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( Originally Published 1963 )
Fan, palm leaf, bowknot, and chair bottom or cane were much used during the Brilliant Period. During this time the hob-star, which had so many points that the intersection of their lines formed a motif resembling the hobnail, came to full flower. Some hob-stars or rosettes were large enough to fill the base, 31/4 inches wide, of a flaring 7-inch berry bowl. Stars with 6, 8, 10, 12, and 18 or more points as well as simple stars were made time and again.
The pinwheel or buzz, cut around 1900 and later, was a many-pointed,
swirling star with fan cuts following the direction of the points. It was an elaboration of the hob-star. The Pinwheel pattern probably was first made by the American Glass Company of Chicago, Illinois. Variations of this pattern included Cut Buzz, made by the United States Glass Company in Pittsburgh; Marvel, from the Maple City Glass Company in Honesdale, Pennsylvania; Pinwheel and Star, from J. Hoare and Company in Corning, New York; and Twenty-two, by Pairpoint Corporation, New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Like the pinwheel motif and patterns, floral patterns belong to the last years of the nineteenth century and, more plentifully, to the twentieth century. The later the piece was cut, the more realistic the flowers looked and the shallower were the cuttings. Bristol Rose, patented by a New Bedford glass-cutter in 1893, does not display the flower but takes its name from the cutting of 32-point stars with raised rosette centers.
One of the first floral patterns was Lily of the Valley, made by the H. C. Fry Glass Company in Rochester, Pennsylvania. Most realistic stems of these dainty blossoms and their leaves were finely cut in a panel arrangement alternating with traditional cut glass motifs. This early floral pattern as made by Fry was not only well done but also on glass of extremely fine quality, two characteristics not always applicable to floral patterns made after 1900.
T. B. Clark and Company of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, produced several floral patterns after 1905. This was the only glass factory to reproduce a poinsettia and make a pattern of it. Cornflower, another of this firm's patterns, used none of the old motifs, no stars or rosettes, but a realistic line-cutting of leaves and natural though conventional blossoms. Floral patterns often were based on recognizable flowers such as poppies and roses, then again were simply flowers. Some, like Cornflower, are quite modern in appearance; many are attractive but some arc rather clumsy-looking.
Probably the most famous pattern of the Brilliant Period was Russian, which was patented in 1882 by a cutter who worked for Thomas G. Hawkes Company in Corning, New York. It was derived from the older Star and Hobnail pattern and was based on a 24point star. Eventually, the Russian pattern was cut by many glasshouses, including such well-known and goodquality ones as C. Dorflinger and Sons in White Mills, Pennsylvania. A halfdozen or so variations also were cut, including Spiderweb, which combined Russian with Strawberry Diamond and Fan, and Polar Star, in which the size of the larger star motif was increased in proportion to the hobnail. Russian probably was cut in more pieces than any other pattern, and by most glasshouses.
Russian pattern with the addition of an engraved eagle crest had the distinction of being ordered in 1886 for use at the White House in Washington. Additions and replacements were ordered over a period of about twenty years, and the cut glass was still being used at state dinners through the 1930's. There also was a pattern called White House that made use of lines of notched prisms with a simple star.
Corinthian was another well-known pattern because practically every glasshouse cut some version of it. Basically, the pattern had a 16-point hob-star, boxed, as the central motif. From each corner rose a triangle of strawberry diamond with smaller, boxed 16-point hob-stars in between. Intervening spaces were filled with triangles of crosshatching. A fine example of Corinthian pattern was made by the Libbey Glass Company, Toledo, Ohio, and smaller firms in other states often made more florid variations.
Harvard, which was based on chair bottom or cane cutting, was another pattern made by almost all glasshouses, both in its original design and in such variations as Corning Harvard, Quilt Block, and Trellis. Simpler but fully as popular was Strawberry Diamond and Fan.
Cut glass is thought of as being clear or white glass which sparkles like diamonds in sun or light. By far the greatest amount of cut glass was clear, but in its heyday colored cut glass was by no means uncommon. However, although the popular Russian pattern was cut in green, ruby, amber, amethyst, blue, and yellow as well as clear, Strawberry Diamond and Fan in red, green, and yellow, these colored pieces are rare nowadays. Corinthian and White House presumably were made only in clear glass and Harvard was chiefly clear glass too. Many other patterns had wine or cordial glasses in color, or combining clear with a color such as rich green or red. Knife rests were made in color to some extent.
Not all colored cut glass was one color all the way through. More common was glass flashed with another color. Flashing differs technically from overlay, but the results are similar. A flashed piece has a thin coating of glass in a contrasting color, and when the design is cut, the two colors show. Another method of adding color, used on cut glass of poorer quality, was applying a luster stain after the piece was finished. It was then heated to fix the stain. It is far more difficult for a novice to identify colored cut glass of whatever technique as having been made during the nineteenth century. One reason is because of the reproductions made in Europe during the twentieth century.
Colored cut glass lamps are perhaps recognized more readily than colored cut glass tableware, decanters, and bottles. A vast array of lamps was cut from the time whale oil was burned early in the nineteenth century to gas and electric ones of the early 1900's. The fonts of the whale oil lamps were the portion that was likely to be colored and decorated by cutting.
Toward the end of the Brilliant Period, some glassmakers started to patent their designs. The first patent was taken out by Henry C. Fry of the H. C. Fry Glass Company in Rochester, Pennsylvania, in 1886. However, not all of this firm's patterns after 1886 were patented. Even after 1895 not all patterns were patented, and for those that were, a patent wasn't always protection against copying by another glasshouse. Even so, several hundred patent marks were registered between 1886 and 1914. Some companies etched their mark into the glass, others pressed them into the blanks before cutting started. C. Dorflinger and Sons simply pasted a paper showing their mark onto finished pieces and this, of course, did not stick on for long. If you detect a trademark, it is proof of origin and the company who cut the glass. However, lack of a mark has no bearing on the quality of cut glass.
Many of the glasshouses exhibited at the Centennial Exposition staged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1876. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company of Sandwich and the New England Glass Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, C. Dorflinger and Sons of White Mills, a little town in northeastern Pennsylvania, and Hobbs Brockunier Company of Wheeling, West Virginia, were among those who arranged notable displays. However, they were outdone by James Gillinder and Sons of Philadelphia, who did more than anyone else to popularize cut glass, for they set up a glassworks on the Centennial's grounds. Visitors not only took souvenirs but also bought cut glass to take back home with them.
Cutting was only one type of decoration and of glass made at many glasshouses. This was particularly true of such firms as Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, New England Glass Company in Massachusetts; Bakewell, Pears & Company, Adams and Company, Bryce Brothers and others of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Challinor, Taylor Company and Richards and Hartley Company of nearby Tarentum, Pennsylvania; A. J. Beatty and Sons in Tiffin, Ohio, Bellaire Goblet Company in Findlay, and others in that state.
Outstanding names in fine cut glass included Gillinder and Sons in Philadelphia, C. Dorflinger and Sons in White Mills, T. B. Clark and Company in Honesdale, and H. C. Fry Company in Rochester, Pennsylvania; Adams and Company and the O'Hara Glass Company of Pittsburgh; A. H. Heisey and Company in Newark, Ohio, Libbey Glass Company in Toledo; Pairpoint Corporation in New Bedford and Union Glass Company in Somerville, Massachusetts; T. G. Hawkes Glass Company, and Corning Glass Works, both in Corning, New York.
New York City had several glasshouses led by Bloomingdale Flint Glass Works. So did Brooklyn, with Brooklyn Glass Works, Williamsburg Flint Glass Works, Long Island Flint Glass Works, and Greenpoint Flint Glass Works. However, cut glass was produced from the Vermont Glass Factory in Salisbury, Vermont, and the New Hampshire Glass Factory in Keene, New Hampshire, to the Maryland Glass Works in Baltimore; the American Flint Glass Company and Hobbs Glass Company in Wheeling, West Virginia to the St. Louis Flint Glass Works in St. Louis, Missouri, Richard Murr in San Francisco, California, and the Seattle Cut Glass Company in Seattle, Washington.
Cut glass continued to earn money for the glass firms and to wrap its buyers in prestige until 1910 and perhaps a few years longer. Its superiority was never challenged by imitations such as blown-three-mold and pressed glass. Neither of the latter are regarded now as imitations of cut glass, but are valued for their own distinct qualities. Nor did any of the various kinds of art glass made in such profusion after 1880 challenge cut glass.
Art glass was different from anything made before in this country. All of the many kinds were highly colorful. Often they resembled something other than glass. Few if any kinds involved new techniques. In fact, glassmakers for the most part fell back on or revived old techniques, some of them used in Europe many years earlier. Among others were attempts to produce a contemporary glass that imitated the iridescence developed by antique glass.