Art and History from the 70’s

Back in the 70’s my grandmother was dating a man who owned a bar in downtown Manchester, NH.  I was very little, but I recall being in the bar and playing with a bowling pin machine.  I also remember all the boxing memorabilia on display.  Turns out the man my grandmother was dating was a former (1920’s) lightweight boxer named Louis Prince.

Prince wasn’t the best boxer in the area but he did go up against some local big names including a man named Johnny Harko.  Harko, also from Manchester, would twice be named New England Featherweight Champion.

Both men had short boxing careers and went on to do other things.  In the 1970’s, Louis ran a bar and Johnny opened a glass making studio both in the same city of Manchester.  Were John and Louis friends? We know they knew each other. Did Harko frequent Louis’ bar?  Perhaps one of the many boxing photos I recall from the bar included Harko.  We may never know.

While most people will not remember their names, Harko did leave behind a legacy with his “folk” art glass made from the sand collected from Lake Massabesic.  He created unique pitchers, vases, paper-weights and cornucopia.  Most of his work reflected the cobalt blue indicative of the sand he used.  He is also known to melt other glass such as 7-up bottles, which gave the glass a greener look.

Harko Pitcher with green tint.

Harko Pitcher with green tint.

Harko was mostly self-educated and would research historical events and depict them in his glass.  He created a series to commemorate the countries 200th anniversary, a series dedicated to the Manchester City Hall and a Bunker Hill series with characters of George Washings, John Stark and Daniel Webster.

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It is not known how many pieces John Harko produced.  What is known is that he never sold a single piece.  Instead he gave away his work to friends and family who he felt would truly appreciate his work.  Each piece is slightly different, but has the name Harko etched on the bottom.

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From an article written by Kathy Greer of Unravel the Gavel, I learned that “several of these historical pitchers were displayed on the “American Freedom Train” in the mid-70’s. In 1978 one of his hand blown blue bottles was created and presented to then Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin.”  Other famous recipients “included former NH governor Meldrim Thomson, Jr. and former President Gerald Ford.”  Three more pieces are on display at the Manchester Library’s New Hampshire Room.

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While art is somewhat subjective and since Harko never sold any of his work, it is hard to put a value on it.  Rough estimates put a single piece between $75 and $300, though depending on historical significance to the buyer, prices could be higher.

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I am very excited to have recently come into possession of two Harko cobalt blue pitchers.  I originally bought them to resell, but after doing some research and seeing the (loose) connection between him and my family, I am tempted to hold on to them for a while.

You can find the article by Kathy Greer here.  An article from the Manchester City Library can be found here.  You can find information on Johnny Harko, “The Polish Flash” here with references to his fights with Louis Prince.

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4 thoughts on “Art and History from the 70’s

  1. What beautiful pieces. I would be very proud to own one. Cobalt blue glass is one of my favourite things, I have quite a collection of odd pieces, not valuable, just beautiful. The history behind them is intriguing.

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