American Decorative Arts
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Maker: Kensington Glassworks, American, 1816–ca. 1833

Sailors’ Rights Flask (Turtle Whimsy)


Mold-blown soda-lime glass

3 1/2 × 6 1/2 × 8 3/4 in. (8.89 × 16.51 × 22.23 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
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Metal glassmaking molds were costly to produce, and manufacturers reused them as long as they could, sometimes selling outdated molds to other glasshouses.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.
Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
On view
19th century
Containers - Glass

Francis P. Garvan, New York, by 1930; by gift to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1930


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.

John Stuart Gordon, American Glass: The Collections at Yale (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2018), 84–85, no. 43, frontispiece, ill.

John Stuart Gordon, “American Glass: The Collections at Yale,” Antiques and the Arts Weekly (November 2, 2018): 30, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.