Thomas Dyott’s Selfie, 1826-Style

flask 2

Benjamin Franklin

In  April 2015, this blog featured a tea cup decorated with a motif that supported the nineteenth-century temperance movement in the United States. To read go to Maryland History by the Objects Archives. The object that is the subject of this current post had a decidedly more complex message with regards to alcohol.

The pale green pint flask was found in a privy filled sometime between 1830 and 1860 at the Schifferstadt Site (18FR134) in Frederick County, Maryland. Molded in a horseshoe shape, the flask was manufactured around 1826 by the Kensington Glass Works of Philadelphia.  One side of the bottle features the bust of one of Philadelphia’s most famous residents, Benjamin Franklin, with the inscription “WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS THERE IS MY COUNTRY”.  The reverse side shows a likeness of Thomas W. Dyott, encircled by his name.  Figural flasks like this one were produced in great numbers in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century and often honor historical heroes and contemporary celebrities (Palmer 1993:385).

flaskDyott, owner of the Kensington Glass Works, was responsible for immortalizing himself on huge numbers of liquor flasks produced by his company.  He advertised in March of 1825 that he had in stock 432,000 bottles bearing his likeness (McKearin and Wilson 1978:413).  British-born Dyott, a self-proclaimed medical doctor, sold patent medicines from his early nineteenth-century Philadelphia drug store.  Since he had apprenticed with a druggist in London, Dyott did have some claim to experience with compounding medicines.

Finding himself with need for large quantities of bottles for his medicines, Dyott began to acquire interests in glass factories after the War of 1812 (Sives n.d.).  Among his acquisitions was the Kensington Glass Works, which later became part of the Dyottville Glass Works.


Illustration of both sides of flask.  From Meyer 2013.

Many of the medications that Dyott produced to fill his bottles had high alcohol contents, and here is where the Schifferstadt flask represents a complex story.  Dyott’s factory workers were housed near the factory in Dyottville, also known as “Temperanceville.”  Dyott did not permit liquor in his factory community; anyone found breaking this rule would be fined $5.00 or possibly face dismissal (Sives n.d.).  There is a certain irony from Dyott running an alcohol-free company, but profiting from the sale of liquor.


Dyott’s Glass Works, circa 1821.

Originally constructed around 1756 by the Brunner family, the stone home at the Schifferstadt site was occupied by unknown tenants in the mid-nineteenth century (Ballweber et al. 1997).  The Dyott bottle was one of three liquor flasks recovered from this privy, suggesting that alcohol was used either for medicinal or recreational purposes by the tenants.


Ballweber, Hettie, Lori Frye, Justine McKnight, Edward Otter, Paula Mask, and Eric Jenkins.  1997    History and Archaeology at the Schifferstadt Site (18FR134), Frederick, Maryland. ACS Consultants report submitted to the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, Inc. On file at the Maryland Historical Trust.

McKearin Helen and Kenneth Wilson. 1978    American Bottles & Flasks and Their Ancestry.  Crown Publishers, New York.

Meyer, Ferdinand. 2013    Thomas W. Dyott Portraits…painted, printed and embossed.  Peachridge Glass.

Palmer, Arlene. 1993    Glass in Early America; Selections from the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum.  W. W. Norton, New York.

Sives, Kevin A.  n.d.  Dr. Thomas W. Dyott – A True Renaissance Man.  Website accessed March 17, 2017.

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