Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/166
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
By C. HANFOBD HENDERSON,
PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY IN THE PHILADELPHIA MANUAL TRAINING SCHOOL.
III. — THE EVOLUTION OF A GLASS BOTTLE.
TO a little sand, a little alkali, and a little limestone, add considerable heat and a still greater amount of skill, might be taken as a brief recipe for the manufacture of a glass bottle.
But to know in just what proportions to mix these several ingredients, how to produce and manage the requisite heat, and particularly how to cultivate that most essential part of the whole process, the manual dexterity which gives value to these other factors, are matters less briefly disposed of. Their consideration has made the evolution of a glass bottle a history covering several thousand years. The importance of this modest process will appear, if one is not already persuaded of it, when one recalls for an instant the multitudinous uses to which bottles are now put. It is difficult to fancy the confusion which would result were so simple an article of commerce suddenly withdrawn from the world of fact, and society called upon to manage without its service. Great would be the consternation of a host of manufacturers, and loud the outcry of a larger host of consumers.
The earlier man, it is to be remembered, had his herds always with him, his spring of water near his tent-door. He knew no tonic save the air of the desert, and few other beverages than the wine which was stored in sacks of goat's skin. To him bottles and their contents were matters of little moment. It is true that, in the storage of the one liquid which he preserved in this way, he did have to be careful not to put new wine into old bottles, but the proverb was easily recalled, and its precaution not difficult to carry out. He contented himself with his sack of skin, and found, in the projection which had once been the leg or neck of the animal, a mouth to his bottle sufficiently convenient to serve his purpose.
It was from receptacles such as this that the tired heroes of the Iliad regaled themselves, and the aged Noah partook too generously.
Even now this primitive bottle is largely used for the transportation and storage of water by the people of western Asia, and the usage seems to possess enough inertia to carry it forward several centuries further. Invading Americans may find the bottle of skin still in vogue, when their restless westward-moving activity carries them across the Pacific.
The substitution of glass bottles was effected but slowly even among the more progressive of ancient peoples. In the use of