Monday, August 15, 2016

A Unique Bottle from Coventry

The Connecticut Historical Society has a collection of interesting bottles, glassware and related artifacts from the state's eighteenth and nineteenth century glass works, and one of the most important glass objects in their archive is a heavy, clear olive-green freeblown bottle thought to have been made at the Coventry Glass Works. This "pinch bottle" is roughly square in cross section, pinched to fuse opposite walls of the bottle together and create wavy internal tubes at each corner, between upper and lower chambers, and two more tubes in the wall at the center of the bottle. The center tubes are narrow, and one of them looks like it might not be open all the way through. This style of bottle is known from European glass houses, but as an American and Connecticut product, this specimen is probably unique.

The Coventry pinch bottle is illustrated in American Glass (George and Helen McKearin, 1948) and in American Bottles & Flasks and Their Ancestry (Helen McKearin and Kenneth Wilson, 1978). McKearin and Wilson report that bottle was recovered in the Coventry area around the time of World War I, and that it matches the description of a Coventry bottle said by Edwin Atlee Barber to have been owned by Nathaniel Root, son of the first agent of the Coventry Glass Works.

An old collector's label has the inscrutable legend: B3 ARR #7 R.11.BB. I wonder if anyone still knows what any of that means?

The lip is also peculiar for an early American bottle: sheared and tooled into an outward flare, without any applied glass. The contexts where one does see similar lip treatments is early decanters (which is, I would imagine, how this particular object was used), and nineteenth century cologne bottles.

The flattened base of the probable decanter is also highly unusual, with a deeply impressed, cross-shaped pontil mark. The interior of the impression is surprisingly smooth, with only a couple of small patches of broken glass adhering from the pontil rod. Also visible in this view is a crack that traverses the bottom of the bottle and extends part way up one side.

The Coventry pinch bottle is a crudely beautiful example of the glassblower's art, and a remarkable survival from the golden age of American glass making.