There are specialty bottles and mundane ones. Each part of the collection offers things that are the same and different. Repetitive and eye-opening.

Dr. Verbeck's medicine cabinet

Specialty Bottles

Depression Glass with uranium salts that glow in UV light

Mineral water bottles

Ink Bottles

Medicine bottles

The National Bottle Museum is small. In an hour, you will have seen its collection. But, it is worth a visit when you are in the Albany/Saratoga Springs area. 

1 comment:

  1. A truly unique and interesting museum to visit. Much to be learned there. But, I'm a little biased, I worked there for 20 years.