Tear Bottles Past
A Brief History
The Ancient Times
The first documented reference to collecting tears in a bottle appears in the Old Testament of the Bible. David prays to God, "Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle are they not in Thy Book?" Psalm 56:8 (KJV). David wrote this passage approximately 1,020 years before the birth of Christ. These words reminded God's people that He keeps a record of all human pain and suffering. He understands each tear that is shed.
The Roman Era
Around 100 A.D. tomb raiders plundered large quantities of small bottles, which may have given rise to the belief that the bottles were a part of the mourning ritual. They were found mostly among the nobility and Egyptian pharaohs. The supposition was that mourners would shed tears into the bottles as a sign of honor. Some even infer that "professional" mourners were compensated for attending the funerals of the wealthy to fill the lachrymal while weeping loudly, creating an impressive impact on those in attendance. Glass blowing became prevalent during this period, only to be lost during the Dark Ages and uncovered again in the Victorian Era.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian Era of the United Kingdom is commonly used to refer to the period of Queen Victoria's rule between 1837 and 1901. It marked the height of the British Industrial Revolution and the apex of the British Empire. During this time in history mourners would collect their tears in bottles with special stoppers. The eventual evaporation of the tears signified the end of the mourning period. The special bottle remained as a token of remembrance and eternal devotion.
Across the Atlantic, the United States had engaged in a Civil War, which was to become one of the bloodiest wars in American History. Stories of soldiers leaving their wives or new brides with a tear bottle can be found in literature of the period. Some husbands are said to have hoped that the bottles would be full upon their return, signifying their wives devotion. Sadly, many lives were lost. Hundreds of thousands of men never returned home. It has also been said that the widows would go to the grave on the anniversary of the first year of their loved one's death and sprinkle the tears on the grave to signify the end of the first year of mourning. The Victorian tradition of the tear bottle for mourning was both helpful for healing and remembrance, during this time of heightened loss.