Saturday, December 30, 2017

Coventry Glass Works Pitchers

Free blown olive-amber pitcher, six inches tall. Attributed to Coventry Glass Works, via John Carpenter of Coventry.
 The Coventry Glass Works (1815-1848) are known, based on archaeological evidence and local lore, to have manufactured a range of free blown tableware, though tableware was probably a minor portion of their output compared to flasks and utility bottles. A fair number of "Coventry" pitchers exist in private and museum collections, though as always, the attribution of 200 year old free blown glass is subject to a certain degree of uncertainty, and similar items were made at various other nineteenth century glass factories in Connecticut and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Opposite side of the John Carpenter Coventry Glass Works pitcher
 The first Coventry pitcher that I have recently had a chance to examine supposedly came out of a house in Coventry, and is associated with an oldish note that reads: "This pitcher is guaranteed to be Coventry glass. It was bought around 1920 from John Carpenter of North Coventry and was blown by one of his ancestors. So he said." It is cracked to hell, but the provenance is better than average. This pitcher is in private hands, and will be auctioned by Norman C. Heckler & Co. in 2018.

Applied handle of John Carpenter pitcher.
Both likely-Coventry pitchers described here have a similar form, with threading wrapped around the mouth area. The handle was applied first near the top of the pitcher, then bent around and stuck to the side of pitcher, pulled out into a ribbon that was somewhat crudely flattened onto the pitcher body with a tool. The smooshed handle terminal is possibly an indication of Coventry origin.

Freeblown olive-green pitcher, 7.5 inches tall, attributed to Coventry Glass Works. Connecticut Historical Society collection.
The second Coventry Glass Works pitcher examined here is in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. It's a larger example, in a lighter, greener color of glass, with more taper towards the base. It's a lovely piece of early Connecticut glass, but is not currently on display.
Applied handle of Coventry pitcher, Connecticut Historical Society.

Base of Coventry pitcher, Connecticut Historical Society.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall 2017 Glass Miscellany

Pitkin Glass Works ruins, October 2017.
It hasn't been the best fall foliage season here in Connecticut. A Gypsy Moth outbreak and a severe thunderstorm with hail caused trouble for the trees in a lot of places back in June, and autumn 2017 has so far alternated between too dry and warm, and a couple of periods of wind and rain that have tended to knock a lot of leaves to the ground. Still, there are scenic views here and there, including the Pitkin Glass Works ruins in Manchester.

New sign for the ruins site.
The Pitkin site has a new sign, featuring a Pitkin-type flask. The old sign had a painting of a free blown demijohn sort of bottle.

The old Center Turnpike crosses a wooden bridge in Boston Hollow, heading west into Westford.
The location of the Westford Glass Company is the most isolated of the early glass works sites in Connecticut. A moderately busy state road, Rt. 89, passes by the factory site, but Westford is a quaint and thinly populated village, and it's right on the edge of Boston Hollow and the Yale-Myers forest, an expansive undeveloped tract that is probably about as close as the Nutmeg State gets to a wilderness area.
The disused but preserved church in the center of Westford, a few hundred yards from the foundations of the Westford Glass Co.
The October 2017 Heckler & Co. live auction.
We're entering a busy couple of weeks for specialist bottle auctions, with several online sales going on now or starting soon. Here in Connecticut, Norman C. Heckler & Co. just had one of their live auctions, where there was some good local antique glass up for bidding, including an amber Willington blueberry preserve bottle and a large, light yellow olive chestnut bottle (both at upper left in the auction floor photo). The blueberry bottle went for something approaching a retail price, but the chestnut was a bargain.

PATENT insulator, Willington Glass Co.
In November, Heckler's is having an online sale. One interesting Connecticut piece is an insulator embossed PATENT (with the letters reversed). There are two or three variants of this item, all thought to be made in Willington, with reports of shards being found at the glass factory site and also along railroad tracks in the area. Apparently, insulator collectors don't necessarily think that these were insulators, and there is some speculation that they were some kind of decorative architectural accent (whether or not a big pyramidal chunk of dark muddy olive glass with "PATENT" written backwards all over it in block letters is "decorative," is, I suppose, a matter of taste).

GI-33 WASHINGTON / JACKSON pint historical flask, Coventry Glass Works (left) with three GI-32 New England Washington flasks.
The sale preview also offered a chance to examine a somewhat confusing group of flasks, the GI-31, 32 and 33 Washington/Jackson pints. These are quite similar to each other, and I've seen well-known specialists mix them up. Of interest to the staff here at Quiet Corner Glass is the GI-33, which was the Coventry Glass Works version of this type of Washington flask. The easiest field mark of the 33 is that the lettering is noticeably smaller than with the other two molds, with the W in "Washington" being placed opposite G.W.'s receding hairline. In the 31 and 32 flasks, the W is down at eye level. GI-31 is probably a Keene-Marlboro St. (NH) flask, whereas GI-32 is of uncertain New England origin.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Glass at the MoCG

Free blown and dip mold glassware in the Marshall collection.
 The September open house at the Museum of Connecticut Glass featured a display by Tom Marshall, who specializes in unusual and early free blown, dip molded and pattern molded glass, of the type that could have been made by the eighteenth and early nineteenth century glass works of Eastern Connecticut. Many Museum regulars turned out to admire some spectacular antique bottles and tableware, and there was also a slow but steady stream of visitors from the general public.

Crude free blown inkwell, bottles and tableware.

Pattern molded corner, with Pitkin-type flasks, inkwell, and an extremely rare Pitkin hat (likely a salt cellar, or possibly a whimsey).

Early, flat-bottomed case-gin bottle whatzit with a plain sheared lip. Smaller than the common Continental case gins, in a more Connecticut-ish or New England-y glass color, with a very rare mouth treatment for this sort of bottle.

Large (baseball-sized) free blown inkwell.

"Coventry Glass Works" sign, likely not period.
Aside from the special glass from Tom Marshall, the Museum had a recent acquisition on display: a large blue painted wooden sign reading "Coventry Glass Works." This doesn't look all that old to me; it's pretty clean and the blocky sans-serif lettering looks kind of modern. Others who have examined the sign are also of the opinion that it's a twentieth century fantasy reproduction, not something that was ever hung outside the factory 200 years ago. Apparently a similar (also possibly not authentic) sign exists for the Willington Glass Co., in a private collection in the area.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pitkin Flask Display

Pitkin-type flask display at the Museum of Connecticut Glass. June 17, 2017.
The June open house at the Museum of Connecticut Glass hosted a unique display of about 30 Pitkin-type flasks, plus some related bottles and inkwells. Dana Charlton-Zarro, a well-regarded specialist in this style of early American glass, was kind enough to bring up a portion of her fabulous collection for the open house, and to stay around to share her extensive knowledge of the bottles.

Dana's collection focuses on New England Pitkin-type flasks, many of which were indeed made at the Pitkin Glass Works, though more or less identical bottles were produced by the Coventry, Mather, Glastenbury and probably Willington glass factories in Connecticut, as well as in New Hampshire factories. Glassware in the same general style was produced in Mid Atlantic and Midwestern glass works, though the forms, colors and rib counts of New England Pitkins seem to be fairly distinctive.

The process of blowing Pitkin-type flasks was complex and required multiple steps executed by a skilled craftsman. Various modern glass studios, including Pairpoint on Cape Cod, have attempted to recreate New England Pitkins, though the delicate patterns and eggshell-thin glass of better antique flasks seems to be very difficult to replicate. At some point, probably around 1820, Pitkin-type flasks went out of production, replaced by sunburst flasks and other styles of embossed bottles blown in two part metal molds, in a much less technically demanding procedure.

Dana Charlton-Zarro (with flask) explains the finer points of Pitkin-type flasks to some Museum visitors.

The gaffer had some difficulties with this bottle: some sections of the sides got folded over and stuck to themselves during the blowing process.

Some smaller Pitkin flasks, between four and five inches tall. Pitkins below five inches tall (or more than seven inches) are relatively rare.

Pitkin type inkwells. The squared-off example (center left) was probably expanded in a dip mold for snuffs, and was recovered from a Connecticut stream bank relatively recently. The "cross-swirled" example (center right), with ribs curved to the left and to the right, is also very rare.

Some more special Pitkins: pint and half-pint examples in a blue-green color, with barely any hint of olive (the color is more blue in person), and a greenish, wide, flattened bottle with very tight ribbing.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Timothy and Christine Hill Collection at Heckler's

Woodstock, Connecticut, May 26, 2017. One of the most beautiful parts of the country at one of the loveliest times of the year!
Norman C. Heckler & Co. is going to be selling the collection of Timothy and Christine Hill over the course of 2017. The Hill collection of bottles and related antiques was varied and very large, but with definite concentrations in historical flasks and veterinary medicine bottles. The Hill collection sales started on Friday with a large, well-attended live auction in the Heckler barn, which included some unusually fancy lots.

Norm Heckler Sr. gets the auction going in front of his old George S. McKearin, Inc. sign.

Ernie Eldridge, antique dealer and mayor of Windham, Ct,  took over conducting the auction at times.

"Dr. Lesure's Famous Remedies," goony veterinary medicine cabinet. Not really my thing, but apparently that was a $3500 plus 17% buyer's premium plus 6.35% sales tax for a total of $4355.03 and nearly the most expensive item of the sale goony veterinary medicine cabinet.

Radium Radia medicine bottle with contents (brown, not obviously luminescent) and box. Probably not actually an ionizing radiation hazard?
 And here's some of the good stuff:

GI-85 LA FAYETTE COVETRY [sic] C-T / liberty cap pint flask, Hill collection ex Brown collection. Crude, huge bubbles, in fine condition.

GV-9 railroad / eagle pint flask, Coventry Glass Works. Nice green color, good impression in a mold where the embossing is usually pretty lumpy, and it went for cheap.

GVIII-16 sunburst flask. Generally considered a Coventry product, but there is supposedly some evidence from dug shards that it was (also?) made at the Pitkin Glass Works.

GIV-16 masonic arch /eagle flask.
GIV-16 base.
The highlight of the auction was an aquamarine GIV-16 masonic flask, which went for around $5300 with buyer's premium. The manufacturer of these rare and handsome bottles is obscure; it's possibly a Coventry product, but the design of the eagle with banner and oval and the relative frequency of aquamarine examples, suggest that a New Hampshire glass works might be more likely. Norm Heckler commented that he collected GIV-16s when people thought they were from Coventry, but then sold them off when collector opinion shifted to a Keene origin.

The next Heckler online auction (#151), opening July 3, will be a large sale and include a lot more material from the Hill collection. It hasn't been organized into catalogue form yet, but everything was laid out for inspection in the online auction shed, and I spotted some good Connecticut and New England glass:
There are some Coventry ink bottles and early New England utilities in there, along with some half pint Coventry historical flasks.

Pint Coventry railroad and sunburst flasks, Willington eagles and a half pint New London anchor / eagle, in among a whole lot of other stuff.

Westford traveler's companion and sheaf of wheat flasks, with Coventry and Willington eagles, etc. etc.

GI-33 WASHINGTON / JACKSON pint flask, Coventry Glass Works.This was one of the Connecticut bottles that jumped out at me: not common (but a number have suddenly been cropping up in auctions lately), and usually seen in dark, muddy olive colors, not this sort of clear, light "chestnut glass."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Museum of Connecticut Glass 2017

Center of the National Historic Glass Factory District in Coventry, Ct: the old University of Connecticut agricultural experiment barn, the Capt. John Turner house (both MoCG property) and the Nathaniel Root house.

 The Museum of Connecticut Glass started their 2017 schedule of public events with the annual antique glass and bottle show. Tours were also offered of the John Turner house, which was built ca. 1812-1813 by one of the incorporators of the Coventry Glass Works.

The sales field at the Coventry glass show, May 20, 2017.
  In spite of some cool, cloudy weather with a few drops of rain for the first half of the show, there was a great selection of glass up for sale, and a decent turnout of buyers, though it possibly wasn't as busy as some other Coventry shows in recent years. There was a conflict with another area glass sale, which probably didn't help, at least from the seller's point of view.

Stoneware, case bottles and more on offer.

Some of the good stuff: Willington, Westford and New London flasks.

A Coventry DEWITT CLINTON / LAFAYETTE half pint historical flask, GI-81.

There weren't many New England Pitkin flasks available at the show this year, but in June there will be a chance to check out one of the best collections of Pitkin flasks anywhere...

Connecticut or New England Pitkin-type flasks. 

Next month's Museum activity will be a display of Pitkin-type flasks and related early American glass, with expert Dana Charlton-Zarro on hand to share her knowledge of the subject. This will, I believe, be the first time that Dana has traveled to the Pitkin homeland in Connecticut to give a public talk about her favorite antique bottles, and it should be a special opportunity to see and learn about a beautiful and widely admired class of early glassware. The Pitkin display will be held Saturday, June 17, 1:00-4:00 at the Museum of Connecticut Glass.

Future MoCG open houses will be held the third Saturday of each month, 1:00-4:00, through the autumn. Special exhibits will include:
July 15 - Victorian glass tableware manufacture in Connecticut, with Nick Wrobleski (tentative).
• August 19 - Coventry Glass Works flasks and other antique Connecticut blown-in-mold glass.
• September 16 - early Connecticut freeblown and pattern-molded tableware, whimsies and other rarities, with Tom Marshall.
• October 21 - TBA.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Heckler Auctions Spring 2017

The Heckler property, April 2017.
The Heckler & Co. live auction season started up last week, with a nice selection of old bottles, other glass and a bit of stoneware. There were some of the more common Willington, Westford and Coventry flasks up for bidding. I picked up a matched pair of early dip-molded New England snuff bottles.
The live auction setup inside the barn, Norm C. Heckler in the vest.
Heckler's absentee auction 148.
Heckler's also had their May online auction up for previewing. As usual, there are going to be some quality Connecticut bottles included in the sale.

Coventry Glass Works pint sunburst flask, GVIII-3.
The GVIII-3 Coventry sunburst in this sale has excellent glass quality and a fine color on the greener side of olive, but some minor cooling cracks in the shoulders. Another notable Connecticut sunburst flask in the sale will be a GVIII-5a, probably from the Pitkin Glass Works; quite a rare flask but not quite a perfect example.

BY A.A. COOLEY HARTFORD CON blacking bottles, with insect powder and smelling salts bottles.
Two examples of what is thought to be a boot-blacking bottle made in Coventry, embossed A.A. Cooley, will be on offer. These come up for sale on a pretty regular basis, but the ones here have strong embossing and are probably better than most. 

GII-64 pint eagle flask, Willington Glass Company.
This Willington eagle flask is another relatively common bottle, but in a warm amber that stands out from the usual run of murkier, olive-amber Willington glass.

GII-68, pint eagle/anchor flask, New London Glass Works.
This New London flask is a warmer, lighter, cleaner shade of amber still. This color and quality of glass probably would have been nearly impossible for an earlier factory like Willington to achieve.