Our Treasure of the Month for July is a free-blown utility bottle of the type used on sailing ships for the very practical purpose of storing or transporting liquid material such as wine, rum or brandy. For increased stability on rough seas, the bottles were fashioned with a wide bottom to prevent toppling over. Their bulbous appearance was reminiscent of an onion and consequently they were referred to as “onion bottles”. Invented in the late 17th century, they were commonly found on the ships of the 1715 Fleet.
Our featured bottle has a special history all its own. It is from the Tommy Gore Collection of Historic Bottles. During the 1960’ and 70’s, Mr. Gore worked as an agent for the State of Florida. His job was to monitor finds located by salvagers who operated recovery efforts on 1715 Fleet wreck sites along the east coast of Florida. This particular bottle was recovered in the late 1950’s from the Urca de Lima wreck site located near Fort Pierce. It is the only known intact glass bottle recovered from this site (see letter below).
Our bottle weighs in at 904 grams, is 7” x 5-1/4” in diameter. Note the many barnacles dotting the sides, top and bottom. Finding an item like this completely intact is unusual coming from a shipwreck.
For more information on the history of these bottles, how they were made and their uses please see the recent booklet produced by Ernie Richards, SHIPWRECK ARTI-FACTS, Volume 1.
Special thanks to Fleet Society members Dan Sedwick (#2) and Augi Garcia (#3) who contributed to the content and provided the images.