Jeff and Holly Noordsy

Dealers Specializing in the Sale of Early American Bottles, Glass and Period Decorative Arts

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As Presented by Jeff and Holly Noordsy at the Eastfield Village Glass Symposium in August 2005




As early as 1814, American Glass Houses began production of two-piece mold figured flasks. There is some debate as to exactly where and when the first flasks were blown but the date of 1815 seems most likely and an origin of either the Keene Glass Works or The South Boston Flint Glass Works probable. In either case, flasks molded with Sunburst and/or Masonic designs were being blown from lead glass by 1817 at the very latest, with Mt. Vernon and the New England Glass Company as other possible sources. Each of the designs reflected tastes of the day, with the Masonic flasks making obvious reference to the powerful fraternal organization bearing its name and the sunburst reflecting a popular architectural motif of the period. Referred to today as "two-pounders," these heavy, lead glass flasks were not "pocket" flasks but rather table decanters (or decanter flasks) and/or a "traveler's companion" meant to be kept in a saddlebag. The similarity of these flasks points to a common source of molds, which as noted by Ken Wilson, was most likely a moldmaker from Boston.

It would appear today that either concurrent to or slightly later than the first of the heavy Masonic and Sunburst table decanters were blown, other Eastern Glass Works began production of lighter weight pocket flasks made from common bottle glass. The first of these flasks was produced at one of the Connecticut Glass Works, either Pitkin, Coventry or perhaps Mather. As with the two-pounders blown at Keene or South Boston, Masonic symbols and Sunburst motifs were successfully adopted for use as relief decorations. As a general rule these "pocket flasks" were broad shouldered and rather narrow at the base with sharp corrugated edges and molded neck rings. This general design was to remain popular with New England mold makers through the 1820s up to roughly 1830. Other Connecticut flasks of the period featured relief decorations of Eagles (playing to nationalistic pride), cornucopias (a symbol of bountiful harvests) and slightly later, images of the beloved American Revolution hero, the Marquis de Lafayette.

Blown in 1824 and 1825 to commemorate Lafayette's final visit to our shores, a group of flasks was produced at Coventry and Pitkin that successfully seized upon Lafayette's widespread popularity. The obverse of these flasks featured either Masonic imagery (like Washington, Lafayette was revered by the Masons and given honorary membership in Grand Lodges across the country during his visit) or the profile of DeWitt Clinton, then Governor of New York. Coinciding with Lafayette's visit, the completion of the Erie Canal (or "Clinton's Ditch" as it was referred to by its detractors) forever altered the manner in which goods were transported from East to West, an improvement celebrated by industrialists of all types, including Glass House owners. It is no surprise then, the DeWitt Clinton, a man whom history might otherwise forget, will forever be remembered at least partially as a result of the appreciative Glass Industry.

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