GI-80 • “Lafayette” And Bust – “De Witt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask

Provenance: Richard S. Ciralli Collection

This extraordinary GI-80 pint in a brilliant yellow glass is outstanding in every respect. The flask was made by Thomas Stebbins around 1825 at the Coventry Glass Works in Coventry, Connecticut.

The GI-80 Clinton – De Witt pint flask is embossed on the obverse face with a small Lafayette profile facing right. The embossed copy ‘LA FAYETTE’ is positioned in a convex semicircle above the bust. Beneath the bust is an embossed horizontal bar with ‘T. S.’ embossed and centered beneath. The reverse side of the flask pictures an embossed small De Witt Clinton profile facing right. The embossed copy ‘DE WITT CLINTON’ is positioned in a semicircle around the bust. The letter “D” is reversed. Beneath the bust is embossed arched copy reading ‘COVENTRY’’ with ‘C – T’ embossed and centered in a straight line beneath. The flask edges are corrugated horizontally, with corrugation extending around the flask at the base and junctures of the neck and body. The flask is found with a plain lip and pontil mark. The flask can be found in amber, golden amber, olive amber, olive-yellow, olive green, yellow-olive, and this extraordinal yellow color.

Coventry Glass Works

Seven men agreed to erect a glass factory in Coventry, Connecticut on January 14, 1813, along the Willimantic River. Four of the men, Captain Nathaniel Root, Ebenezer Root Nathaniel Root Jr., and Joseph A. Norton all of Coventry were not glassmakers. The group included Eli Evans, Thomas W. Bishop, and Uriah Andrews, glassblowers from East Hartford that had the experience to run the day-to-day operations. Eli, Thomas, and Uriah were to use their expertise where needed in the glass factory and be compensated at $26 per month and $45 for each year they worked in the plant. In 1816, there was an agreement to expand by adding buildings.

Thomas Stebbins was operating the glassworks by 1820. He may have been the first glass-house owner who adapted the portraits of well-known men to grace his whiskey flasks. You will see his initials “T. S.” on our GI- 80 example and GI-83 and GI-84 flasks. It is believed that the “De Witt Clinton” and “Lafayette” flasks were made, to celebrate the opening of the Erie Canal and the visit of the French hero Lafayette to America in 1825.

The Marquis de La Fayette known in the United States as Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the siege of Yorktown. After returning to France, he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. He is considered a national hero in both countries. In 1824, President James Monroe invited him to the United States as the nation’s guest, where he visited all 24 states in the union and met a rapturous reception.

De Witt Clinton was governor of the State of New York at this time. There was no particular bond between Lafayette and Clinton, but Lafayette’s stay coincided with the completion of the Erie Canal. Clinton more than any other man was responsible for the construction of this vital waterway, “Clinton’s Ditch,” which solved the sore problem of commerce between the midwest and the east.

The embossed “S. S.” initials on some Lafayette flasks could be the entry of a brother in 1825 to the glassworks or possibly a mistake. Later in 1825, Rufus B. Chamberlain joined the firm and they were now Stebbins & Chamberlin. The embossed initials “S & C” is found on some flasks such as GI-81, GI-85, GI-86, and GI-87. In 1828, Jasper Gilbert, John Turner, and Rufus B. Chamberlain with John Turner’s brother Levi took control forming Gilbert Turner & Company. Lack of wood is said to be the reason for the glassworks closing in 1848, but accounting books seem to indicate sales into 1849.

See the museum example of a GI-86 “Lafayette” And Bust – Liberty Cap Portrait Flask

Primary Image: GI-80 “Lafayette” And Bust – “DeWitt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support: Reference to American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry by Helen McKearin and Kenneth M. Wilson, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1978.

Support: Reference to Coventry Glass Works by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr

Support: Reference to Historical Flasks, American Primitive Portraits in Glass by Helen McKearin, October 1942, American Collector magazine, reprinted in Collectors Weekly, April 3 2009

Support Images: Auction Lot 1: “Lafayette” And Bust – “DeWitt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask, Coventry Glass Works, Coventry, Connecticut, 1824-1825. Brilliant olive-yellow, sheared mouth – pontil scar, pint; (light exterior high point wear). GI-80 A handsome flask with a beautiful light color. Fine condition. Robert and Janice Weekes collection. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #164

Support Images: Auction Lot 122: “LA FAYETTE” / BUST OF LAFAYETTE / “T.S.” – “DE WITT CLINTON” / BUST OF CLINTON / “COVENTRY / C-T”, (GI-80), Coventry Glass Works, ca. 1825 – 1835, yellowish ‘old’ amber pint, open pontil, sheared and tooled lip. About perfect. Crude pebbly glass, plenty of seed bubbles and almost no trace of wear. Here’s a nice one! – Jim Hagenbuch, Glass Works Auctions, February 2020

Support Images: Auction Lot 66: GI-80 LAFAYETTE – CLINTON PORTRAIT / HISTORICAL FLASK, pint, obverse embossed “LA FAYETTE / (bust) / T.S.”, reverse embossed “DE WITT CLINTON / (bust) / COVENTRY / C-T”, plain mouth, rough pontil mark. Shaded medium to light yellow olive, Thomas Stebbins, Coventry Glassworks (1815-1848), Coventry, Connecticut. 1820-1848. Undamaged with high-point wear to both busts. 7 1/4″ H. From the estate collection of Russell and Doris Evitt, Jackson, CA. Literature: McKearin/Wilson – American Bottles & Flasks, pp. 544, 545. – Jeffrey Evans, Jeffrey S. Evans & Assoc., February 2020

Support Images: Auction Lot 1: “Lafayette” And Bust – “De Witt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask, Coventry Glass Works, Coventry, Connecticut, 1824-1825. Light yellow olive, sheared mouth – tubular pontil scar, pint; (somewhat weakened impression, exterior high point wear, 1/4 inch hairline fissure at the top of the neck). GI-80 Warren “Bud” Lane collection. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #100

Support Images: Auction Lot 29: “Lafayette” And Bust – “DeWitt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask, Coventry Glass Works, Coventry, Connecticut, 1824-1825. Medium yellow olive, sheared mouth – pontil scar, pint; (light exterior high point wear). GI-80 Bold embossing and corrugated edges. Attractive “New England” color. Fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #128

Support Images: Auction Lot 130: “Lafayette” And Bust – “De Witt Clinton” And Bust Portrait Flask, Coventry Glass Works, Coventry, Connecticut, 1824-1825. Bright olive-yellow, sheared mouth – pontil scar, pint; (light exterior high point wear). GI-80 Beautiful light color. Fine condition. – Norman Heckler Jr. & Sr., Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #133

Support Image: Portrait, Lafayette as a lieutenant general in 1791, by Joseph-Désiré Court (1834)

Support Image: Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of DeWitt Clinton, a politician, and naturalist who served as United States Senator and the sixth Governor of New York. oil on canvas 28 5/8 x 23 3/8 in. Painted circa 1823

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