Windowsill Bottles…What are they? by Bob Parsons

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Windowsill Bottles…What are they?

by Bob Parsons

Originally published in The Bottle Muse,July/Aug./Sept. 2002, a publication of the National Bottle Museum, 76 MiltonAvenue,  Ballston Spa, NY., 12020 (518) 885-7589

    I became enamored with the aesthetics of thewindowsill bottle about fifteen years ago. I had never seen some of the colors,shapes and primitive designs. They piqued my curiosity and eventually fostered acollection of more than 60 bottles.

    My interest began in 1987 while visitingBruno Pavlovski in Gibbstown, New Jersey. He had answered my ad for violinbottles wanted in the AB&GC. A six-hour ride (one-way) to his home was amust to see his viobot collection. While visiting, I noticed several glassshelves set in a window. Small flask like bottles that were very colorful andattractive sat on the shelves. I asked him what those bottles were and he said,”window sill bottles”. I then inquired, ” why the namewindowsill”? His answer was that they never contained anything and werestrictly a decoration for the home. They certainly were incredibly attractivewith the sun streaming through each one, so I asked him if he wanted to sellthem. His answer was a firm “NO” as he liked them too much to partwith.

    A windowsill bottle is approximately 6″high and 5″ wide. It is a crude, squatty, misshapen flask that is pontiled.It has a smooth sheared lip with an opening of 1″ or more. The necks varyin size from small to large. The bottles come in a variety of colors includingshades of red, amberina, amber, green, cobalt, aqua, jersey green, clear,vaseline, amethyst and milk glass. Most have an obscure design in the glasssimilar to a quilted or subdued diamond pattern.

    Windowsills were made by the Clevengers inSouthern New Jersey between 1935 and 1945. In discussing how these bottles weremade and to add to their mystique I spoke with Tom Haunton of Medford, MA, awell known authority and researcher of Clevenger Bros. Glass Company. He states,”They were blown into a wooden mold for the shape, then hand finished. EachClevenger windowsill has a slightly different shape to it, since the heat of thegather of glass would burn off some of the inside of the mold with each bottlemade. Consequently, a bottle blown at the end of a wooden mold’s life would be substantiallybigger than one made at the beginning. The bottle’s quilted pattern was achievedby either rolling the gather of glass over chicken wire, or affixing the chickenwire to the inside of the wooden mold. Good old-fashioned South Jerseysimplicity and ingenuity!”

    Another theory on how they were made wasgiven to me by Jim Travis, the current owner of Clevenger Bros. After examininga few of my bottles, he stated that the gather of glass was placed in an ironmold to obtain a design, then with a pontil rod attached, the whole bottle wasrefired to subdue the design and smooth out the sheared neck. Although Jim hasnot made any of these bottles, this is how he would have done it. I guess youcould call it the modern method versus the early method when wood molds werestill in use.

    Most of my bottles have been found at bottleshows on dealer tables. Ebay has had a number of them, and they can also befound under the categories of Clevenger, flasks, windowsill bottles, Vaselineglass and amberina glass. Yard sales and flea markets have also been fruitfulsuppliers.

 I have noticed in my quest for these bottles that some ofthe aqua and light blue have been referred to as poison flasks, and as a resultthe prices were very high.

    Others who collect windowsills have broadenedthe category from just Clevenger to include more modern and contemporary flasksand small bottles hand made by glasshouses such as Pairpoint Crystal Glass Co.on Cape Code, MA.

    At a recent National Bottle Museum’s BottleShow at Saratoga Springs, NY, I was privileged with friend Bob Linden to put ona display of these interesting bottles. The display with its myriad ofspectacular colors generated curiosity and was well received and enjoyed.

    Since Clevenger Bros. Glass Company ceasedoperations back in1999, the windowsill bottle with all its aesthetics is one ofthose early Clevenger pieces that is becoming very collectible!