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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Random Observations On Paperweights

( Article orginally published January 1958 )

In the Bergstrom book, reference is made to a John A. Gillerland. The McKearin book makes reference to John L. (Loftus) Gilliland. Both sources indicate that he was associated with the Fisher Brothers; that he later established a plant in Brooklyn; and that he received an award for the quality of his crystal at the London Exposition in 1851, which suggests that there are not two people of similar name, but that both are writing about the same person. In an attempt to resolve the apparent confusion, I have done a little bit of research and have located a picture of a business calling card printed for the Brooklyn Flint Glass Co., which shows very plainly the name, John L. Gilliland & Co., so it would appear that the name was Gilliland and not Gillerland. It would be extremely interesting to pursue an investigation of this man in an attempt to learn more about him and his work. It has been suggested that he was probably our best American paperweight maker and the thought has been advanced that perhaps some weights attributed to other people actually were the work of Gilliland.

It has been stated that it is difficult to distinguish the work of the various early American makers and the reasons for this difficulty are attributed to several assumptions which may, or may not, be valid. One of these assumptions is that the workmen themselves were restless and shifted frequently from one plant to another and that thus there would be a resemblance in the workmanship of an individual workman. It also is said that these workers, in their migrations, not only carried with them their tools, but also quantities of the canes from one plant to another. It is recorded, too, that there was traffic in the canes themselves between companies.

That some of these factors existed probably cannot be denied, but whether to a degree which would materially affect the output of a given plant is somewhat of a question. But there are other statements of fact which should be included as part of the evidence. We know there was great rivalry and intense competition between the individual manufacturers, and that there was great secrecy with respect to the formulas for making the various shades of color in the several factories and in the design and construction of the canes taemselves. Taking into account the wide variety of canes used in an individual Millefiori weight, it seems highly unlikely that an individual workman could carry with him from one factory to another canes of sufficient variety, and in large enough amounts, to greatly influence the output of that factory. The important factories were themselves set up to make glass in a variety of colors and forms and it would seem unlikely that any factory so constituted would want to buy, on the one hand, or sell on the other hand, any substantial portion of its product to a rival factory.

Now, as we know, many canes have silhouettes of various types - some of them geometric patterns, others actual figures - and we know, too, that some of the canes have their outer or inner peripheries serrated. Some of the serrations, one observes, are quite sharp. while others are quite rounded. All work of this kind had to be done in molds. It could scarcely be assumed that all factories were equipped with all types of molds. A more reasonable assumption is that within a given factory, there were but a limited number of molds and that the work of that factory would consistently reflect canes similar in nature, i.e., if serrated, a similar number of serrations; and the type of serration, whether shallow or deep, whether sharp or rounded, would be consistent. There is some confirmation of this theory. An intimate examination of cane structure reveals, for instance, that in a weight otherwise identifiable as Clichy, the serrations will be either eight or sixteen, or both. One never finds ten, twelve, fourteen, etc. Similarly, in a St. Louis weight, serration count will run eight, fourteen, and twenty-eight. In character, the Clichy serrations will always be well rounded. In the St. Louis, the eight count serration will be rounded, the fourteen count serration will be very deep and sharp, while the twenty-eight count serration will be shallow and rounded.

I have concerned myself somewhat with a close analysis of cane construction and feel that if the studies I have undertaken are carried far enough, they may provide great assistance in weight attribution in doubtful cases. It would be interesting to exchange views with others who may have undertaken similar investigations. Except in a very few cases, there is no one single feature which a person can use for positive identification. Usually one must take into account several features, and cane structure may perhaps he another one of these if the studies are carried far enough and the results of those studies published.

I am indebted to Fred Nagel of Chicago for pointing out to me that there actually are three types of roses. By roses, I do not mean the formal flower such as found in some Mt. Washington and some Baccarat weights, but rather the rose generally associated with Clichy. I have been familiar with the Clichy rose and with the American counterpart, sometimes called the American rose, and sometimes referred to as the Sandwich rose. The Clichy rose has its petals made up of very thin single plates. The American rose has its petals made of single, but relatively thick, plates. The third type, to which Nagel called my attention, consists of a rose very much resembling the Clichy rose, and easily confused with it, but the plates, instead of being single, are in two layers like a very much attenuated rectangle. From an examination of the other canes with which they are associated, it would seem that this third rose was made in England and probably at Bristol.

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