Paul Huntley Schools the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors on City Dairy Toronto

Paul Huntley proudly holds his new book, City Dairy Toronto on 21 Jan 2012 after speaking to a particularly passionate group of Toronto bottle collectors.

If you’re not a bottle collector, and you don’t have a ‘collecting bug’ of any kind, then you probably wouldn’t appreciate how satisfying it is to sit and listen to somebody show off their obsession. To study something, anything for twenty years and then write a book is a lifetime accomplishment – and to speak with knowledge and authority about something they know so well, is the treasure of wisdom. Paul Huntley spoke soft words but with great authority as he held up century old milks alongside photos of the original dairies that filled them, and the horse drawn wagons that distributed them. On the 21st of January 2012, Mr Huntley put on a lovely presentation of Canadian dairy lore that was soaked up by an enlightened audience of at least twenty four people, members of the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors (FSBC) club in Toronto Ontario Canada.

The monthly FSBC meeting, the first I’ve attended in three months (I missed Terry Matz talking about his torpedo bottles before Xmas), was at their usual meeting place in the Arbor Heights Community Center in Toronto, which is on Avenue Rd at Wilson Blvd just south of the hwy 401 interchange. Follow the FSBC link above for more information on the club meetings (and then come out to one!). You know what to expect, there’s rare knowledge on display here.

Whenever I do get time to visit these folks, I’m usually the first one there. But this time I was late. Unfortunately I’d taken a nap and had slept until six pm. So I threw on my pants and rushed out the door, checking my email in the car I saw the meeting was scheduled to start at six fifteen.  As I drove up the DVP, I wondered if I should have just stayed home.. Boy am I glad I didn’t! When I pulled into the parking lot to my surprise I discovered it was full of cars. There must be another event happening inside, I reckoned. But no.. To my shock I saw the meeting room was absolutely packed.

When I walked in the door I noticed it was quiet as and everyone was listening intently to the speaker  I’d never seen so many members and many new faces crowded around the tables to hear the shy softly spoken words of Paul Huntley, a historian and Toronto City Dairy archivist. Paul is a published author and I bought his book. He was showcasing some of the highlights from City Dairy Toronto alongside the actual bottles and photographs that have been reproduced inside.

Paul Huntley must have enjoyed speaking to this assembly of passionate people, Canadian bottle collectors, veteran dumpdiggers; they’re a small and tightly focused sub culture that’s obsessed with all things made of antique glass and salt glazed stoneware. Here’s a crowd that eagerly laps up this respected historian’s words and chuckles at his inside jokes, because they truly understand his references to people and places and practices long since forgotten by the rest of society.

The book is filled with rare black and white photos showing the rise of City Dairy Toronto.
In 1903 the City Dairy had just 3% of the Toronto market and by 1915 it dominated over 40% of the market. At one point there were eight six wagons serving 25,000 homes. From its early beginnings through to its acquisition by Bordens in 1930, the City Dairy maintained its distinction of serving more homes than any other dairy in the British Empire.

You know, I can’t help wondering about all the cows – this was surely a great age for Canadian farmers as the City of Toronto would have provided a wonderful large market for their milk, grain and vegetables. I could imagine how lucrative it might be to sell fresh milk to the city everyday. But it would also be very laborious. In those days milk production was done completely by hand, and so the family farm really couldn’t manage more than twenty five milking cows at once, milking them twice a day. Paul’s book details the Massey Farms and the experimental farm as it outlines the early 1900s milk supply chain for Toronto.

City Dairy Toronto
A Yellow Wagon on Every Street

The Table of Contents
Milk Supply for the Citizens of Toronto
Walter Edward Hart Massey
Dentonia Park Experimental Farm
The Milk Commission
A Modern Production Facility
A Scientific Approach to Milk Production
Maintaining A Clean Milk Supply
The First Milk Delivery
The Milk Supply of Toronto
The Most Advanced Plant in Canada
City Dairy Leadership After Massey
Advertising of Fairy Tales
Participation at Exhibitions
A Towering Accomplishment
Milk Delivery
Milk Delivery from Horse Drawn
Ice Cream Creations
Plant Expansion
Kensington Dairy
S Price and Sons Purchase
Milk Pasteurization
Swiss Kephyr Milk
Island Delivery
Drimilk Powdered Milk
City Dairy Farms New Lowell
The Dairy Herd
Record of Employees in the Great War
Division of Bordens
Golden Crest Years
Melorol Ice Cream
Milk Fit for A King and Queen
Toronto Milk Foundation
Life as an Educational Institution


Just as I sat down and opened my notebook I heard the words ‘Thistletown dairy’ (I was reduced to writing on top of my sore leg as there was no more room at the table).  And beside that word I dashed the location Humber River / Albion and Islington. I dont know why I’m writing this here  I have no context for it. Perhaps I thought it might be an adventure destination – to find the Thistletown Dairy. Indeed that does have a ring to it.

Some dairy dates I didn’t know
1889 Capseat Indents in the mouth of a milk bottle were introduced into the Toronto market. This innovation in milk bottle production allowed cardboard caps to sit properly and better seal the glass lip of the bottle.

1915 Pasteurization became mandatory in Toronto – The city passed a municipal bylaw mandating that all dairies sell only pasteurized milk – as a result many Toronto dairies close their doors
1937 The Province of Ontario made all dairies sell pasteurized milk.

By 1929, two large dairies had taken over Toronto and most of the surrounding towns. These were Silverwoods, which was operating in the east end of the city, and Bordens which had locked up the west and was expanding south around the lake.

More things I learned from Paul Huntley,

Silkscreen milk bottles are often called ACL meaning Applied Colour Labels and the really early ones date form 1937 and 1938 . Applied colour labels were gaining popularity .re and some very collectible early ACL milk bottles are decorated with scenes from the Royal Visit to Toronto in 1939. Are there any such bottles made by City Dairy – I suspect there must be otherwise why would he bring it up? But I didnt see any.

ACL City Dairy milk bottles changed in appearance again in 1939 with the dawn of World War II. Some Applied Colour Labels (ACL) carried scenes of ships, tanks, planes and little boys watching them.? no pics

Soon after that, the Milk Foundation was created to help sell milk. This must have been similar to the milk marketing board we have today – they used a collective fund to help advertise milk’s health benefits. Look below at an early advertisement for pasteurized ice cream that’s ‘pure’ and wont spread tuberculosis.

I learned that square milk bottles were introduced after the war alongside the rise of refrigerator technology. the small square shapes were better for shipping handling and they fit inside cramped refrigerator iceboxes better. I made a note of the fact that Paul believes the grey horse was especially sought after by milkmen for early morning milk delivery routes – the grey horse shows up in the dim morning light better, and is therefore safer. Tin tops were not usually found on milk bottles outside the United States. Little tidbits

Were amber bottles used exclusively for Buttermilk?  Sean Murphy asked, and Paul Huntley answered yes to that question. The most quintessential examples of these amber ‘buttermilk’ bottles dates from between 1900 – 1910 .

Paul’s next appearance is at the East York Historical Society on Feb 15th. Here he will be speaking on City Dairy and Dentonia Dairy as many folks in the society have shown interest in that topic. Paul told me that he always hopes he will meet some people that can relate there own personal stories and memories of the dairy. Wednesday February 15 2012 at  2:00 PM

 image added courtesy of Early Canadian Bottle Works (ECBW), Paul Huntley Collection

Dont miss Paul Huntley speaking at

East York Historical Society

Show and Tell Discussion

The History of the City Dairy of Toronto
Speaker Paul Huntley will discuss the history of the City Dairy from its creation including the Massey Farm known as Dentonia. He will also bring some dairy memorabilia and copies of his new publication on the City Dairy. Bring any questions, photos, maps, memorabilia or information you would like to share and take part in the discussion.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2 pm
At S. Walter Stewart Library
170 Memorial Park Avenue at Durant
Sponsored by the East York Historical Society and
The Toronto Public Library, S. Walter Stewart Branch
Free admission

Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Meeting

The second half of the meeting was business as usual. There’s lots of planning and preparation being made for the annual FSBC Show and Sale in April – this time there is a new location . And there was talk of having a party on Saturday night for the dealers to swap stories and trade bottles and

for the

Carl Parsons had some wonderful ‘cures’ or early wacky patent medicine bottles in front of him on the table. I snapped some shots of them as he was making change for my raffle tickets – the monthly FSBC random draw is an exciting event and a staple in the experience of vsiting the club meetings. Carl always talks up the quality of the bottle being raffled (its a secret) but I find they are never as good as the ones he has on display in front of his notebook at the table.  Look below at the amber ‘East India Cure’ and the queer yellow glass Extract of Smart Weed.

Sean Murphy: Show and Tell 

The best part of the bottle club meetings is hearing each member talk intelligently and usually very passionately about a piece of pottery or a glass bottle they have recently discovered, or treasured for some time. There is a theme for each meeting’s show and tell and its fun to see the variations on that theme as presented by each collector operating inside their own particular niche.

Before Sean spoke there were three other collectors who presented their materials but being shy they would no doubt prefer not be chronicled here. Sean is however no stranger to my blog salutations.
And that’s a good thing because Sean Murphy is a constant fountain of great material and encouragement to the rest of the members. His show and tell displays are consistently remarkable.

On the 21 Jan meeting Sean showcased a wide variety of glass paperweights set around a smattering of other rare and impressive objects including beautiful redware pottery and a lovely jug stenciled …

Here’s a Whitby jug

I will ask Sean to provide more information here

The 2010 Four Seasons Bottle Collectors, Oct 16th General Meeting with Wooden Bottles, Rare Nervaline, And Hearts Everywhere

Sean Murphy during the Show & Tell handles his big demijohn, and details his summer finds, including the framed unsold Cobourg Peterborough Railroad stock certificates visible behind an array of rare Hutchinson soda bottles, and some Matthews gravitating stopper bottles, with the original glass stopper rods. The stoneware crock is something we’ll discuss later…

October 16th 2010, Dumpdiggers showed up unannounced at the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club General Meeting.

Inside the meeting room in the Arbour Heights Community Center and Wilson and Avenue Rd in Toronto Ontario, I Rob Campbell found a welcoming community of experts that generously share with me (and you) their most precious insights, and hard-to-find data that is priceless information. These folks will do anything and everything possible to forward the search for rare Canadian bottles. Indeed it’s the hunt for those elusive treasures that always evokes the best discussions – that and the display of strange objects, ideas and the talk of treasures-unknown always sidelines the official minutes. You have to be a bottle collector to truly appreciate the width and breath of their knowledge and understanding of colonial age and early industrial age goods. They collect the first bottles, glass and pottery pieces made in Canada. They know Canadian manufacturing and retailing companies better than most university educated historians esp as it pertains to packaged goods in glass bottles. The seventeen people present at the event are a fraction of the membership. The folks were there to make decisions about shows and displays, and talk about their summer finds. Indeed half of those that attended brought something to share and discuss.

This picture of a rare Nerviline bottle, procured by a veteran Canadian antiques picker named Mike Duggan, is from Kingston Ontario Canada is a prime example of the level of sophistication…

Thanks Mike Duggan. I just love this picture because it shows the price of the product; the value of 50cents is stamped into the glass. Does that make this an early mistake? Its definitely a rare isotope of common bottle and a legendary product line. Yes this bottle is very rare indeed. You can imagine the problems that caused. If you are a general store retailer in the early 1900s and you want to raise or lower the price of Nerviline, you cant change the price from fifty cents a bottle without some explanation.

Also in the meeting we got to see the famous wooden bottles by Erik Tounonen that have inspired so much talk online.

That’s right Erik’s hand turned and carved wooden bottles are being discussed by bottle collectors all over the world. This young bottle digger is fifteen years old, and has sparked conversation on popular discussion forums. Here’s Erik T wooden bottles debut thread on Antique hyphen Bottles dot Net discussion forum. Erik is only 15 yrs old . He showed up with a parent, who asked some very interesting questions actually, and she made some interesting remarks too. Everyone gave the young person some new ideas and sparked his bottle bug even more, if that’s possible, with more insight into the art and science of finding colonial age dumps in Canada .
More notes about the bottle club meeting would have to include some non emotional reporting of the honest facts, first there was no coffee; an oversight made more profoundly acute by the appearance of gilded coffee cups in one of the displays. Secondly, the frequency and start time of the monthly general meetings was questioned by the Club President, who was the last to arrive and the main reason the meeting started late. lol

The meeting continued with a discussion about the finality of the venue and date for the annual bottle show – same place same date. Personally I was disappointed as I believe the Humber College arena which lacks a natural light source and is NOT handy for any potential consumers living in new condos downtown, is an event failure by design.

The meeting concluded with a random bottle raffle and draw for a mystery prize which was won by the president named Dave , I honestly cant remember Dave’s last name and I will update this post to include more information.

Dumpdiggers hopes that by giving inside glimpses of Four Seasons Bottle Club events, I’m raising awareness about what actually happens … hopefully more people will come out and join up , eager to study and learn the subculture and various antiques classifications relating to antique Canadian glass bottles, early Canadian pottery and British colonial age stoneware. I’m encouraged by the fact that Erik found the association he sought through this portal, and hopeful that I can attract other citizen diggers and passionate bottle collectors with more of the same thought provoking content and ideas.

my friend has a strange and powerful curse / gift … Casie, the curious companion I brought to the bottle club meeting confessed to me earlier yesterday that she sees a heart symbol somewhere, every single day in her life, whether she wants to or not. When she first told me of her gift / curse I laughed – what a wonderful thing to have and notice. But then imagine if that happened to you… How would you feel?

I See HEARTS Everywhere… a blog by Casie Campbell

So of course I was overwhelmed when, much to my surprise, as we walked into the bottle club meeting and glanced at the displays there it was, her heart for the day.

Thanks Sean Murphy for bringing and sharing this wonderful treasure.

Four Seasons Bottle Collectors 12 June 2010 Club Dig

The morning of 12 June 2010 appeared grey and overcast. Perfect for digging bottles. The Saturday had been set aside by Dumpdiggers all over the city, earmarked as a day of discovery in the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors 2010 ‘Club Dig’. The secret location was an old dump in the heart of the city of Toronto.

Old and new diggers gathered together to make the trip. The story is recorded in excruciating detail in a story entitled Digging Bottles with The Four Seasons Bottle Collectors in Toronto.

Carl Parsons is a storyteller and venerated member of the FSBC. He’s been an antique dealer specializing in Canadian glass bottles for over thirty years and he knows his way around a couple hundred old dumps in Ontario. He led the tour down into the day’s dig site and alongside ‘Indian” Al Pothier they selected the exact spot based on shade more than anything else… nobody could remember if the exact spot in this site had been dug before, as the dump is one of the oldest in the city, and the terrain is constantly changing.

The crew got busy right away and dug out a large hole. The soil was soft and light, a gentle mixture of sand and ash with fragments of dump – broken china and bits of brick were visible on the shovels.

Tex and Mac were the new diggers and they worked hard sinking the hole down to a six foot depth. Then the guys got busy with hand trowels and garden forks. Carl put on a demonstration to show how he often uses a hoe with holes cut in the blade (to let water out), but today’s dump was dry as a bone. The hole wasnt very deep, about six feet from surface, when Al Pothier declared that they’d hit bottom and now they’d best look to the sides.

Al had a pocket of good dump to the south of his position and Mac and Tex found some hard packed virgin dump to the north of their spot in the hole… but sadly it was under the day’s dirt pile and so any excavation in that direction meant moving the dirt pile on the surface. all the same some old sauce bottles were discovered and there were a few exciting moments when some soda shards and stoneware bottoms were spotted in the virgin dump tract at the bottom of the hole.

You can read more of the day’s adventure in Digging Bottles with The Four Seasons Bottle Collectors in Toronto in the Shovel Guild Library on

The 2009 Toronto Bottle Show

At 6pm on Saturday April 18th the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club was busy setting up their annual show and sale. The Toronto Bottle Show is the largest antique glass bottle and pottery exposition (and tins, stoneware, insulators, ephemera and so much more) in Canada, with approx 75 antiques dealers and impressive attendance. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the empty gymnasium as I looked at all the empty tables… In just a few hours the dealers waiting outside would enter and display thousands of historic antiquities for show, sale and trade.

Saturday Night Set-Up
I laboured right alongside the other members of the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club on Saturday April 18th to help set up the show. The entire episode is the subject of this article, Dealers Night at The Bottle Show which also chronicles the excitement of watching Malcom and Newf unpack and sell three years of dug treasure to ready buyers and collectors that were the other dealers.

Sunday’s Bottle Show
On April 19th 2009 the morning sun warmed the faces of several hundred people outside the gymnasium at Humber College in Rexdale, Ontario as they waited to enter the building and marvel at all the beautiful glass inside.

Dealers included,
Michael Anders,
Dean Axelson and Judy Axelson,
John Barclay and Marie Renault,
Brett Bloxam and Jackie Bloxam,
Robert Brak and Linda Brak,
Mark Clayton and Candice Clayton,
Bill Cook and Bill Ash,
Abel DaSilva and June Ng,
Ron Demoor and John Dunbar,
Mike Emre and Barbara Emre,
Bob Falle,
Ray Ruddy,
John Finlay, Dave Marrotte,
Dwight Fryer and Earl Fryer,
John Goodyer and Mark Wilson,
Frederic Hartl and Jean-Marc Helie,
Bob Hayward and Tyler Hayward,
Grahame Hudson and George Jones,
Ron Hunsperger and Russ Hunsperger,
Barbara Jackson and Randall Mathieu,
Adam Jarzabek, Steve Vasda,
Marcus Johnson,
Scott Jordan and Paul Marchand,
John Knight, John Knight sr,
Robert Lloyd, Blake Woods,
Ed Locke, Sheryl MacKenzie,
Tim and Jim Maitland,
Michael Malanowski and Caitlin Malanowski,
Terry Matz and Evelyn Matz,
Malcom Mcleod and Newf,
Jamie McDougall,
Glen and Cynthia Moorhouse,
Morris Marlowe and Wendy Marlowe,
Steve Mouck,
Robin Newton-Smith, Richard Clark,
Jason Pfeffer and Barb Pfeffer,
Norm Playtor and Jackie Playtor,
Collin Potter and Jennifer Potter,
Michael Rossman and Jan Rossman,
Fred Spoelstra and Bill Comer,
Cliff Stunden and Donna Stunden,
Scott Wallace and John Wells,
Roger Warren and Carol Warren,
Jack Welton and Judy Welton, and Kert Wrigley.

Readers can find more pictures and stories documenting the 2009 Toronto Bottle Show in the Dumpdiggers Library.

Dumpdiggers joins the Four Season Bottle Collectors

Saturday Feb 21st, 2009 at 7:02pm, Rob Campbell (that’s me) sat alone in Meeting Room #1 at Arbor Heights Community Center at Wilson and Avenue Rd in North York (northern Toronto) waiting for the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors to arrive.

This night was supposed to be their monthly club meeting? But one look out the window told me things might have changed. The weather outside was awful, and only getting worse. Eight inches of snow had already collected on the roads, snarling traffic throughout the GTA. I looked at my watch again; perhaps the meeting had been canceled?

Two minutes, to my relief Carl Parsons and Glenn Moorhouse strolled into the meeting room toting large Tupperware containers full of bottles, coffee and cookies. They were surprised to find me in there waiting, especially since we’d never met before.

In the next few minutes a dozen people arrived. More tables were set up, and the meet and greet centered around the collectibles on display between the windows, and the coffee pot in the kitchen.

Although I was a complete stranger to them all, I didn’t have to introduce myself. Everyone already knew who I was. Most had been to website, or read this blog. Some had seen Nancy J White’s Jan 24th 09 Toronto Star article entitled Dumps, A Window To The Past, and some of those folks were a little ticked off.

When Mike Duggan made the association he gasped, ‘Oh so you’re that Rob Campbell? I want to strangle you’, and then he proceeded to list all the mistakes in that story.

I listened patiently. Everything he said was true. And I know deep down they all wanted to like me – bottle collectors want young blood around to mentor and shame. Everything went very smoothly after I took out my wallet and officially joined the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors. I paid $25 to become one of them, for a year.

“I’ve built Dumpdiggers for you” I explained later, “and now I’ll donate time and energy to share this web enterprise and help the subculture. Look upon as Rob Campbell’s contribution to the Four Season’s Bottle Collecting fraternity. Send me any messages you want broadcast.’

Four Seasons Bottle Collectors, 21Feb2009 Meeting

After the monthly Business Report and the Treasurer’s Update, the president Jamie McDougal once again brought the group’s focus back to me, the new member. What did I collect? How can they help me? And that query put the focus squarely back onto Dumpdiggers and all the wonderful things an enterprise 2.0 interactive website can do to help grow a bottle club. It was determined then that I should speak on the subject at the upcoming bottle show – I agreed.

Anyway, I got yet another chance to illustrate functionality when Glenn Moorhouse revealed he was selling bundles of vintage club newsletters, full of unique information, for approx $25 dollars each. “Why not sell smaller downloads for five dollars each?” I interrupted. The process would be simple enough – scan the newsletters and then convert the files to pdfs. These are called ebooks, and they’re a great way to share information and increase a customer base at the same time. IN this case it would be a great way for collectors all across Canada and the United States to access and consume the rare information, and the club could make a few bucks every month for doing nothing.

At halftime, the business portion of the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors meeting culminated in a dollar per ticket raffle for a mysterious prize.

Darren Spindler won the draw. That was exciting. Carl Parsons stood up and presented Darren with an attractive old English whiskey jug. The pottery had a cobalt blue glaze top and looked rather fancy – but I don’t think it was worth very much.

Here’s Darren Spindler. He’s one of the people I most wanted to meet. His Early Canadian Bottle Works website has always impressed me. It’s a nice clean website, simple and socially relevant at the same time. And the digging stories are terrific. I look forward to more cooperation with Darren in the future – maybe we’ll even get together dig someday?

Then the gathering turned to Show and Tell – this month’s theme was “Things We Love”, and for the next hour it was easy to see the passion that unites these people. Darren Spindler stood up first and described the five different things he brought – the most interesting of which was a framed Griffin Bros promotional material (a go-with?).

Melissa Clare went next and showed us a hot watering can, and some tins emblazoned with white roses.

The president of the FSBC, Jamie McDougal followed Melissa and described his favourite things; assembled on the table before him was an amber Dahls Ink, a tiny Hudson’s Bay extract bottle (turning amethyst) and a vault light (luxfor – which is a piece of glass designed to transmit light into buildings), that captured everyone’s attention. After some research, I found this page which explains vault lights.

Last to present at 9:45pm, Sean Murphy detailed his display. He held up some green glazed (undercoat) crocks and jugs from Peterborough Ontario, an aqua fruit sealer with the correct metal ring and top, and some spectacular yard sale finds including an original but unsigned water colour painting of some quality.

At the conclusion of my first meeting as a member of the Four Season Bottle Collectors club I promised to write about and help promote the upcoming 16th Annual Toronto Bottle & Antique Show and Sale – Canada’s Premier Bottle Show Sunday April 19th 2009, 9:30 am – 3:00 pm, Humber College Gymnasium, 250 Humber College Blvd.