Historical information

This handmade ‘gallon’ style of bottle was generally used for storing and transporting wine and ale. Many bottles similar to this one have their bases embossed with “6 TO THE GALLON”. However, this bottle is rare, in that the base has been embossed then over-embossed with the same text, letters overlapping. It is one of many artefacts recovered from unidentified shipwrecks along Victoria’s coast between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It is now part of the John Chance Collection.

The capacity of this is one-sixth of a gallon (imperial measure), which is equal to 758 ml. (American bottles were often inscribed “5 TO THE GALLON”, which is one-fifth of an American gallon, equal to 757 ml.) Contemporary home brewers can purchase new ‘6 to gallon’ bottles that hold 750 ml. and are sold in cases of 36 bottles, which is equal to 6 gallons of wine.

Glass was made thousands of years ago by heating together quartz-sand (Silica), lime and potash. Potash was obtained from burnt wood, but these days potash is mined. The natural sand had imperfections such as different forms of iron, resulting in ‘black’ glass, which was really dark green or dark amber colour. The ‘black’ glass was enhanced by residual carbon in the potash. Black glass is rarely used nowadays but most beer, wine, and liquors are still sold in dark coloured glass.

Glass vessels were core-formed from around 1500 BC. An inner core with the vessel’s shape was formed around a rod using a porous material such as clay or dung. Molten glass was then modelled around the core and decorated. When the glass had cooled the vessel was immersed in water and the inner core became liquid and was washed out.

Much more recently, bottlers were crafted by a glassblower using molten glass and a blow pipe together with other hand tools. Another method was using simple moulds, called dip moulds, that allowed the glass to be blown into the mould to form the base, then the glassblower would continue blowing free-form to shape the shoulders and neck. The bottle was then finished by applying a lip. These moulded bottles were more uniform in shape compared to the free-form bottles originally produced. English glassblowers in the mid-1800s were making some bottles with 2-piece and 3-piece moulds, some with a push-up style base, sometimes with embossing in the base as well. Improvements allowed the moulds to also have embossed and patterned sides, and straight sided shapes such as hexagons. Bottles made in full moulds usually displayed seam seams or lines. These process took skill and time, making the bottles valuable, so they were often recycled. By the early 20th century bottles were increasingly machine made, which greatly reduced the production time and cost.


This bottle is a rare find, in that the base has been over-embossed with the same lettering, letters overlapping one another.

This bottle is historically significant as an example of a handmade, blown inscribed glass bottle manufactured in the mid-to-late 1800s for specific use as a liquor bottle with a set measurement of one-sixth of gallon.

It is also historically significant as an example of liquor bottles imported into Colonial Victoria in the mid-to-late 1800s, giving a snapshot into history and social life that occurred during the early days of Victoria’s development, and the sea trade that visited the ports in those days.

The bottle is also significant as one of a group of bottles recovered by John Chance, a diver in Victoria’s coastal waters in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Items that come from several wrecks have since been donated to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection of shipwreck artefacts by his family, illustrating this item’s level of historical value.

Physical description

Bottle, over embossed, brown glass, handmade, rare. Tall slim Gallon style liquor bottle. Applied double collar lip; square upper and flared lower. Mouth has sealing tape remnants around top. Mould seam around shoulder. Body tapers inwards to push-up base. Top edge of lip has application faults. There is also a rectangular indent in the upper edge of lip. Base is embossed and over embossed, with the letters overlapping each other.

Inscriptions & markings

Embossed on base "6 TO THE GALLON", then over-embossed with the same "6 TO THE GALLON"