Pilgrim Bottles

Last updated on 18 Nov 2001.

In 1848 (based on their advertising), Robert Alfred Pilgrim, then a 21 year old Englishman, established in Hamilton, Ontario, one of Canada's first pop works. Six of his seven sons joined him the mineral water trade as they became old enough to help. Two of them, Tom and Fred, established plants in Brantford (1892-1901) and Brockville (1894-1932) respectively. Fred further expanded his operations to Ottawa (Ontario) and Aylmer (Québec) in 1911 to 1915.

Older brother Charles, in company with a Mr. Headley, was engaged in the manufacture of 'pop' and other temperance drinks in Emerson, Manitoba, around 1884-1886 under the name Pilgrim & Headley. Tom later operated the soda works there between 1890 and 1892.

Pilgrims bottled their products in many of the designs available to them at the time: torpedoes, squats, splits, syphons, stone gingers, and machine made bottles. They also used various closures: wired cork, Codd's Ball Stopper, Lightning Stopper, Hutchinson Stopper, and Crown Cap. Variations in the company names and embossing, bottle styles, colours and closures types, account for over 100 different Pilgrim bottles.


What I hope to create is a listing of the different bottles that are known to exist along with figures or drawings. It's nice to know that new ones are being discovered all the time. If you know of a bottle that is not on the list, please send me a detailed description and I'll add it.

The following Pilgrim companies are detailed further below:

Reference: Information on the Hamilton Pilgrim business from Fred Spoelstra, 'The Pilgrim Story', Ontario Bottle Magazine, April 1976.

Pilgrim & Co. 1848 -1861 Hamilton, Ont.

In the early years, Robert A. Pilgrim's products were manufactured by a brewing process. Beer, ale, cider, ginger beer, and ginger wine were sold in bottles embossed with the name PILGRIM & Co.

Bottles were blown in a two-piece mould and hand finished with a blob top. Three of the earlier bottles that Pilgrim used are shown: (1) an iron pontilled, cobalt blue quart, believed to have been manufactured by the Lockport Glass Manufacturing Co. in New York, it would have contained 'flavoured beers' such as ginger, lemon or sarsaparilla; (2) a pint sized squat found in cobalt blue and aqua; and (3) an arrowneck squat found in cobalt blue, cornflower blue, lockport green and aqua.

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R.A. Pilgrim 1861 - 1881 Hamilton, Ont.

By 1862, flavoured drinks like Lemon and Sarsaparilla Sodas were added to the list of products. Pilgrim was now bottling some of his products in tapered base, squat bottles embossed with the name R.A.PILGRIM & Co. It was not until 1872 that the eagle trade mark was registered. Crude at first, the eagle trade mark was to go through several transformations on the Pilgrim bottles until 1919 when the business was acquired by Sutherland.

Shown are (1) a tapered base squat bottle in cobalt blue, turquoise, and aqua, with a bare iron pontil mark; (2) a shorter aqua version with a crude eagle or the 'Wounded Duck'; and (3) another with a larger eagle design.

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Pilgrim Bros. 1881 - 1894 Hamilton, Ont.

Around 1876, Pilgrim's sons joined their father as helpers and to learn the business. The names of four of the sons who figured directly in the business were Robert A.Jr, Edmund, Frederick, and Sidney. After R.A.'s death in 1882, the business was taken over by the sons and as a result the name PILGRIM BROS was registered.

( ) Torpedo shaped bottles were still in use during this period. ( ) The quart size blob tops reappeared and the smaller Hutchinson bottles gained popularity as soft drink bottles after their invention in 1879 in the USA. This stopper featured a spring type internal closure with a rubber gasket that sealed the bottle.

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Pilgrim Bros. & Co 1893 - 1912 Hamilton, Ont.

In 1892, the remaining Pilgrim Bros, Sid and Ed, were joined by John H. Cummer. Together they operated Pilgrim Bros & Co. In 1901, Cummer and his son Albert, duplicated the Pilgrim trade mark and virtually all the Pilgrim bottles and had their own name put on them. By 1912, Ed Pilgrim finally gave up the rest of the business to them and the Cummers took over completely.

The Codd stopper bottle was imported from England where this type of bottle was very popular. Lightning Stopper bottles were typically used for bottling ginger beer: the stone ginger beer and the quart, in dark green and aqua, are samples from this period. The invention of the crown top in the USA in 1891 saw closures gradually changing to the applied crown top: a small crown top split and a large quart in green and aqua are figured. ( Click here for image of Codd, Ginger beer and split bottles)

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Cummer & Son 1903 - 1919 Hamilton, Ont.

In 1901, John H. Cummer and his son Albert, duplicated the Pilgrim trade mark and virtually all the Pilgrim bottles and had their own name put on them. By 1912, Ed Pilgrim finally gave up the rest of the business to them and the Cummers took over completely.

The Cummer bottles are included in this list because of their similarity to the Pilgrim bottles.

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Brantford Mineral Water Co 1893 - 1901 Brantford, Ont.

Thomas M. Pilgrim, the third eldest son of R.A., operated a soda water factory out west in Emerson, Manitoba, in the 1880's. About ten years later, in 1892, he moved to Brantford, Ont. and established the Brantford Mineral Water Co. He adopted various TMP monogram trade marks for his bottles.

Of nine types of bottles discovered over the years, six are shown below. The earliest ones are the (1) aqua blob top quart and (2) the cream colored ginger beer. Both are decorated with stylized TMP monograms. The monogram was simplified in later years for the applied crown tops aqua (3) pint and (4) quart and (5) clear split bottles. The oval slug plate (6) in the aqua crown top was the last style used by the Brantford bottling plant.

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T. M. Pilgrim & Co 1901 - 1907 Hamilton, Ont.

In 1901, Tom moved back to Hamilton to establish T. M. Pilgrim & Co. It remained in operation until 1907 when he sold it to the Wentworth Mineral Water Co. His Hamilton bottles were embossed with the lion trade marks as shown on ( ) the applied crown top pint, and ( ) the bowling pin style bottles.

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Brockville Mineral Water Co 1894 - 1901 Brockville, Ont.

In 1893, Fred M. Pilgrim, left Hamilton and moved to Brockville where he established the Brockville Mineral Water Co.

Fred had his name, F.M. Pilgrim, embossed on all his bottles. A water spring trade mark was registered in 1893 for his earliest bottles. The trade mark was later replaced by the simpler design of the mineral water company name embossed in a circle ( ). Most of the bottles from this period were blob top with wired cork fasteners.

The increasing popularity of the crown top closures may have caused Fred to move his business up the street to a larger facility in 1901.

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1000 Islands Mineral Water Co 1901 - 1932 Brockville, Ont.

Fred newly expanded business was renamed the Thousand Islands Mineral Water Co. His sons Harry and Lloyd helped him until 1915. Fred managed the plant until his death in 1932.

Several groupings of embossed variations are shown:

  1. Quart sized bottles with circular embossing of '1000 ISLAND5 MINERAL WATER CO' . Note that the last S in ISLANDS is embossed as a '5' on the light coloured bottles and the 'I' as a 'J' on the dark green bottles;
  2. Multi lined embossing on aqua and clear pints and quart;
  3. Single lined embossing of '1000 ISLANDS MINERAL WATER CO';
  4. Arched '1000 ISLANDS MINERAL WATER Co' on ABM aqua pints.The 9 oz. aqua crown top bottles were manufactured around 1910. These bottles was produced by the automatic bottle machine(ABM) invented in the USA in 1903.
  5. Two variants of clear ABM pints.These 7 oz. clear crown tops, one with a Pilgrim's Orange cap, were the last of the machine made Pilgrim bottles.

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Pilgrim Mineral Water Co, Ltd 1913 - 1920? Aylmer, Que. & Brockville, Ont.

In 1913, Fred expanded his soft drink works to Aylmer, Québec, on account of the good water that was obtainable from the springs there. Registered as Pilgrim Mineral Water Co., his son F.Lloyd managed the Aylmer works in 1915.

Machine made 9 oz. aquas and clear quart crown tops were embossed with the new company name. These bottles were used along with their Brockville counterparts at the Aylmer plant. (picture)

Labels from the Aylmer plant site show the diversity of soft drinks that Pilgrim produced: Pilgrim's Ginger Ale, Orangeade, and Super Carbonated Soda Water, Lemon and Cherry Sour, Bircho Tonic and others.

The plant closed was closed in 1916 for as yet unknown reasons.

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AQUA Aquamarine, light blue or light green colour
BIM Blown in mold ­ hand made
BIMAL Blown in mold with applied lip
BT Blob top
CT Crown top
HS Hutchinson stopper
LS Lightning stopper
(cu) Curved embossing
WCF Wire Cork Fastener

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