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




It could easily be argued that the most aesthetically pleasing of the colonial period bottles were the pattern molded pocket flasks. Dating back to the time of the Romans and revived during the Renaissance, the pattern molding technique involves use of a one piece cone shaped or sometimes two-piece hinged mold cut with ribs or designs. Of Continental ancestry, the pattern molded pocket bottles produced by Stiegel in the 5 year period from 1769 to 1774 have aroused more excitement and more confusion among collectors than any other type of bottles or flasks. Blown from a high grade of non-lead glass, these attractive vessels were artificially enhanced through the addition of metal oxides in the glass batch to produce striking shades of blues and amethysts. Created to mimic the appearance of English and European imports (and playing to the colonists' notion that English and European Glass was the "best" glass) these flasks remain a perplexing study, as there is still some question as to which 18th centrury flasks were blown at Manheim and which were blown abroad. With that said, there are four patterns, the diamond daisy, the 28 honeycombs-above-flutes, the 12 diamond and the Daisy-in-hexagon to which no exact English or European counterparts have been discovered. This fact, coupled with the discovery of numerous flasks of this type in and around Manheim during the earliest days of bottle collecting gives flasks blown in these molds a well accepted attribution of having been blown at Stiegel's Works. And, although not ALL bottles blown in similar forms using 18 and 20 rib molds were blown at Manheim, it is probable that SOME were.






Also blown in this period were flasks made in the "German half-post" method which are today colloquially referred to as Pitkin-type, even though they were a regular product of numerous glass houses. Flasks of this type were created by first slightly inflating the gather of metal on the end of the blowpipe, then reinserting the gather into the batch of vitreous metal for a "half-post" before expanding the gather within a ribbed mold, removing the gather and finally expanding the flask to its final size and shape. If the flask were to be "double patterned" (i.e. both vertical and spiral ribbing) there would be a second insertion into the mold before finalizing the form. Popular in Germany and Eastern Europe throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, this technique would certainly have been practiced by the six German blowers who came to Wistarburgh and it is quite probable that German half-post flasks were among the vessels produced there. It would follow then, that the Germans who first manned Stiegel's furnaces would also have carried the technique with them and produced flasks of this type prior to 1774 and concurrent with the aforementioned Diamond Daisy.


It is with the birth of glassblowing in New England and the Midwest however, that the production of German half-post bottles and flasks reached their zenith. Blown in great numbers at the Pitkin Glass Works (beginning in 1791), the Glastenbury Glass Works, Mather's Glass Works in East Hartford, the Coventry Glass Works, the Clemonton Glass Works in New Jersey and finally, at the Keene Glass Works, German half-post bottles were THE most common pocket bottles produced in the original colonies until the emergence of the figured flask. The German half-post design appealed to Glassblowers and commoners alike in that they were lightweight but sturdy (strengthened by the second gather of metal) and presumably easy to grasp. That they are also aesthetically pleasing is to my mind no unintended result, as the glassblowers of this period still perceived themselves as craftsmen and not cogs in an industrial machine.


The German half-post technique was also practiced by blowers in Pittsburgh and Ohio, first appearing sometime around the turn of the 19th century. More varied in both colors and rib counts than their New England counterparts, Midwestern German half-post bottles have a distinctly 18th century "feel," although few are that early and some were actually blown into the 1820s and perhaps even the 1830s. In addition to producing bottles and flasks in the half-post method, many of the Midwestern Glass Houses also produced "single dipped" pattern molded flasks that were not reinserted into the metal and thus did not exhibit the "half-post." Flasks of this type are thus not "Pitkin-type" but rather simply "pattern molded." With their antecedents in the Diamond Daisy and other flasks blown in Manheim, pattern molded flasks were made in substantial numbers at the Pittsburgh District Glass Houses of the early 19th century and in greater numbers yet at the Ohio Glass Houses throughout the first quarter of the nineteenth century. These flasks were blown in a variety of shapes and colors utilizing differently numbered "ribbed" and variously patterned "diamond" molds as a means of decoration.



Similar techniques were utilized in the manufacture of pattern molded bottles within the region. Produced in numerous forms, it is the globular and club shaped bottles that are most notable. As with the pattern molded flasks of the region, these bottles are blown from brilliant metal and they are as a rule startlingly well-made and symmetrical, though still, obviously individually crafted. The popularity of these Midwestern bottles and flasks among local populations was such that production of them lingered well into the 1820s and perhaps into the 1830s, a decade or more after pattern molded bottles had lost favor in the coastal cities. Still, bottles and flasks of this type fit comfortably with the "colonial period" as they are decidedly influenced by 18th century Continental design.


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