Published: August 3, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Glass Works Auctions
PENNSBURG, PENN. – Specializing in antique bottles, glass, stoneware and related items, Glass Works Auctions closed out its Premier Auction #151 on July 20 with two lots contending for top spot, both selling for $17,550. Fresh to the market and recently found in the wall of an old house in North Carolina, an American bottle marked “Baltimore” / Monument – “Liberty / & / Union,” circa 1830, was in a color so rare – a deep pinkish amethyst – that the last one to be auctioned in that color was in 2002. It went to a flask collector in Des Moines, Iowa. Considered to be one of the most ornate of any bitters bottle, the other high-performing lot, “The Great Universal Compound Stomach Bitters,” patented 1870 by Professor Geo. J. Byrne of New York, was colored yellow with an olive tone, rare because the bottle is mostly found in amber. A southern California collector won the 10-5/8-inch-high bottle from the George McConnell collection.
There was a lot for fans of antique bottles and glass in this sale, which owner Jim Hagenbuch characterized as “very strong. There seems to be a lot of loose money out there right now for antiques and collectibles.” More than 260 lots crossed the block, with only three remaining unsold, and the sale totaled just under $500,000 with 136 people who won, all bidding executed in a timed auction on the firm’s proprietary online platform. There was representation of the John Lawrey collection of Harrison’s inks, sodas and beers, Saratoga-type mineral water bottles, historical flasks, foods, bitters, whiskies, medicines and even incendiary fire grenades.
The words “Liberty & Union” in the top-selling Baltimore bottle come from a speech that was given by Daniel Webster, a leading attorney before the Supreme Court of the United States. Webster strongly objected to the Nullification Doctrine, a theory supported by Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The doctrine would allow individual states to view certain laws passed by the US Congress as being unconstitutional and could nullify them in their state legislatures. In his “Liberty & Union” speech delivered to the US Senate on January 26, 1830, Webster argued strongly against the Nullification Doctrine, and his speech is considered one of the greatest speeches on the Constitution in the Nineteenth Century.
Whiskies made their mark with an E.G. Booz’s Old Cabin Whiskey from Philadelphia, circa 1855-65. It had medium amber shading to a more yellowish amber color and was 7½ inches high with a smooth base and applied tapered collar mouth. It sold for $12,870.
There were more notable bitters. Fetching $11,115 was St Drake’s Plantation 1860 Bitters patented 1862 from New York. These bitters, the catalog noted, were produced in a wide array of colors, one of the reasons they are so collectible. This example ranged from a light to medium citron, shading to a lighter color in the corner logs of the six-log cabin. At 9-7/8 inches high, it featured a smooth base, applied tapered collar mouth.
From Rindge, N.H., Dr Stephen Jewitt’s Celebrated Health Restoring Bitters, circa 1840-60, was a deep olive yellow, full of seed bubbles and was bid to $9,945. And St Nicholas Stomach Bitters, imported by Gentry & Otis, N.Y., circa 1850-65, took $8,190. It was in medium amber with a tapered rectangular form, 7½ inches high. The catalog noted that there are only a few bottles known in this unusual wedge form.
Another historical lot was a bottle portraying Confederate General Robert E. Lee walking with a cane and titled Traveller’s Bitters 1834/1870. In yellowish amber, 10½ inches high, it brought $8,190. It was, said the firm, a rare and “true figural bottle and with a history.” Consensus is that the figure on the front panel is that of the Confederate general and that the bottle was made to commemorate Lee and his horse Traveller. Lee is said to have bought the horse in 1862 from Major Thomas Broun for $200, and Traveller remained Lee’s horse throughout the rest of the Civil War and thereafter.
Again from the George McConnell collection, Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters, Moses Atwood, Georgetown, Mass., surprised the auction house when it came to Glass Works in a previously unknown cobalt blue. The circa 1885-1900 12-sided bottle was consigned in “as-found” condition, and although the form is one of the most common of all bitters bottles “(every digger finds them),” stated the catalog, most all are in aqua with a very few in shades of light yellowish green. Bidders liked its rarity and pushed the 6¼-inch bottle to $6,435.
The George McConnell collection also contributed another historical gem. Changing hands at $8,775, Liberty Oak Tree Eagle, circa 1835-45, referenced the “Charter Oak,” an abnormally large tree in Hartford, Conn., that stood for 400 years until a fierce storm toppled it in 1856. According to legend, Connecticut’s Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden in its hollow to avoid confiscation by the English governor-general. This half-pint bottle had a yellowish center shading to a more amber in the upper and lower areas. “George McConnell was an old-time southern New Jersey collector,” explained Hagenbuch. “His collection sat in his old homestead, never sold, for 30 years.”
An American eagle in flight as well as the Crystal Palace in New York City was portrayed in a rare soda made for the George Eagle bottling company of New York City, circa 1853-58. Made to commemorate the Exhibition for the Industries of all Nations that was conducted in the city in 1852, the 7-3/8-inch-high bottle in light to medium blue green realized $10,530.
“The Ladies Favorite,” featuring a lady in full dress holding a jar, was from the Wm L. Haller manufactory in Carlisle, Penn., circa 1860-70. The cornflower blue quart bottle had a smooth base, applied ring mouth and the original J.D. Willoughby patented stopper with screw-on wing nut. That’s what made it so special. It’s thought to be the rarest of all Willoughby closures and the lot earned $8,190.
That brings us to the incendiary lots, which due to US law could not be mailed outside of the United States. Winning bidders had to arrange for pick up or meet an auction house representative at a show for delivery.
There were a couple dozen examples in the sale, led by Healy’s Hand Fire Extinguisher, circa 1880-95. In yellow amber, 11½ inches high, it was from the late John Blessing collection and sold for $8,775. The collection, which will be featured in future Glass Works sales, also gave up the Little Giant Fire Extinguisher, New York, circa 1885-1900. The aqua pint, 6½ inches high, retained 95 percent of its original label and contents. The original label reads: ‘The Automatic Fire Extinguisher, Buffalo, N.Y. Directions – Place this extinguisher where fire is most likely to occur. The fuse will ignite and break it.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Next up for Glass Works is one of its Discovery sales, which closes August 30-31. For information, 215-679-5849 or www.glswrk-auction.com.
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