Admiralty poison bottles
Admiralty poison bottles are antique glass bottles originally used to store poisonous substances by the British Military during the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were also a wide range of non-poisonous medical compounds stored in Admiralty bottles.
Background and appearance
The large majority of Admiralty poison bottles are cobalt blue or emerald green in colour, and feature raised ridges and lettering. These designs were introduced by manufacturers after the 1863 Bill for the Prevention of Accidental Poisoning was introduced in the British Parliament.
The bill stated that bottles containing hazardous materials such as rat poison should be distinctive and easily recognized, due to a large number of accidental poisonings that had occurred. The strong colours were used so that the large numbers of the population that were illiterate would recognize them without reading the label, and the ridges were used so that the bottles could be identified in dim or dark conditions.
Collecting Admiralty poison bottles
Admiralty poison bottles, and poison bottles in general, are highly popular with antique bottle collectors due to their shape, design and strong distinctive colours. Their historical connections and rarity also add to the appeal.
There are a huge range of designs and sizes, from less than 10cm to more than 20cm in height. They come in round, rectangular and hexagonal shapes, most Admiralty bottles share a distinctive characteristic – an upwards pointing arrow. These arrows are either small or large, and can be raised from the surface or etched into the glass.
The price of the bottles depends entirely on the style, size, colour and condition. Smaller bottles can often sell on sites such as eBay for less than $5, whereas rarer examples have been known to fetch several hundred dollars at specialist auctions. Even the most common Admiralty bottles are relatively scarce and seldom sell for less than 10-15 pounds.