Collecting bottles for the war effort

Boys from Wharekāhika (Hicks Bay) Native School on the East Coast with some of the 1489 bottles they helped collect for the Belgian Fund in July 1916. The most successful individual collectors hold boards displaying their names and tallies.

By 1916 the war had caused a shortage of glass bottles. Empty bottles were sought after by brewers, chemists and the general public for a range of purposes. The government introduced bottle collecting as part of the patriotic effort to raise funds and schoolchildren eagerly foraged for them. Newspapers reported on what became a competition as each school attempted to outdo the others. One newspaper reported that a school had collected 10,000 bottles in its bottle drive. Children brought their contribution to school in schoolbags, trolleys, sacks and doll’s prams. The bottles were auctioned to raise money for war funds.

In October 1916 the Ashburton Guardian reported that Dunedin’s schoolchildren had collected more than 300,000 bottles. The auction raised over £1500 (equivalent to more than $200,000 in 2014) for the Belgian Fund. Impressive individual tallies were publicised to spur other children and schools into action. Everyone wanted to show that they were doing their patriotic best.

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