Following article was contributed by Jimmie Wood, PO Box 808, Denver, NC 28037.
The Applied color label process of painting soda bottles became available to soda bottle companies around 1936. Most bottlers used paper labels or custom molded bottles to identify their products. Through the process of bottle washing and distribution, paper labels did not last long and had to be reapplied each time. This was time consuming and costly to the bottlers. Custom molded bottles could not achieve the bright colors and designs of the paper labeling.
When applied color technology became available, bottlers were eager to use this inexpensive, long-lasting label. By using screen print technology, colorful and bright designs could be applied directly to the bottle surface. Because of the pine oil mediums used, 5 to 10 minutes of drying time was needed between screen applications, resulting in most early ACL bottles having 2 colors or less. This screening process only allowed about 25 to 30 bottles per minute, depending on the number of colors applied to the bottle.
But by the mid 1950's, a thermoplastic wax medium was introduced that eliminated the drying time between color applications. This increased production to 100 to 128 bottles per minute.
After the paint application, the bottles were passed through a lehr, which is basically a large oven capable of 1100-1200 degrees F. The lehr would fuse the paint to the bottle thru a process called annealing.
Thousands of different ACL labels were designed. The more elaborate contained designs of planes, trains, animals, peoples, mountains, rivers, and buildings. The diversity of designs and attractives of the labels makes ACL soda bottles a popular segment of bottle collecting.
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