Chestnut Flask -- Help with Identifying -- No Marks & Unusually Large Size?

This is the second antique bottle I picked up at an estate sale last week. Did some online research and am thinking (hoping) this is a "Chestnut Flask" with an applied top that dates from the late 18th century? It holds almost 3 quarts, so it is large - measures 11" tall x 7" wide. Has an open pontil and the mouth measures 1" across. Would love help with identification or any more information -- wondering if the large size is unusual? Thanks, all!


  • Thanks for posting - this is a very fine bottle. Not a chestnut but close in that it is another utilitarian form. Most collectors or at least US collectors would call this a demijohn. Yes, it is on the small side for demijohn but is of the same body shape.

    I consider this to be quite the nice example with its long, dramatic neck and applied lip.

    I know some will disagree with me but I believe a fair # of collectors will consider this to be of European origin.

  • Nice images, katandmouse, of an excellent example of small demijohn! My guess is this bottle dates to very early 19th Century. It could be American-made as easily as European . . . It's just guesswork. My guess would be American.

    According to McKearin & Wilson . . .

    “It was in the middle of the 18th century that large bottles, normally wickered, for shipping and storage of liquids were first called demijohns and carboys by some manufacturers. They had long been blown and often were covered with leather or wicker, but probably in comparatively in small numbers before their commercial use in shipping became prevalent. Botae -- that is, bonbonnes (demijohns) -- were being blown in France by the beginning of the 14th century. . . By the middle of the 18th century imported bottles of four to twenty gallons were advertised occasionally in American newspapers, among them “wickered bottles that will hold up to 5 gallons.”

    That is not to say that all demijohns were produced abroad. McKearin & Wilson goes on to list a number of American glasshouses which advertised demijohns in the 1700s. Those ads used the term “demijohn” sporadically, sometimes using “dime’johns” (1788) or “demie johns” (1790). The earliest use of the term the authors could find was in a 1762 advertisement of arrack (alcoholic beverage) in “demy johns.” Earliest use of carboy was in a 1767 offer of “wickered bottles or carboys from 1 quart to 7 gallons.”

    These early bottles were typically “big-bellied, globular or ovoid in form. Occasionally, they might have what we call now a “flowerpot” shape. By the end of the 18th century, they might have an oval (or laterally compressed) shape. Big cylindrical bottles were more common in the ninteenth century.

    “After about 1810 or 1820, the common lip finish was a thick, deep, and flat sloping collar. Prior to that time, demijohns and carboys usually had either a narrow flat collar or a heavy string ring laid on below a plain lip, or sometimes -- in the case of large size -- a rough lip, neither fire-polished nor tooled.”

    Based on advertisements and price lists from the early years of the 19th century, it is apparent that demijohns and carboys became steadily more important products of the USA glassworks. “Even so, that the demand was not satisfied seems implicit in the continued importation of demijohns, which were frequently advertised in Atlantic seaboard newspapers as arriving in lots of a thousand or more. Because of importation, because of widespread domestic production, and because ... the bottles were not marked with a manufacturer’s or glassworks’ name, it is virtually impossible to attribute an individual specimen to a particular glassworks.”

    AMERICAN BOTTLES AND THEIR ANCESTRY; Helen Mckearin & Kenneth M. Wilson; Crown Publishers, New York; 197

  • So incredibly helpful -- thanks, all!

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