Glass - America

It is known that Captain John Smith sent back to England a sample of glass made on American soil in 1609, but doubtless the anonymous maker and his successors made purely utilitarian pieces. The greatest demand would be for window-glass and for bottles; a demand that continued for many years to come. Numerous glasshouses came and went during the course of the eighteenth century: Richard Wistar advertised in 1769 'between Three and Four Hundred Boxes of Window Glass . . . Lamp Glass... Bottles ... Snuff and Mustard Receivers, and Retorts of various Sizes, also Electrifying Globes and Tubes', while in 1773 Henry William Steigel had for sale: 'decanters . . . tumblers . . . wine glasses . . . jelly and cillabub glasses . . . wide-mouth bottles for sweetmeats . . . phyals for doctors', etc.

As can be understood, not a great quantity of American-made glass from before 1800 has survived, and examples show divergent styles. Both English and German immigrants owned or worked in the glasshouses of the time, and each brought the skills and patterns of his homeland. Not only is it a matter of difficulty to distinguish between the productions of the various factories on American soil, but wares made in many of the lesser European tactories at about the same date are not dissimilar.

Pocket spirit-flasks were in demand at the end of the eighteenth century, and usually were made by blowing the molten glass into an ornamented mould; the ornament being impressed on the article when it cooled and was removed from the hinged mould.

In the nineteenth century, once the United States had become independent, imports were discouraged and manufacturing of goods increased. Innumerable glassworks opened, but none stayed the course solely by making table or ornamental wares; profits from them were insufficient and window-glass and bottles were the mainstays. Finally, a machine for making pressed glassware was invented and came into use about 1828. Pressing involves the placing of molten glass into a mould, then a further mould is pressed on the still-molten material to force it into shape; one or both moulds could bear ornamentation, depending on the shape of the finished article. This provided a quick and cheap method of making imitations of cut-glass, and of introducing further ornament, for instance beading, which was not practicable on the wheel.

Pressed coloured glass was made in great quantities. The Boston and Sandwich Glassworks, of Sandwich, Mass., founded in 1828 by Deming Jarves, is probably the best-known source, but very many other factories, both large and small, made similar wares which are barely distinguishable one from another. Some examples are marked with the name of the maker, but many cannot be assigned to any particular factory.

Copies of some of the French mid-nineteenth-century glass paper-weights were made at the Boston and Sandwich Glassworks, and some original designs also were produced there.

Collectable Antiques: