Rio History: They found bullets, bottles and a what?

By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS

Vicki and Kevin Cody of the Fort Worth were on an adventure…..

Once they arrived at the eastern end of Highway 4 they turned south and drove along Boca Chica Beach toward the Rio Grande. Along the way Vicki happened to notice several piles of flat stones lying off to one side. Intrigued she and Kevin decided to do some metal detecting. These kinds of stones were used as ballast by sailing vessels which means the couple had unknowingly stumbled upon an old shipwreck.

Having learned the rudiments of the hobby from me the day before, the two took it for granted that they would find treasure … and they did. Between them they dug an impressive array of artifacts some of which dated back the last 100 years or so.

One interesting item was a small tin emblazoned with a rather cryptic disclaimer around the top with a cross in the center. On the cross itself were the words MSW Price $1.00. In addition they dug about a dozen old shells and bullets ranging from small caliber to 12-gauge shotgun and several different caliber rifle bullets.

They also found the broken base of an early torpedo or soda bottle. Though the name soda was first used in the late 1700s, man has enjoyed the healing properties of carbonated waters for thousands of years.

Romans documented many of Europe’s most famous mineral wells during the First Century A.D. As word of the sparkling water’s healing properties spread, so did the demand for the product. But herein lay the problem: Carbonated water’s fizz would mysteriously disappear during travel across long distances. Shipping carbonated water was replaced by people traveling to the springs, which of course, only the rich could afford.

That changed with the invention of the torpedo bottle.

Jacob Schweppes and his partner Nicholas Paul were the first to use the egg-shaped bottle. The rounded end made it impossible to set the bottle down in an upright position, this kept the cork wet, preventing it from shrinking and allowing the carbonation to escape. The design benefited the merchant in a devious sort of manner. The consumer had to finish the drink before he could lay the bottle down. They’d drink faster—and likely more – as a result.

The torpedoes, used mainly in the bottling of mineral waters, remained popular in Europe until the early 1900s.

And the strange round tin? A little research revealed the tin’s original contents to be a very popular condom in use around the turn of the 20th century. The product was eventually replaced with rubber latex in the late 1930s. A complete undamaged tin can fetch upwards of several hundred dollars depending on condition.

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