As a popular pastime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the making of whimsy bottles capitalized on the mass production of bottles to turn everyday objects into playful or meditative tokens. Makers were often men: carpenters with high levels of dexterity, or mariners, prisoners, or lighthouse keepers with plenty of time on their hands. Drawing upon familiar imagery, they often crafted devices of religious significance—such as crosses or scenes of crucifixion—as well as tools of trade and intricate abstracted designs.
Whatever the internal motif, the creative gesture behind whimsy bottles is one of surprise and curiosity. These objects ask a question: how did that get in there? As miniature scenes or ornaments either assembled or unfolded within the confines of an enclosure, whimsy bottles also evoke the pleasures of collecting and ownership. There is typically no function to these objects beyond the enjoyment or contemplation they evoke. Gathered together in collections of their own, as seen in this display, a sense of satisfaction multiplies.