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Cut And Engraved Glass

Cut and engraved glass was made in America from the middle of the 18th century. The cutting consisted of knobbing on stems of glasses and flutings on the bottoms of decanters. The "devices, cyphers, coats-of-arms or other Fancy Figures" were engraved rather than cut. By the end of the century, however, there were many men employed in cutting blanks which were made at the factories. Many bowls, pitchers, and wine- and celery glasses were cut from about this time until 1820, when cutting became a commercial production in many American factories, including Bakewell & Company of Pittsburgh, the New England Glass Company at Cambridge, and Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Some of the finest early American cut glass was made by Bakewell & Company before 1817. The output included chandeliers, decanters, wineglasses, tumblers, and punch bowls. In 1817 President Nlonroe visited the factory and ordered a set of decanters, wineglasses, and tumblers. Cut glass was also made at Bakewell's for Lafayette, President Jackson, and President McKinley.

The early motifs included fans, strawberry cut, and rayed circles similar to those in old German glass. A little later large cut circles and concave ovals were used. Among later Bakewell patterns were Argus, Thistle, Prism, Flute, Cherry, Arabesque, Heart, Etruscan, and Saxon. The Boston Glass Manufacturing Company in 1816 advertised best doubleflint tumblers engraved and goblets and salts "common and cut" as well as "wines, different patterns some elegant-Decanters plain and ring necks; Sugar bowls plain and cut-Sweetmeat baskets, pitchers, castors, travelling bottles, Fish globes, Finger Bowls-Jelly-Lemonades plain and cut." The New England Glass Company in 1818 set up a cutting department with "twenty-four cutting mills operated by steam." Cutting experts were brought over from Ireland, and the decanters, wines, and tumblers they made can hardly be distinguished from Waterford Glass. Chandeliers, lamps, and dessert services were cut to order. The "Splendid bowl 26" x 14" diameter-cut in strawberry diamonds, and in color and brilliancy equal to any ever imported" advertised in the Niles Weekly Register, July 7, 1821, may have been cut there. The early cutting was combined with engraving, which was also deep cut on heavy glass. Pictorial scenes, wreaths, and flowers were the motifs. Later the engraving became more delicate. In a pattern book used after 1850 the designs included Hobnail, Diamond and Block, and such Victorian motifs as grape, ivy, rose, wheat, strawberry, thistle, stars, fans, Greek key, birds, and hunting scenes. By 1825 the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company was established and "flint diamond cut" glass was advertised. Salts bottles, bowls of whale-oil lamps, and stems of elaborate overlay lamps were cut. The early patterns were Diamond and Strawberry. Later patterns included Diamond and Purity, Rosette and Octagon, Fan and Strawcut. From this time on there were numerous glass manufactories making cut glass in all parts of the East and as far west as St. Louis. Individual cutters were also cutting articles to order. However, late in the century a great deal of poorly cut and badly designed glass was made and for this reason cut glass came to be synonymous with poor taste. Cut-glass pattern motifs are the same on late pieces as those on early pieces, since the patterns are geometric and are determined by the process of cutting. A study of representative pieces of early cut glass will show that clean cutting, a simple design, and heavy clear glass are the characteristics of really fine cut glass.

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