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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

English And American Glassware
(Part 2 Of 2)



By: Auther Walter A. Dyer

Originally Published 1910

There are one or two very interesting forms which Bate and Hartshorne scarcely mention. About 1796 appeared the square base, chiefly on goblets, candle sticks, compote-jars, and other large standing pieces.Tumblers also came into vogue about this time, many of them handsomely engraved.

Finally, there were certain pieces made in a very rich colored glass-usually a deep blue. This is found most commonly as a lining to a piece of openwork silver-a salt-cellar, mustard-pot, or even a wine- or cordial-glass.

I find that the average American collector treasures English and American-made ware impartially, provided it belonged to early Americans-and the French and Dutch and Bohemian ware, for that matter. The American made ware, to be honest, was not as beautiful as the English, but much of it was delightfully quaint, and its source naturally interesting.

At first the American-made ware was greenish, coarse, and full of bubbles and sand. After i8oo it was clearer, and the patterns then in vogue had much original grace. There were salt-cellars, bottles, pitchers, and toddy-glasses. After about 1810 American pressed and cut glass began to appear, including goblets, mugs, and various pieces of table glassware, both large and small.

Glass was manufactured in this country at an earlier date than either china or silver, but in its beginnings it was very crude. A glass-bottle factory was established in the woods near Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia, soon after 1609, and blown glassware was made in various parts of the country from that time until 1827, when the modern industry was born with the turning out of the first pressed-glass tumblers at Sandwich, Massachusetts.

In 1639 coarse bottles, etc., were made in Salem, and in 1683 glassware was made in Philadelphia. In New York City there were two factories in operation in 1732, one in Connecticut in 1747, and another in Brooklyn in 1760, while work of no mean character was being turned out in New Jersey as early as 1739- In the latter part of the eighteenth century there were factories in Temple, New Hampshire; Albany, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere.

Among the first successful works and perhaps the most famous was that at Manheim, Pennsylvania. Here Baron Stiegel established a factory about 1769, and there are in existence richly colored bowls and goblets of the Bohemian type which were products of this factory. There are also interesting bottles and flasks in existence which came from a factory in Kensington, Philadelphia, that was established in 1771.

As a matter of fact, however, most of our old glassware is not as old as the china, furniture, and silverware which usually figure in collections, most of the American ware of any merit having been made after 1800. Some that was made as late as 1850 is considered more or less valuable today.

Many of the American makers after 1800 adopted the idea of the Staffordshire potters and made bottles and other pieces, blown in metal molds and engraved in American historical or political designs by professional cutters. The coloring in these pieces gives little clue, as the tints used in 1800 were used both before and after.Neither does the size tell the story,for that varied.Marks are seldom found. The best we can do is to label them American and place them somewhere between 1775 and 1850.

Comparatively little that is definite is known of the eighteenth-century products in this country. We know, however, that the earliest American bottles are characterized by the rough, irregular edges of their mouths, where the neck was cut off with shears when the glass was in a plastic state. They possess no rim or ornament. On the base is found the pontil-mark, which is also found on old glass pitchers and other mold-blown pieces of American make. In finer work it was ground off, but this can usually be detected.

Between 1850 and 1860 an improvement was made.The bottle was held in a case while the bot tom was finished smooth and round. A rim was also made at the mouth with a tool. Some of these old bottles were made in very beautiful tints sapphire blue, emerald green, olive, claret, brown, opalescent white, light green, pale blue, and transparent white. The factories were most active between 1848 and 1852, so that the majority of these bottles now in existence are of this period, though earlier ones exist.

Professor E. A. Barber has made a very complete study of these historically decorated bottles in his interesting book, "American Glassware." As early as 1790, he says, bottles bearing heads and busts of noted men were made in Baltimore. In 1775 Stanger Bros. established works at Glassboro, New Jersey, which became the property of Whitney Bros. in 1840 From the latter firm we have brown whisky-bottles shaped like log cabins, and "Tippecanoe" inkstands in the form of beehives, log cabins, and cider-barrels emblems of the Presidential campaign of 1840.

In 1850 they made flasks with globular bodies and long, slender necks,dedicated to Jenny Lind.

Earlier in the century interesting bottles were made of a similar nature. Among others there was a factory at Coventry, Connecticut, in 1813, which manufactured certain quaint tumblers, decanters, pint flasks, larger bottles, snuff-canisters, and inkstands. Some of these flasks bear the initials T.S. or S.& C.

In 1825 several factories made portrait flasks, commemorative of the opening of the Erie Canal, many of them bearing the busts of General Lafayette and De Witt Clinton. Others are the railroad bottle of 1825, the log-cabin bottle of 1840, Pike's Peak, General Zachary Taylor, Captain Bragg, and Charley Ross bottles, as well as bottles bearing national and masonic emblems.

The name S. Huffsey appears on a few bottles of about 1850, some of them decorated with likenesses of Jenny Lind and Louis Kossuth, both of whom made a stir by their visits to this country. Mr. Barber cites many other examples of this class of work.

Another historical piece was the glass cup-plate, on which the cup rested while the tea was cooling in the china saucer. These were much in favor about 1840, and included local souvenirs, like the Bunker Hill plates, while others bore the heads of statesmen and some the political emblems of the 1840 campaign. Among other subjects found on these cupplates are the log cabin, the Benjamin Franklin steamboat, eagle and shield, etc. There are also to be found a few molded-glass salt-cellars of this period, bearing relief devices of the American eagle and stars. Apart from their historical significance, however, these pieces lack the charm of the earlier pressed ware, while most valuable of all are the occasional odd pieces that are now quite rare, which were decorated in colors burned in, as on china.

The opal glass of the early nineteenth century should also be mentioned. It was very fashionable about 1820 for candlesticks, lamps, cups, small plates, door-knobs, mirror-knobs, drawer handles, and rosettes for looping back window-curtains.

Like every other class of antiques, old glassware is faked, especially abroad. The Germans have turned out much bogus Bohemian ware.It is probably a fact, however, that most of the glassware in this country is genuine. The dealers here as a rule find it more profitable to sell their reproductions frankly as such, and these reproductions are to be found in many antique shops.

Because of the lack of trade-marks and other distinguishing features, no ready-made rules for detecting imitations can be laid down. The experienced connoisseur can usually divine the difference, but the safeguard of the novice is to purchase in out of the way places, or require a signed statement from the dealer. As a matter of fact, it costs so much to imitate the old pieces, whether blown, pressed, or molded, ground or cut, that faking does not pay at the prevailing prices. The cost of making a metal mold would usually discourage the attempt.

The value of the sort of glassware herein described varies greatly, but the prices secured by sales are seldom high-often lower than modern cut glass. In fact, the modern ware is so much better in every way that there is not much demand for the old. This fact, however, should not lower the value of the old glass in the eyes of the collector.

In general, the values do not range as high as for most kinds of old china. Beautiful pieces of cut glass of the early nineteenth century can sometimes be secured for $ 10, or a little more, and they are certainly worth it.

Full sets are not only rare, but are not much in demand. For present-day use they are not popular because of the lack of finger-bowls and other desirable pieces. Of course the presence of such pieces immediately stamps a set containing them as a reproduction. Such reproductions, however, are popular for home use and deservedly so. The values attributed to old glassware are of wide range and difficult to determine. In a shop recently I saw a fine pair of cut-glass bonbon-dishes marked $28 for the pair. If such a pair had belonged to my grandmother I might well value it at $50. Another more elaborate bonbon-dish, over one hundred years old, was valued at $25, and another pair was appraised at $35.As a rule, the sort of pieces shown here-decanters, carafes, compote-dishes, etc.-may be bought for from $15 is to $20, and sometimes beautifully cut pieces are to be obtained for $25 or less.

I have seen late eighteenth-century wine-glasses, handsomely engraved, marked $1.25 each, and a beautiful pair of cruets of later date marked $4.50 each. Tumblers of the early nineteenth century are worth about $2 each, American bottles $6 to $12, and American cup-plates $1 apiece.


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