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Featured Museum Piece

Chanticleer-Ruby Cocktail Shaker and Tumbler Set by Duncan

This month, we feature a really rare glass cocktail shaker and tumbler set from the Chanticleer-Ruby pattern by Duncan Glass.  There are many things that make this set museum-worthy, not the least of which is the pressed rooster design in each piece and the fact that Duncan only produced these pieces for 10 years, from 1935 to 1945.  One can see why these pieces have become increasingly valuable and very rare, and they would dress up a cocktail party very nicely if we could just find the odd set lying around!

The pattern’s name, Chanticleer, and its design have special significance.  Chanticleer (or Chanticlere by some accounts) was the name of a proud rooster and the subject of the “Nun’s Priests Tale” of Chaucer’s famous “Canterbury Tales.”  Although the story of Chanticleer is recorded in Chaucer’s magnum opus, there is evidence to suggest that the story of a proud rooster existed before Chaucer began writing.  One version of the tale recounts a proud rooster named Chanticleer who dreams that he will soon meet his ruin at the hand (paws) of a fox.  Upset by the dream, he wakes a hen who is one of his wives.  The wife comforts him by saying that it is nothing more than a dream brought on by indigestion and he should begin his day by proudly crowing, as he always does.  Chanticleer, being a prideful rooster, crows lustily, but his pride will come at a price.  Later, a fox happens by and tells Chanticleer that he has one of the most beautiful voices the fox has ever heard.  He convinces the rooster that he could crow even more beautifully if he climbed atop a stump, stood on his toes, closed his eyes, and craned his neck.  Chanticleer pictures himself majestically spanning the stump and crowing with a primal vigor, astounding all who would see and hear him, so he took the fox up on his suggestion and positioned himself on the stump.  But when he did, the fox grabbed Chanticleer by the next with his jaws and took off running.  As he was dangling from the jaws of the fox, Chanticleer came to the realization that pride can in fact be a deadly sin.  As the fox was running several other animals began to chase HIM.  Chanticleer convinced the fox that he should stop running and tell the chasing animals that they are not fast enough and they will never catch up to him.  The fox, also being a prideful member of his breed, agreed that he should address those who were pursuing him.  When the fox stopped and opened his mouth to address his pursuers, Chanticleer flew to the safety of a tree.  The fox tried vainly to coerce Chanticleer down from the tree, but Chanticleer, being also a learning rooster, stayed put and was saved.  The tale of “Chanticleer and the Fox” was quite popular during the middle ages.  Over time, many dinnerware patterns that prominently feature roosters were also called “Chanticleer.” 

The company which produced Chanticleer-Ruby glass was truly extraordinary.  Duncan had come to be known for their Depression-era glass and enjoyed the company of such esteemed glassmaking firms as Heisey, Imperial, and Cambridge.  What made the company so unique is that they were one of the first of the American glass companies.  Duncan opened a factory in Pennsylvania in 1865, the same year the Civil War ended.  Very little is known about their first decade of production as few records from this period remain intact.  It is known that the earliest factory was called Ripley and Company and was a joint venture with George Duncan and other associates.  By 1875, the company name changed to George Duncan & Sons.  It is during this time that John Ernest Miller, a talented glassmaker who moved from Germany to Pennsylvania, joined the company.  Because so little is known about the very early years of the company, most collectors consider the opening of a large Duncan Factory in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1893 as the company’s date of origin.  In 1900, Duncan & Sons became Duncan & Miller when John Ernest Miller purchased part of the company.  Duncan glass became especially popular with the release of such patterns as Sandwich, Hobnail, and Canterbury, and each of these patterns are highly collectible today.  In 1955, Duncan and Miller was sold to the U.S. Glass Company in Tiffin, Ohio.  U.S. Glass continued to produce Duncan’s most popular patterns until 1980 when the company closed along with its Duncan division. 

The Duncan Chanticleer-Ruby cocktail shaker and tumbler set from our museum is a great example of real glassmaking artistry from a time gone by.  If you can make it to our facilities in person to see these exquisite pieces, by all means do so!  While the beautiful crystal cocktail set that we feature here is not for sale, we do offer a great array of beautiful Duncan crystal pieces available for purchase.  We invite you to come to our facility in person to see these wonderful pieces, and more.  Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40.  We look forward to seeing you!

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