The Oldest Living Magic Drinking Birds?

Discussion in 'The Display Case' started by Warbaby, May 12, 2008.

  1. Warbaby

    Warbaby One Too Many

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    It's not likely anyone else will think this as exciting as I do, but...

    At a church rummage sale this weekend I found not one, but two of what may be the earliest examples of the magic drinking bird, one of the great icons of mid-century kitsch. Both were N.O.S. in their original boxes!

    The magic drinking bird was invented by Miles V. Sullivan, a scientist/inventor at Bell labs, in 1945 and patented in 1946. My drinking birds were made by Tico Laboratories in Tarpon Springs, Florida and are nearly identical to the illustrations in the original patent drawings. They are (according to the enclosed brochure) hand-blown Pyrex lab glass. I can find no information on who first manufactured the drinking birds, but it's a good bet that these date to the late 40s-early 50s, and may be the original production models.

    It's not likely that many of the originals have survived. Not only were they very fragile, but they were filled with a highly volatile chemical that was would destroy the finish on any varnished or painted surface it contacted, not to mention being extremely flammable, as well. Consequently, drinking birds fell out of popularity until the 60s when they were redesigned and manufactured in Japan and Taiwan, made of a heavier glass and filled with a less volatile chemical.

    Who knows - these may be the only surviving examples of the original drinking bird...

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  2. Miss 1929

    Miss 1929 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Damn, Warbaby...

    the stuff you are finding up there in the wilds of Canada.... OK, OK, we'll come see you!!!

    That bird is the coolest thing ever. I love it that it is glass and filled with a dangerous substance, and STILL exists!
     
  3. MaryDeluxe

    MaryDeluxe Practically Family

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    Deluxeville!
    The Bobble Bird!!!

    THAT BIRD IS THE COOLEST THING EVERY!!! Much cooler then that magic drinking bird I had in the late 70's! Amazing find!
     
  4. Mr_Misanthropy

    Mr_Misanthropy Practically Family

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    Chicago, Illinois
    It's drinking the water!!!

    I've always wanted one of these! They're adorable. All I can think of is the Simpson's episode, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes", where Homer's brother uses one of these drinking birds as an example of marketing...

    Herb: Let me show you this.
    [Herb sets a drinking bird mechanism on the table]
    Homer: [amazed] It's drinking the water!
    Herb: Take it easy, Homer. Now, this device shows how a product, carefully marketed...
    Homer: This is the greatest invention in the world! You'll make a million dollars!
    Herb: No, Homer, that invention is out already. Anyway ...
    Homer: [chuckling] Heheheheh, it's going back for more!

    Hahaha... one of my favorite scenes. I'm such a nerd.
     
  5. Caroline

    Caroline One of the Regulars

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    Hyde Park Mass, USA
    What a lovely find!

    It's such a pretty bird! Do you mind if I'm totally gauche and ask what you paid? Sorry, but I'm dying to know!
     
  6. Warbaby

    Warbaby One Too Many

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    Not gauche at all, Caroline - I had to pay a whopping twenty-five cents each for those little birdies. I prolly should've talked them down to thirty-five cents for the pair, but hey, it was a church sale and the money was going for a good cause...
     
  7. The Wolf

    The Wolf Call Me a Cab

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  8. Vintage Betty

    Vintage Betty My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    As always, a cool find and great pics Warbaby. These are certainly the oldest drinking bird I've ever seen, but the bird strikes me as older than the patent.

    Thanks for sharing and here's to your cool find! :cheers1:

    Vintage Betty
     
  9. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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    You need an ENDANGERED SPECIES sign to display with them...
     
  10. Warbaby

    Warbaby One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    I recently got an email from a videographer in Tarpon Springs, Florida who wanted permission to use these photos in a TV documentary he's producing on local businesses from the past. Somehow his research on Tico Laboratories and the drinking bird led him to this thread on FL.

    He said that the inventor, Miles Sullivan, was involved with Tico Industries and that these are, indeed, the original drinking birds. I suggested he contact Mr. Sullivan's daughter, Anne, who is a professional flutist in Wheaton, Illinois. A couple of days later he wrote back that Miles Sullivan was still alive and that he was going to be talking to him in a few days. I'll report more on the magic drinking bird saga as soon as he gets back to me.
     
  11. bentruwe

    bentruwe New in Town

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    6
    Location:
    Oregon
    Yup

    I haven't found your exact model in my catalog collection, but it does indeed look a lot like the ones manufactured in the late 1940s.
     
  12. franklin2121

    franklin2121 New in Town

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    philadelphia
    bobble birds

    i just bought two of the same booble birds at a flee market in phila , one is blue and one is red.. love em 610-449-8134
     
  13. franklin2121

    franklin2121 New in Town

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  14. Ethan Bentley

    Ethan Bentley One Too Many

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    Nice to see the schematics sketch - thanks.
     
  15. smitoni

    smitoni New in Town

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    hampshire
    Hi I have a bobble bird original in the box and was looking to sell mine if anyone is interested.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012
  16. smitoni

    smitoni New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    hampshire
    hi I would be interested as I have bobble bird in box in perfect condition and would be willing to sell.
     
  17. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Da Bronx, NY, USA
    Put that into the Classifieds section.
     

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