Historic Beer Birthday: Michael Joseph Owens

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Today is the birthday of Michael Joseph Owens (January 1, 1859–December 27, 1923). He “was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.”

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If you’ve ever opened a beer bottle, you’ve probably held something he had a hand in developing, because he made beer bottles cheap and affordable for breweries, and his company has continued to improve upon his designs. Based on his patents, in 1903 he founded the Owens Bottle Company, which in 1929 merged with the Illinois Glass Company in 1929 to become Owens-Illinois, Inc. Today, O-I is an international company with 80 plants in 23 countries, joint ventures in China, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, the United States and Vietnam, with 27,000 employees worldwide and 2,100-plus worldwide patents.

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Michael J. Owens in front of one of his bottling machines from a film shot in 1910.

Here’s a short biography of Owens:

Michael Joseph Owens was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.

Michael J. Owens was born on January 1, 1859, in Mason County, West Virginia. As a teenager, he went to work for a glass manufacturer in Newark, Ohio.

During the late 1800s, Toledo, Ohio was the site of large supplies of natural gas and high silica-content sandstone — two items necessary for glass manufacturing. Numerous companies either formed in or relocated to Toledo, including the New England Glass Company, which relocated to Toledo in 1888. This same year, the company’s owner, Edward Drummond Libbey, hired Owens.

Within a short time, Owens had become a plant manager for Libbey in Findlay, Ohio. At this point in time, glass manufacturers in the United States had to blow glass to produce the bottles. This was a slow and tedious process. Owens sought to invent a machine that could manufacture glass bottles, rather than having to rely on skilled laborers, greatly speeding up the manufacturing process. On August 2, 1904, Owens patented a machine that could automatically manufacture glass bottles. This machine could produce four bottles per second. Owens’s invention revolutionized the glass industry. His machine also caused tremendous growth in the soft drink and beer industries, as these firms now had a less expensive way of packaging their products.

In 1903, after Owens had invented his bottle machine but before he had patented the invention, Owens formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in Toledo. Libbey helped finance Owens’s company. This firm initially manufactured Owens’s bottle machine. By 1919, the firm had begun to manufacture bottles, and the company changed its name to the Owens Bottle Company. The company grew quickly, acquiring the Illinois Glass Company in 1929. The Owens Bottle Company became known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company this same year. In 1965, the company changed its name one final time. It became and remains known as Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens retired in 1919. He did not live to see his company grow into such an important manufacturer of glass. He died on December 27, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio. Over the course of his life, Owens secured forty-five patents.

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Here’s his biography from his Wikipedia page:

He was born in Mason County, West Virginia on January 1, 1859. He left school at the age of 10 to start a glassware apprenticeship at J. H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.

In 1888 he moved to Toledo, Ohio and worked for the Toledo Glass Factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He was later promoted to foreman and then to supervisor. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. His machines could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute, and reduce labor costs by 80%.

Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. In 1929 the company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

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To read more about Owens’ contributions, check out Michael Owens’ Glass Bottles Changed The World, by Scott S. Smith, Owens the Innovator at the University of Toledo, Today in Science, and the West Virginia Encyclopedia has a history of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.

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Patent No. 2818185A: Dispenser Truck Body For Beer Kegs

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Today in 1957, US Patent 2818185 A was issued, an invention of Carl F. Mickey and Lawrence E. Mickey, for their “Dispenser Truck Body For Beer Kegs.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The primary object of the present invention resides in the provision of a dispenser truck body for beer kegs to facilitate loading and unloading of beer kegs by loading and unloading from the outside by means of racks and a chain to control and release the beer kegs.

A further object of the invention resides in the provision of a truck body which is so arranged as to enable beer kegs to be placed in the truck body through a raised opening and which will permit the dispensing of the beer kegs in a convenient manner with complete control so that the beer kegs may be removed or replaced with a minimum possibility of accidents which may result in injuries to persons loading or unloading the beer kegs.

An additional object of the present invention resides in the provision of means for lowering either full or empty beer kegs whereby the empty beer kegs may be quickly lowered by means of a spring mechanism yet which includes a shock absorbing means for slowly and safely lowering full beer kegs.

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Patent No. 596366A: Stopper Fastener

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Today in 1897, US Patent 596366 A was issued, an invention of Robert S. Graham, for his “Stopper Fastener.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a new and useful improvement in devices for holding corks in bottles, the object being to utilize the expansion of the contents of a bottle as an active medium to lock the fastener in position.

The object of my invention is to provide a non-expansible fastener, which is to be inserted loosely in position on the cork in the neck of the bottle manually or by machine, as desired, after which no further manipulation thereof is required, the contents of the bottle expanding and forcing the cork outwardly and locking the fastener and the cork in place. When the fastener has been locked in place, it willy firmly hold the cork against further outward movement, and by providing a hole in the fastener a corkscrew may be inserted to remove the cork, which can easily be done, or the fastener may be first pulled out of place by the introduction of the end of a corkscrew or other instrument thereunder and the cork subsequently removed.

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Patent No. 778680A: Beer Box

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Today in 1904, US Patent 778680 A was issued, an invention of Gottlieb Klenk and Jacob F. Fink, for their “Beer Box.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Our invention relates to improvements in metal beer-boxes provided with peculiarly-arranged partitions to form compartments for the reception of the bottles and specific and minor details of construction to strengthen the structure.

The prime object of our invention is to provide a metal box with a nominal number of parts, seamed and fastened, whereby great strength and durability will result.

A further object of our invention is to construct a seam at the bottom of the box to provide a projecting flange and arrange a support at the top to receive a flange of a companion box when they are stored or packed.

\Ve also provide specific improvements in the seams at the corners of the box to resist the force of blows due to the rough handling boxes of this type are subjected to.

The invention also comprehends specific improvements of the partitions forming the bottle-compartments, as well as the particular manner of attaching them.

Furthermore, our invention relates to the specific construction of the means employed for locking the cover, the same consisting of a spring-hasp on the box and a co-acting pivoted engaging member on the cover.

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Patent No. 511600A: Bottle And Stopper Therefor

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Today in 1893, US Patent 511600 A was issued, an invention of Everett Ellis, for his “Bottle and Stopper Therefor.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in beer bottles and cork Stoppers therefor; and it consists substantially in such features thereof as will hereinafter be more particularly described.

In all manner of beer bottles heretofore employed in which cork-Stoppers are used it has been necessary always to employ a cork-screw or other implement for withdrawing the cork or stopper after the same has been forced or expanded into the bottle by any of the usual well known corking machines for the purpose. `The use of a cork-screw or other implement for extracting the cork or stopper is always attended with a great deal of trouble and inconvenience, besides wasting lots of time in many instances, and some forms of which are expensive as for instance that form of device usually applied to counters and which are designed to extract and cast away the cork by one movement of lever or handle.

The object of my invention is to provide a bottle and stopper therefor which shall enable the withdrawal of the latter from the bottle without the aid or use of any manner of cork-screw or other additional or outside device or implement whatsoever, thereby enabling beer or other similar liquids or fluids to be corked up in bottles all ready for use, and ready to be opened by a simple operation of the hand.

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Patent No. 747729A: Automatic Filling Machine

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Today in 1902, US Patent 747729 A was issued, an invention of William Koedding, for his “Automatic Filling Machine.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

My invention relates to machines for filling bottles and other receptacles with liquid, and has for its principal objects to produce a filling-machine which will operate automatically when the bottle is pressed against it in proper position to be filled, to equalize the pressure in the bottle with the pressure in the supply-pipe before the supply-pipe is opened to permit the liquid to How into the bottle, to provide for automatically stopping the flow of the liquid when the bottle is filled, and to prevent any stale liquid getting into the bottle.

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Patent No. 3628468A: Plastic Pallet With Reinforcing Members

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Today in 1971, US Patent 3628468 A was issued, an invention of John A. Angelbeck Jr., assigned to Pack Rite Packaging & Crating, for his “Plastic Pallet with Reinforcing Members.” Here’s the Abstract:

A pallet used for the storage and transporting of containers such as beer kegs and the like. The pallet is formed as a unitary plastic member in a rotational molding operation and includes a pair of spaced outer skins which are internally connected by a plurality of properly spaced webs for internal strength. The skins also have a plurality of strategically located apertures which extend through each of the skins and are formed by webs which extend between the skins. A pair of reinforcing members formed of wood, metal or the like extend longitudinally through the pallet and engage the interiorly presented surfaces of a portion of the skins. The pallet has a plurality of downwardly extending shoulders for engagement with containers on its underface and is also provided with supporting areas on its upwardly presented surface for removably supporting a plurality of like containers.

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Patent No. D533739S1: Goalie Mask Beer Dispenser

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Today in 2006, US Patent D533739 S1 was issued, an invention of Brian Miesieski, Devin Kelly, and Geoff Blanck, assigned to the Labatt Brewing Company Limited, for their “Goalie Mask Beer Dispenser.” There’s no Abstract, although this is the entire claim:

The ornamental design for a goalie mask beer dispenser, as shown and described.

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Patent No. 2917220A: Carrier For Beer Bottles

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Today in 1959, US Patent 2917220 A was issued, an invention of Raymond N. Bostock, assigned to Ballantine & Sons, for his “Carrier for Beer Bottles and the Like.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Open top cartons, that is cartons having bottom, side and end Walls, but not a top wall or cover, have been used for a number of years for the purpose of storing and transporting Various items of merchandise, including glass bottles containing beer, soft drinks or other liquids. Such cartons are usually provided with partitions that divide their interiors into compartments for receiving individual bottles to prevent the bottles from coming into direct contact with each other, thereby minimizing the possibility of breakage of the bottles in the course of handling.

Due to the weight of the merchandise and the rough handling to which loaded cartons are frequently subjected, present-day open cartons are generally constructed of heavy fibreboard. It is often necessary, in order to provide adequate strength and rigidity, to reinforce the cartons in various ways. As a consequence, such cartons are quite expensive.

container may be made of a relatively lightweight, inexpensive corrugated cardboard. The sling is preferably made of a heavy duty fibreboard, while the partition unit is made of a suitable grade and Weight of fibreboard. Fibreboard is recommended for the sling and partition unit, to provide necessary strength and to permit repeated reuse of the same, with the initial or subsequent outer containers. Also, the sling and partition unit are treated to make them waterproof, thereby protecting them from moisture and prolonging their useful life. It will be understood that the term paperboard, as used hereinafter and in the appended claims, is intended to cover various sheet materials that may be used in the mantufacture of the carrier of this invention, whether corrugated cardboard, fibreboard or other appropriate material.

The primary object of the invention is to provide a carrier for bottles or the like having improved features’ of construction.

Another object of the invention is to provide a bottle carrier having a relatively inexpensive disposable outer container.

Another object of the invention is to provide a bottle carrier having a relatively inexpensive outer container, which may be discarded when scuffed or otherwise rendered unsightly, and a relatively strong reinforced inner container, which may be reused many times with successive outer containers.

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