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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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 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.
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