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The most dramatic figure in the history of American glass is the quixotic "Baron" Stiegel.
Henry William Stiegel came to Philadelphia from Cologne, one of the famous glass centers of Eighteenth Century Germany. He set up his first glasshouse at Elizabeth Furnace in1763. In 1765 work began in his second glasshouse at Manheirn, and glass blowing begun in the third and largest glasshouse at Manheim in 1769. Bottle glass was the product of the first glasshouse, but a visit to the Bristol glass district of England fired Stiegcl with the desire to make the finer flint glass. However, it was not until the building of his third glasshouse that the foreign trained blowers, enamelers, glass cutters, and flowerers began producing the beautiful and distinctive glassware that we know as "Stiegel." Over 130 Venetian, German, and English workmen were employed, and Stiegel left records of their names and the type of work done at the glassworks as well as documentary evidence of the articles made the colors and the decoration of his glassware. In addition he advertised extensively in the New York and Philadelphia newspapers and had agents in Boston, New York, Baltimore, and rural Pennsylvania. Prosperity went to Stiegel's head, however, and he began to live on an extravagant scale which finally brought his downfall. The cloud of depression that gathered over the provinces finally hit the Stiegel glassworks, and on May 5, 1774, Stiegel wrote in his account book: "Glass House Shut Down." Stiegel finally went to an unknown grave in 1785, but his daybooks, ledgers, Journals, and letters, now in possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, give us a record of his work.
Stiegel sought to compete with European makers of table glass and ornamental wares, and so successfully did he imitate the English and Continental pieces in form, color, and decorative treatment that it is almost impossible to definitely identify Stiegel glass. Stiegel manufactured articles in soda glass, and in lead or flint glass of white, blue, amethyst, purple, and emerald green.
The methods of decoration used on Stiegel-type glass were copper wheel engraving, pattern-molding, and enameling. Clear tableware such as mugs, decanters, flip glasses, and other drinking glasses had a type of shallow cut engraving not too carefully executed. It has a provincial or peasant quality and is related both in execution and motifs of design to the peasant glassware of Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. The motifs include various types of tulip decoration, naive baskets of flowers, heart and bird motifs, wavy lines, vine borders, garlands and wreaths, and latticework decoration. Enameled decoration was used on both clear and colored glass, mostly blue, and the character of the designs is also peasant in spirit. The motifs include birds, flowers, human figures, buildings, and inscriptions. The designs listed by Hunter are: Steeple, Floral wreath with red tassels, Conventionalized floral designs, Dove, Parrot, Rooster, Fantastic bird, Dog, Cow, Woman in boat, Phantom Ship, Floral designs with inscriptions, Dove designs with inscriptions. Examples of many of these are in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum, New York City. Almost without exception the designs have a border made up of a white wavy scallop, or a line of dull red with a line of dull mustard yellow. The designs are enameled in blues, yellows, greens, henna or dull red, and black and white. Articles which were decorated with enamel include cordial bottles and drinking glasses of various types.
The pattern-molded Stiegel-type glass is perhaps the most distinctive. Its beauty is that of line and form and pure color, and nothing is lovelier than some of the expanded-mold patterns in rich blue or amethyst. To appreciate pattern-molded glass one should know something of the process. Glass is pattern-molded by blowing the gather into a mold which has a design cut on its inner surface. After the gather has been impressed with the design, it is withdrawn and shaped by the free-blown techniquethat is, the pattern of the article is molded, but not the shape. There is probably more pattern-molded Stiegel glass than any other type. Pattern-mold designs include vertical and spiral ribbing, fluting, paneling, and variations of the "Venetian diamond", sometimes in an all-over pattern or a diamond-daisy, or checkered diamond designs. These designs were used on sugar bowls, salts, creamers, perfume bottles, condiment bottles, small bowls, and drinking glasses of various sorts. The Daisy Diamond, Daisy in square, or hexagon designs are thought to be exclusively Stiegel's since they have not been found on any other glass of either European or American make. These blown daisy patterns are found on perfume bottles, small vases, and salts. They have been found in clear glass, amethyst, sapphire blue, and the rare emerald glass.
Stiegel-type bottles and flasks with expanded vertical ribbing or ogival or diamond pattern are of particular interest to the bottle collector. These bottles are from a half pint to a pint in size. They are most often found in light green, and similar light green bottles without the pattern are also found. The vertical ribbed bottles are found in a variety of colors including clear, olive-yellow, opalescent, sapphire blue, and amethyst. No two are exactly alike in size or shape or pattern and that is the charm of these bottles. Some taper to a pointed base, others are rounded. The amethyst perfumes with various ribbings and diamond and daisy patterns are the most elaborate of small bottles. Various types of "pocket bottles" and "smelling bottles" were listed in Stiegel's books, and he may also have made the twin or gemel bottle and the "seahorse" type with a curled-up end. Ohio and Midwestern glasshouses of the early Nineteenth Century also made these bottles, and they are delightful in color, especially the ambers and delicate greens. Besides flasks or pocket bottles, they also made bottles with a collar, and a long neck chestnut flask from a gill to over a quart in capacity was also made in a wide range of colors including rare blue and amethyst. Bottles with patterned ribbing and a hand-manipulated handle are another type for the bottle collector. The so-called "Pitkin" type flask was also made in Ohio.
From Stiegel's account books which give lists of articles made at the glassworks, we can see which articles were stocked in the largest quantity. For example, in the list for 1769 we find "Pint Decanters, plain 6374; Half pint Tumblers, 8900; Gill Tumblers, 4740; Common Salts, 5748; Pocket Bottles, 6214; Plain Wine Glass, 5648; Phials, 64I8"; as against "Quart decanters molded, 923; Sugar Boxes and Covers, 312; Cream jugs, 2057; Candlesticks, 4; and Blue Flower Jars, 3." This list also gives us an idea of the quantity of articles made. The long list of articles which Stiegel made according to his newspaper advertisements have many articles such as crewets, carafes (carrosts), ink bottles, and salt linings which have not been identified with Stiegel. We also, however, get a good description of the jelly and "cillabub glasses with and without handles" of which one of clear glass with handles is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although "nobody can be sure from which place came any particular bauble," it would seem that there is considerable Stiegel-type glass about today that was actually made at the Stiegel Glass Works. Certainly there is some undefinable extra quality in some of the little deep blue and emerald molded creamers that we do not see elsewhere. One article that has particularly interested the collectors of Stiegel glass is the paneled-molded vase.
A great deal of Stiegel-type pattern-molded glass, such as the expanded swirled and vertical ribbing and diamond all-over designs, were made in the Midwestern glasshouses at Zanesville,Mantua, and Kent, Ohio, in the Nineteenth Century. Bottles, flasks, compotes, sugar bowls with covers, pitchers, and creamers with these pattern-molded designs, as well as pans and salts, were blown in amber, green, amethyst, and blue. However, while such colored Stiegel glass was flint glass, the Ohio glass is usually of a "soda-lime base. Sugar bowls and creamers with large diamond or ogival designs in the Stiegel tradition were made at Zanesville n 'greens and sapphire blue. Creamers and bottles were also pattern-molded in a popcorn design and in vertical ribbing. Green and amethyst sugar bowls in diagonal swirled and diamond, pattern-molded designs were made at Mantua. Stiegel-type diamond-patterned designs were also made at Milleville, New Jersey, late in the Nineteenth Century.
One of the most sought-after flasks or bottles is the "Pitkin" pattern-molded flask. It was made at Pitkin and elsewhere. It is distinguished by a pattern blown and molded, and the presence of an extra gather of glass at the top obtained by redipping the article during the blowing process. Pitkin flasks are usually found in olive-greens and ambers. These flasks were also made in the Midwestern glasshouses in a wide variety of brilliant colors including aquamarine rather than dull olives, and the glass is heavier and broader in shape than eastern Pitkins and the ribbing often has a popcorn effect. These Pitkin flasks are choice articles for the bottle collector.
Pattern-molded glass was also made at the New Geneva Glass Works in Pennsylvania established in 1797, at the New Bremen Glass manufactory of John Frederick Amelung, and at several contemporary glassworks in Philadelphia and New York that probably competed with Stiegel against the imports of European glassware. In fact, Stiegel did not make any better glass or even as good engraved glass as Amelung; but somehow he did impart enough of his own surroundings into the glass that he made so that with its bright color and simple decoration it seems a part of the early American folk tradition. Yet he was really only transplanting the folk art of his native Germany. Stiegel did not invent the type of glass which he made, but like several other glassworks of Eighteenth Century America he sought to make the same kind of glass that was being made in Europe and imported into America. That his glass sold in great quantities throughout the rural Pennsylvania villages is proof of its Dutch and German character.
There were several other American Eighteenth Century glasshouses that sought to cover the same market as Stiegel and to produce glass similar to that made in Europe. The Philadelphia Glass Works operated from 1773 to 1777 and thus crossed the years of Stiegel glassworks operation. They advertised white and green glass, cut or plain, decanters of various sizes, wine glasses, tumblers, bottles for cases, flint or other beer glasses, basins, cans, candlesticks, canisters, cruets, cream pots, salt cellars, sugar dishes, spice bottles, goblets, jelly glasses, etc. Felix Farrell, a former glass blower for Stiegel, and Lazarus Isaac, a glass cutter at Stiegel's works, also independently made and decorated glass in Philadelphia that would certainly be similar to that which they worked on while in the Stiegel works. The Glass House Company of New York, which is known to glass historians as the BamperBayard glasshouse, operated two glasshouses with workmen from Holland between 1752 and July 1762 when it was advertised for sale.
Although we can only suggest that some glassware of the Stiegel type may have been made at the Eighteenth Century glassworks in New York or Philadelphia, we do have definite documentary evidence about the New Bremen Glass Manufactory. The finest engraved glassware, in fact the only early glassware with an engraving technique which compared to the finest Eighteenth Century German or English glass, was made by the German workmen at the New Bremen Glass Manufactory in Frederick, Maryland, from 1784 to 1796. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns several inscribed and dated presentation pieces of clear engraved Amelung glass that are of superior workmanship. Amelung made presentation pieces of fine glass for his friends, for the State of Pennsylvania, the mayor of Boston, and his native city, Bremen, Germany.
In addition to window glass and white and green bottles, the regular output of the glassworks at New Bremen included "Decanters and Wine Glasses; Tumblers of all Sizes and every other Sort of Table Glass" as well as looking glasses. He also cut devices, ciphers, coats of arms, and other fancy figures in glass. Amelung glass has a peculiar but beautiful smoky hue, sometimes bluish, greenish, or purplish. The glass is usually soda-lime. Soda-lime glass is thin and hard. It is composed of sand, a little soda, lime for a base and other chemicals to give it whiteness. Aside from the metal of the glass, Amelung glass is distinguished by the style and design of engraving. The technique and workmanship is excellent and more sophisticated than any other engraving produced in Eighteenth Century America. Motifs of design include sprays or wreaths of leaves together with two birds or a dove holding a sprig of leaves. Foliated leaves and daisy-like flowers and festoons and names and inscriptions are characteristic of the clear glassware made by Amelung. Amethyst pattern-molded glass was also made. Many decanters with cut flutings at the base and cutting on the shoulders, and with flat cut or notched stoppers, and English-style wineglasses made in soda-lime glass were made in Eighteenth Century America; and probably many were made by Amelung at New Bremen.
After Amelung's glassworks shut down, some of the workmen were employed in the Baltimore area and others went to the New Geneva Glass Works in Pennsylvania. Thus glass similar to Amelung was made in these localities.
Glass at the New Geneva Glass Works was usually green or amber bottle glass, free-blown and often patterned in ribbed mold. While the forms are Eighteenth Century type, they often show the sophisticated influence of Amelung glass although no engraved pieces have been attributed to New Geneva. The first glassworks in the now famous Pittsburgh district was the O'Hara & Craig Glass Works, also started in the late Eghteenth Century. And since William Peter Eichbaum, the glass cutter, was the first foreman there, and later William Price from the Stourbridge glass district of England superintended the works, some cut glass was among the early products. Certainly the English styles then in vogue were made there, although after ISoo the factory's advertised goods were window glass and bottles, pocket flasks, pickling jars, apothecary jars, and other hollow ware.
Pieces of Stiegel-type glass should be judged first of all for their line and form. In color the glass may be pleasing, but if the form and workmanship are not distinctive the piece should be questioned-for really fine old glass was made by workmen with an eye sensitive to form.