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Pittsburgh Glass



While people living along the eastern coast demanded and bought imported ware, those west of the Alleghenies found the crystal cut in Pittsburgh of excellent quality and much less expensive. To transport the English and Irish glass from the cities of the Atlantic coast over the mountains to the Midwest was not profitable. To make glass in the Pittsburgh area, sell it locally, and also send it out along the great Ohio-Mississippi waterway was good business indeed. By 1850 cut ware was made for the palatial river boats, the numerous hotels, and also the private homes along the route.

In 1880 Bakewell's in Pittsburgh were making cut and engraved ware in patterns popular abroad. Many travelers who reached this gateway city lauded in their memoirs or letters the excellence of Bakewell glass. A set was cut for President Monroe in 1817; a medal was won at the Franklin Institute in 1825; an appreciation and favorable comparison with Baccarat's French glass was sent by General Lafayette after his tour in 1825. As other factories were built in the Pittsburgh section, they too cut glass.

The New England Glass Company was probably the first eastern glasshouse to produce a large amount of glass cut and engraved in the Anglo-Irish style. Their product was equal to any other American ware and quite as fine as the imported. At the Boston and Sandwich Company on Cape Cod, Deming Jarves also installed a large cutting shop. Many of the cutters in these early factories had their apprenticeship in Anglo-Irish glasshouses.

By the twentieth century this beautiful cut glass had lost its American identity. Because in patterns and style of cutting it resembled Irish glass, it was for a long time considered to be imported. Since the glasshouse at Waterford was better known than its contemporaries in Ireland, quantities of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century cut glass are today miscalled Waterford. (The same kind of error has been made with much of the pressed glass that is currently called Sandwich.) Actually, there were numerous factories producing the same type and quality in both Ireland and America, and very little of it was ever trade-marked.

Besides Bakewell's, the New England Glass Company, and the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company were other factories that made and cut excellent glassware. Among them were the John L. Gilliland Company of New York, Gillerland and Sons (1861-1892) of Pennsylvania, and Dorflinger's.

Christian Dorflinger built the Greenpoint Glass Works in I860 at Brooklyn, New York, to make fine flint and colored ware. (His first glasshouse in Brooklyn was for shades and chimneys for kerosene lamps.) Later he moved to White Mills, Pennsylvania, where he built a third glasshouse and continued making excellent quality ware. Dorflinger cut glass for President Lincoln (at the Brooklyn factory), and for Theodore Roosevelt, when he was president. Glass continued to be cut and engraved in the Anglo-Irish manner until the "prismatic" style of cutting came in sometime after the Civil War.

About 1880 deposits of sand almost free from iron were located in the Midwest. This was an important discovery resulting in far finer metal. Cut glass gained a new impetus and even greater popularity. "Those who intend to make birthday, Christmas or wedding presents can not select anything more appropriate and welcome than cut glass," read one advertisement.

In the early factories the cutting shop was often located in a nearby building since the cutting was a separate process and the work was done on "blanks," the cold, finished, but undecorated articles. When cut glass became very popular, uncut blanks were often sold separately to companies who specialized in cutting. (The capital outlay for a cutting establishment was not comparable to that of a glass factory.) Often a skilled cutter would set up a small shop for himself and a few other cutters. Brooklyn and Corning in New York were among the early centers for these shops.



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