Of letterpress and sellotape

I’ve been puzzling over the labels on a lot of old bottles, mostly of aromatic oils, I’ve been documenting down at Chiltern.


I was assuming that because some of the bottles looked to be nineteenth century (the glass had a slightly greenish tinge, and there were inclusions in the glass) that the letterpress labels used by Rocke Tompsitt dated from the Victorian era.

However, as I found out, that’s not the case – the same labels were used by Rocke Tompsitt on their trade packaging until the 1940’s at least.

Some of the older looking bottles do have deposit stickers such as this one


Which seem only to occur on older bottles.

Clearly, some of the bottles are old and some are less so. But also note the use of sticky tape to secure the labels. There are also a number of old bottles (judging by the glass quality) that have simple typescript labels secured by sticky tape


Sticky tape was first produced in America branded as Scotch Tape by the 3M corporation in 1930. Sellotape, it’s British competitor didn’t appear until 1937, so we can say that these typescript labels date from the 1930’s, even if the bottles are older.

So, I’m guessing there was a lot of reuse and refilling of bottles, sometimes with the same contents as before, and sometimes with new and different content.

This is nicely confirmed by a large glass bottle, clearly dating from the nineteenth century with a typescript label


But which is embossed on the rear “ B. Eugene, Hairdresser, 201 Punt Road, Richmond


I was initially unable to find any evidence of a B. Eugene at 201 Punt Road, but a B. Eugene, Hairdresser and Wigmaker was advertising in the Age in the 1880’s as having premises at 96 Elizabeth Street, and a little more digging found her trading from 201 Punt Road in 1912, meaning we could tentatively date the bottle to 1900 ±20.


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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