By Rebecca Ruger
The Codd marble bottle was born from the need to keep carbonated drinks from going ‘flat’. Originally, effervescent drinks were contained in stoneware bottles, but these allowed the gas to leak and the drink would indeed go flat. Soon, bottlers were using glass bottles but noted that the pressure from the gas within the bottle could force the cork stopper out, especially if the cork dried out.
In 1872, then 34-year old Hiram Codd of Suffolk, England solved the problem by inventing and patenting his design for a bottle that used a marble and rubber gasket to seal the beverage within. Codd was by trade a mechanical engineer, who at one time worked as a salesman for the “British and Foreign Cork Company” where he identified the need for a new type of closure, even though a successful invention would diminish the need of the very items he sold – corks. But successful he was.
“His bottle used the effervescent pressure of the mineral water itself to force a marble against a rubber washer in the upper ring of the neck of the bottle. This made for a very efficient and durable seal. (Some of these bottles have remained sealed for more than 100 years),” writes Cecil Munsey, in his 2010, Codd (Marble-In-The-Neck) Soda-Water Bottles, Then and Now!
Munsey explains that while Codd’s idea appears “brilliantly simple”, it’s actually more clever than at first glance. Codd had also considered and solved the problem of the marble getting in the way of drinking and pouring by designing a pinched neck which kept the marble from stopping the liquid when titled after opening. Also, the bottle could easily be re-sealed by shaking it vigorously and then turning it upside-down to force the marble back a closure position.
Codd also devised a bottle opener to be inserted into the bottle's neck to push the marble down to ‘open’ the drink and let the trapped gas escape. Although Codd's opener was widely used in public settings, privately most people simply used their little finger to push the marble down.
Codd's invention was so effective in England that it was implemented by nearly all the English mineral water and soda pop manufacturers of the time. He sold licenses with a yearly fee to bottle manufacturers who wished to adopt his closure method. Many imitators followed, with other inventors making minor modifications to the Codd design but keeping with the basic idea of the marble and rubber gasket, but generally any subsequent marble-in-neck bottle was simply known as a Codd marble bottle.
Earlier and original Codd bottles are prized by antique bottle collectors worldwide. Codd's patented marble stopper bottle is still manufactured in India by the Khandelwal glass works, established 1932. Additionally, Codd bottles are also mass-produced for the popular Japanese soft drink, Ramune, which was introduced in 1872 in a lemon-lime flavor and now is available in 37 different flavors.
This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine January/February 2018 issue.