Image Sheet music cover for 'Bottle-O', 1910s

TLF ID R2855

This is the front cover of the music score for the song 'Bottle-O'. The cover states that the song was 'specially featured by Jack Hagan in Wm Anderson's pantomime “The Babes in the Wood”' and was composed by Ella Ogilvy. The cover features a line drawing of a bottle with a photograph of Jack Hagan on it and also includes the lyrics of the chorus. The four-page booklet was published by Stanley Mullen Pty Ltd as number 88 of its 'Mullen's Sixpenny Successes' series, probably between 1900 and 1913.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset is a score for a song about the now defunct 'Bottle-O' man, who was a common sight in Australia from the end of the 19th century until door-to-door bottle collecting was superseded by other services in the 1960s - the Bottle-O would visit houses, wheeling a 'push-barrow' or driving a horse-drawn cart (later a truck), calling out 'bottle-o'; he collected empty bottles in order to return them to bottling factories for re-use or recycling.
  • It is an example of the popular tributes made to the Bottle-O, an Australian icon of the time - this song was featured in a popular pantomime and published as sheet music; famous Australian poets also wrote about the Bottle-O man, including Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson ('Bottle-O!', 1899) and Clarence James 'C J' Dennis ('Bottle-O Benny', 1934).
  • It illustrates, in the chorus of the song, the use of the slang term 'dead marines' - 'dead marines' is a colloquialism for empty bottles of beer, wine or other alcohol; the term is said to originate from a description of sailors who had fallen down drunk, but there are several other explanations, ranging from a comment made in the 1830s by William IV, the Duke of Clarence, to the practice of using empty bottles to identify dead soldiers on the battlefield.
  • It is an example of the increasing recognition of female composers in the early 20th century - as with many other professions at the time, women were very rarely able to gain success in music composition, and yet Ella Ogilvy wrote not only this successful song but also 'There's Sunshine My Side of the Street', which featured in another pantomime, an Australian version of 'Mother Goose'.
  • It illustrates the success of Australian-born theatre promoter William Anderson (1868-1940) in the early 20th century - Anderson brought polished dramatic and musical productions to the stage, and focused on 'Australian plays for Australian audiences'.
  • It shows how Australians adapted shows from Britain to suit local interests - 'The Babes in the Wood' is a traditional British pantomime based on an old English ballad; the Australian version incorporated entirely new songs with Australian themes such as the Bottle-O.
  • It is an illustration of the importance and popularity of music scores in the early 1900s - until the invention and popularisation of technologies such as the phonograph and radio, buying sheet music was one of the few ways to experience music without going to concerts or the theatre, and sheet music publishers such as Melbourne-based Stanley Mullen were very successful.
  • It shows an example of competitive pricing in the early sheet music publishing industry - 'Mullen's Sixpenny Successes' only cost sixpence instead of the standard two shillings that most other publishers charged; by publishing songs that had already proven popular for one-quarter of the price of normal sheet music, Mullen's was able to make this series a success.

Other details

  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: National Library of Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
  • Author
  • Name: Stanley Mullen
  • Remarks: publisher
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements