Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lafayette Flask Mold

GI-85 "La Fayette Covetry C-T" / liberty cap flask, with mold. Photograph copyright 2002 Corning Museum of Glass.
The early Connecticut figured flasks were among the first bottles that were blown in two part metal molds, which allowed for complex designs and inscriptions that were impossible with more primitive dip molded or pattern molded glass.  It was once thought that none of the molds used to make figured flasks had survived to modern times, presumably all having been scrapped and melted down. However, in the 1980s, half of the mold for the Coventry Glass Works pint Lafayette / liberty cap flask was discovered in the Willimantic River in Mansfield Depot, Connecticut, near the Coventry town line. The mold is brass, with some cast iron components, and is in surprisingly good condition for something that had been sitting in a river bed for 150 years. 

The Willimantic River, looking north from Route 44 in Mansfield
The location where the mold half was recovered was near where Route 44, the old Middle Turnpike, crosses the Willimantic river. According to Noel Tomas of the Museum of Connecticut Glass, people have been back with metal detectors and thoroughly searched the area, but they were unable to find the other half.
The Coventry / Mansfield town line, on the west side of the river.
It's interesting to think about how the GI-85 mold escaped recycling, only to wind up getting thrown into a river. The site where the mold was found is only about two miles east of the Coventry Glass Works district, and both locations are right on the Middle Turnpike, the major thoroughfare through the area at the time the glass factory was active. Was it carelessness, or petty sabotage by a disgruntled employee? Was the mold dumped during the 1820s, or long afterwards when someone was cleaning old junk out of their basement? What happened to the other half of the mold? There is probably no way of knowing the answer to most of these questions. It's just possible that the rest of the mold will turn up some day, though: the Willimantic River gets fairly wide and deep just downstream of the Middle Turnpike, for example, and could conceal all sorts of things in its muddy bed.

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