Hi! My name is David Whitten. I’m interested in the general history of the glass manufacturing industry in the United States, especially within the sphere of container glass, electrical insulators and tableware (both pressed and blown).
Bottles, jars, jugs and containers of all types, antique fruit jars, glass insulators, fishing net floats, EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass), Depression Glass, antique children’s mugs, and other items are some of the forms of glass I enjoy learning more about.
There’s a lot of great information already available on the web, as well as in books and magazines, but I’ve tried to gather some of the very best, basic info together onto this site, in particular concentrating on identification marks found on bottles, insulators and tableware. I’m also in the process of adding various articles to this site, discussing various glass companies, different types of glass and glass items. This site is a “work in progress” started in 2004.
The glassmaking industry in the US is a huge field that dates back to the 1600s, and covers a vast array of items and applications, including both handmade and machine-made glass.
According to historian Rhea Mansfield Knittle (Early American Glass, 1927), one of the earliest glass manufacturers in the United States (not counting the unsuccessful attempts at Jamestown in 1607 and 1621) who may have produced considerable quantities of glassware and actually met with some degree of success, was Johannes Smedes (or Jan Smedes), who operated an establishment — probably making bottles for the most part– sometime in the period of 1654-1664 at New Amsterdam (now known as New York City) .
What is glass?
Although some collectors and researchers might consider this a question with a fairly “obvious” answer, it’s not quite as simple as that. For a brief, basic discussion on glass (especially concerning the most common type of glass used for containers and tableware), check out my webpage here: What is Glass?
Every glass object, even the most lowly, commonplace glass bottle, has a story behind it, although all of the precise details may never be known. Where was it made? What was the name of the company or factory where it was produced? How old is it? Is it handmade? Was it mass-produced by machine methods? What type of glass is it made of? What elements/chemicals were included in the glass “recipe”? Why is it a certain color? If it’s an older, hand-blown bottle, who was the glassblower who fashioned it? Who was the last person who used it and handled it before it came into your possession? Where was the physical location of the sand supply that eventually was turned into the glass piece that you hold in your hand? Is it American-made, or a piece that was produced outside the United States? Can the company / maker be identified by the markings on it? What do the markings mean?
All of these questions might come to mind to the collector or layman, flea market shopper, historian, archaeologist, or casual hobbyist… and my site attempts to answer, in at least some cases if possible, a couple of these questions: Where, and approximately when, perhaps, was this piece of glass made?
Glass-making factories in earlier days were, for the most part, rather unpleasant places… the general inside environment could be, and often was, brutal. It was extremely hot (especially in the warmer months), noisy, and dangerous for a number or reasons. Injuries, especially burns and cuts, were commonplace. Fire was always a potential occurrence, and many early factories were destroyed by fire, sometimes leading to the complete closing down of a plant and/or failure of a company.
Antique and vintage glassware of all types and styles that are collected, studied and appreciated today are the tangible artifacts and testaments to the remarkable creativity, sheer hard work, energy, perseverance, and innovation of those men (and some women) who worked in those earlier factories.
Five of the webpages within this site list glass manufacturers’ identification marks (alphabetically listed) found on container glass (bottles, jars, flasks, jugs, etc) and in some cases on other types of glassware. A few examples of marks would be “I inside a diamond”, “OWENS”, “B in a circle” , “K in a hexagon” and “N in a square”. Please click here which will take you to the first page with more introductory information and explanatory comments: GLASS BOTTLE MARKS.
On this site are a number of individual webpages with basic information on some of the glass factories that operated in the United States. To read any of the “glass company profiles” I’ve posted (so far), and other articles pertaining to glass, please look along the right-hand side of any page for the “List of Glass-Related Articles“, and click on any link in that list. I hope to post more articles and add more information as time and energy permits!
One page in particular within this site is a list of glass factories that manufactured, or are believed to have produced, glass electrical insulators for telegraph, telephone and/or power lines. Although mainly listing U.S. factories, a few Canadian and Mexican factories are listed also. Click here to go directly to that page. If you have additional information, please contact me (at the email address listed at the very bottom of any page on this site) as I’m continually looking for the most accurate data available on these companies. Sources of some of the information is included after each entry if I have it available. This is an ongoing project, started in 2004, and I’d appreciate any additions, corrections, or suggestions you may have!
Some of the information on glass insulators is from research originally compiled by N. R. Woodward, creator of the “CD” (Consolidated Design) numbering system now used worldwide by collectors for identifying and cataloging insulators. A portion of the info in this site pertaining to insulator manufacturers is drawn from various articles in the classic 2-volume reference book “INSULATORS: A HISTORY AND GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN GLASS PINTYPE INSULATORS ” by John & Carol McDougald (published in 1990).
The glass insulator pictured here, a blue aqua or “Hemingray Blue” CD 257 “Mickey Mouse”, is a type made for electric power lines, and was made by the Hemingray Glass Company at their factory that operated in Muncie, Indiana. That particular example probably dates from sometime between 1900 and 1920.
I hope this website will be a help in your quest to discover more information concerning the wide world of glass and glass manufacturing. Please be sure to bookmark my site, and return often!