The History of Ships in Bottles

By Andreas Lier

The sailer having build the first ship in a bottle is unknown to us and so is the year that happened. The reason is that hardly anybody recorded in or on the bottles when it was constructed. The oldest ship in a bottle giving details about the year it was built is to be seen in a museum in Luebeck, Germany. According to a note on the sail it is dated from 1784. As stated by experts this ship, however, has not been built by a sailor. Today it is only possible to determine the age of a SIB on the basis of the bottle.

The question, however, is why did sailors start building ships into bottles? In all probability the origin of SIB is in the so called "patience bottle". These bottles, having mainly been built in religious areas, were already known by the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century. There, Christian scenes have been reproduced in bottles, like for example: Jesus on the cross.

In past ages it took a lot of trouble producing clear and particularly bubble free glas. Therefore these items had been very valuable. If you look at the fact that the church was very important to people in former days, it is not hard to understand that the first objects in glas bottles had been Christian scenes.

Sailor have already been building ship models early . These were made of all kinds of materials, like for instance of wood, ivory or even bones, depending on the ship they were on. Those ship models were mostly intended as presents for the sweetheart or the family. Sometimes they have also been used to settle debts. As many sailors had been Christians one or the other may have seen "patience bottles" before. One of the sailers had possibly then decided to give an especially valuable present to his sweetheart and built the first SIB.

In the last years the construction of SIB has been more and more developed. The first SIB showed ships on sea or they hung in the bottle. Since about the 19th century you also find models with habour scenes in the background. Today among other things the sinking of the Titanic has been reproduced.