In September 1970 a small group of people got together in the home of Dan McAdams solely because of their love of old bottles. They were men, women and teenagers, and they all wanted to meet to talk about old bottles that they had been digging up and had been collecting, some of them for several years. They decided to form a club and called themselves the Baltimore Bottle Hounds. They were committed to the following "constitution":
With this, a major organization in the bottle collecting community was born.
Through the seventies the Baltimore Bottle Hounds set up monthly meetings, and such was their success that they soon had to find larger meeting places. A library of bottle books was created, group trips taken, speakers were brought in for the meetings, dues collected, and by the end of the decade, the club boasted 52 members-a strong foundation for the many changes that were to follow.
The beginning of the 1980s saw the most significant turning point in the club's history. In 1980, following a successful bottle exhibit by club members in a local shopping center, Towson Plaza, then club President Nick Benedict stated in the club's newsletter: "We must discuss the interest of a bottle show and sale for next year." Those 14 words drastically changed the dynamics of the club and history was about to be made. On March 8, 1981, the first ever show and sale took place at the Ramada Inn (just outside Baltimore, Maryland). A total of 55 tables were rented, and there were 633 paid admissions. [For more on the show's statistics through the years go to Shows at a Glance.] The club is proud in that through all the shows, an emphasis was placed on educational displays and exhibits to help educate the public about the hobby.
In 1982 the club's name was officially changed to the Baltimore Antique Bottle Club. The purpose of the club was refined as follows:
These principles remain in effect today.
Throughout the 1980s the club and show expanded. The size of each required the moving to larger venues. The newsletter took on a more professional look. There was a great deal of emphasis on social camaraderie during the decade as trips to bottle shows and evenings at dinner theaters and parties were common.
The club celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1990. And it marked the 10th anniversary of the annual show and sale, which had gained steam through the eighties. When Mary Collins assumed the position of editor of the club's newsletter, the Baltimore Bottle Digger in October 1990 (still serving the club in that capacity), she revised the format and is, with the exception of some minor changes and additions, similar today. The Baltimore Bottle Digger is widely regarded as an informative communication tool that provides interesting bottle-related articles, announcements and comprehensive club news coverage.
One of the most significant developments during the nineties was the changing of the show's venue effective 1996 from the Maryland State Fairgrounds to the current site at the Physical Education Center, Essex Campus of the Community College of Baltimore County. This was as a result of the club's being bumped in favor of the Home and Garden Show at the Fairgrounds, which spanned more dates. Despite the change in venue, which invariably affects a show's attendance because of inevitable confusion, the show continued to be successful.
Another major development was the publication of the club's first Baltimore Bottle Book in 1998. The book, which was an idea that originated as far back as 1985 by William A. "Doc" Andersen, was a 145-page, spiral-bound compilation of 2,323 known embossed bottles manufactured in Baltimore since 1820. Descriptions of each bottle listed as well as their degree of scarcity as determined by subject matter experts within the club's membership and beyond. The book was extremely popular and sold out rapidly. A second printing was made, and that sold out quickly as well. A second edition, which updated the first, was published in 2002, and it, too sold out. Doc was the editor of both editions, and his wife Barbara Andersen designed the beautiful covers. A second printing is underway. For information on ordering a copy, go to the Baltimore Bottle Book page.
The club also joined the Internet age when Reggie Lynch, a North Carolina collector and dealer offered to maintain web pages for bottle clubs as part of his comprehensive web site, Antique Bottle Collectors Haven, www.antiquebottles.com . That is where the Baltimore Antique Bottle Club's first web page was located.
The new millennium brought in some more changes to the club. In September 2000 the club celebrated its 30th anniversary with an enjoyable 70s theme party (to coincide with the club's being formed in 1970) including period attire, music, games, special refreshments and prizes. New features were added to the newsletter, the use of the Internet has become an integral part of the show's promotion strategy. More and more bottles are brought to the meetings, a showcase of an individual's collection is featured monthly, and interesting programs continue to take place drawing large crowds.
Through the years, club members unselfishly shared their homes to host club picnics. The club generously provides financial support to non-profit organizations that are related to the hobby of bottle collecting or support it. In addition, the club offers scholarships to students at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland. The Baltimore Antique Bottle Club has also been long-time supporters of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and the National Bottle Museum.
The club had seen the passing of many of its older and, sometimes tragically, our younger members through its history. Most of our founding members are now gone leaving a legacy of which, we believe, they would be proud.
Presidents of the Baltimore Antique Bottle Club
Distinguished Service Award Recipients