GX-21 “The American System” Steamboat – Sheaf of Rye Flask

Provenance: Anonymous

The pint example of the olive-green, “American System” flask that graces our museum shelves is one of the rarest and most desirable of the American historical flasks.

Excerpt from Glasshouses & Glass Manufacturers of the Pittsburg Region: The first known Bakewell-produced historical flask was the “American System” flask. It was likely blown starting in 1824. The slogan came from Henry Clay, then Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. It was from an idea that he and other legislators raised for the government to foster American business by building up the infrastructure (e.g., roads and waterways) and aiding new businesses.

By 1826, Bakewells was employing a total of 61 hands with the value of their annual production at $45,000. John Palmer Bakewell, Benjamin’s son, joined the company in 1827. At that time, the name was changed to Bakewell, Page & Bakewell.

The American System – Steamboat – Sheaf of Rye flask features an early American steamboat with a paddle wheel embossed on what is considered the primary face of the flask. The boat is steaming to the right and toward the lip of the flask. The steamboat has a large narrow flag streaming from the bow to the left and an American flag with stars and stripes flying to the left from a mast just to the left of the smokestack. The steamboat is steaming on waves. The embossed copy reading “AMERICAN” is arched above the steamboat and “SYSTEM” is embossed and arched below the waves.

The reverse of the flask features a large embossed sheaf of rye surrounded by twenty-seven small dots in a horseshoe shape. A rope binds the sheaf of rye. The embossed copy reading “USE ME BUT DO NOT ABUSE ME” surrounds both the sheaf of rye and the small dots in a horseshoe configuration.

The flask has a plain lip and a pontil mark.

Known colors are aqua and light clear green which are considered very rare and clear green, greenish-blue, bright olive green, deep yellow-green and dark olive green (black) which is considered extremely rare.

The flask is attributed to Bakewell, Page, and Bakewell Glass in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It would have been made from 1824 to 1840.

Secondary Flask Images:

Lot: 31 “The American System” And Steam Vessel With American Flag – “Use Me But Do Not Abuse Me.” And Sheaf Of Rye Historical Flask, probably Bakewell, Page, and Bakewell Manufacturers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1820-1840. Clear light green, sheared mouth – pontil scar, pint. GX-21 One of the great rarities in American historical flasks. This example is exceptional with strong embossing, brilliant color, great condition. Ex Dr. Charles Osgood collection, Warren “Bud” Lane collection. Norman C. Heckler & Company Auction #100

Corning Museum of Glass: Yellow-green glass; mold-blown; plain lip, pontil mark. Obverse: early steamboat with paddlewheel steaming to right; long narrow flag streaming to left from bow and large American flag, stars and stripes flying from mast back of smokestack. Above boat in curving line “THE AMERICAN” and beneath the water through which the boat is steaming, the word “SYSTEM”. Similar to GX-20 except that bow of boat is different, also wave motion different and the waves extend to the base of flask. Reverse: large upright sheaf of rye encircled by inscription “USE ME BUT DO NOT ABUSE ME”; also encircling the sheaf and between it and the inscription twenty-seven small dots or pearls possibly intended to represent stars; beneath sheaf narrow rectangular frame with curved ends. Edges: herringbone ribbing, no medial rib. Provenance: McKearin Antiques

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