Friday, March 5, 2021



Hawaiian bottles are about as ‘western’ as possible when it comes to the U.S. Admittedly, some parts of Alaska are actually farther west but that doesn’t count when it comes to the presence and use of bottles. Hawaii’s trade and commerce was worldwide since the whaling industry was the first to put it on the global market. The proximity to California, and its commercial evolution after the gold rush, favored a strong trade between Western and Eastern hemispheres. This can be most readably witnessed today by reviewing the old Hawaiian newspapers, which contain a preponderance of advertisements for goods and services based in San Francisco.

 One Hawaiian company that took advantage of San Francisco’s manufacturing interests is familiar in the soda water bottles they used. Hollister & Company first emerged in Honolulu in the late 1860’s under the name of Hollister & Hyland – a partnership consisting of Henry R. Hollister and Philip G. Hyland. These two New Englanders first advertised their business of tobacco merchants in 1869. The earliest documentation of the firm of Hollister & Hyland was an advertisement for their company selling a variety of tobacco products, and with a small notation that “Soda Water always on hand ! In siphon or Soda Bottles.” (The Hawaiian Gazette, 25 August 1869)


This 1869 advertisement indicates that in the beginning the business interest of Hollister & and Hyland was primarily tobacco products.

 It has yet to be determined when Hollister & Hyland first ordered their embossed bottles from a San Francisco glass works but it is assumed that it was probably about 1869, when their partnership was created. Simply embossed H & H / HONOLULU, these bottles are relatively rare, and for good reason. The Hollister & Hyland partnership, which seemed to have been flourishing quite well, came to an abrupt end with the death of Philip Hyland in 1871.


An exceptional dark aqua example of the H & H soda water bottle. It would have been produced between the years of 1869 to 1871. (Collection of Randal Omon)


An article in the  Hawaiian Gazette, June 7, 1871, gives a rather detailed account of Hyland's tragic death:

 On Monday of last week, at 9 o’clock P.M., while making a passage to Hilo in the Kate Lee, Mr. G. P. Hyland, of the firm of Hollister & Hyland, Tobacconists and Soda Manufacturers, fell overboard and was drowned, when the vessel was about fifteen miles from that port.  Mr. Hyland, it seems, had been for some time suffering from ill health, and had undertaken the trip to Hilo with the hope that it might benefit him.  Capt. West, of the Kate Lee, discovered on the evening in question that Mr. Hyland was suffering from an aberration of mind, being impressed with the idea that a person on board had intentions upon his life.  Capt. West said all he could to calm his fears, assuring him that he would protect him, and used every persuasion to induce him to go into the cabin, but without effect.  The Captain, on going into the cabin temporarily, gave orders to those on deck to keep strict watch on Mr. Hyland,.  Only a few minutes had elapsed after going below, when he heard the cry of “Man overboard!” and rushing immediately upon deck he saw Mr. Hyland struggling in the water, a short distance from the vessel.  One of the crew immediately jumped overboard for the purpose of assisting the unfortunate man in keeping on the surface until a boat could be sent to his rescue.  The man was, however, unable to effect his object, owing to the fact that the drowning man struggled so violently that he could not retain his hold upon him without imminent risk of his own life, and although a boat was lowered with every dispatch, when it arrived at the spot where Mr. Hyland was last seen, it was found that he had disappeared.  It is supposed that Mr. H., who was sitting on the rail of the vessel when last seen on board, fell overboard during an epileptic fit, to attacks of which he was subject.


The rather strange reported actions of Hyland suggest he was suffering from some sort of physical or mental malady – or perhaps both. Either way it was a disastrous circumstance.

 Hyland’s partner, Henry R. Hollister, gave official notice of the dissolution of the partnership on June 8, 1871, with the actual dissolution date of May 30, 1871, the day after Hyland’s demise. Therefore, it is fairly certain that the H & H soda bottles would not have been blown after this date.


Hollister continued in the tobacco trade, along with soda water, until 1880, when he also opened a drug store as well. This would account for the numerous prescription type bottles with the name of Hollister & Co. embossed. His son-in-law, Henry A. Parmalee, was the silent partner.




One of the many old blob top Hollister & Co. bottles, of which there are several minor variants. On the earliest variant the area once carrying the "H & H" embossing is still visible. They are also found in an array of colors in a range of greens and light blue, but those colors have rarely made it to mainland collections. Note the curved leg on the letter ‘R’, a nearly sure sign the bottles were blown in San Francisco.


Just as with most bottlers of soda water, Hollister & Co., had the age old problem of diminishing supplies of their bottles. This advertisement of 1880 underscores the issue. (The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, (Honolulu, HI) July 24, 1880).


The earliest photo located showing the Hollister soda works in Honolulu.


The gravitating stopper variant of the Hollister & Co. bottle is one of the rarer of bottle styles used. (Collection of Kimo Legsay)



Hollister & Co. continued to prosper throughout the 1880’s and well into the 90’s. However, primary emphasis changed over time with the tobacconist element shifting to secondary status under the drug business. This 1884 advertisement underscores the increased importance of the drug business for Hollister & Co. It also gives some insight to the use of patent stoppered bottles, and shows various styles were being used simultaneously. The patent stoppers used by Hollister included the Mathews gravitating stopper (bottle pictured above), the Hutchinson wire stopper, and the British Codd stopper.


Hollister & Co. incorporated in 1894, thereby changing its name to the Hollister Drug Co. By any reasonable assessment, any bottles produced by the company after this date should no longer be embossed with the previous company name, using the ampersand. (The Daily Bulletin (Honolulu, HI) February 26, 1894)

 To confuse this issue somewhat, the tobacco arm of the Hollister conglomerate remained and continued under the name of Hollister & Co. until April 30, 1900 (The Hawaiian Star, Honolulu, HI, May 5, 1900). 

After a challenging, fascinating and successful life, Henry Hollister died in Honolulu, Hawaii, on May 12, 1896. Evening Bulletin (Honolulu, HI) May 12, 1896. His obituary touches upon adventures that could be located nowhere else.


I won’t even begin to tackle the myriad of mold variations of the Hollister bottles. I will leave that to the primary source of information on Hawaiian bottles by Rex Elliott and Stephen C. Gould (1988)