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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Willington Pickle Bottle Variant

Willington pickle bottle, typical small-size example.
The Willington Glass Company in West Willington, Connecticut is the source of three different sizes of cathedral pickle bottles, of a distinctive square, wide, chunky-looking and ornately decorated design. The smallest Willington pickle is about eight inches tall and three inches wide, with three sides with fancy cathedral-window designs with hanging "bellflower" decorations, and one plain label side. In typical examples, the three bellflowers are all more or less identical.

Variant small pickle bottle, side A.
Some years ago, two cathedral pickle bottles that were similar to the small Willington pickle turned up in a barn in Wallingford, Connecticut (about 40 miles from Willington). The details of the embossing on these two bottles is slightly different from typical examples, however, and it seems as if two different molds were used to produce small Willi pickles.

Variant small pickle bottle, side B.
 In the variant small Willington pickle, the three bellflowers are all slightly different from each other, and different from the bellflowers on the typical bottles. In the photos, variant side A is pretty similar to a typical example, but side B has noticeably more widely spreading petals on the dangling flower. On side C, the cathedral decoration doesn't have a component that really looks like a flower at all, instead bearing two loops and and a detached dot on its lower side. The fact that the variant bottle is shorter than the typical bottle pictured here, with a stubby neck, isn't significant, as the necks of these bottles are inherently variable, having been largely formed by hand.

Variant small pickle bottle, side C, with loops and dot design.
Whether the variant pickle bottle was actually made in Willington is an open question. It's almost identical to the small Willi pickle in most ways, but the differences in the bellflowers indicate that two different molds were used, although it might be possible that the differences are due to modifications made to a single mold. The owner of one of the variant bottles speculates that it could be a product of a different glass works, possibly New London.

Open pontil on base of variant pickle bottle.
In a further complication, Norman C. Heckler once owned a cathedral pickle bottle that he says was close to the Willington pickle bottles in form, but was distinctly smaller than the smallest of the three known sizes of bottle from Willington. Possibly, West Willington might have been the source of five different cathedral pickles.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Heckler Winter 2017 Auction

GIII-5 pint Cornucopia / Urn flask.
Norman C. Heckler & Co. is running an absentee auction (Select Auction 145) this month, and as usual there are some interesting pieces of Connecticut glass on offer. At first glance, the flask above looks like the common (as 180+ year old American bottles go) GIII-4 from Coventry, but there is a circular depression in the middle of the urn, and collectors consider it to be a separate mold, GIII-5. The source of GIII-5 is uncertain, but given it's similarities to a known Coventry Glass Works bottle, it is quite possibly another Coventry product. This flask is listed as "scarce," meaning about 35-75 examples exist, and I would guess that the number of GIII-5s in the world is probably towards the lower end of that range.

GIII-5 obverse.
The cornucopia side of GIII-5 is also distinct from the common GIII-4, but in a less obvious way, with a somewhat irregular depression on the horn. Aside from these depressed areas, the 4 and the 5 appear to be identical.

GIII-5 base.
It's impossible to know for certain, but I suspect that GIII-5 actually was made in a GIII-4 mold, in the latter part of the mold's useful existence when it had accumulated damage, repairs or modifications that are responsible for the depressions on the urn and cornucopia. Similar, circular to irregular, depressions occur on occasional examples of the GI-81 pint Lafayette / liberty cap, and since half of the mold has survived to the present day, the defects in the mold that produced the variant flasks could be examined. The unlisted Connecticut sunburst flask in a previous Heckler sale could be an analogous situation, blown in a modified or deteriorating GVIII-3 mold. A pair of Pitkin Glass Works sunbursts are another candidate for this type of explanation, with GVIII-5a representing the original mold and GVIII-7 being the variant, almost identical except for a pair of faint circles added to one face.

Free flown New England chestnut bottle, light blue-green color.
The auction includes quite a few New England free blown bottles, both chestnut and globular forms. Some of the larger examples have cracks, cooling fissures or potstones with "radiations" (stress cracks); such imperfections seem to be very frequent with big chestnut bottles. The example above is a rarer color, either light blue-green or a very dark aquamarine. Glass in this color was produced at most early Connecticut glass works, but not in anything close to the quantities that murkier olive/amber/yellow/green glass was made.

GI-80 Coventry pint Lafayette / Dewitt Clinton flask, with rare Moxie bottle.
One of the pricier items in this sale will probably be a just about perfect, delicately colored Lafayette / Dewitt Clinton pint flask from the Coventry Glass Works (GI-80). This is another scarce flask, though based on the number that turn up, probably on the more numerous side of scarce. The small, early Moxie bottle with applied top is not too bad, either.

GII-66 quart eagle / New London Glass Works flask.
The New London Glass Works (1856-65) technically fall outside of Connecticut's quiet corner, but were another manufacturer of figured flasks in the eastern part of the state. The large, quart size GII-66 eagle flask is a rare bottle, though this specimen in aquamarine glass and with a smooth base is not quite as desirable as the pontiled examples in clear shades of green and amber that exist. New London was active later than most of the Connecticut glass factories that I write about, and generally produced a more refined type of bottle glass than that made by Coventry or Pitkin. Glass in nearly colorless aquamarine, or the bright, clean colors seen in some New London bottles is rare or absent from the products of the early 19th century Connecticut glass works.