GVIII-19 Wide Mouth Sunburst Flask

Provenance: Sandor P. Fuss Collection

This GVIII-19 Wide Mouth Sunburst Flask created quite a stir when it showed up as one of the lots at the FOHBC 2013 Manchester National Antique Bottle Show auction which was aptly named “The Madness in Manchester Auction.”

Read: Madness in Manchester Auction

The flask is attributed to the Keene Marlboro Street Glass Works in Keene, New Hampshire. The Keene-Marlboro-Street Glassworks opened under the direction of Henry Schoolcraft and his two partners in 1815 and continued in operation under a bewildering variety of operating firms for the next 35 years. Although the vast majority of the plant’s products appear to have been unmarked, the factory-made several flasks embossed with initials of an owner or the location name – all of which may be closely dated. Our flask is thought to have been made from 1815 to 1830.

Sunburst flasks are considered one of the oldest of the American “geometric” and “historical” flasks and are generally attributed to the period of 1815 to the early 1830s. This dating results from historical research and the manufacturing techniques of the flasks. The sunburst flasks are all made with two-piece molds with pontil scarred bases and most having sheared mouths. Except for the letter embossing on three forms, the sunburst pattern that occurs on both sides of the flask forms is essentially identical.

With many types of antique bottles and flasks, such as bitters, sodas, and medicines, the embossed names, products and locations, advertising, and paper labels greatly assist with historical research and identifying the bottle. Very limited historical information is available for sunburst flasks because they are from the early periods of the glasshouses when good records were not maintained, or records were destroyed in glasshouse fires. Only three of the approximately thirty-three sunburst charted flasks are letter embossed. There were no paper labels on the sunburst flasks because they were purchased without contents and then filled and refilled in bars and saloons.

The three Kenne-Marlboro Street Glass Works sunburst flasks having letter embossing are the GVIII-8, GVIII-9, and GVIII-10, with ‘KEEN’ (sic) embossed in the center on one side and ‘P & W’ embossed on the other. The other related sunburst flasks have been attributed to glasshouses in the general region through historical research, digging in the ruins of the various glasshouses and looking at the similarity of glass quality and color between a sunburst flask and other flasks from known glass houses.

Two very similar sunburst forms that do not have the letter embossing, the GVIII-11 and GVIII-12, have been attributed to the Keene-Marlboro Street Glass Works or at least New England, respectively.

Our GVIII-19 Wide Mouth Sunburst Flask features a large elliptical sunburst on both sides with twenty-four rounded rays. The rays round down to the surface of the flask giving a raised sunburst effect. The sunburst has a concave circular center. The size of the sunburst is about 3 7/8 inches by 2 3/8 inches. The edges are horizontally corrugated. The flask is 7 inches tall with a rectangular body 3-7/8 inches by 3-5/16 inches with a plain lip and pontil mark.

There is some speculation that the original purpose of this flask was as a snuff bottle or a small jar. Known colors are all extremely rare for the GVIII-19. That includes aqua, red amber, olive green, dark olive green, and puce.

Primary Image: GVIII-19 Wide Mouth Sunburst Flask imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support Image: Auction Lot 96: Sunburst Snuff Jar, Keene Marlboro Street Glassworks, Keene, New Hampshire, 1815-1830. Medium to deep yellowish olive green, sheared mouth – pontil scar, ht. 7 3/8 inches; (some very minor manufacturer’s blemishes including onion skin bubbles and potstones). GVIII-19 Exceptionally rare. Exceptionally beautiful. This piece has a real “presence”. Fine condition. Purchased from Jacob’s in Southwick, Massachusetts for $25.00 in 1952, ex Merritt Vanderbilt collection, Clarissa Vanderbilt Dundon collection. – norman heckler, Norman C. Heckler & Company, Auction #108

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 Keene-Marlboro-Street Glassworks by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr

Support: Reference to The Keen Embossed and Similar Sunburst Flasks by Bill Ham, Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, August 1984, Connecticut Sunburst Flasks by Bill Ham, Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, November 1985, More on Sunburst Flasks by Bill Ham, Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, January 1988 and Sunburst and Similar Scents by Bill Ham, Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, May 1988

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