American Glass

American Glass
American glassfrom the Glass
American glassEncyclopedia

American glass-maker plate
American glass:
carnival glass plate
commemorating the 1st
American glassmakers





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American Glass


American glass
American Glass: A short history:

American Glass was first made in 1535 if we count Mexico as part of the Americas, and therefore producing American glass. In 1592 glass was also made in Argentina. But neither of these glassworks succeeded due to the small population and the lack of sufficient demand.

True American Glass dates back to 1608, when Virginia was the first English colony to start a glassworks, near Jamestown. The plate in the picture above left commemorates this first glassworks, and was made as a collectors' item by Fenton Art Glass in 1970. The Jamestown glassworks failed after only a year and so did the efforts to establish glassworks in Salem in 1641 and in Philadelphia in 1682.

The Dutch operated two glassworks in the 1650's in New York (New Amsterdam at the time). We know very little about the glass made in these early glassworks.

The demand for glass items increased until the 1730's when the first successful American glassworks was set up. This was at Wistarburgh, New Jersey, built in 1738 by Caspar Wistar. This American glassworks started producing bottles and window glass the next year, and they also made tableware, but it was not marked so it is hard to identify.

Another successful early American glassmaker was Henry W Stiegel, who set up three glassworks in Lancaster County, west of Philadelphia. He made bottles and window glass but also tried to compete with the imported luxury glass of that day. And the third early glassmaker was John F. Amelung, who bought a failed glassworks in Frederick County west of Baltimore around 1784 and called it the "New Bremmen Glass Manufactory".

All of these early American ventures were opposed strongly by the British, and after a few years they failed. It was not until the Revolutionary War in 1783 followed by the war with Britain in 1812 together with the trade embargo on British goods, that American glass manufacture really took off.

Between 1790 and 1820 some 63 glasshouses were set up. Protective tarrifs were introduced in 1824 and about half of this wave of glass-houses survived into the 1830's.


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In the first half of the 19th century the population of America went from 5 million to 23 million, and the market for glass items increased hugely. To meet this demand the glassmakers invented methods of speeding up manufacture, and mold-blown glassware became very popular.

About the middle of the 19th century the glassworks in Eastern America switched to luxury, cut, lead crystal glass so they could more easily pass on the higher costs of manufacture. There followed several phases of popularity for cut glass (the Brilliant period).

This gave way eventually to the Victorian vogue for colored glass and elaborate decoration. By the turn of the century "Art Nouveau" style had replaced Victorian and had become very popular in America. Glass artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frederick Carder, Arthur J. Nash, and Victor Durand made beautiful art glass pieces that are highly prized today.

Mass production of cheaper glass which was popular with the vast and growing American population became the norm around 1910. Tiffany's art glass fell from favour when servants could afford good quality imitations of the glassware used by their employers. Companies like Fenton Art Glass became strong during the Carnival Glass era (1910 to mid 1920's) and are still producing collectible glass today.

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References and Sources:

Here are some books on American glass that you may find helpful.
Click on any book cover or title on this page to read more that book.

Pittsburgh Glass Book on Carder and Steuben glass Steuben glass book Carder Steuben book Fred Carder book Phoenix Art glass book Tiffany glass guidebook American cut and engraved glass Fenton 2nd Edition book Fenton Burmese Fenton Patterns 2nd Edn American Cut Glass book EAPG book L G Wright book Fostoria value guide Fostoria American Line book Depression glass book Depression glass book Depression Glass Treasures Carnival Glass book Best Carnival Glass Northwood book Dugan glass book Doty Field Guide to Carnival Glass Big book vaseline Westmoreland glass book Hawkes cut glass book Anchor Hocking book Elegant glass book American glass book Fostoria guide book Hobbs B glassbook




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