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Celebrated pewter flask bears mark of Pennsylvania history

June 16, 2015

Filed under Collections, Pennsylvania Treasures

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Made by celebrated pewterer Johann Christopher Heyne in the mid-18th century, this round, pewter 1770’s flask with a screw top belonged to Christian Lauer, a colonel with the Associators during the Revolutionary War. The flask is engraved on the bottom “ICH LANCASTER”, the maker’s mark of Heyne. Concentric circles adorn both front and back with the inscription “Col. Christ. Lauer 1776” on the front. Found in the State Museum’s collection in 1931, it is unclear how the artifact came into the collection. However, the flask and the man who used it are both significant to Pennsylvania history.

Pewterer, Moravian minister and teacher, Heyne, a native of Saxony, Germany, arrived in Philadelphia in 1742. After moving to Bethlehem, he met and married a woman with whom he would work with as supervisor of many Moravian schools in that region. Deciding to relocate to Lancaster in the 1750s, Heyne opened a shop from which he made and sold his pewter. This shop flourished because of his vision and skills he honed as an apprentice and journeyman in Germany. Producing both secular and religious creations, Henye is regarded today, as he was in the 18th century, as a leading craftsman of pewter. His pieces can be seen not only at The State Museum but also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg and the Brooklyn Museum.

Born in Saarland, Germany in 1715, Christian Lauer came to Philadelphia in 1733. A blacksmith by trade, Lauer was also a businessman, owning Moselem Forge in Berks County, as well as a farm in the nearby town of Tulpehocken. Lauer joined the Pennsylvania Associators, a voluntary militia group founded in Philadelphia in 1747, and he attained the rank of Colonel. Along with bearing his name and rank, the flask shows the historically significant date of 1776, most likely one of the years of Lauer’s service to Pennsylvania.

Collections Advancement Project curator Diana Zeltmann nominated this flask as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure.

This highly historical and cultural flask will be featured in the upcoming Pennsylvania Icons exhibit at The State Museum.


About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.


About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.