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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

American Blown Glass oF the Nineteenth Century

Glassware of a century ago was not all of the pressed-pattern type. Pressed glass was the ordinary ware for everyday use; for special occasions, the ware chosen was apt to be blown glass.

Consequently, among the heirlooms of most old households there are usually a number of pieces. Since so much emphasis has been placed on Stiegel-type and other rare glass of the eighteenth century, it is difficult to assign a place to these simple nineteenth-century pieces in the history of American glass.

The approximate age of a piece can often be judged by its design and general appearance. The place of its manufacture usually remains in question unless the original owner was methodical enough to preserve a bill of sale. The paneled goblet in the center is one of a set long believed to have been made in Cork, Ireland. Subsequent discovery of the bill for them from a Boston agent, dated 1852, identified them as products of the New England Glass Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It is frequently difficult to tell whether a given piece is American-made or imported, especially since many of our best glass factories made a practice of inducing skilled craftsmen from Europe and Great Britain to work for them. The New England Glass Company, for example, employed many English and Irish glass blowers. The paneled design of goblet was obviously a popular one between 1840 and 1850. Not long ago I was able to find six that matched mine at a local antique show.

The whale-oil lamp at the extreme left is a very simple piece, made about 1820, probably at one of the smaller New England glass houses. It has a very rough pontil mark on the bottom, shown in the insert above. This sure indication of blown glass ranges in appearance from a rough swirl to a smooth polished depression.

The goblet and the trumpet vase both have the button-like depression showing the pontil mark ground and polished as was usual with fine pieces. The trumpet vase shows the influence of the Bohemian glass workers who were employed in several American glass houses. The grape leaf and tendril etching was a favored motif for the ruby glass of Bohemia, so much prized during the Victorian period. This vase, made about 1860, was found in Brooklyn, New York, and may have been made at one of the glass houses in existence there at the time.

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