Hutchinson Collector Profile - Ralph Long
Posted: March 1, 2013
While we intend to profile a wide and diverse variety of active collectors, for this first installment we are reaching back in time and reprinting a profile of the late Ralph Long, an HBCA Hall of Fame Award recipient who passed away in late 1997. Ralph was an internationally known collector with over 600 picture Hutchinson bottles, a 50 state Hutchinson collection, and an extensive collection of Birmingham, Alabama-area sodas, and he is missed by all who knew him. This interview was conducted in 1984 and reprinted when Collecting Soda Pop Bottles was published in 2006:
Ralph Long and I
share a mutual admiration for
Ralph is a
I believe we can learn something about ourselves by figuring out what motivates other collectors. When I approached Ralph about devoting a chapter of this book to his soda collecting, he graciously consented to an interview. I'd now like to introduce you to my collecting friend, Ralph Long.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN COLLECTING BOTTLES?
My son found some
old canning jars in his grandmother's dump.
We searched other private dumps and met a couple in search of old
bottles. They invited us to
go on a dig with them and after digging my first Elephant Steam Bottling
Works with a picture of an elephant, I caught the fever for
I like the shapes, colors, sizes, pictures, and most of all, the very nice people I meet thru the mail and may never see. I love the difference in ideas and designs of mold makers of the same bird, animal, star, etc. Of course, there's the challenge of tracking down a certain bottle I've heard of and always a surprise bottle pops up.
I never criticize anyone's collection. I'm sure there is some personal reason behind each collection and a person has to have will power to continue as collectible items get hard to find or money gets short, the latter being my problem most of the time.
Two other reasons
have been brought to my attention.
First, during the
DESCRIBE YOUR COLLECTION – NUMBERS, COLORS, GOALS, ETC.
I guess you can say I'm
hung up on picture
I also have
I'm trying to find
unusual aqua, sun‑colored amethyst, ice blue, smoke, or straw‑colored
ones in mint condition to upgrade with as I can.
But I never condemn a worn or sick
WHAT ARE YOUR
The rarest is a
one of a kind: “FOUNTAIN & WELLS,
HOW MANY DIFFERENT
STATES HAVE PICTURE
I know of 34
states that have picture
WHICH STATES HAVE
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all have picture Hutchinson bottles.
HOW DO YOU ACQUIRE BOTTLES FOR YOUR COLLECTION?
I've dug about 25% of my collection. I also shop a few bottle shows, watch ads in bottle magazines, and acquire friends thru the mail that send me bottles I need. Mostly thru the mail now.
We dig sodas here from all over, particularly the East and Northeast. I figure the sodas were carried on passenger trains and taken off in another town or state in the trash. Or a bottling company went broke and sold the bottles to someone else. Or a glass company blew more bottles than were ordered and sold them for paper label bottles.
One never knows
where a bottle will turn up.
Some of the nicer
Some time ago I
wrote to a man that had made several digging trips into the
FUNNIEST EXPERIENCE CHASING A
I chased one for three or four months only to find out it was an amber, crown top, Certo bottle.
WHAT'S THE BEST
My son and I were digging in a local dump one night and hit a lot of cedar trees and limbs that hadn't decayed. They made it almost impossible to get thru. The only light we had was half of a clay jug stuffed full of rags and saturated with kerosene. It was getting late, raining a little, and I knew I had to work the next day, but I was eager to reach the bottom. Finally getting thru the limbs and trees I dug a Birmingham Coca‑Cola Hutchinson. My son and I kinda played jokes on each other so I slipped the bottle into my front pocket. Eager to see what condition my Coke was in, I made excuses to get out of the hole and let him have it for awhile. He was 12 years old then. Making my way thru the dark to a nearby service station I attempted to wash the Coke at an outside spigot. Before I could get it clean enough to see the condition, my son came running and screaming “Daddy, Daddy, look what I dug!” He also had a Birmingham Coca‑Cola Hutchinson. Both were in good condition for dug bottles. We dug bottles several years at night but this is the most memorable night of all.
HOW DO YOU DISPLAY YOUR COLLECTION?
I have two 10 foot
high display units in my den.
The shelves are only one bottle wide, so they take up very little
floor space. My other
shelves are in separate cases, one bottle wide with back lighting.
The 50-state collection and a few unusual ones are in one case,
and the local bottles are in the other three.
I can take a case down and carry it to a bottle show and display
DO OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS COLLECT SOMETHING? WHAT'S THEIR OPINION OF YOUR COLLECTING?
daughter, collects matchbook covers.
Nell, my wife, likes pretty bottles with decorative shapes and
colors. They’re not
necessarily antiques, but most of them are.
They can take or leave my
There are lots of ones I know about and don't have:
1. pelican – Lytton Springs, SF;
2. shaking hands – Independent
3. open song book – Jacob Fleck, Phila;
4. crossed flags – C. L. May, Balto;
5. scales – J. C. Buffum,
6. rooster – M. Menton,
7. alligator on log – Fla.
8. bulldog – Geo. Haggard,
9. crown – Booth,
10. blue ribbon – Blue Ribbon Bottling Works, Chicago;
11. shamrock –
12. cave man –
Wells Steam Bottling Wks,
13. harp – J. A.
14. wheat or straw
– Lascheid Beverages,
15. star with rosebud – C. L. Meyers, Rose Bud, TX;
16. magnolia – M. I. & L. Co., Magnolia, AR;
17. arm holding
scales – Burns & Armstrong,
and many, many more. And there are many out there I don't even know of – yet.