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Spirits/Liquor Bottle

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Artifact Description

The half dozen spirits/liquor bottles retrieved from the Jacksonville "Blue China" site are a small fraction of the many similar bottles present on the seabed, which very likely had been shipped as cargo. The six examples were found empty, as in the case of all of the bottles recovered from the “Blue China” wreck. They were originally sealed with cork stoppers which either imploded during the sinking event as a result of the pressure, or degraded over the years in the corrosive salt water.

This popular three-piece molded cylinder bottle was commonly referred to as a “patent style cylindrical fifth” (one fifth of a gallon), and was manufactured by numerous eastern American glass houses from 1844 up until about 1880, with most appearing to date between the 1850s and 1870s.

The Jacksonville ‘Blue China’ wreck examples are representative of a common spirits/liquor bottle type with bodies that are moderately slender in cross-section with a long, tapering narrow neck, a form that evolved from the wider and squatter late 17th/early 18th century English cylindrical ‘onion’ bottle made of dark green glass and typical  of some of the earliest types found on North American land sites. Like its predecessor, these bottles are typically associated with any number of liquors from rum to whiskey and brandy and frequently even contained wine. This popular three-piece molded cylinder bottle, commonly referred to as a ‘patent style cylindrical fifth’ (one-fifth of a gallon) was manufactured by numerous eastern American glass houses from 1844 until about 1880, with most products concentrated in the decades between the 1850s and 1870s. Although the "Blue China" wreck examples are all ummarked - quite common for the time - similar bottles of the period are embossed on their bases with the names of major, largely East Coast glassworks active during the height of this bottle types' popularity.

The‘sand pontil scar’ present on the base of the bottle is a type that was popular on English dark green glass wine bottles from the 18th century.  This particular mark derives from a common method of empontilling a bottle so that it could be securely held for finishing the lip and rim of the bottle. The pontil scar was formed when the hot glass on the ball-shaped tip of an iron pontil rod was dipped in sand (or small glass chips) prior to application to the bottle base. The sand or glass chips were apparently intended to keep the pontil rod from adhering too closely to the bottle, facilitating easier removal.

The bottles' bodies, an inherently strong shape, were made of thick glass to survive extensive post-bottling handling, which was essential because this bottle type was typically reused many times. These liquor bottles are of a dark olive green glass often referred to as ‘black glass’: it is typically so dense that the color appears visually to be black.

Other Details

H. 26.5cm