Collecting antique bottles from Hawaii

By Mike Polak

The history, culture and beauty of the Hawaiian Islands are intertwined with the history of the many varieties of bottles from all of them. That said, Hawaii, sometimes referred to as “The Aloha State,” didn’t become a U.S. state until 1959. Its history and culture began centuries earlier, when a 1,600-mile long fissure on the floor of the Pacific Ocean produced the Hawaiian Ridge.

antique bottles

Assortment of various bottles found in one day’s dig; the bottles are circa 1880s-1910 with a total approximate value of $1,700-$2,500.

Hawaii bottle

Rycroft – Arctic Soda Co. Ltd. – Rycroft’s Old Fashioned Ginger Beer – Honolulu, T.H., 1917, $175-$300.

Along the top of this ridge were individual protrusions of domes that over time formed the Hawaiian Islands: Hawaii (The Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai. Approximately 1,500 years ago, Polynesians from the South Pacific found the Hawaiian Islands. About 500 years later, settlers from Tahiti arrived and initiated a ruling king for each island. Social classes emerged, and the Hawaiian culture began to form.

Read more about Hawaii’s antique bottles: Blake & Brent Cousins, Bottle Hunters of Hawaii

Captain James Cook founded Oahu and Kauai on Jan. 18, 1778. He named Hawaii the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, but he met his demise in a battle with natives on Feb. 13, 1779. In 1810 King Kamehameha I unified the Hawaiian Islands under a single rule and soon promoted trade with Europe and the United States. Hawaiian rule continued until 1893, but Western influence continued to grow, and American colonists overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom on Jan. 17, 1893. In 1898, Hawaii officially became a territory of the United States.

The importing of bottles to Hawaii dates back to 1851, when German merchant Ulrich Alting imported the first known Hawaiian embossed soda bottles. As the need intensified to satisfy the numerous ships arriving in Honolulu carrying whalers, sailors, English visitors and settlers, the need to satisfy their thirst also increased. In addition to the Alting imports, C. L. Richards & Co. began importing embossed whiskey bottles around 1878, and Geo. C. McLean started importing blob top blown sodas around 1885.

Hollister and Co bottle

Full embossed “Hollister and Co. – Honolulu – Squat Blob Soda,” approximate value $350-$450.

Hawaii antique bottle

H & H – Honolulu, 1868, $1,800-$2,500.

The continued influx of visitors and new inhabitants eventually led to the establishment of Hawaii’s first bottling companies in the early 1880s, and when Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1898, many more bottling companies came into existence.

While the islands have produced a variety of bottles, the most common and numerous were the soda bottles that have become the highlight of most Hawaiian bottle collections.

As an example, when pineapple companies became the main economy of Hawaii, each island had its own sugar and pineapple company with its own company store. During the late 1880s into the early 1900s, there were more than 44 different soda companies that manufactured Hutchinson, crown top and more than 270 variations of BIMALS (bottles hand blown into a mold) soda bottles. These many variations rank right at the top of the majority of Hawaiian bottle collections.

During the most productive years, Hawaii’s four largest and most populated islands, Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, shared these 44 bottling companies, with 25 of them located on Oahu. Besides the manufacturing of soda, products also included whiskey, gin, beer, medicines and milk.

Sailors and whalers who drank their whiskey in Hawaii prior to 1898 drank from bottles manufactured for Hawaiian companies that were embossed H.I. (Hawaiian Islands) or in some cases S.I. (Sandwich Islands), which can be found on whiskey bottles dating to the late 1850s. After Hawaii became a U.S. Territory in 1898, the abbreviation H.T. (Hawaiian Territory) or T.H. (Territory of Hawaii) appeared on the bottles and was carried through statehood in 1959. The use of the initials H.I. and H.T. continued on Hawaiian BIMALS and machine-made bottles well into the 1920s and early 1930s.

More Related Posts from Antique Trader:


antique trader bottles 7th edition

New for Summer 2012: Antique Trader Bottles Identification & Price Guide, 7th Edition

New for Summer 2012:
Antique Trader Bottles Price Guide
, 7th edition
In This Bottle Collection Guide You’ll Find:

  • Over 700 full-color photos from the 19th and 20th centuries & over 50 bottle categories
  • NEW 7th edition info: black glass and hawaiian bottles, top 10 destinations for bottle collecting, and a profile on the Central Nevada Museum
  • Soda, Perfume, Barber, Beer, Flask, Avon, Bitters, Medicin, Jim Beam, and MORE bottle categories

About Michael Polak
Michael Polak is known as the “Bottle King” for good reason. With nearly 40 years in the hobby and with a personal collection of more than 3,000 bottles, Polak is a leading authority on bottle collecting in the United States. He has written more than 10 books on bottle collecting and has contributed numerous magazine and newspaper articles on the subject. He is a member of the Los Angeles Historical Bottle Club, San Diego Antique Bottle Club, Las Vegas Bottle Club and the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.

Order your copy from today!