Sailors' Rights Flask (Turtle Whimsy) Maker: Kensington Glassworks (American, 1816–ca. 1833)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

A gaffer at Kensington Glassworks added legs, a dorsal ridge, and a tail to transform this common flask into a beguiling turtle. It was intended to be a whimsy and most likely never served a functional purpose. The back of the turtle depicts a sailing ship, and the phrase "Free Trade and Sailors Rights," a popular political slogan during the War of 1812, runs around the edge. The mold for this flask was made in support of the war, but this turtle was undoubtedly made later. Metal glassmaking molds were costly to produce, and manufacturers reused them as long as they could, sometimes selling outdated molds to other glasshouses. With its vivid, emerald green glass and intact legs and tail, this turtle whimsy is a rare survival.


Mold-blown soda-lime glass


3 1/2 × 6 1/2 × 8 3/4 in. (8.89 × 16.51 × 22.23 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Francis P. Garvan, New York, by 1930; by gift to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1930
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 120–21, no. 51, ill
  • John Stuart Gordon, "American Glass: The Collections at Yale," Antiques and the Arts Weekly (November 2, 2018), 30, ill
  • John Stuart Gordon, American Glass: The Collections at Yale (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2018), 84–85, no. 43, frontispiece, ill
  • Ian Simmonds, "Mr. Garvan's Extraordinary Turtle," Antique Bottle & Glass Collector 29, no. 9 (2013), no. 30, 32, cover, ill
  • Helen McKearin and Kenneth M. Wilson, American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry (New York: Crown Publishers, 1978), 125–26, fig. 2
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

animal art, flasks, utilitarian objects


Writing around the edge, partly illegible: SINGTON GLAS...RKS PHILADELPH...; ...REE TRADE AN... AILORS RIGHTS

Technical metadata and APIs


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