We are pleased to report that an important piece of Wistar heritage is returning to its rightful place in the historical collections of the Institute. The “RW Impressed Bottle” is a rare artifact of American history, one of only two known to exist (the other currently resides in the Corning Museum of Glass).
The bottle was the product of the Wistarburgh Glass Works, founded by Caspar Wistar, one of the first German colonists in Pennsylvania and grandfather to the Institute’s namesake, Caspar Wistar, M.D. The Glass Works became the first successful glass factory in the colonies and, by the mid-18th century, an enormous commercial enterprise for the region.
The bottle was made between 1745 and 1755, and bears the initials of Richard Wistar, the eldest son of Caspar Wistar (and uncle of Dr. Wistar). It is an otherwise unassuming green wine bottle with gentle curves and a wide base.
It was one of the many artifacts that became part of The Wistar Institute collection in 1905, bequeathed by Gen. Isaac Wistar, the Institute’s founder. The bottle went missing from the Institute’s collection some time after 1958, when it was marked as part of the Institute’s archives collection inventory.
In 2011, it reappeared in a local museum exhibit, lent by a collector who did not know of the bottle’s origins. Through the intervention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware and the Art Theft team of the Philadelphia Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the purported owner agreed to return the bottle to The Wistar Institute. Attached is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office announcing the resolution of the case.
The Wistar Institute thanks and commends the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work in securing the return of this rare artifact to the Wistar collections.