An important Newcastle light baluster (NLB) antique wine glass of John Paul Jones American Revolutionary War interest. Round funnel bowl with the stem having a rare configuration of a teared and cushioned inverted baluster knop above a multi-teared inverted baluster knop, and a basal knop. The glass is from 1760, but the engraving was done about 20 years later, to commemorate the important events described below. The foot is conical with a rough snapped pontil. Condition is excellent, with no chips, cracks, or restoration. The height is 7 1/8", with a bowl diameter of 3" and a foot diameter of 3".
What makes this such an important and rare glass is the engraving, which has the words, in Dutch, "De Vereende Staaten", meaning "The United States." This is above two crossed flags, one being the flag of the Netherlands. The other is what is called the "Serapis Flag, or the "Franklin Flag", or the "John Paul Jones Flag." The historical significance of this is as follows:
In 1779, in the naval Battle of Flamborough Head, U.S. Navy Captain John Paul Jones captured the British ship Serapis, but his own ship, the Bonhomme Richard, sank, and her flag was lost during the battle. (It was during this battle that Jones issued the famous line: "I have not yet begun to fight.") Jones, now commanding the Serapis without an ensign, sailed to the island port of Texel in North Holland, which was run by the Dutch United Provinces. Officials from the United Kingdom then argued that Jones was a pirate, since he sailed a captured vessel flying no known national ensign.
The Dutch government did not want to support the British government, which was its g maritime competitor. But, it also didn't want to get involved too heavily in the war between the British and the Americans. Although they decided to demand that Jones and his fleet leave the port by a certain date in order to make the appearance that they were not supporting the Americans, they started working behind the scenes to find a way to recognize the ship and avoid having to turn Jones over.
Within a few days, Jones suggested that someone in the Netherlands contact Benjamin Franklin, the American Ambassador in Paris. Franklin then wrote back to the Dutch government with a description of an American flag. This was based on a description he and John Adams had sent in a letter to the Sicilian ambassador in 1778. Franklin's description was then sketched by the Dutch government and entered in the official Dutch register of national flags. Jones quickly had a flag created based on the sketch and the result was the Serapis Flag, which was then flown on board. This allowed the Dutch government to enter the ship into the records, thus recognizing it officially and avoid having to deal with the piracy charges. They were able to legally deny the English their desire to have the "pirate" Jones and their captured ship Serapis, which was now a legitimate prize won in battle, turned over to them.