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Smelling bottle

Object Number: 
1965.761c
Date: 
1780-1820
Medium: 
Glass
Dimensions: 
overall: 2 1/8 x 1 1/2 x 1 in.
Description: 
Colorless blown non-lead glass smelling bottle (or pungent); cylindrical wound body (seahorse shape) with embedded opaque white threads (twisted) and with applied trailed thread decoration (deep blue) crimped into parallel notches, with crimped end; straight finish with fire-polished lip; pontil mark on side.
Gallery Label: 

The main purpose of smelling bottles, or pungents, was to mask unpleasant odors, and thus they usually held smelling salts. They were first stoppered by corks and eventually by screw caps. The capacity of these bottles ranges from fractions of a dram to a little over an ounce. Decorative details include quilling (as side trim), embedded spirals, and occasionally engraving.

This bottle, and others like it, are known to have been made as early as 1763 in Great Britain, where they were advertised as "seahorses," referring to their curved shape. Between 1769 and 1774, Stiegel's American Flint Glass Company in Manheim, Pennsylvania, sold smelling bottles as simply "twisted smelling bottles." Then, beginning in 1826, the New England Glass Works began making this type of object, calling them "dolphins," while the Boston and Sandwich Glass Works advertised their "dolphin tail pungents." Other American glassworks were making similar forms of these popular bottles during the nineteenth century.

Credit Line: 
Bequest of Mrs. F. MacDonald Sinclair (Jennie H. Sinclair)
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group