The Mysterious Keystone Coffee Jar ~ Vintage Product Bottle or Early Thermos?

Keystone Coffee Jar

Just a Little Java Jar
by Marianne Dow

Jeff Klingler's sharing this neat little bottle / jar with us this time. He pointed out that it is a variation not listed in the Red Book, which made me decide to see what I could find out about this little cutie.

At first one would think this is a product jar, as it is embossed KEYSTONE COFFEE JAR on the puffed-out front, with a KCJ monogram on the flat back. It has a ground lip, and is about 5" tall, w/a screw-on cap. The base is embossed with 2 patent dates - 1885, and RE-PAT 1895.

There is a Keystone Coffe Jar described as this same shape, and with the same embossing, listed in the Red Book #11 as #1390-5. However that describes a quart jar, with just the earlier patent date. So, then is this smaller jar is a variation of that? Or might the size in the listing be incorrect, as this pint is the only size seen or mentioned in all of my research. Redbook value is $75-100. (I do not find any recent sales online.) 

Curious minds want to know what this jar IS.

If you Google ' Keystone Coffee Jar ' you will find a few posts where collectors have found this smaller jar, and are seeking more info. I hope they read this article, because "Eureka!", I have found it!

First, here's what it is not... 

Employees in front of the Keystone Coffee Drive In / San Jose California
 [Info on this location and cool sign.]

Your Google search will also undoubtedly lead you to the Keystone Coffee Company, in San Jose, California, that has been in business with this name since... 1905. 

Hmmm... but this jar says 1895, so that can't be it. And indeed, it is not it.

A deeper search led me to the fantabulous resource that is Google Books. How lucky we researchers are to have image to text translation software - wow! - and Google working on scanning all the world's books. 

Imagine my delight when I was rewarded with this page from the Home Furnishing Review, Dec. 1896 -- ta da!

Turns out that this little glass jar was a precursor to the thermos (which was not manufactured for home use until 1904 - see Dewar ).

The Keystone Coffee Jar was patented and manufactured by C.H. Stadelman of Pittsburgh, PA.

Designed to transport already-brewed liquid coffee in a lunch pail, the jar would have had a slide-on metal plate that fit on the raised bars along the bottom of the front and back, leaving a small air space. Then the jar could be heated on a burner, and one could then enjoy a hot cup of coffee.

Here's a complete Keystone Coffee Jar for sale on ebay for $299 (as of 3-12-13).

Charles Stadelman emigrated from Germany, and with son Bernhard, was a grocer and dry goods purveyor in Pittsburg in the late 1800's.

Here are images of the Keystone Coffee Jar patent drawing, and a little info on the Stadelmans.

Pennsylvania is called "The Keystone State".
The arched/curved front of the jar must have helped with it's strength, hence a double-meaning in Stadelman's naming of his invention. 


Mystery solved, right? These tradecards come from the same time period, same city, but a different company. The Keystone was used on many products by many companies.

Findlay Antique Bottle Club

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