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The Ina Isings Prize for historical utility glass 


 The Historical Utility Glass Foundation ( aims at a fresh stream of articles on historical glass by stimulating glass collectors, antique dealers,  museum curators and co-workers of universities to set their opinions and knowledge on paper. The Foundation is the custodian of a fund from which the biennial Ina Isings prize of  € 1000, - will be awarded to the author that submits the best article.

Prof. Dr. Ina Isings, emeritus professor of the Archaeological Institute of the Utrecht University and curator of the archaeological collection of the Provincial Society of Art and Sciences in Utrecht has been kind enough to give her name to this award.

 The judgement will be at the discretion of a jury whose members have earned their reputation in the field of the history of glass.

 At a symposium on historical utility glass on November 12, 2016 in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands the first prize was awarded to an article ' Oddity or ordinary ' about an exceptional collection of glass in two cesspools on the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam.

 The members of the board and the jury wholeheartedly invite you to take part in this contest and they look forward with great anticipation to your contributions. The submission deadline for the second round of the Isings prize will run until the end of 2017. The prize will be awarded at a symposium in the autumn of 2018.

 Specifications for the articles:

·        Written in Dutch, German or in English

·        Well illustrated, with a maximum of 3500 words

·        Not previously published

·        Scientifically sound but understandable for an interested outsider


·        Submitted as WORD document with illustrations in JPG

·        By entry one agrees with the publication of her/his article under the sponsorship of the Historical Utility Glass Foundation.

·        For more information about the Foundation:


Correspondence, information and entry:


-The Committee
-The Magazine
-The Library
-Club activities
-Erven Lucas Bols
-Dutch army sealed medicine bottles

In June 1979, the Dutch bottle collectors’ club “De Oude Flesch” [=Ye olde bottle] was established at a gathering in the BOLS Museum at Nieuw-Vennep, Netherlands. At that gathering were 16 members. Now the club has some 190 members, including several from countries throughout the world. But mainly Germany and Belgium.

The Committee of “De Oude Flesch” consists of:

Willem van Traa, president                                
John Poot,  secretary                                         
Klaas Prins, vice president and treasurer      
Ton Vermeulen,  2nd secretary and P.R.         


The magazine of “De Oude Flesch” is published every three months in Dutch and contains many interesting articles.

The Glashistorisch Magazine is looking for correspondents!

The world of ancient and antique glass in Europe is not that great, but a lot does happen there. There are Museum exhibitions and selling exhibitions at antique dealers, international and national meetings take place, new books, museum catalogues and other publications appear in a number of magazines. In addition very often we see interesting glass at auctions, as Fischer in Heilbronn, Bonham's in London and the many smaller auction houses spread across many countries.

Obviously, for a quarterly magazine news is hard to follow. Sometimes we are informed in advance so we can just squeeze the news in. But mostly we find out too late and we can only inform of what has already been.
However, we want to inform our readers as extensive as possible of what is going on and what is to come. Therefore we are looking for correspondents, people living in the world of old and antique glass and willing to inform us about interesting current glass related events. No long stories are required, usually a short notice is enough about what is going to happen in museums, associations, fairs and auctions is. But we welcome also a personal account of a meeting, or a review of a book that did catch you. As long as it is informative for our readers who are interested in the history of old and antique glass. And if it is possible, we also like to see a few pictures.

The editors will edit all texts, shorten, add, search for missing photos and put all texts in our magazine under the new heading ' The correspondent '. And of course, longer articles are also very welcome.                                                                                                                 


Coos van Deursen, Johan Soetens, Willem van Traa


“De Oude Flesch” also has an extensive library where members can borrow books.

You can consult the catalogue which contains not only Dutch books but also several in English, German and French. The catalogue is updated regularly with new accessions.




                     ERVEN LUCAS BOLS     by:                           

              Peter Vermeulen  R. van Valkenburgstr. 11   5371 ED Ravenstein   Netherlands


A. Preface

Hollands' biggest distiller at the moment is the well known ERVEN LUCAS BOLS.
It also one of the eldest still existing companies overall in the country. However there is no hard historical evidence for it should have start in 1575. The first time the distillers name shows up is in 1634 as in Amsterdam town papers the distiller Pieter Jacobszoon Bols is mentioned, established in "'t Lootsje" (= the little shed) at the Rozengracht.
The (deceased) conservator of the BOLS Museum, Mr Lodewijk van St Maartensdijk, did an investigation to the origin of the name "BOLS". He discovered it was an old Belgian family name from the neighbourhood of Antwerp. In old Flemish language Bols or Buls means bird arrow. So till nowadays the symbol of the Bols company is composed of two crossed arrows and the Latin words "Semper Idem" (= always the same).
The same quality through the centuries.
In the 16th century part of the Bols family moved from Belgium to the village of Brauweiler in Germany and they settled themselves as distillers.
Probably because this part of the family turned their religion from Catholicism into Protestantism. They had to flight for the Spanish Inquisition during the Eighty Years War between Holland and Spain (1568-1648).
From Brauweiler a member of this Bols family moved to Amsterdam. So however there is no proof, it is quite possible that he already started with a distillery in the year 1575.
The name of the company "LUCAS BOLS" was given by a descendant to the fifth generation of the family Lucas Bols. Even nowadays the Belgian Bols families are Catholics and the German and Dutch brands are Protestants.

B. The start

Because of its open fires it was too risky building a distillery inside the City. So the distillery " 't Lootsje" had to be built at the Plempen­pad (the post way to Haarlem), just outside Amsterdam City.
In 1612 as a result of the third extension of Amsterdam the distillery became situated within the town walls. 
The small water along the Plempenpad was dug out into a town canal ("gracht" in Dutch) and because of the rose-growe­ries in this neighbourhood is was called the Rozengracht.
In the same year the wooden shed had to be replaced by a brick stone building.
In 1889 the Rozengracht was filled up in spite of all the Bols protests.
Till 1969 Bols was established at the Rozengracht, but because of the lack of space in that year the company moved to the village of Nieuw-Vennep in the middle of the former Haarlemmermeer (Lake Harlem), drained into a polder in 1852.The first two centuries Bols was a so called "fine distillery". The firm only produced fine liqueurs from seeds and fruits. Dutch trading ships - than sailing all over the world - brought in exotic seeds and fruits. It inspired Bols making a range of new liqueurs.
Very popular for instance were Anisette (anise from France), Kummel (caraway from Germany), Orange bitters (oranges from Spain), Laurel liqueur (from Greece), Apricot liqueur (apricot stones from France), Radix Angelicae (Angel roots) from Swiss, Maras­quino (cherries from Macedonia) and from the the East- and West Indies products as myrre, cacao beans and Curaçao apples.  
Bols dissociates itself from a "common people's drink" like geneva, the so called "liqueur de canaille". It was only at the end of the 18th century that Bols started producing geneva under the name of "coren­wyn". However a lot of Bols liqueurs were exported overseas, the main source of income was selling those liquids to the rich Amsterdam merchants. In their big gentleman's houses along the canals, their country seats like castles along the river Vecht and in their famous round tea houses they consumed tremendous lots of liqueurs. The Bols family came to a great welfare .
Hermanus Bols (third generation, director since 1719) for instance possessed several big gracht houses, an extended country seat "Frankendael" in the neighbourhood village Watergraafsmeer, three expensive country houses along the Vecht and a top collection of valuable coins.
But in 1725 he lost when his masterdistiller deserted to his greatest competitor "WYNAND FOCKINK AMSTERDAM" taking all the secret recipes of the company with him. 
After this incident the Bols distillery was getting worse gradually.
Hermanus' grandson Lucas Bols hardly mind with the company's affairs. He spend most of his days at his country-seat at the river Vecht. His foreman was running the business. After Lucas' death in 1774 his widow, Sara Sophia, tried to breath new life into the distillery. But she hadn't a lot of success.
She died in 1799. Her oldest son Herman was drinking so much of the own products, that he wasn't capable to manage the company. He was put in ward and send to the strong Calvinistic town of Kampen. Her other son Lucas Bols II studied jura and wasn't interested in taking over the company. Till Hermans death in 1813 the masterdistiller Kobus and three labourers kept the distillery alive. But as I did write in some other articles on Dutch geneva the Napoleonic times (the Continental Blockade) were very though for the Dutch distillers. It seemed nobody would purchase the distillery from the "ERVEN LUCAS BOLS" (= the heirs of Lucas Bols).

C. The second youth

But after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 suddenly a Rotterdam financial bookkeeper Gabriël Theodorus van 't Wout was prepared to put his savings in the nearly bankrupt firm. In fact he saved the Bols distillery.  After discovering the facts of mismanagement and fraude he fired Kobus and his assistants and started again. He bought out the master distiller from competitor "WYNAND FOCKINK", Johannes Gunther, and reorganised the whole administration and the production of the company.
Already in 1820 there were stated at the Bols Price List over 300 different liqueurs, bitters, elixirs and geneva's. Some of them have never been produced, they were only at the list to outwit "Wynand Fockink", which company had "only" 200 hundred titles at his list!                                    

There were 5 categories of liquors:

1. "Exquise liqueurs" as Anisette, Crême d'Oranges, Fines de Portugal, Parfait d'Amour, Rose without Thorns, White Curaçao.

2. "Fine Doubled Liqueurs" as Doubled Pommeranz, Crême Virgi­nal, Domini Alberti, Eau de ma Tante, The Longer the Sweeter, Quarter for Five, William Ist.

3. "Best or Rinsche Liqueurs" as Breast Water, Fart Water. Colic Water, Rheinish Stomach Bitters, Bitter Suffering Com­fort.

4. "Ships Liqueurs" as White Peels, Golden Waters.

5. "Common Liqueurs" as "Birthgiving Anise", "Cloves Waters" and at the very last place:  .....Geneva.

So our national drink was still remaining at the bottom of the Bols philosophy.    

Van 't Wout had acquired the exclu­sive rights for using the names of "'t LOOTSJE" and "ERVEN LUCAS BOLS" and he sold his products only under these names.
Although Van 't Wout was only six years  managing the distillery, he succeeded to make from Bols a profit making company. In 1822 after a heavy quarrel with his financial companion Temminck, he stopped with his work in the Bols company and since than he stayed as a renter in Brussels, Antwerp and Paris. In 1842 he wrote a famous manuscript titled:

"Distillateurs- en Liqueurbereiders Handboek door een oude patroon van 't Lootsje" (Distillers and Liqueur makers Handbook by an old patron of "The Little Shed").
In four foliates of 1700 pages (!) he is describing everything one has to know starting a distillery. This valuable manuscript is nowadays in the Bols archives.
Van 't Wout was succeeded by Coenraad Adriaan Temminck. Later Georg Frederik Berkenkamp was in charge. But the this period is rather obscure.

 D. The third youth

In 1868 the Bols company was taken over  by the "MOLTZER" family, wine merchants from the village of Vreeswijk in the Province of Utrecht. Under the leadership of Christiaan ("Chris") Nicolaas Moltzer the Amsterdam distillery was rebuilt into a steam distillery and tasting houses were started in Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and Montreux; built according to an exclusive design from Hollands' most famous architect at those days, Berlage. The first shop was star­ted in Scheveningen near the Hague.
A second distillery was opened in the German town of Emmerich, just over the Dutch border.
In 1892 the firm was transformed into a limited liability company. Bols started campaigns all over the world using well known poets, designers, cartoonists and painters for their advertising products, as paintings; Delft Blue jugs, plates and farmers and glass pictorials (animals, far­mers, mills) filled with liqueurs. Even in that time this stuff was eager collected!
Bols introduced his product with great success to nearly all European Kings houses and they appointed the company to Royal Warrants. Following their masters especially the corps diplomatique and the officer clubs were demanding for Bols liqueurs and geneva.       
Bols started giving fancy presents to first class passengers at the great steam ships (later also at the air-planes). It is obvious Bols aimed with his products on the better classes of the society.
After W.W.I the new Moltzer generation took over: Chris Jr and Jan Hendrik.
New BOLS distilleries were started in France (1921), Poland (1922), Switserland (1929), Canada (1932), South-Africa (1933 ), Belgium (1934), Argentina (1935) and Spain (1935).
But one year later the distillery in Bilbao was already completely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War.
During W.W.II Bols kept producing and also sold geneva to the German troops. After the death of Chris (1945) and Jan Hendrik Moltzer (1951) two of Chris' grandsons Piet and Chris Hart-Nibbrig took over the management.
In this period Bols took over a bunch of other distilleries. In the first place "Wynand Fockink", the biggest competitor since 1679! A.o. "Bootz", "Hartevelt", "Wed.Oud", "Simon Pijper", "Blankenheym & Nolet", "Bokma", "Hoppe" and the mighty "Henkes" company.
Bols first refused making cheap molasses geneva (the so called "young geneva"), but after nearly all Dutch distilleries had started a molasses (from sugar roots) line in their factories, they couldn't stay back and in 1954 the first young geneva was produced and sold in a slightly pinch waisted bottle under the name of "Claerijn".
In 1970 Bols moved from Amsterdam to Nieuw-Vennep and after opening the new building Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands  conferred the company the title of Royal Bols!

E. The end of independancy

But the consumption of geneva sunk desperately in the 1970's and "Heineken", the beer giant, purchased 50% of the Bols shares. But the combination was not that succesful and nowadays Bols is part of the "Wessanen" food and drinks concern.  

Like "Henkes" (stork), "De Kuyper" (anchor), "Bols" always have been using the same symbol (crossed arrows) for selling their liqueurs and geneva. Even for foreign markets they didn't change this symbol.

F.Bottles, jugs and labels

Stoneware jugs
Till  ± 1850 Bols didn't bottle their liqueurs in their "own" jugs or bottles. Local customers were bringing their containers to the factory, mainly German mine­ral water jugs.
For selling outside Amsterdam van 't Wout purchased German stoneware jugs from German traders, which were travelling through Holland with horse wagons stored with empty jugs.
A small piece of paper was attached to the jug f.i. with the letters "Fabriek 't Lootsje Koliekwater" (Plant the Little Shed Colic Waters).
In the mid of the 19th century water-companies were started in the Netherlands. This cased a sharp decline in the consumption of German mineral waters. And the need to stoneware jugs diminished strongly.
So from 1854 Bols ordered his own stoneware jugs directly from Germany. And till today they still ordering their stoneware jugs from the same pottery! The Bols jugs became so well known over the world, that sometimes (f.i. in Australia) the name of the jug was called a "Bols", although many other companies were using stoneware jugs for the transport of their geneva.
The jugs contained 1.21lt (= 1 so-called "mingel"), 1 lt, 0.85 lt, 0.60 lt and 0.50 lt.
By the way: during W.W.I the import from stoneware jugs from Germany was of course impossible.
After this war Bols needed a enormous lot of jugs within a short time. The German pottery could deliver, but .... without handle. As the production of jugs was automatically since 1879, the handmade handle became relatively expensive and time consu­ming. Bols agreed and because the lack of the handle didn't influence the sales, it never returned at the stoneware geneva jugs. Only the mini advertising and sample jugs were sometimes handled after 1918.
And just as some other distilleries, like "E.Kider­len","M.Pollen & Zoon","J. van der Valk" did in that time, also handled glass jugs (equally shaped as the stones) were used for selling geneva.

Glass containers
Of course Bols was also using other glass vessels for the transport of its products. For the liqueurs green cylindrical bottles with a long neck made by the glass hut of "Wed.Thyssens & Zoon" and for the export of geneva (mainly to the Dutch colonies in East- and West-Indies) the well known "kelderflessen" (case gins). About 1820 the liqueur bottles contained 0.86lt (45 bottles in a so called "anker") or 0.43 lt (90 bottles in an "anker"). The case gins contained 1.21 lt (= 1 so called "mingel") or 1.82 lt (= 1½ "mingel"). It is very remarkable that in my collection of case gins (± 350 items) there is only one embossed "BOLS" bottle. From a sealed "BOLS" case gin I even never have heard!
Other Amsterdam distillers were using glass demi-johns for the transport to shops and public houses. Bols however was using big stoneware jugs (from 1 till 6 "stopen"; 1 stoop is ± 2½ lt) for that purpose.
In 1837 "Wynand Fockink Amsterdam" started using in Rickett's mould blown bottles with its name embossed in the bottom. Bols followed some years later, but in modest quantities.
So for a collector it is much easier finding a Rickett's moulded "Wynand Fockink" than a "Bols" bottle. In the second half of the 19th century the contents of the liqueur bottles changed from typical Dutch standards to international standards from that time: 0.85 lt and 0.425 lt. The cylindrical bottles for the better liqueurs are made from black glass now and provided with an applied seal "ERVEN LUCAS BOLS AMSTERDAM" around "'t LOOTSJE". The labels are showing the signature of Lucas Bols. The cork is sealed with deep red wax.
The more common liqueurs are packed in plain cylindrical bottles from green glass (no seal), the label is very small and shows only the name and range number of the liqueur.
The stoneware jugs and case gins are still made according to the Dutch standards.
In the beginning of the 20th century all vessels were made according the modern international standards: ½ lt, 1lt and 1½ lt for the jugs and case gins; 0.75 lt and 0.375 lt for the cylinders. The seal disappeared.
Some other type of bottles used by "Bols" were:

Zara's (only used for maraschino liqueur):
- whickered light green tall cylinder, sealed "Erven Lucas Bols Het Lootsje"; 0.30 and 0.60 lt. Second half 19th century.
- whickered yellow shaded tall cylinder (made in France);

sealed "BOLS"; 0.50 and 0.75 lt. Beginning 20th century.
Pinch waisted gins ("greepfles" in Dutch), inspired on the German Kuttrolf or Gutrolf, used for all kinds of liqueurs:
- in the second half of the 19th century provided with a sea
"Erven Lucas Bols Het Lootsje"; green or black glass; contents 0.85lt and 0.425lt; labelled.
- in the 20th century; no seal; only green glass; straighter shape; contents 0.75lt and 0.375lt; labelled.
- in the 20th century a luxury pinch waisted bottle; described as "real crystal old Dutch bottle"; clear; etched at the bottle a drawing of the little shed and at the stopper the l­e­t­t­ers "BO­LS"; contents
0.45 lt and 2 lt.
- since 1954 slightly pinch waisted; for young geneva; green glass; labelled "Claeryn"

Eight sided bottles:
- in the second half of the 19th century provided with a seal
"Erven Lucas Bols Het Lootsje"; clear glass; contents 0.85 lt and 0.425 lt; labelled "Curaçao White Dry Extra".
- in the 20th century; no seal; same label; contents ranges   from 0.125 lt till 1 lt. 

Dumpy onions:
- in the second half of the 19th century provided with a seal
"Erven Lucas Bols Het Lootsje"; dark green glass; con­tents 0.85 lt and 0.425 lt; labelled "Curaçao Brown Dry ".
-in the 20th century; no seal; but now also used for whiskey.

Fancy packings:
Since 1932 there is a range of fancy "Bols" packing filled with liqueurs.
A whole collection of glass miniature animals as elephant (kummel, cherry brandy), seal (crème de cacao), rhinoceros (apricot brandy), penguin (crème de menthe), chicken (red Curacao), owl (crème de tangerines), kangaroo (crème de cacao), pelican (parfait d'amour), dog (triple-sec), hare, seal, pig, lapwing, fish, dog, pelican, lizard and swan.
In 1935 a collection of earthenware tulips and three couples of different traditionally clothed farmers was placed on the market.

In the second half of the 19th century the Dutch distilleries started to provide their bottles with beautiful coloured labels often showing fantastic scenes.
Bols stand by his written and signature labels, warning others not to imitate their products.
But some pictorial labels are known; one with the little shed situated and one with the head of the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt.

Delft Blue jugs:
Several shapes, all provided with a beautiful Delft Blue stopper.
From 1879 till 1940 all "Bols" Delft Blue containers were made by "De Porceleyne Fles" at Delft. At the bottom a code was painted, so you can find back the designers name and the year of production.
For instance: 1879 is the letter A, 1880 B, ....1904 Z, 1905 AA .... 1940 BJ.
After 1940 cheaper earthenware instead the expensive Delft Blue porcelain was used; produced by "Zenith" at Gouda (1940-1971) and from 1971 by "Goedewaagen" at Gouda.  
This firms didn't use a code.

KLM houses.
The well­known Delft Blue "KLM" canal houses range started at the beginning of the 1950's filled with "Rynbende" geneva.
In the mid 1960's after taken over Rynbende they were filled with "Henkes" geneva and after taken over Henkes mid of the 1980's there is "Bols" geneva to be found in this nice figurals. 

In my collection are only a few Bols bottles.
Case gin; 23cm; 0,80 lt; green; tapered top; three part moul­ded; embossed "1575 BOLS AMSTERDAM"; probably made because of the 300 years jubilee in 1875; found in Suriname.
Pinch waisted bottle; 22cm; 0,50 lt; green; tapered top; blown; seal "ERVEN L. BOLS 't LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; found in Germany; ± 1880.
Stoneware handled jug; 31½ cm; 1,20 lt; inscription "ERVEN LUCAS BOLS HET LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM Lr 1,20"; still containing the original geneva; dived from the wreck of the s.s. "Tubantia" struck in 1916 by a German torpedo before the Belgium coast.
Cylindrical liqueur; 27cm; 0,75 lt; "black"; tapered top; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS 't LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; embossing at the bottom "3/4 L"; found in the Nether­lands; ± 1890.
Zara; 27cm; 0,50lt; light yellow; seal "BOLS"; two part moul­ded; at the bottom "Made in France"; found in the Netherlands; 
Zara; 29cm; 0,35 lt; clear; seal "BOLS"; label (1)
“MARASCHINO LIQUEUR ERVEN LUCAS BOLS AMSTERDAM" plus medals; ;label (2) prizes 1862-1900; found in England
Cilinder; 21½ cm; 0,20 lt; dark olive green; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS HET LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; found in Germany
Cilinder; 30cm; 0,90 lt; dark green; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS HET LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; Germany
Cilinder; 29½cm; 1,00 lt; clear; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS HET LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; Germany
Cilinder; 23½cm; 0,40 lt; dark green; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS HET LOOTSJE AMSTERDAM"; Germany
Cilinder; 29cm; 0,75 lt; clear; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS HET LOOTS­JE AMSTERDAM"; France.
Zara; 32½cm; 0,50 lt; aqua; seal "ERVEN L.BOLS 't LOOTS­JE AMSTERDAM"; 
Engeland (Kingston near London);
Square rounded bottom; 22 cm; 050 lt; aqua; embossing “ERVEN LUCAS BOLS 1575 AMSTERDAM"; Denmark;

"De lange levens van zeven Nederlandse bedrijven" by  Wim Wennekes. 1990.
"De branderijen in Holland tot het begin der negentiende eeuw"
(The Dutch distilleries till beginning of the 19th century) by P.J. Dobbelaar. 1930
Several contributions to the Quarterly Magazine of the Dutch bottle collectors club "De Oude Flesch" by
Lodewijk van Sint Maartensdijk. 1979-1995.

1. BOLS Liberation Geneva. Made in 1945 after WWII.

2. Sealed liqueur bottle.
3. Sealed pinch waisted geneva bottle.
4. Sealed Zara.
5. Embossed case gin.
6. Enamel painted glass advertising.
7. "BOLS" seal as attached to the zara's.
8. "Erven L. Bols Het Lootsje Amsterdam" seal as attached to the cylindrical and pinch waisted   bottles.

AB&GC jan'97 vol 13 no 9

Kelderfles BOLS  1875Kelderfles BOLS 1875Cachet (glaszegel) op likeurflessenDrie maten likeurflessen met cachetCachet van gelige maraschinoflesCachet van groenige maraschinofles

Twee BOLS zara's met cachetBOLS reclamekaart rond 1930



Dutch army sealed medicine bottles

Peter Vermeulen


From October 1967 till November 1970, I was living in Suriname, South America, next to Guyana.

It was there that I started collecting antique bottles.
In that time you could find them at nearly all historical places like old plantations, fortresses, the former military cordon path and along the river banks. The military cordon path was the border between the Dutch plantation region and the jungle, where Indians and Bush negroes (escaped slaves and their children) were living.
Looking seriously for thrown away empty bottles wasn’t a walkover. A good spot for instance was the back yard of an abandoned and partly overgrown plantation house. Nearly always a little stream was running there and emptied bottles were often thrown away from the balcony into the water. In the soft mud most bottles survived.
For safety reasons you had to take a big board under your arm when looking for bottles. If you got stuck in the mud, nobody was there to pull you out! But the worst things were the mosquitoes. They left the bush in mighty swarms hunting for your tasty blood.
To some extent, you could dress for that, but then you would nearly drown in your own sweat. Because the moist tropical climate was very hot. So it really was easier to let the local boys do the searching. They could earn some money this way. As it wasn’t very sensible for Europeans to drink the local water, most of the bottles (containing various substitutes) that were found, were:

- case gin bottles. Free blown, pontilled case gins are always plain. But also the later (2nd half 19th century) case gins are plain. The original labels would be long gone.

A lot of the bottles are embossed with company names like "E.KIDERLEN", "BLANKENHEYM & NOLET", "MELCHERS Wz COSMOPOLIET"

Sealed case gins are hard to find in Surinam. The most sought-after bottle is the one with a seal reading "THEODS MELCHERS SCHIEDAM" around the standing "Cosmopoliet" man.

- wine bottles like Dutch onions and mallets and later mainly Bordeaux shaped bottles without marks or letters. Curious is a tall wine bottle (33 cm) with a seal reading "L.T. PIVER" . L.T. Piver is still a famous Parisian perfumery. Did they once export their own wines?

- beer bottles, mostly of 1 litre, the so-called djogo's. Well known is the heavy black glass beer bottle embossed on the base "P&A RENDORP AMSTERDAM".

- stoneware German mineral water jugs impressed with words like "BRUNNENWASSER" or "MINERALWASSER" and places like Trier, Nassau, Ems, Bad Pyrmont etc.

In the old town of Paramaribo (the capital), you can still find various small bottles, often used for perfume and cologne, along the borders of the Surinam River or in spots where somebody is digging a hole. The perfume and cologne was most probably used to overcome the strong smell of sweat in former days.

But my personal favourite of the small bottles was the medicine bottle, bearing a seal with the word "RYKSEIGENDOM".


This is cylinder-shaped bottle, for the package of fluid medicines used by military dispensaries and hospitals. Not much is known about these bottles. Some authors, like Soetens and Klein, are estimating the oldest Rykseigendom bottles as 18th century.
The seals reading "RYKSEIGENDOM" were introduced after 1814. That year was the start of "Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden" (The Kingdom of the Netherlands) with King Willem I as the monarch. The word "Rijk" (state) was then introduced.
The bottle was made in several colours of glass (green, black, amber, yellow and aqua). The measurement varies from 0,05 lt to 5 lt. The older bottles (till about 1850) are free blown and do have a pontil. The word on the seal could be spelled both as "RYKSEIGENDOM" and as "RIJKSEIGENDOM" ( =property of the state).
In the 20th century sometimes the word "DOMEINSEIGENDOM" (domain property) could be read in the seal.
Most of these bottles were found in Surinam. In Paramaribo, there was both a military as well a state hospital. All those tropical diseases required many different medicines.

Rykseigendom bottles can also be dug up in the Netherlands. In my collection I have 9 from Surinam, and 3 from the Netherlands: 1 from Alkmaar (military cadets’ school), 1 from Vlissingen (naval base) and one from Utrecht (military hospital).
A French equivalent is the bottle embossed "HÔPITAUX COLONIES", found in French Guyana.
Another but similar bottle is embossed "RYKSSERUMINRICHTING" (State serum institute), 12 cm; 0,20 lt.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the seal was replaced by an (slug plated) embossment reading "MILITAIRE APOTHEEK" (military dispensary).
A Belgian collector kindly gave me a zinc token with a diameter of 3 cm. One side read "MILITAIRE APOTHEEK" (military dispensary) and the reverse "RIJKSEIGENDOM" (property of the state).
There is no value imprinted on my token, but retired members from the Dutch Medical Corps told me that there were also tokens embossed with a value of 8 and 15 cents.
The booklet "Pharmaceutische penningen, plaquettes en draagtekens" [Pharmaceutical tokens, plaquettes and portage tokens] by Dr. D.A. Wittop Koning states there is also a copper variant of the token.
Also the conservator of "Het Nederlands Muntmuseum" [The Dutch Coin Museum] in Utrecht, Albert A.J. Scheffers, is drawing the same conclusions in his article "Penningen Militaire Apotheek" [Tokens of the Military Dispensary].
It is not quite clear how these tokens were used. But is very likely that the following was the procedure:
The token was introduced after the seal and embossing was left off the military medicine bottles.
According to the Dutch regulations in the barracks (bases), only the military cashier was allowed to take money and make payments.
As medicines were free for military customers, it was a problem how to get the empty bottles back? So a patient had to buy tokens (quasi money) from the cashier, so he could pay with them for the medicine bottles. After bringing back his bottles, he got back his tokens. If desired, he could exchange them at the cashier’s office for real money.
A total of 55,500 tokens was made from ca 1950 till 1956.
The ‘quasi money’ system was used till 1963.
A famous painter from the city of Arnhem is called Dick Ket (he was the son of a military pharmacist’s assistant). He lived from 1902-1940. On two of his self-portraits, a "Rykseigendom" bottle is also shown in his hand, see illustration.


1. Seal "RYKS-EIGENDOM *" (with underlining? and star)

2. Seal "RYKSEIGENDOM" (written in one word, no star)

3. Bottles in yellow and amber 0,25 to 2,65 lt

4. Bottles in aqua and green 0,05 to 0,40 lt

5. Aqua bottle "MILITAIRE APOTHEEK" 0,1 lt

6. Clear bottle "HÔPITAUX COLONIES" 0,06 lt.

7. Zinc coin "RIJKS-EIGENDOM" (written with ij instead of y)

8. Coin reverse "MILITAIRE APOTHEEK"

9. Self portrait of Dick Ket


"Pharmaceutische penningen, plaquettes en draagtekens" [Pharmaceutical tokens, plaquettes and portage tokens] by Dr. D.A. Wittop Koning, published Lochem, 1995

"Penningen Militaire Apotheek" [Tokens of the Military Dispensary], by Albert A.J. Scheffers, published at "Het Nederlands Muntmuseum" [The Dutch Coin Museum], Utrecht.