The late Bob Smith would tell you, with a great big smile, that his most favorite tumbler is the U.S. Glass rarity call "Big Butterfly" or "Butterfly" in the base color marigold. For a long time, this tumbler of Bob's was the only one reported in marigold.
Just as detailed as can be, the pointed drapes trimmed with pom-pom tassels, hanging just above the Butterfly, is just amazing to see. This pattern has also been referred to as Butterfly & Bullseye. The round circles may very well be "stained glass bullseyes" in the windows where these drapes are hanging in, so popular in that day. The stippling behind and all around the four butterflies is very fine. It's a masterpiece!
It measures 3 7/8" tall, 2 3/4" wide at the top, and has a 2.5" starred base diameter.
This tumbler once belonged to the iconic tumbler collector, the late Cecil Whitley. It was sold to Bob, via telephone, during a Seeck Auction on Saturday, October the 2nd in 2010 featuring the famous Floyd & Cecil Whitley Collection, held in St. Louis, Missouri. This was after Cecil had passed away. Bob was a very good friend to Cecil & Floyd and shared their love of tumblers in that friendship. He remembers how nerve-wracking the whole experience of purchasing this tumbler was. He said it started out low and steadily climbed up to where it was sold for $11,500. He said it was the only one known at the time and he had to have it... and very frightened at the thought of losing it. He said the only thing to do was to "gulp and get it", no matter what it took, and that he did.
I have written below two separate accounts for the provenance of this tumbler...the first one known. I have not ironed out the missing information but this is what I found:
Jim Seeck recalls how it was only one other bidder bidding against Bob in the auction hall and the bidding did start at $500 so it was indeed a long bidding process. He says the tumbler originated from an old-time collector who found this tumbler in Michigan. He then sold it to Cecil Whitley and now Bob Smith owns it. He also said he sold the only other one known during an auction this summer, in 2016, to Mike & Linda Cain, which has a small nick on the bottom and this one also came out of Michigan. Thank you Jim Seeck for these recollections.
I also found that O. Joe Olson wrote some news about the only known marigold Big Butterfly tumbler in the News & Views Carnival Glass dated May 1, 1978, Volume 16, No. 4 where he wrote that a fella by the name of Walter D. Brannan of San Jose, California, one of the top tumbler experts in the hobby., had visited HOACGA that year to negotiate a deal with John Britt of Manhattan, Kansas. He wrote, "Brannan brought (to the convention) the only known Big Butterfly tumbler, perhaps the most famous tumbler in carnival. This is stippled and has a dark marigold finish. The rarity was displayed in a locked case in the motel lobby. Brannan and John Britt went into a huddle and negotiated a trade. Brannan gave the (marigold) Big Butterfly and a mini-hobnail tumbler in marigold to Britt in return for four tumblers: Multi Fruits & Flowers, green; Waffle Block, marigold (which Brannan had sought for nine years), and S-Repeat (Robert Hansen), marigold. The fourth was an enameled tumbler worth $15."
Then on January 25, 1979, the first volume of a new publication called the Tumbler & Mug News had come out. In it were writings by John Britt and Don Moore. I was excited to read about the Big Butterfly marigold tumbler again. It told about the trade mentioned in the paragraph above and went on to say that John Britt displayed the tumbler ten weeks later at the ICGA convention at Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. A Texas collector first offered $3500 for it and later raised his bid to $5500 which Britt accepted. He said that while he did not like sellling his "prize", the offer was too generous to resist. So now we know how it went from Britt to Whitley. Yes, that Texas collector was the Whitleys.
Last, but not least, here is some more information and an accounting of the prices paid for the Big Butterfly
tumblers on Dave Doty's website.
The second one known sold on May 7, 2016 at a Seeck Mason City auction. It had a chip on its base and sold for $1200 to Mike & Linda Cain of Tennessee. They just recently sold it on an online Seeck Auction based in Wichita, Kansas during the 2017 Air Capital convention on November 5, 2017 for $1100.
Bob Smith thought it would be nice to enclose photos of the Whitley's auction catalog in honor of his good friends, Floyd & the late Cecil Whitley. He says friends like this only come around once in a lifetime and he missed them both dearly. I can say the same about him, my carnival glass buddy, who gave me his collection in 2016 to be sure it had a home where it would be safe and nurtured with as many added tumblers I may find that he could not acquire through the many decades he collected. Now they will be shown to many people (something he could not accomplish) at a different convention each year for the next five years starting in 2018.
The late Bob Smith Tumbler Collection