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Bakewell, Pears & Company, of Pittsburgh
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Pittsburgh area was considered a part of the West. It and the Ohio Valley were thickly enough populated for several glass houses to thrive and sell their products nearby. According to a London visitor of 1817, "demand for these articles of elegant luxury lies in the western states, the inhabitants of Eastern America being still importers from the Old Country."Within a few years the market had expanded from Maine to New Orleans. One of the most important of the glass houses was that of Bakewell, Pears & Co., founded in 1807 by Thomas Bakewell and Benjamin Page, both newly arrived from England. This firm continued in business until 1882, always with some member of the Bakewell family as its head. John Palmer Pears became a partner in 1836.
The firm was famous in its day for its beautiful cut and engraved glass which many connoisseurs considered the equal of the finest European examples. It was also the first to manufacture flint glass successfully. Deming Jarves of Sandwich called Thomas Bakewell "the father of the flint-glass business in this country" in his Reminiscences of Glass-Making.
Later, Bakewell's pattern glass rivaled that of Sandwich in quality and design. It also produced a large proportion of the glass bureau knobs that were popular during the American Empire period; it made the first crystal chandelier produced in America in 1810; it made decanters and glasses cut and engraved with the arms of the United States for the White House in 1817; and it made the handsome pair of vases presented to Lafayette during his visit to America in 1825. Within twenty years, this house became the largest flint glass works in America, employing over seventy skilled workers and making practically every type of glass.
The quantity and variety of glass produced during this firm's seventy-five years of existence was very large and the location of the factory made its distribution comparatively easy. Bakewell glass was shipped via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers south to Mexico and South America. In Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima, it is found today and can easily be mistaken for European glass of the best quality.
During the heyday of pattern glass there were several contemporaries of Bakewell, Pears & Co., that produced glassware in large quantities. Some of these were organized by men who had worked earlier at the Bakewell factory. They included Adams & Company, Bryce Brothers, Doyle &I Company, George Duncan and Sons, M'Kee Brothers, O'Hara Glass Company, and Ripley & Company.