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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 5 22:39:31 UTC 2022

Fascinating theory, Peter! Here is a citation in 1924 that strongly
supports the theory that the “Ninety-nine blue bottles” song was about
fire extinguisher bottles. The singing described in the passage below
occurred at a convention held in Toledo, Ohio in 1903.

Date: November 1924
Periodical: The Painters Magazine and Paint and Wall Paper Dealer
Article title: The Gazing Globe
Article subtitle: Reminiscences of Half a Century of Paint, Painting
and Painters, and Paint Manufacturers Recalled by a Former Editor of
The Painters Magazine
Author: Edward Hurst Brown
Installment number:  Six
Start Page 39, Quote Page 39


[Begin excerpt – double-check for typos]
The Toledo Convention began with the Blue Bottle song, which lasted
for several years and was never concluded. It started on an evening
trolley ride with

"Ninety-nine blue bottles hanging on the wall,
Take one blue bottle down from the wall
Leaves ninety-eight blue bottles hanging on the wall."

They were the fire extinguisher bottles so commonly used in those
days. One was removed with each verse, and the object was to bring the
song to a conclusion by taking down the last blue bottle. Year after
year some were taken down, but so far as I know, the last blue bottle
is still hanging on the wall.
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Nov 3, 2022 at 8:40 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> 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.
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2022/10/blue-bottles-green-bottles-and-flies.html
> Sent from Mail<https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986> for Windows
> 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?
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> 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=
> 84.
> 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.
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2022/10/blue-bottles-green-bottles-and-flies.htm=
> l
> Sent from Mail<https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=3D550986> for Window=
> s
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