Historical information

This clear, green tinged, Half Whirley (or Whirly) salad oil bottle has been handmade by a glassblower from 1870s-1910s. A bottle with such elaborate decoration would have been sought after as there was no need to decant the sauce into another jug or bottle to make it acceptable for table service.

It is possible that this bottle was recovered from the Loch Ard, wrecked in 1878. A diver found the bottle on a shipwreck in the coastal waters of Victoria about 100 years from when it was made. The diver who found this bottle has recovered objects from several different shipwrecks between the late 1950s and early 1970s. A sizeable proportion of those objects was from the wreck of the famous clipper ship Loch Ard. This salad oil bottle may very well have been amongst that ship’s cargo. It is part of the John Chance Collection.

A paper titled ‘Glass Bottles from the Loch Ard Shipwreck (1878): A Preliminary Study’ by Iain Stuart, (published in Australian Historical Archaeology, 9, 1991) included a study of twelve salad oil bottles from the wreck of the Loch Ard. The bottles were of this same Half Whirley design (half meaning that it was Whirley on the upper half but not on the lower half of the body), as well as the same colour and size. A diagram of one of these twelve bottles matches the bottle in our collection. The paper mentions that eleven of the twelve bottles have a number on their base, just as this one has. It is estimated that foreign and salad oil bottles totalled four percent of all of the bottles carried as cargo on the ship.

The Half Whirley bottle has side seams from below the lip to the base, indicating that the bottle was made in a two-piece mould that included the heel, body, shoulder and neck. The fancy ‘whirly’ twist pattern and panelled sides would have been cut into the mould’s inner surface. The uneven thickness of the ridge around the base comes from adding a separately moulded and embossed base after the bottle was removed from the mould. The applied finish (mouth and lip) was also added to the bottle. The elongated bubbles in the glass are evidence of the glass being mouth blown into the mould, thus forming the shape and pattern from the inside shape of the mould.

The bottle probably had a glass stopper with a round top and wedge-shaped shank with a ground surface, allowing the bottle to be re-sealed. The ring between upper and lower lip allows the closure to be sealed and anchored. The embossed numbers are either “133” or “833” and may represent a particular bottle pattern, manufacturer or filler.


Although the bottle is not currently linked to a particular shipwreck, it is recognised as being historically significant as an example of bottles imported for use in Colonial Victoria in the mid-to-late 19th century.
This whirley salad oil bottle is matches the whirley salad oil bottles recovered from the Loch Ard in the 1990s, adding depth of interpretation to the array of salvaged Loch Ard artefacts in Flagstaff Hill’s collection.
The salad oil bottle is an example of the type of food condiment containers that were used in Victoria’s early days.
The bottle is also significant as it was recovered by John Chance, a diver in Victoria’s coastal waters in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Items that come from several wrecks, including the Loch Ard, have since been donated to the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village’s museum collection by his family, illustrating this item’s level of historical value.

Physical description

Bottle; glass Half Whirley salad oil bottle, green-tinged, with some opalescence. Handmade, elaborately decorated bottle with round neck and base, and five-sided body. Applied double lip; straight upper, flared lower. Lower neck and shoulder have twisted spiral whirley pattern in glass. Body tapers slightly inwards towards base. It has five plain panels, one wider than the others. Side seams run from below lip to the heel. Hell of bottle is uneven in width, height and density where it joins the body of the bottle. Base is not level. Embossed characters on base.
Glass has elongated bubbles towards the base and orange-brown sediment inside, on one side.

Inscriptions & markings

Embossed "133" or “833” (the first character may be an “8”)