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flora temple A Horse is a Horse, of Course, of Course flask

ebay By Kevin A. Sives nasa

........That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Flora Temple. I couldn't get that theme song from Mr. Ed out of my head as I researched and wrote this article. And some of the lyrics certainly fit the story – well, except for the part about being a talking horse, that is.

Flora Temple was a horse so famous that a number of pictorial flasks were created in her honor. Not only that, there were songs written about her (the famous "bob-tailed nag" from the song "The Camptown Races", by Stephen Foster), events scheduled in her honor (in Morrisville, New York, they still hold an event called "Flora Temple Day"), and even children named after this great horse (yes, there were many baby girls named Flora, and even some Flora Temple, during the height of this horse's fame).

The Horse (of course)

So what made Flora Temple so great? In a time before baseball, football, and most other organized sports, Flora Temple became a superstar. She didn't have any endorsements with sneaker companies. There weren't action figures made in her likeness. And there weren't even trading cards produced that contained her picture and biography. But she was indeed one famous horse!

What made her famous? Over her nine-year career, she won 92 races and placed second 14 times. In addition, she equaled or lowered the world record for the mile trot 6 different times, and she was the first horse to break the 2:20 mile record. That was quite an accomplishment for a "bob-tailed nag" from a small town in Oneida County, New York.

Born in 1845, bred by Samuel Welsh, her mother was Madame Temple and her father was a horse named Bogus Hunter, who belonged to the Loomis family of nearby Sangerfield, New York. Her early days were far from extraordinary (she was called "willful and witchlike") and her first owner didn't place much value in her, so it's no wonder that at the age of 4 she was sold to W. H. Congdon of Smyrna, New York for the sum of $13.00. Eventually, Mr. Congdon sold her for $68.00, where she became a livery stable horse in Eaton, N.Y.

In 1850, while being driven to New York City with a herd of cattle, Jonathan Vielee of Dutchess County, New York noticed her, and saw her as a `diamond in the rough'. He purchased her on the spot for $175.00. After taking her to New York City (having owned her for only two weeks) Mr. Vielee sold her to George Perrin for $350.00, doubling his money in a fortnight. Mr. Perrin took over her training, and transformed her from a farm workhorse into a harness trotter. Under Mr. Perrin's care, she began to win many informal races, finally winning two races on the Union Course on Long Island. As her racing experience increased, so too did her value, as soon, Mr. Perrin sold Flora Temple to G. A. Vogel for $600.00.

After suffering an injury in 1850, she didn't race again until 1852, when she was entered in a race against a famous trotter of the time, Brown Jim, at Centerville Track. This win over Brown Jim was the beginning of her stellar trotting career. By 1858, her sale price had risen to $8,000, and she was racing on tracks from Maine to Michigan to New Orleans, and especially on her native New York State soil.

Flora Temple's greatest feat occurred on October 15, 1859 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she trotted a world record mile in a time of 2:19 3/4, the first horse to break the 2:20 record. In an era before television and the Internet, Flora Temple became a national celebrity. Currier & Ives created dozens of lithographs depicting Flora Temple. Wherever she raced, she attracted large crowds of spectators, anxious to get a glimpse of the "Queen of the Turf", as the New York Times dubbed her.

Flora Temple ran her last race in 1861 at the age of 16, and retired from racing. She finally died at the ripe old age of 32 on December 21, 1877, having produced only 3 foals during her breeding career.

The Flasks

There are a total of six different flasks that have the image of Flora Temple on the obverse, with the inscription "FLORA TEMPLE" in a shallow S-curve above a racehorse standing on a bar and facing left. Below this is a panel with the inscription "HARNESS TROT 2.19 3/4 " above "Oct. 15, 1859". The reverse side of all of these flasks is plain. This series of flasks is given the numbers GXIII-19 through GXIII-24, inclusive, in the Helen McKearin & George Wilson book "American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry".

Of the six flasks, two of them are quarts and four are pints. Two are attributed to Lancaster Glass Works, while four are attributed to Whitney Glass Works.

GXIII-19 and GXIII-20 are both quart flasks. GXIII-19, which features an applied handle, was probably produced at the Whitney Glass Works in Glassboro, New Jersey. Whereas GXIII-20, which does not have an applied handle, was quite likely made at the Lancaster Glass Works in Lancaster, New York.

Of the four remaining flasks, GXIII-21 through GXIII-24, all are pints. GXIII-23 has been attributed to New York State's Lancaster Glass Works, while GXIII-21, GXIII-22, and GXIII-24 are all attributed to Whitney Glass Works in New Jersey. The three Whitney attributed flasks feature applied handles, while the Lancaster flask does not have a handle.

It is possible to build a nice collection of Flora Temple flasks, as the colors you can find them in range from amber and reddish amber through puce, green, yellow-green, olive green, and blue green. But in spite of this color spectrum available, all of the Flora Temple flasks are categorized as common, by McKearin & Wilson. Obviously, these flasks were very popular, and were produced in large numbers for a number of years. It's difficult to go to any large bottle show (even in today's Internet/on-line auction days) without seeing a Flora Temple or two lying on sales tables.

Summary:

It's unfortunate that today, we no longer produce such wonderful mementos as the pictorial and historical flasks created a century and half ago. Our heroes come and go with such rapidity that it's hard to remember from year to year even which horse won the Kentucky Derby last year, or which team won the Super Bowl. But back in the 1850s, a horse, from a small New York State town, was able to capture the imagination of the country. It performed feats that seemed impossible at the time. Feats that live forever, embossed in glass on pictorial flasks.

I wonder if the folks who created these flasks would look upon us today with smile, thinking that we are odd bunches, who collect things they made to increase whiskey sales? Quite possibly. But in their quest to make memorable whiskey bottles, they succeeded in keeping the name Flora Temple alive and well, 150 years later. If any of today's athletes, let alone racehorses, are remembered in a century and a half that would be an amazing feat. A feat almost as amazing as breaking the 2:20 mile trotting record.

Author's Note: I was at a bottle show recently, and was talking with Bottle Bill Herbolsheimer about various things. At some point, he said "Hey, why don't you write an article about Flora Temple?" After I got home, I thought "hey, why don't I?" So here you go Bill.

Bibliography:

McKearin, Helen and Kenneth M. Wilson, "American Bottles and Flasks and Their Ancestry", New York:Crown Publishers, Inc. 1978.

Van Rensselaer, Stephen, "Early American Bottles & Flasks, Revised Edition", Peterborough:Transcript Printing Company. 1926.


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