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Early American Politics in Glass

In addition to their personal and sentimental interest, there are certain heirlooms which have added appeal because they mirror important happenings of their day. In glass there are such examples as the rare Constitution cup plate which was made at Sandwich in 1830 and reflected the furor of public interest that followed publication of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem, "Old Ironsides" ; the Jenny Lind flasks, celebrating the spectacular tour of the "Swedish Nightingale" here in 1850 as staged by the showman, P. T. Barnum; the Flora Temple flask, blown in 1860 after this mid-nineteenth century star of the race track had defeated the favorite, George W. Patchen, in a trotting match at Union Course on Long Island.

Political events also influenced glass design. During the campaign of 1840, many pieces were produced to promote the cause of the Whig candidates, General William Henry Harrison and Governor John Tyler, who without a party platform defeated Martin VanBuren for reelection.

With the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," the Whigs made campaign capital of the charge that their standard bearer was a backwoods pioneer who lived in a log cabin, wore a coonskin cap, and drank hard cider. Demand for "a change" took the place of any policy declaration and, by the time the campaign got well under way, practically every hamlet had its log cabin with cider barrel by the doorway. The fact that General Harrison was a gentleman farmer living in a handsome mansion at North Bend on the Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, and was addicted neither to coonskin caps nor hard cider, was completely overlooked.

American glass factories turned out bottles, flasks, drinking glasses, bowls, plates, and other articles decorated with the Whig campaign emblems. They must have been produced in quantity but, like present-day campaign buttons, few have survived. Among those found are two types of flasks, one design of the log cabin bottle, another in the form of a cider barrel, a few bowls, and some plates.

The flasks are rare. One has a slightly raised decoration of a log cabin and the words "Tippecanoe" and "North Bend." The other type is of greenish glass with a log cabin on one side and on the reverse a fluttering American flag, a barrel, a plow, and the words "Hard Cider." The log cabin bottle has a front and rear door with "Tippecanoe" over one and "Harrison" over the other. The small barrel-shaped bottle has "Hard Cider" on one side and "Tippecanoe Extract" on the other in raised letters. It was probably used for applejack.

The "Industry" plate, so called because of its border motifs, may have originated at Sandwich. In the center is the usual log cabin with front door open and the ever-present barrel at the left-hand side. In the stippled back ground border are four scenes, two of a man plowing, one of a factory, and one of a square rigged ship with all sails set, emblematic of commerce and industry. Such plates were made with both scalloped and plain edges. Those with scalloped edges are rarer and more desirable today. Small bowls were also produced in this same design.

At least eleven varieties of Harrison-Tyler cup plates are known. Two have profile portraits of Harrison in the center and another, without inscription, is known to have been made at Sandwich. Nine have a log cabin. One bears the inscription, "Fort Meigs" to commemorate Harrison's defense of it in 1812, also "Tippecanoe" and his name.

It is not known who paid for these various campaign objects in glass. But whether the costs came out of Whig campaign funds or whether partisans paid gladly for these symbols that proved so effective, these mementos of past political contests today command high prices.

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