[Ads-l] 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall - about flies?

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Nov 4 00:40:17 UTC 2022

I revisited my 99 bottles research and uncovered one more, perhaps more satisfying possible origin story.

There were glass hand grenade fire extinguishers that were mass-marketed starting in late-1883, and into 1884, at about the same time the song, “99 blue bottles hanging on the wall” appeared in print.

Many of the grenades were made of blue, bluish green or green glass.  The largest manufacturer even trademarked blue or bluish-green as the color of their glass bottles.  The grenades were frequently hung on walls, sometimes in great quantities.

I updated my post with information about the “blue bottle” grenades hanging on walls.


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From: Peter Reitan<mailto:pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Friday, October 14, 2022 5:15 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:ads-l at listserv.uga.edu>
Subject: 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall - about flies?

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject:      99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall - about flies?

I researched the history of 99 bottles of beer on the wall and learned seve=
ral things.

It dates to about the mid 1940s.

There is a well-known British analog called =93Ten Green Bottles Hanging on=
 the Wall=94 which I had never heard of.  It dates to the late-1920s.

Both British and American troops sang an earlier version of the song during=
 WW I, which the Brits may have picked up from the Americans.

There was an earlier American version, usually sung as =9399 (or 49) Blue B=
ottles Hanging on the Wall,=94 which appears to have had the same tune as t=
he modern British version.   The earlier American version dates to about 18=

When I tried to figure out what =93blue bottles=94 referred to, the one thi=
ng that seems to have been in common use at the time related to flies =96 =
=93blue bottle flies,=94 commonly called simply =93blue bottles=94 at the t=
ime.  That might explain why the bottles are hanging on the wall, which doe=
sn=92t seem to make much sense.


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