Ship in a Bottle

By Bob Dvorak.

The Village Historical Society in the little Connecticut town presented a special exhibition the week of the 27th. A room in the library was set aside for “Ships in Bottles” constructed by Jim Whitson’s great-great-grandfather from around 1855 to 1890.

“You’ll note,” said old Mr. Tenton, the local historian (and probably the most knowledgeable resource on the topic in the entire state), “that in many of the bottles there are two ships. Tobias Whitson had more than enough time and resources to construct the ships — but he found to his chagrin that a good bottle, back then, clear and uncolored, and free of defects, cost a pretty penny.

“Having said that, he produced a number of ships over the years, most of which scattered around the Northeast, although samples of his work have been found as far off as Mobile, Alabama. As he progressed toward his later years, however, the ships got larger and larger, and more ornate and detailed. And while they grew too large to share a bottle, at the same time his fortunes were growing and bottles were easier to come by.

“This one, for instance,” said Tenton, pointing to a three-masted square-rigger nearly eighteen inches long, “is clearly in a glass by itself.”

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