When most people think of the shot glass, they might picture a scruffy cowboy sauntering into a saloon and asking the bartender to give him a shot of whiskey. The bartender obliges, of course, by setting a shot glass on the bar in front of the cowboy and filling the small glass to the brim. The cowboy picks up the glass and, after quickly emptying the drink down his gullet in one swallow, he slams the glass down on the bar and demands another.

Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

This scene has played out in Hollywood Westerns since the invention of the genre back in 1903. However, this depiction of the shot glass in the history of the Old West is just that — the stuff of Hollywood imagination. Truth be told, the use of shot glasses is actually much more modern.

First Shots

The origins of how the shot glass got its name are a little sketchy. Some credit its moniker to German chemist and glassmaker Otto Schott, who invented the little glass at his German company called the Schott & Associates Glass Technology Laboratory. By the time his “Schott Glas” made it to America, however, the name had been “Americanized” to “Shot Glass.”

Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

Still another story claims that these little glasses were found on the tables at high-society dinners in the 1930s; the shot glasses gave guests a place to put the buckshot found in the wild game being served.

Whatever its origins, the history of shot glasses is a little less Dodge City and a lot more New York City. That’s where the term “shot glass” was first introduced into the American vocabulary by The New York Times in a 1940s article referencing a standard measurement of alcohol.

That’s right — even though we associate a “shot of whiskey” with the Old West, the phrase wasn’t actually commonly used until the mid-20th century, years after the time of cowboys and saloons.

The Shot Glass Goes Underground

Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

Though people have been collecting tumblers — the shot glass’s older, bigger cousin — since at least the mid-1800s, collecting souvenir shot glasses really didn’t become popular until after World War II. A stable economy and a subsequent housing boom allowed families to move to the suburbs, where they could relax and enjoy their roomy dwellings. 

For many, part of those spacious abodes included having a formal space where adults could entertain at home — usually in their finished basements complete with wet and dry bars (or at the very least, a bar cart).

One for the Road

Not only did the number of houses being built rise significantly after World War II, but the size of the families living in them also grew bigger, ushering in a new generation known as the Baby Boomers. 

Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

And these prolific parents loved to take their little Boomers on road trips around the country. As a result, gift shops, souvenir stands, and roadside attractions started popping up along American highways. At the same time, the shot glass became a staple souvenir that could be found everywhere — from amusement parks to national parks and every Stuckey’s and state souvenir shop in-between. After all, what better way was there for Dad to remember his trip out West than by adding a souvenir shot glass to his basement bar?

Last Call?

As the needs of families started changing in the late 1970s, the popularity of basement bars diminished. These days, however, home bars seem to be making a comeback as a new generation is embracing the idea of creating their own mid-century-modern tiki bars or homemade rathskellers.

Stuckey’s Candy Shot Fun Box
Image: Stuckey’s Corp

Today, however, you don’t have to swagger into a smoky old saloon or hide in a basement to enjoy your collection of shot glasses — you just get them from Stuckey’s with our Shot Glass Fun Box that comes with six shot glasses and a bag of gummies. Each box is different, each shot glass is different, and each gummy flavor is different … meaning your Stuckey’s Shot Glass Fun Box will be one-of-a-kind. Just add your own drink of choice, and have a party. (And always imbibe responsibly.) Cheers!

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