Frederic R. H. Thomas Internal Ball Valve Bottle

U.S. Patent Numbers: 551,102           Patented: December 10, 1895

Frederic R. H. Thomas’ patent application was filed March 18, 1892 and specified:

I, Frederic R. H. Thomas…of Catskill…New York, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Internal-Ball-Valve Bottles, of which…

My improvement relates to bottles having, interiorly, ball-valves closing against seats in the neck of the bottle by the outward pressure of the gas contained in the bottled liquid – such as the carbonic-acid gas of ordinary “soda-water,” so called, ginger-ale, &c.  In relation to the ball-valves used such bottles may be divided in two classes – those having heavy or sinking valves and those having light or floating valves.  In order to prevent the valve of the former class from rolling to its seat and shutting off the flow when pouring out the liquid, the bottles are provided in the neck or in the side near to the bottom with pockets formed in the molding, to receive and retain the ball-valve while emptying.  Beside the inconvenience of manipulating the bottle so that the ball will reach and lodge into one of the said pockets, the pockets gather dirt and gum, which not only causes the ball to stick there when not wanted, but makes cleaning difficult and tedious.  Moreover, the location of the valve-seat too far below the mouth of the bottle makes the valve inconvenient of access in opening and the long, narrow cylindrical, or too slightly conical neck makes it necessary to use special means, beside the fingers, to push the ball so far down as to prevent its being pushed back toward the seat by the outward rush of the liquid impelled by the gas-pressure.

In bottles having floating ball-valves and improved by having no pockets another objection exists – namely, that the very light ball jumps back to its seat time and again when opening, thereby causing the gas-charged liquid to spatter over the person who opens it, and sometimes it lodges on the foam and is slow to recede from the neck even though the bottle be inverted.  Again at times when after emptying a small portion of the liquid remains, the sweet or gummy ingredients therein will cause the light ball to adhere to the inner surface of the bottle so hard as to impede considerably the process of washing. 

The usual length of the necks of bottles of both classes makes them all very liable to be broken.  In those having sinking ball-valves and pockets at the bottom the bottle must be held upright until the ball has lodged in the said resting-place.  In the meantime the liquid foams out of the bottle without getting into the drinking-glass and is wasted.  If the bottle is inclined before the ball has thus lodged, the ball immediately rolls into the neck and stops the flow of the liquid.  The valve-seat of the ring in the bottle-neck, as heretofore constructed, has unnecessarily large surface, requiring proportionately too high pressure to tighten the valve and requiring larger depression to remove it from its seat in opening.

In order to obviate the aforesaid objections, my improvement comprises a bottle whose breast forms a square shoulder at the junction of the body and neck, of a depth not less than the semi-diameter of the ball, to form a retaining-ledge, a very short downwardly abruptly flaring or widening neck, narrowest at its upper end, where it meets the square cut groove, and of a length substantially the same as its width at the said narrowest point, as shown in the drawings, and a valve-ring seated in a groove so as to project therefrom, presenting a sharp edge for contact with the valve and located so near to the mouth of the bottle as to bring the ball within, say, one-fourth of one inch below the same, and thus easily accessible to be depressed by the thumb to drop from its seat when desired to empty the bottle…

Figure 1 represents a bottle embodying my improvements and in upright position with valve closed.  Fig. 2 shows the same inverted and with valve open as when just emptied…

In opening the valve drops instantly, there being plenty of space between the valve and the inner surface of the neck for the liquid to pass without carrying the valve with it, and the contents are never spattered.  The extra shortness of the neck saves breakage and the bottle is much easier cleaned than bottles heretofore used for gaseous beverages…After filling the bottle the ball will take its seat upon the ring D quickly, thereby saving largely in gas, gas-water, flavor, &c., otherwise spilled and wasted.  The valve-seat is formed by a rubber ring D, inserted in a groove in the bottle-neck, as usual, but the seat proper is not beveled, the hole in the ring being cylindrical, as in Fig. 1, or tapering inward, as in Fig. 2, in either case leaving a sharp corner or annular edge d to receive and seat the ball-valve.  The ball is of the heavy or sinking kind.


This interesting patent is included in this overview because Thomas’ specifications detail many of the challenges bottlers and customers experienced with both heavy and light ball-stoppered bottles.  Although Thomas’ bottles are sometimes confused with Hutchinson bottles, it is quite easy to tell these styles apart; in addition to the unusually square bottle shoulders and the large, horizontal groove in the mouth, Thomas’ bottles are typically embossed: (1) THE THOMAS / PAT APPLD FOR; (2) REGISTERED / THE THASMO / PAT. APPLD. FOR; or (3) THE THOMAS / PATENTED DEC. 10, 1895.  Thomas’ stopper achieved only limited marketing success, with most examples of his bottles found in the New York and Massachusetts areas.