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

Provenance: Anonymous

Our pint GX-21 olive-green, “American System” Steamboat – Sheaf of Rye “Use Me But Do Not Abuse Me” flask is one of the rarest and most desirable of all charted American historical flasks. The flask is attributed to Baker & Martin in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania. The flask would have been made between 1824 and 1840. We are fortunate to have three very fine examples represented in our museum.

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 (convex) above the steamboat and ‘SYSTEM’ is embossed and arched (concave) below the waves.

The American System was an economic plan that played an important role in American policy during the first half of the 19th century and was devised in the burst of nationalism that followed the War of 1812. Rooted in the “American School” ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the plan “consisted of three mutually reinforcing parts: a tariff to protect and promote American industry; a national bank to foster commerce; and federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other ‘internal improvements’ to develop profitable markets for agriculture.” Congressman Henry Clay was the plan’s foremost proponent and the first to refer to it as the “American System.”

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. A high protective tariff within the internal development inspired this phrase.

The flask has a plain lip and a pontil mark. the flask edge is in a herringbone ribbon with no medial rib. This design really distinguishes the flask and makes it a mold-makers masterpiece.

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

Primary Image: The GX-21 olive-green, “American System” Steamboat – Sheaf of Rye “Use Me But Do Not Abuse Me” flask imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support Image: Auction 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

Support Image: [see flask below] 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 – Corning Museum of Glass

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 Glasshouses and Glass Manufacturers of the Pittsburgh Region, 1795-1910 by Jay W. Hawkins, 2009

Support: [see above] Reference to Historical Flasks and their Master Mold Makers by Mark Vuono, Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, June 2019

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