Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Mattatuck Museum

 The Mattatuck Museum in downtown Waterbury, Connecticut specializes in the industrial history of the "Brass City," and also has notable collections from Connecticut artists as well as antique furniture. They also hold one of the best public collections of early Connecticut glass. It's not a huge location, and part of the building is closed for renovations at the moment, so only a fraction of the collections are on display at any given time, but there were still some remarkable bottles to be seen on my recent visit. 

Inkwells: GII-29 three mold and "J.P.F."
 One of the current displays at the Mattatuck Museum is of documents and signatures from famous figures in 18th and 19th century American History. There were a couple of inkwells among the papers: one common New Hampshire well from the GII-29 three part mold, and a beautiful square "J.P.F." well, in dark olive green, made at the Pitkin Glass Works. John P. Foster was a superintendent at the Pitkin factory; fragments of this type of inkwell have also been found at the Pitkin ruins in Manchester.

Three Coventry flasks: GI-84, GI-86 and GI-80, with violet Mid-Atlantic (?) pattern molded flasks in the background.
There was also a display of just early glass, mostly flasks, with some remarkable bottles. The GI-84 La Fayette / Masonic arch is particularly nice: an "extremely rare" bottle according to McKearin and Wilson, with this example looking to be in just about perfect condition, in an unusually clear pure green color, with nary a trace of the olive shades that are typical of Coventry Glass Works material. The other two Coventry flasks aren't bad either, with good examples of the more common variant of the La Fayette / liberty cap half pint, and one of my favorites, a big pint-plus La Fayette / De Witt Clinton.

Certain exhibits, including the area with the flasks, weren't much labeled by the museum, if at all. There was a touch-screen information station in the area, but that didn't seem to be working. I can't imagine most visitors would have any idea of what they're looking at with this display, and it really would have been nice if there were signs with at least a basic explanation of the bottles.

Coventry and Pitkin Glass Works figured flasks (GI-85, GII-57 and likely GI-81) with New England Pitkin-type pattern molded flasks

The other really special flask on display at the Mattatuck was the "J.P.F. - CONN" Eagle / Cornucopia pint, pictured at center above. McKearin and Wilson list this extremely rare (three extant examples) bottle as number five in their list of the 42 most desirable flasks. As with the J.P.F. inkwell, this flask was almost certainly blown at the Pitkin Glass Works in Manchester (part of East Hartford before 1823).

Not quite on that level of rarity, but still not the sort of things that would turn up at your average estate sale, there are also two nice figured flasks in this photo from "Covetry [sic] C-T": the pint La Fayette / liberty cap (somewhat scarcer than the half pint), and a half pint La Fayette / De Witt Clinton. The two Pitkin-type flasks in the background are possibly Connecticut glass as well (certainly New England); the larger, nearly pure green example is especially good.

There were other interesting things going on at the Mattatuck Museum, even with portions closed because of construction, including a photography exhibit from the ominous Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan, and a really large collection of antique buttons. It was well worth the modest price of admission.