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Lily-Pad Glass

While Bakewell's and the New England Glass Company were producing glass in the best European traditions, two American types of ware were developing-first, Lily-pad and then Blown Threemold. From the time of Caspar Wistar, South Jersey was an important glass center. After the Revolutionary War the Stanger brothers, former Wistar employees, set up a factory in Glasboro. About IBoo other glasshouses were built in New Jersey, as well as in New York and New England. Most of them made window and bottle glass to supply their own sections.

Whether Lily-pad glass was first made by Wistar workmen is not known. Probably it was started by them and was then made elsewhere as the glassblowers moved on to other factories. Blown out of window or bottle glass, this purely American folk ware did not pretend to imitate or compete with imported articles. The pitchers, sugars, and milk bowls were items that the wives of the glassblowers wanted for use in their own homes. The men followed the old tradition of blowing their own pieces from the tag ends of the melting pots. Whether the superimposed decorations which took the form of a lily pad were added to please their wives or to demonstrate their skill is purely conjecture. When the Jersey workmen migrated to northern factories, they made the same glass at the new locations and passed the Jersey tradition on to their successors so that Lily-pad glass was made over a long period, perhaps for a century.

This glassware was blown mostly out of green bottle and window glass; the latter producing the aquamarines which were apparently the most popular. Some amber and a small number of articles in other colors have been found. Also some pieces have glass of a contrasting color added for the decoration. Lily-pad ware is rather heavy. Shapes are sturdy yet graceful. The superimposed glass, usually of the same color, was worked up from the bottom into a swag or lilypad design for the main decoration. Necks or rims were often threaded. Indentations or crimping embellished a handle or foot, and occasionally prunts, seals, and quilling decorated the body. The glass was blown and then worked in a plastic state. Lily-pad glass does not appear in the Pittsburgh area, but reached its best form and popularity in the North, especially in New York and New Hampshire.

Collectors can easily recognize this American glass. Its distinctive pattern, weight, color, and obvious handmade appearance set it apart from the numerous pressed glass articles found in antique shops. The soft greens and aquamarines are very pleasing to the eye. While this glassware is not plentiful, it can be found in the eastern states. It is suggested as a type for those who wish to have a cabinet collection of definitely American glass.

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