Earl R. Dean Collection
Dates:  1910-1986
Accession Number:  Sm. D.C. 37B
Donor:  Norman Dean
Description:  Two file folders in a document case


This collection consists of items concerning the design of the Coca-Cola bottle by Earl R. Dean, an employee of the Root Glass Company.

In 1915, the Coca Cola Company launched a competition among its bottle suppliers to create a new bottle for the beverage that would distinguish it from other beverage bottles.  Chapman Root, the company's president, turned the project over to members of his supervisory staff including company auditor T. Clyde Edwards, plant superintendent Alexander Samuelson and Earl Dean, supervisor of the bottle molding room.   

Root and his subordinates decided to base the bottle's design on one of the soda's two ingredients, the coca leaf or the cola nut, but were unaware of what either ingredient looked like.  Dean and Edwards went to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library and were unable to find any information about coca or cola.  Instead they were inspired by a picture of the gourd-shaped cocoa pod in the Encyclopedia Britannica which Chapman Root approved as the model for the prototype.

Faced with the upcoming scheduled maintenance of the mold-making machinery, over the next 24 hours Dean sketched out and created the mold for the bottle.  Dean then molded a small number of bottles before the glass-molding machinery was turned off.

Chapman Root approved the prototype bottle and a patent was issued on the bottle in November, 1915.  The bottle was chosen over other entries at the bottler's convention in 1916 and was on the market the same year.  By 1920, Dean's contoured bottle was the standard for the Coca-Cola Company.

As a reward for his efforts, Dean was offered a choice between a $500 bonus or a lifetime job at Root Glass.  He chose the lifetime job and kept it until the Owens-Illinois Glass Company bought out the Root Glass Company in the mid 1930s.  Dean went on to work in other Midwestern glass factories.

Earl Dean died in January, 1972.

Content and Scope of Collection

This collection contains items concerning the design and creation of the contoured Coca-Cola bottle including several pictures of Earl Dean.

The inventory folder includes Dean's obituary and an article from the June/July 1986 issue of American Heritage magazine which recounts in more extensive detail the design process for the Coca-Cola bottle.

Small Document Case





Folder 1

Photograph of Earl Dean standing next to the
  machine used to mold the original Coca-Cola






Pencil drawing of the prototype
  Coca-Cola bottle






Earl Dean receiving gold watch in recognition of
  his years of service  with the Root Glass
  Company and the Owens-Illinois Glass  





Folder 2

Brochure sent out with limited edition replica of
   prototype bottle (photocopy of brochure next
  to the commemorative bottle)






Photocopies of photographs of Earl Dean
  from youth through middle age (6 pages)






Photocopies of invitation to, and program
  for, Owens Illinois Glass Company's
  first annual service award banquet