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Are You Collecting Sandwich Glass
She sat on her bed in the room of a small hotel on one of the islands of Casco Bay. Her eyes were glowing, and she gloated-yes, fairly gloated-over the array of old glass bottles, pickle dishes, goblets, jam dishes, and salt cellars surrounding her!
"Aren't they wonderful!" she crowed. "I've been all over the island collecting them; and the housewives were willing-even eager, my dear, to sell them! Wasn't I lucky, for do you know, they're real Sandwich Glass!"
Does the enthusiasm with which this little lady displayed her bits of amber, blue, vaseline-colored, and opalescent glass seem ludicrous to you? If it does, you have not as yet contracted the mania for glass-collecting that has swept through the United States. But I fully understood, for I, too, was a victim. A grape-pattern goblet and an enthusiastic friend had started me. The goblet was the only one left of my grandmother's set. The glass-collecting friend saw it.
"What a beauty!" she exclaimed. "And hidden away on the top shelf of a cupboard! Notice the pattern, those outstanding grapes! Hear that musical ring!" She tapped the rim with her fingers. "You should collect a set of say half-a-dozen. One goblet isn't of much value except for the sentiment, but a set of this pattern would be a treasure!"
Right then and there I became possessed with a desire to own those glasses. I haunted small antique shops and harried my friends-and, at the end of the year, the set was complete. It was so much more fun to hunt them up this way-to get trail of a goblet and run it to its lair than to go into some large antique shop and buy five outright.
No doubt you have heard this little verse of Irish names,
"By Mac and O' you'll always know True Irishmen, they say. But, should they lack both O' and Mac, No Irishmen are they." To many persons the word "cup-plates" is synonymous with Sandwich Glass, but like the statement about Irish names, it is not sweepingly true, for they may have been made at some other factory than the one at Sandwich. However, it is correct to say that cup-plates are eagerly sought by lovers of glass.
Of course you know that these small glass plates were used by our great-grandmothers to hold the handleless cups while the ladies drank their tea from the deep saucers. Oh, yes, it was exceedingly smart to drink one's tea from a saucer! But, alas, as tea-drinking from saucers went out of fashion, the charming cup-plates lost favour, and many were broken and disappeared forever! An elderly woman told me that her mother gave her a dozen cup-plates for dolls' dishes, and that they went the way of children's breakable playthings.
The Casco Bay Lady had collected a goodly number of cup-plates.
"I began collecting cup-plates before this mania for glass was prevalent," she told me, "so I have some rare specimens. I lay awake nights wondering just how I should display them. Then I had an inspiration. I had each tiny plate carefully set in a small pane of the Dutch windows in my dining-room. They are truly effective and everyone who sees them compliments me upon the idea!"
"Dolphin Candlesticks" is another name associated at once with Sandwich Glass. I was introduced to my first genuine pair in a dusty, over-crowded antique shop on the Connecticut River. You notice that I say genuine! Beware, oh, beware of the many imitations sold under the name of Dolphin Candlesticks!
A glass-loving friend picked up this pair of candlesticks and ran toward the dealer.
"I see you've a set of Dolphin Candlesticks, and I believe they're real!"
"Indeed they are, madam! Let me tell you a little story about them. A customer came in and offered me a good price for mine to go with one she had. I wouldn't sell it, no indeed, but I paid her almost twice as much for hers as the price she offered me!"
It was the friend who accompanied me to this antique shop who first pointed out to me the interesting statement of N. Hudson Moore in regard to the use of the dolphin in glass-making.
"The dolphin as an ornament on glass probably originated in Venice. A single dolphin in exquisite opal glass, bearing on his tail a shallow flaring dish, shelllike in shape, is not a rare Italian model. Twisted dolphins were used in England as well as single ones, and sometimes they were used on covers. Later the dolphin was much used in the various Sandwich patterns of pressed glass."
But all Sandwich glass candlesticks were not of the dolphin type. Some of the early moulded ones were extremely graceful in design and made of glass of a bright silvery texture. Others were enriched by a row of cut lustres, hanging on tiny wires from the bases of the candle-stands.
Among my first recollections of my grandmother's prim "parlor" was a pair of spark lamps decorating the mantel over the fireplace. Grandmother told us that whale's oil was burned in these tiny lamps, and thereafter the bits of glass spelled romance to me and brought me pictures of life "on the bounding deep." I tried not to forget my illusions when a lamp-collector casually said that they were illuminated by camphrene instead of the fluid I had so fondly thought! I have no doubt that these lamps were made in Sandwich, for the glass company early realized that smallpriced glass lamps would sell readily. Various patterns and designs were used, and they were made in such quantities that they are now readily found. If you are a New Englander, you may be sure that the glass handlamps used by your mother or grandmother were either made of Sandwich glass or manufactured by the New England Glass Company of which I shall tell you later. Some of the early styles were the spark lamps, with or without handles, the "wine-glass" with its rounded oil font for a single whale-oil burner, the "tumbler lamp," exceedingly rare, and the many combinations of tops and bases of graceful designs and beautiful proportions which make these early lamps a joy forever.
I think that here is the place for me to tell you a little concerning the patterns used by the Sandwich glass designers. Very common was the heart pattern. I am sure that you have seen it, as well as the combination of "Heart and Honey-comb," on compotes, glass plates, sauce dishes, cup-plates, and lamps. There are many variations, but you cannot mistake the "heart" wherever and whenever you see it. The ripple pattern is a logical development in design by Cape Cod workmen who had become familiar with the lines left upon the sands by receding tides.
Very often on glass dishes, especially on fruit dishes, you will notice a design that looks as if someone had pressed his thumb over the surface. This is called the "Thumb Print" pattern. The "Bell Flower" is delicate and lovely and much sought by collectors. A common pattern is the honey-comb, and the diamond pattern is easy to find.
Early Sandwich glass was lacy and had a silvery sheen. It is said that the secret of making it was carefully guarded. Lace glass was not made after 1840. But I certainly must not forget to mention the hobnail glass, made during the period following the Civil War. It decorated glass of different colors and different shapes. The finest set of hob-nail that I have seen was a sugar bowl, creamer, and spoon-holder of amber glass.
A friend of mine proudly displays one dozen goblets perfectly intact, bearing the famous inscription E Pluribus Ununa. History has further imprinted itself upon pressed glass of New England, for the laying of the Atlantic Cable furnished the motif for the twisted strands of the rare cable pattern.
During the period when the Sandwich Glass Company was working, lovely, colored glass was produced,but the improvement of its manufacture did not reach its height until. after the Civil War. At one time exquisite candlesticks, vases, and perfume bottles of a lovely canary color were made. It is said that this glass was introduced to the Sandwich works by craftsmen from Bristol. The opal glass which one sometimes finds was made by a process taught to the Sandwich workmen by an Englishman who received a large sum for his services of six months.
Whenever I meet people who are collecting glass bottles I think of the song so popular nearly a quarter of a century ago in which these lines appeared,
"Any rags, any bones, any bottles today?" Now please don't think that I'm saying that all glass bottles were of Sandwich glass! They may have come from any glass factory, even one in Ohio! Yet, whatever their birthplaces, there is a quaint fascination about these bottles of dull green, bright blue, and brown glass used by our grandfathers for their bitter medicines and liquors.
And now I must disillusion you. Perhaps your cherished Sandwich Glass isn't Sandwich Glass at all. Let me explain. In 1825 a company of workmen purchased a tract of land in the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts, for the purpose of building a furnace for the manufacture of flint glass. Sixty workmen were at first employed, but the venture was so successful that we find that in 1853 about five hundred men were making glass in Sandwich. But this was not the first, or the only glass company in New England. Glass bottles were made in Salem as early as 1639. In Quincy a group of German workmen started a glass-works which produced numerous products, including lamps. Their designs were characterized by a spiral twist, but the quality of the glass was not good. In 1780 one Robert Hewes began to make glass lamps and other wares in Temple, New Hampshire. The lamps of the Temple factory were distinguished by patented burners in which the wicks came through patented corks instead of through pewter or brass caps. The business directory of The Boston Almanack of 1846 advertises the offices of the following glass manufactories: Boston, and Sandwich Glass Company; Thomas Cains; A. S. and W. G. Lewis; Joseph H. Lord; New England Glass Company; John A. Preston.
But it is the New England Glass Company, formed in Cambridge and operating until late into the nineteenth century, that interests us. This company did a big business and there is no doubt but that many of the articles listed and sold as "real Sandwich glass" were made by the New England Glass Company. Really, it does not greatly matter, as the early products of both factories are collected. Still, if you feel that it does make a difference and are anxious to know Sandwich glass, there are a few points which may help you. People who consider themselves expert claim to be able to tell by "the feel." Then there is a certain silvery brilliance of early Sandwich glass. As I have said before, it was made by a secret formula of the company. This iridescent quality is perhaps the best test of Sandwich glass of the early period.
You can't be with glass collectors without constantly hearing of pontil marks. All the first glass articles were made by means of a blow-pipe. About two years after the factory was started, a mould machine was invented, but, even so, it was necessary to use the blow-pipe with it. On wares made bef ore a machine to press glass in a mould was invented you will find rough and irregular spots. These are the pontil marks, and they show where the end of the blow-pipe was broken from the article. It is one of the distinguishing marks of glass of the early period.
Collecting pressed glass has become one of the hobbies of the day. A quarter of a century ago but few antiquarians were interested in it. For that reason good pieces were destroyed or given away. I know of one woman who gave away two or three of the glass hens now eagerly sought by people who have developed "glass mania." Another woman, living in one of the stately old homes in. the Connecticut Valley, collected her old glass at house-cleaning times and placed the pieces in a box in the attic. Then, bit by bit, she gave it away to needy persons. She was saved from utter vandalism by a friend who was prowling about the attic. Now the remaining pickle-jars, jam dishes and salt-cellars are among her cherished possessions.
Collecting glass has its surprises and its romance, too. My daughter once drew a package containing a half-dozen old pressed glass salt-cellars from a grabbag at the local church fair. Upon investigation we found that they had been donated by an old lady who insisted that the child keep them. So the ten-year-old started collecting Sandwich Glass.
Perhaps one of the most interesting stories of all is that told by a woman whose husband keeps a general store which has been in the family for four generations. The wife became interested in Sandwich glass. One day her husband took her up in the store garret, and showed her a barrel which she knew had been there since his grandfather's day. In it were a number of dozen of perfect goblets, Sandwich or New England Glass Company products.
One of the jolly things about glass collecting is the fact that the objects collected are usable and do not just occupy space in cabinets. You use your goblets, your salt-cellars, and your glass plates. On gala occasions, possibly, but still you use them. Your choice candlesticks decorate your tables. You have your glass lamps wired. Bottles? Oh, yes, you use them, too. Not for the same purposes that your grandfathers did, but you have them wired, also, and, with the right kind of shades, they make charming lamps.
You really must collect Sandwich Glass!