Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!

Collectible sprinkler bottles, Part 1


Are you old enough to remember sprinkler bottles? They were a staple of home ironing before the advent of the steam iron. On ironing day clothes were sprinkled, rolled up and placed in the refrigerator so they wouldn’t dry out or sour. The sprinkler was also handy for quick ironing touch ups.

Dampening fabric prior to ironing helped to release wrinkles and a glass soda bottle with a cork sprinkler inserted worked just fine; but housewives desired more decorative sprinklers. Manufacturers obliged by creating bottles of plastic, ceramic and glass in a myriad of sizes, shapes and colors.

Although the era of the sprinkler bottle has passed, the interest in collecting them is ever growing. Quality, condition, rarity and aesthetic appeal drive the market. Today vintage sprinkler bottles from the 1940s and 1950s are highly prized and the hunt is on to find examples free of damage and with minimal age related crazing.

I hadn’t really considered collecting sprinkler bottles until attending the 2011 PITCA Convention and discovering some for sale. There I bought my first sprinkler, the turquoise Clothespin … the beginning of a collection that now numbers over a dozen.

My bottles vary in height from 6” to 9” tall. Most are ceramic, but I do have a few plastic examples. All bottles are originals with the exception of one: a well-done modern ceramic replica of the 1950s California Cleminsons Fireman created in 2011 and signed by S. (Sammie) Roberts of Fresno, California. Considering an original Cleminsons Fireman (if you can find one) sells for over $1500, I’m very happy with my reproduction!

Reference books and articles are few. The second edition of Collectibles for the Kitchen, Bath & Beyond by Krause Publications (softbound, 2nd Edition, 2001) contains an informative 22-page illustrated chapter detailing the most collectible ceramic, plastic and glass sprinkler bottles.

And two magazines also have good articles; I found my copies on eBay.

● American Country Collectibles, Summer 1994, “Damp It!” by Carol & Jimmy Walker
● Collectibles Flea Market Finds, Fall 1996, “Figural Sprinkler Bottles” by Cathy Cook

So keep an eye out for these vintage treasures. Good luck and happy collecting!

PS: Check out my other two blog posts on sprinklers:
Collectible sprinkler bottles, Part 2
Plastic sprinkler bottles, Part 1: Minerware

Update 2/12/23

Question: I am trying to get some information about this bottle. The bottom is marked with what looks like a 4. The sprinkler top is plastic with cork. Thanks for any quick bits of information you have. Margie Breslin

Answer: The imprint on your vintage bottle is actually the number 104. This sprinkler design appears on p.115 of Collectibles for Kitchen, Bath & Beyond, 2nd Edition. The caption reads: “All these handmade Oriental men were made from mold # 104 of an unknown company, 7 3/4 inches. Complexity of design affects value.”

There were many variations in how the mold was painted. I don’t know if all were sold by companies or whether mold 104 was available for individual painting and firing.

As for the sprinkler top, the oldest vintage tops were metal with an imprinted patent number. Later models were made of metal, bakelite or plastic. The fitting itself could be of metal, rubber, plastic or cork.

PS: The 1960s “Mother In The Kitchen” and “Dearie Is Weary” bottles, both by Enesco, featured ceramic sprinkler tops in the shape of heads.


This entry was posted on February 2, 2016 by in Go-Withs, References for Collectors, Sprinkler Bottles, Update and tagged , , .

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