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The Retierment Of Lodewyck Bamper

( Originally Published 1940 )

In Holland, Lodewyck Bamper had amassed a fortune as a merchant and ship owner. His career had been one of daring enterprise and continual success. He had married well and lived well. In middle age, he was persuaded by his friends to retire. The conventional move, expected of him, was to settle down in his Amsterdam mansion and be a leading citizen. But Bamper had original ideas. Though willing to retire, he determined to do so in the New World, rather than the old.

Sometime between 1720 and 1730, Lodewyck Bamper embarked for America in one of his own ships. It was manned by African slaves and carried a cargo of luxuries such as the New World had never seen before: silver plate, in every shape; gold plate; paintings and tapestries; exquisite needlework; silks; laces; linens; carpets; jewelry and unmounted jewels; pottery and fragile porcelain from East to West. In addition to these things he brought the finest mares and stallions for breeding purposes; tulips from Holland; rare plants from the tropics; curious bulbs; shrubs; and trees from everywhere; parrots, parrakeets, monkeys, and other exotic birds and beasts; and a large pipeorgan with pewter pipes.

His particular megalomania is revealed in the names of the four Negresses who served his household: Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.

Soon after arrival he erected a brick house with a fifty-foot facade in the finest style of the day. The beams and panels of the various rooms were carved with complex patterns designed by Bamper himself. In common with other outstanding figures of these early times, he was not merely an employer of craftsmen, but was himself a master craftsman with an inspired imagination. The large gardens extending behind the house quickly flourished into exotic beauty, and for these Bamper designed a great many life-size figures carved from wood, painted and gilded. These figures, cleverly arranged at the turnings of the many paths and sometimes half-hidden behind foliage, were of Grenadiers in full uniform, and occasionally of their wives and children. The pewter pipe-organ was installed at one end of the high-ceilinged dining-room and Bamper had brought a valetmusician with him to play it.

The very fact that he chose to "retire" in the crass and violent New World should have been sufficient indication to astute observers that Lodewyck Bamper was not the retiring type. Try as he would to be a member of the leisure class, Bamper soon found himself sending ships scurrying hither and yon. An acute need for additional peacocks for his own garden would somehow develop into an extensive trading enterprise. Then, to his astonishment, he found that he was opening shops all over New York City, speculating in real estate, and before he knew it he was launched in the glass business.

In 1752, Lodewyck Bamper, Samuel Bayard, Matthew Earnest, Christian Hertell, and a professional glass-man, John Martin Greiner of Saxe-Weimar, Germany, entered into part nership and organized the Glass House Company of New York. Its first glassworks was built far out in a location which would now fall between 34th and 40th Streets, and 8th and 1 1th Avenues of the present city. This distant location was then known as New Found Land, to which stage coach excursions were arranged for adventurous citizens of New York.

Two years later, in 1754, an advertisement appeared in a New York paper:

"Notice is Hereby Given, That there is to be sold by Thomas Lepper, Store-Keeper to the Glass House Company, living at their store on the late Sir Peter Warren's Dock, at the North River, near Mr. Peter Mesiers, all sort of Bottles from 1 Quart to 3 Gallons and upwards as also a Variety of other Glass Ware too tedious to mention, all at reasonable rates: and all Gentlemen that wants Bottles of any size with their Names on them, or any Chymical Glasses, or any other sort of Glass Ware, may by applying to said Lepper, have them with all Expedition. N. B.: Said Lepper Gives ready Money for ashes and old Window Glass."

In addition to the glassworks at New Found Land, the Glass House Company built another furnace further up the Hudson River near the town of New Windsor, and ambitiously operated both at the same time. The Manhattan works failed in 1767, while the New Windsor manufactory probably continued to operate for some eighteen years longer.

None of this glass has been identified, and little is known of the techniques employed. Considering the attributes of Lodewyck Bamper, and the general background of the enterprise, it may be inferred that they turned out an excellent and artistic product. It is quite possible that a certain amount of the glass variously attributed to other makers may have come from the Glass House Company of New York.

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