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The Half Pint Bottle
A bottle is a rigid container with a neck that is narrower than the body. By contrast, a jar has a relatively large mouth or opening which may be as wide as the overall container. I am quite positive that is what prompted fruit jar drinkers to enjoy their moonshine with such gusto. You can pass a fruit jar, pass around your half a pint and get many laughs as the first one goes chug-a-lug.
The bottle has developed over millennia of use, with some of the earliest examples appearing in China, Phoenicia, Rome, and Crete. The glass bottle was an important development in the history of wine, because, when combined with a high-quality stopper such as a cork, it allowed long-term aging of wine.
The earliest glass bottle factories had to be extremely busy just with the making of bottles to supply the maker’s of wine, beer, and whiskey. It was all shipped in barrels before the glass industry evolved, it made life much simpler for anyone handling alcoholic beverages.
In our little town, the local liquor store was referred to as the Clinic. I would imagine some early visitors considered it the place to go when they needed medicinal treatment, an elixir for the heart as an example, to keep the heart beating smoothly. A little Brandy was often prescribed by some doctors, very popular doctors, I imagine.
Drinking whiskey was frowned upon by large parts of society in the early days. This created a more secretive clientele, almost to the point of arriving in disguise at the local clinic or pub. Some would drive from as far away as 10 miles to a different town and then enter and leave by the back door of the establishment so as not to be seen. Everyone knew their cars, not much secret sipping got done.
Years ago, more people heard about the dangers of using whiskey or strong drink, it was drilled into them all their lives. It makes you wonder if the fear of strong drink is almost as bad the consequences of using it. Becoming secretive or fearful created a large demand for half pint bottles, nobody was going to order a quart of whiskey and carry it out of the store in a brown paper bag. You couldn’t get a quart in your pocket. I never thought of it before, but a large pair of bib overalls might be a handy way to get your whiskey from the clinic to the car. The half pint bottle became very popular and it made a whole lot more profit for the liquor industry.
The half pint bottle made its way into restaurants, movie theaters, buses, trains, planes, and automobiles, churches maybe. Spiking someone’s pop or coffee was popular, beer Boilermakers were for the hard working, bad dudes. Unwind fast alright! Half pints found their way into dance halls where someone might even have a Nip while dancing, head turned sideways of course. Often times fist fights broke out at the dance with half pints still in pockets, that can create a very dangerous situation.
I recall my uncle staying at our house while on Army Furlough in 1946. He came home one night with a black eye but had worse injuries. A half pint bottle in his back pocket became broken in a scuffle he had at the dance. I was only about five years old but I recall my mother spending hours with the old kerosene lamp and a pair of tweezers pulling glass slivers out of his rear. That night did not end well, on second thought, I guess it did end fairly well for my uncle, most all of the glass slivers were finally removed. A flask would have been much better than a bottle.