Modern flasks are spillproof.
Long before fast food restaurants made beverages “to go,” flasks helped travelers take their favorite drinks on the road. Small and relatively flat, flasks fit easily into a pocket, purse or saddlebag. Collectors treasure them for their rarity and historical significance.
Some antique glass whiskey flasks date to the whiskey rebellion of 1794, when citizens protested a new tax on whiskey. Whiskey flasks have an oval shape with short, stubby necks. The flask owner would take his bottle to the local tavern to have it filled from a cask. Brewer James E. Pepper Company started bottling its own whiskey in pint flasks to prevent bottlers from blending its premium whiskey with cheap fillers.
Walking Cane Flasks
A walking cane flask is, as you would expect, hidden away in a walking stick. Some sippers use walking canes to sneak their flasks into sporting events and other venues where getting a drink is frowned upon or involves waiting in line. Some flasks reveal themselves with a twist-off cap, while others hold a small flask in a hidden recess. Walking cane flasks, called tippling canes, are effective, but they hold just a few ounces of liquid. The artist Henri Tolouse Lautrec was famous for carrying his absinthe, which he liked to drink, in such a walking cane.
Bottle makers created political flasks as a social commentary on events of the day. Flasks in the United Kingdom commemorated the great Reform Act of 1832 and Catholic Emancipation. In the United States, Jim Crow flasks illustrated the racial segregation that was rampant in Southern states. Political slogans, such as “General Taylor never surrenders” and “The Father of His Country,” on flasks celebrated General Zachary Taylor and President George Washington, respectively.
Where the Flasks Are
Searching for these three types of flasks is an interesting, enjoyable hobby. Collectors love nothing more than to find a unique flask at a garage sale or thrift store, research its history and estimate its value. One collector found a Civil War era flask in the crawl space of his father’s cabin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as reported on the PBS TV show “History Detectives.” You never know where the next flask in your collection will come from.