Promo University

Who Invented Water Bottles? A History of Reusable Drinkware

Alyssa Mertes

Published: July 23rd, 2020

Reusable water bottles are there for it all! You bring one to work, the gym, soccer practice, and on hikes through the Grand Canyon. At this point, it's as essential as your cell phone and car keys when you leave the house in the morning.

It may seem like water bottles have always been in our kitchen cabinets, but they're less than 100-years-old! Wet your whistle, and get ready to explore the fascinating history of this must-have drinkware!

Quote

Water is our most precious resource. Every living thing on Earth – every plant, animal, and microbe – must have water to survive.

Beth Geiger, author of Clean Water

Hour Glass

History of Reusable Water Bottles Timeline

Water bottles haven't always been around and ready for your refills. This timeline shows their evolution, from large iron casks in medieval Europe to the rise of plastic after World War II.

  • 1070

    waterskin storage bag Source: backtohistory.comm

    People in medieval societies drank from waterskins made from animal hide. These containers, which were also referred to as water bladders, were particularly useful at storing wine for knights in battle.

  • 1596

    sir john harrington Source: https://historydaily.org/

    Sir John Harrington designed the first flushing toilet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. This allowed water to flow freely from pipes, which changed the way we accessed our drinking water in the future.

  • 1800s

    clay bottle Source: https://relicrecord.com

    Bottles were crafted from clay or stone and were used to hold gin or whiskey from local distillers. People didn't quite realize yet that alcohol isn't as hydrating as water!

  • 1900s

    glass-bottles Source: twomenandalittlefarm.blogspot.com

    Farmers kept their cool in the fields with glass water bottles. These could be filled up by iron industrial pumps that were mounted above the water wells in rural areas.

  • 1914 - 1945

    enameled steel bottle Source: mpmuseum.org

    Soldiers stayed hydrated with reusable canteens made from enameled steel. These containers held roughly two pints and were covered in felt that made them easier to carry.

  • 1947

    plastic bottle

    Plastic water bottles became popular after World War II. At first they were expensive, but that all changed in the 1960s when manufacturers started using cheap polyethylene plastic.

  • Late 1940s - Early 1950s

    football player Source: road.cc

    Aluminum was used to create water bottles specifically for bicyclists. Coloral has remained one of the most popular brands with its elegant design and cork stopper.

  • 1950s

    stainless steel bottle

    Stainless steel water bottles were mass-produced in the United States. This material was said to be more durable and healthier to drink from than plastic or aluminum.

  • 1960s

    polyethylene bottle Source: etsy.com

    Polyethylene started being used in water bottles. This material is affordable, lightweight, and easy to shape into fun designs like the Homer Simpson water bottle pictured here.

  • 1964

    thermos Source: the-gadgeteer.com

    Thermos competed with other manufacturers by offering a reusable water container in their lunch boxes. These bottles were decorated with cartoon characters or popular movie and television stars.

  • 1960s-1990s

    Coca-Cola bottle Source: q17.org

    Companies like Coca-Cola started printing their logos on water bottles and using them to advertise. This bottle was found in Switzerland during the Tour de France in 1992.

  • 1985

    ETS Express bottle Source: etsexpress.com

    ETS Express became the first promotional products vendor dedicated to strictly drinkware. The company prides itself on exceptional screen printing and an amazing product selection.

  • 1994

    Polar Bottle Source: https://cyclingtips.com/

    Robert Heiberger and Judy Amabile started Polar Bottle from their garage in Colorado. The goal was to bring cyclists a bottle that could withstand long rides.

  • 2006

    Green bottle

    Yeti was started in Austin, Texas. This brand is known for not only their long-lasting, high-end outdoor coolers, but also their extra cool water bottles.

  • 2010

    S'well bottle Source: forbes.com

    Sarah Krauss became one of the top female entrepreneurs in the world thanks to S'well. These metal water bottles are stylishly designed and feature triple-walled technology.

  • 2016

    Gatorade bottle Source: smartdesignworldwide.com/

    Gatorade upgraded their classic squeeze bottles to more advanced models. These smart water bottles feature LED lighting that reminds athletes when it's time to rehydrate.

  • 2018

    Oceans bottle Source: architecturaldigest.com

    Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit in New York, teamed up with Starbucks to create eco-friendly water bottles. The bottles are made from repurposed ocean debris that is melted down into small PET pellets.

  • 2020

    Bottles Source: https://techcrunch.com

    A company named LARQ released the first self-cleaning water bottles, selling about 75,000 during their first week at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's. You'll never have to clean your water bottles by hand again thanks to these bottles!

How Did Ancient Civilizations Get Water?

Woman getting water from stream Source: https://www.pinterest.com

Hunter-gatherers had to be creative and find ways to get fresh water that was free of contamination. The first written account of water being purified came from Greek texts from around 4000 BC. They would filter their water through charcoal and expose it to sunlight to remove any harmful pathogens.

In the first "urban" area of Jericho, people would acquire water from springs and transport it using wooden buckets, clay urns, or metal flasks. The water was thought of as part of the community, and if anybody wanted to bring some during hunting trips or nautical explorations, they would gather it beforehand in large urns, beakers, or iron casks.

Woman getting water from stream Source: https://www.pinterest.com

By the Medieval Era, hunters crafted waterskins from leather or animal hide. These could easily be brought with on long travels by horseback and were also strong enough to withstand inclement weather conditions.

Overall, crops, animals, and people wouldn't have been able to survive without water. It's always been important for us as a society to find a way to keep it clean and carry it around.

Did you know?

The word "bottle" comes from the Old French botelle, which means "little cask."

How Did Pioneers Get Their Water?

Pioneers Source: https://www.sctimes.com

Colonization is when people (often referred to as pioneers) settle into a particular area of land and claim it as their own. These folks would establish their homes on land that had lakes and rivers. They would then dig wells deep into the ground in order to collect fresh, purified water to drink.

Pioneers simply settled on the land, and for the most part, stayed put unless they were an explorer or hunter. With that in mind, there wasn't really a need to have portable drinking water. They were too busy cultivating the land and establishing their communities. Everything they needed was right there!

Pioneers Source: https://www.sctimes.com

It's a far cry from the busy, fast-paced world we live in today. We need water bottles because we are always on the go, but it's still important for us to stay hydrated. Life isn't as slowed down as it was for the pioneers!

When Was Plumbing Invented?

Sir John Harrington Source: https://www.johncflood.com

Sir John Harrington invented the first flushing toilet in the 16th century. He essentially kickstarted the plumbing industry, which was important for the future of clean drinking water from a faucet.

Fast forward 300 years and bottles were being created from clay, glass, and stoneware. People could fill them up directly in their sinks, which meant they were staying better hydrated, and ultimately, living longer than their ancient ancestors. They also didn't have to be burdened by digging wells into the Earth in order to get their water.

Sir John Harrington Source: https://www.johncflood.com

When Was Bottled Water Created?

Water bottles

Disposable water bottles were first distributed in America in 1767. They were created by Jackson's Spa in Boston, a company that believed in the therapeutic power of water.

Rather than encouraging their clients to drink the water, they recommended bathing in it instead. It was thought that the water could treat many common ailments including fevers, colds, sore throats, heartburn, and even kidney stones.

Other companies saw the appeal of this bottled water, and thanks to the rise in machinery and automation during the Industrial Revolution, they could get them mass-produced at a faster rate. Before long, disposable water bottles were being sold at stores across the country.

Water bottles

When Was the Water Bottle Invented?

Bottle

The first reusable water bottles were invented around 1947. This was after World War II, so materials like plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel were more accessible than ever before. These materials could be used to create not only water bottles, but also other consumer products like furniture, Tupperware, and clothing.

When water bottles were first available, they weren't as affordable as they are today. That change came in the early 1960s with a type of plastic known as polyethylene. This material was cheaper to use and allowed more water bottles to be created at a faster rate. It didn't take long after that for the reusable water bottle to become part of every household.

What Are the Different Types of Plastic?
Quote

A reusable water bottle shows your commitment to sustainability and a healthy, well-hydrated lifetsyle. It's something people will use over and over again.

Alison Banik – Sales Manager at Polar Bottle®

What Are Bike Bottles?

Bike Bottle Source: https://www.coloral.cc

During the 40s and 50s, bike bottles were extremely valuable in the world of cycle racing. The most popular were developed by the Coloral Company in Birmingham, Alabama. They created aluminum water bottles with cork stoppers, ridged caps, and an elegant logo stamped on the base.

In the summer of 2012, a group of enthusiastic cyclists started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Coloral water bottles back to shelves. They went to the United Kingdom, met the father and son behind the company, and convinced them to revive their brand.

Bike Bottle Source: https://www.coloral.cc

If this proves anything, it’s that loyalists will go great distances to ensure their favorite brands are always available. You just can’t hold a good water bottle down!

Quote

Everyone knows how important our water bottles are to us. After all, how could we possibly survive any long ride without the lifesaving replenishment that comes from a water bottle at the ready?

Dr. John Edwards, writer for Road Bike Action

When Were Stainless Steel Water Bottles Invented?

Purple Bottle

Stainless steel was invented in 1913, but it wasn't used to create water bottles until 45 to 50 years later. This is because during both World Wars, the metal was an important resource for creating weaponry like knife blades, guns, and aircraft.

Today, stainless steel is much more accessible. Top brands, like S'well and h2go, have made upwards of $100 million in annual revenue on stainless steel water bottles. It's a popular material since it's durable and keeps the water at a cold temperature for a lot longer than plastic or aluminum.

Purple Bottle

Are We Drinking More Water as a Society?

As a society, we are drinking more water now than ever before. It’s a necessary way to stay healthy and energized since we are always on the move.

In 2016, a study by Beverage Marketing Corp. determined that for the first time in a while, water surpassed soft drinks in popularity. 39.3 million gallons were consumed, while Americans drank about 38.5 gallons of soda. This chart shows just how much water consumption has increased over the years:

Increase in water comsumption outselling soda for the first time in 2016. *Image courtesy of Jennifer Foster, Regional Sales Manager at ETS Expresss

Hopefully this is a trend that continues into the future. Drinking water is good for your skin, hair, and immune system. Soda, on the other hand, only leads to weight gain, fatigue, and cavities. It's obvious which one you should be drinking more often.

When Did Water Bottles Become Trendy?

4 water bottles Source: https://mashable.com/

Stores like Target and Walmart started stocking their shelves with stylish stainless steel and aluminum water bottles. Millennials and Gen Z'ers bought the cutest ones and posted pictures on social media platforms like Instagram. And just like that, water bottles became a thing!

Now you can find water bottles printed with fashionable designs in a variety of eye-catching colors. They're more than just a good way to stay hydrated throughout the day. Each bottle has personality!

4 water bottles Source: https://mashable.com/
Quote

The water bottle is the new tote bag: an instant way to signpost that you're environmentally conscious, while also adding an Insta-friendly fashion statement to your everyday look.

Lauren Cochrane, fashion writer at The Guardian

Stats for Success

Stat 1

In Denmark and Canada, 98% of the water bottles are refillable.

Stat 2

If 1% of Americans make the switch to reusable water bottles, we could eliminate an estimated 500 million water bottles from landfills each year.

Stat 3

Custom water bottles are the most popular in suburban areas.

The Bottom Line

Today, we don't have to go all the way to a fresh spring, or create an urn out of animal hide to get a fresh sip of water. You can always fill up your water bottle, whether it's made from plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel. It's the best way to make sure you're as cool as a flowing river!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

Blaxland, W. (2010). How Are They Made? Bottles and Jars. Tarryton, NJ: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.

IWA Publishing. (2018). A Brief History of Water and Health From Ancient Civilizations to Modern Times. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.iwapublishing.com/news/brief-history-water-and-health-ancient-civilizations-modern-times

Water Benefits Health. (2018). History of Drinking Water. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.waterbenefitshealth.com/history-of-drinking-water.html

Castelow, E. (2018). The Throne of Sir John Harrington. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Throne-of-Sir-John-Harrington/

Stevenson, J. (2013, July 4). Bring Back Iconic 1940s Coloral Cycling Bottles. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://road.cc/content/news/87353-bring-back-iconic-1940s-coloral-cycling-bottles

Stahl, G. (2015, September 10). An Ode to Reusable Water Bottles. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/an-ode-to-the-reusable-water-bottle/

Cochrane, L. (2017, August 15). How Reusable Water Bottles Became the New Tote Bag. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/aug/15/how-reusable-water-bottles-became-the-new-tote-bag

Live Life Healthy. (2018). 10 Stainless Steel Water Bottle Benefits. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://healthyhumanlife.com/blogs/news/10-stainless-steel-water-bottle-benefits

Advertising Specialty Institute. (2016). Global Advertising Specialties Impressions Study. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://media.asicentral.com/resources/impressions-study-2016.pdf

Lake, R. (2015, July 11). Bottled Water Statistics: 23 Outrageous Facts. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from https://www.creditdonkey.com/bottled-water-statistics.html

Edwards, J. (2013, March 22). Is Your Water Bottle Safe? Road Bike Action, Hi-Torque Publications, Inc.

Fortune. (2017, March 10). Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda. Retrieved June 13, 2018, from https://fortune.com/2017/03/10/soda-tax-bottled-water-americans/

Bastyr University. (2018). What are the Best and Worst Reusable Water Bottles? Retrieved June 14, 2018, from https://bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2019/05/what-are-best-and-worst-reusable-water-bottles

PBS. Plastics and American Culture After World War II. Retrieved from, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/tupperware-plastics/

Chappell, C. (2019, October 1). How S’well Turned Water Bottles Into a Fashion Accessory and Built an Empire. Retrieved from, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/01/how-swell-turned-water-bottles-into-a-fashion-accessory.html

Heater, B. (2020, September 29). Self-cleaning Water Bottle Company LARQ Raises a $10M Series A. Retrieved from, https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/29/self-cleaning-water-bottle-company-larq-raises-a-10m-series-a/

Homestead Survival. Where Did Pioneers Get Their Drinking Water? Retrieved from, https://homesteadsurvivalsite.com/pioneers-drinking-water/

Pandal, N. (2018, August 10). Birth of the Bottled Water Industry. Retrieved from, https://blog.bccresearch.com/birth-of-the-bottled-water-industry

Reuters. (2017, March 9). Americans Drank More Bottled Water Than Soda in 2016. Retrieved from, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-bottled-water/americans-drank-more-bottled-water-than-soda-in-2016-idUSKBN16G39C