What is this?
Decanter, used in USS Constitution‘s wardroom
When is it from?
About 1820 to 1825
Why is it Important?
Very few items that can be positively associated with Constitution survive. For objects as fragile as this cut glass decanter, the rate of survival is extremely low. And yet, the wardrooms of the early frigates would have abounded with such tablewares. During the War of 1812, USSConstellation‘s wardroom had six quart-sized “decanturs,” six pint decanters, and two water decanters. The form of this example suggests that it was manufactured in the 1820s and may have been on board during the ship’s long Mediterranean cruise. What is certain, however, is that many a toast was poured from this dainty appendage of civilized living.
Until the 1780s, vineyards shipped most wine to market in an unfiltered state. Casks and bottles contained a bitter sludge or sediment called the lees. Early decanters tended to be made of dark glass or opaque pottery or metal in order to obscure the sediment. Once merchants regularly filtered the impurities from the wine, glass manufactures began successfully marketing crystal clear decanters for the table. This decanter is a relatively plain example of the glassmaker’s art. Elaborate pieces might include deep, complex cut work, gilded emblems, and interesting stoppers.
This clear flint glass decanter in the “Prussian” style stands 9 ½ inches tall and 4 ¼ inches wide at the shoulder. The base is cut round with shallow fluting, and the neck is faceted. Four plain, square rings ornament the neck. The wide pouring lip has been covered with a silver cap, engraved with an inscription: “From the Ward Room of the officers of the U.S. FrigateConstitution.” The stopper, most certainly a later replacement, is a multi-faceted ball, with a gilt neck.