Very Ornate Spill Holder

Jan 30, 2023 | Museum Monday Treasures

Today’s Museum Monday treasure from the Museum of American Glass in WV is a very ornate spill holder. It is flint glass with panels with three overlapping leaves alternating with panels of high relief stylized vines. We assume the dates of this piece to be circa 1850s to 1860s, but have not been able to identify the manufacturer or pattern name. If any of you can give us further information, we would be grateful.

Spills were thin coils of wood that were used in the days before safety matches became common. They could be shaved from any piece of wood using the implement seen in the second photograph. The spill would be lit using any existing flame, such as a fireplace or stove, and then the flame could be transferred to light the wick of an oil lamp or candle, or to get a gentleman’s pipe started. (If Granny had a pipe, she would have used a spill too.) As strikable wooden matches became inexpensive, spills (and the holders used to store them), gradually became things of the past. The holders are often confused with spooners, which had very similar shapes but were usually larger.

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