All About Glass

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Corning's Near Neighbors: The Cut Glass Companies of the Elmira, New York, Area

All About Glass

The Elmira Cut Glass Company, the Enterprise Cut Glass Company of Elmira Heights, and Elmira's Majestic Cut Glass Company were three of the many small glass cutting firms that operated in the Southern Tier of New York State during the first two decades of the 20th century. There was a much bigger cluster of such companies in Corning, 20 miles to the west. The oldest, largest, and most influential of them were run by John Hoare and Thomas G. Hawkes. All of these firms, however, grew up around Corning Glass Works, a major producer of blanks for cut glass, and they took advantage of a plentiful supply of skilled laborers who had been trained in larger cutting shops and in Europe. Similar groups of small glass-cutting houses appeared around C. Dorflinger and Sons in Honesdale, Hawley, and White Mills, Pennsylvania—and, to a lesser extent, near each of the other half dozen or so American producers of blanks in those years.

While the stories of the three Elmira glass companies, related individually, are relatively unimportant, the fact that these firms are typical of many small cut glass houses of their time makes the stories worth hearing. While the uppermost level of the market for Rich Cut glass was already supplied with makers such as Hoare and Hawkes, the Elmira shops and others like them produced good glass most of the time and great glass some of the time. To make their stories more challenging, their glass was unsigned, and it is therefore difficult to identify today.

Elmira Cut Glass Company

The certificate of incorporation for the Elmira Glass Cutting Company was dated June 28, 1899.1 The principals of the firm, which was renamed the Elmira Cut Glass Company about 1906,2 were John C. Ferris, president; his father, Joel E. Ferris; his brother, George R. Ferris; and the attorney Benjamin F. Levy. Each had five shares of stock with a par value of $100; hence the corporation began business with $2,000. Sixteen months later, the owners decided to increase the number of shares of the same value to 50. They further stated that the "amount of capital of said corporation actually paid in is $2,500 and that the whole amount of debts and liabilities of such corporation is less than $1,000 and that the amount to which the capital stock is increased is $5,000."3 In January 1902, they went through this same procedure again, increasing the stock to 150 shares, so that the total capitalization was $15,000.4

Their reasons for entering the glass business are unknown. Presumably they saw the prosperity enjoyed by Hoare and Hawkes in Corning and thought the time was right. It was not uncommon for a cutter to open his own shop. Hawkes had previously worked for Hoare, and Oliver Egginton, Thomas Hunt, H.P. Sinclaire Jr., and Charles Tuthill had departed from Hawkes to begin their own companies.

John Ferris was probably a glass cutter trained in Corning. In its announcement of the formation of the company, one trade journal reported that, "the designing of the different pieces is done entirely by Geo. Ferris."5 This suggests that he, too, was a trained cutter. The other two principals in the firm were not glass men, but they supplied capital. Levy invested in a number of companies during his 50 years in public life in Elmira.

In May 1907, another trade publication noted that, for eight years (which would have been virtually from the time of its incorporation), the Elmira Cut Glass Company "have cut almost exclusively for the Wanamaker stores, not selling to anyone else in New York or Philadelphia ... They are expected to enlarge their plant and may then cater to the general trade to some extent. They own special molds and produce excellent glass."6

The next year, the same journal reported, "The Elmira Cut Glass Co are now after the trade of the exclusive china stores and the best department stores with a line, said by a critical buyer, to be fully equal in finish to the best glass ever shown in the United States."7

Corroboration for the Wanamaker connection was supplied by two sources. The first was a gift of cut glass received in January 1999 by the Lightner Museum in Saint Augustine, Florida. Roughly half of the glass in that gift was cut in known Elmira patterns. One example, an ice cream tray, was cut in "Pattern # 17." The donor had reported that "we lived in New York City; my father went to the store and bought it." Although Wanamaker's was based in Philadelphia, it also operated in New York, starting in 1896 with its purchase of the A.T. Stewart Department Store on Broadway. In September 1907, it opened a 16-story building nearby and connected the two structures with three large underground passageways and an artistic two-level covered bridge known as the Bridge of Progress.8 The second building, from the first-floor gallery to the roof, was devoted exclusively to furnishing and decoration, and the entire third floor was filled with china, glass, lamps, and art wares.

Figure 1: Illustration R, showing wares cut in pattern no. 17

Figure 2: Punch Bowl (98.4.8)The second source is an undated Wanamaker's catalog that was issued shortly after the department store completed its second building.9 The preface states that, "by absorbing the entire output of one large cut glass factory, as well as a large portion of that of several others, we are able to quote prices on cut glass of the highest quality, that are consistently 25% lower than those regularly prevailing elsewhere." The catalog illustrates the Lightner's ice cream tray, as well as an ice cream saucer or dish, of which the Lightner's gift included five examples. These objects are identified as made in "Pattern 17" (Fig. 1: Catalogue of China, Cut Glass, Art Wares and Lamps). A punch bowl in the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass is also cut in this pattern (Fig. 2 [98.4.8]).

Another pattern featured in this catalog is numbered 51. A two-quart claret jug cut in this pattern (Fig. 3) cost $16.50 in 1907, which translates to about $300 today.10 Good cut glass was never cheap. A vase cut in the shape of a bowling pin, held in a private collection, is another example of pattern no. 51.

Figure 3: Illustration P, showing a two-quart claret jug (left)

The Elmira firm also produced its own catalog.11 It, too, is undated, but it was presumably issued when the firm was no longer working exclusively for Wanamaker's. The catalog was likely printed following the completion of a new building for the company. This brick building, 110 feet long and 40 feet wide, was started in December 1908 and occupied by mid-April of the following year. It cost $10,000 and had a capacity of 150 cutting frames. In December 1909, the local newspaper, the Elmira Star Gazette, reported that, "they employ 100 men and women in the various departments, and they have furnished continuous employment nearly the whole year thru ... "12

The catalog contains 44 numbered pages and illustrates 28 cutting patterns. Having long been protected by their association with Wanamaker's, the Elmira firm's officers lacked the marketing savvy to assign their patterns appealing and memorable names. Instead, the patterns are indicated only by numbers. The frequency with which a particular pattern is illustrated in the catalog may provide an indication of that pattern's popularity. Almost one-fourth of the illustrations show pattern no. 33 (Fig. 4), and nearly one-fifth of them depict pattern no. 100. Pattern no. 17 (Fig. 2) is the third most frequently shown pattern in the catalog.

Figure 4: Illustration A, showing wares cut in pattern no. 33

Identifying the sources of blanks used by a cutting shop is always a chancy business. Shops secured blanks from a wide variety of suppliers. Although the Elmira Cut Glass Company is said to have obtained blanks from the Pairpoint Corporation of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and C. Dorflinger and Sons of White Mills, Pennsylvania,13 the Hoare template books14 provide some interesting clues on this subject.

Cutting shops employed full-size outline drawings to keep track of the hot-glass houses from which they purchased their blanks. It was not uncommon for a cutting shop to own the molds, which would be sent to the glasshouse with an order. Often the maker of the glass would keep the mold, on loan, for the exclusive use of a particular cutting firm. That way, a cutting shop could produce its own shapes without relying on the blank manufacturer's normal output.

Hoare pasted his drawings into large looseleaf binders called template books, just as he pasted competitors' advertisements and snippets from competitors' catalogs into a similar set of books, known today as the Hoare scrapbooks.

After the Hoare firm closed in 1920,15 its template books and scrapbooks were acquired by the Hawkes shop, which put them to a different use. In the 1930s, Hawkes pasted in pictures clipped from magazines (the Saturday Evening Post was a favorite) to serve as inspiration for engraving on glass. There are pages devoted to ships of various kinds, cowboys, bathing beauties, horses, and dogs. Unfortunately, these pictures were pasted over the Hoare templates, and they cannot be removed without extensive paper conservation work. This makes for a maddeningly incomplete record. It would be easy to condemn Hawkes's action, but at the time these books were regarded as "old stuff" and of no possible use other than to serve as binders for new designs.

Within the template books, there are 98 mentions of blanks used by both Elmira and Hoare, and 60 of them include the name of the blank's source: Steuben Glass Works (18); H.C. Fry and Company of Rochester, Pennsylvania (17); the Union Glass Company of Somerville, Massachusetts (12); the Pairpoint Corporation (5); and an importer (8).16 This information allows us to document that a tumbler shape made by Dorflinger, a blank for a footed grapefruit shape, and a footed individual fruit salad shape from Steuben were cut by both the Elmira and Hoare firms, each of which used its own cutting patterns. In addition, we can determine that a large Elmira cigar jar was made from a Fry blank, and that the Lightner Museum's ice cream tray was most likely fashioned from a blank made by Union. The template books indicate that a jug in pattern no. 41 is also cut on a Union blank, and they show it in three sizes.

From silhouettes and handwritten information in these books, we can say with a reasonable degree of assurance that the blanks for the two-piece punch bowl in the Corning collection (Fig. 1) were made by the Fry company, which also supplied blanks for the bowl and foot of the 10-, 12-, and 14-inch punch bowls made by the Elmira Cut Glass Company. The silhouettes, dated February 16, 1912, show that the Hoare firm also made use of this blank as its shape no. 9419.

The template books also supply some useful insights regarding figured or pressed blanks. While figured blanks are generally considered to have been an inferior product used only to keep costs down,17 the manner in which they were manufactured may not have been entirely to blame. As H.C. Fry noted in 1912, "It is not our fault that the finish of cut glass has fallen so low! ... It is your own unfair method of business. ... Return to sane methods, honest work, and stop the deception of putting out partly cut glass." Fry was hardly a disinterested observer, since he made figured blanks. But he charged that cutting shops were not putting in enough work on the blanks, and that they were failing to polish the cuts completely: "It is not how the blank is made, so long as it is made right, but it is how you cut the blank and polish it. Stop the shabby work and do it right. The [figured] blank is here to stay ... but some in the cut glass business are not doing good work. ... Lime glass and shoddy work have no place in the field of cut glass!"18

Although there is no mention of floral cut glass in the template books, a series of advertisements in Elmira newspapers in December 1911 indicates that it was made by the Elmira firm.19

A special relationship between the Elmira Cut Glass Company and J. Hoare and Company is suggested by the frequency with which the template books mention blanks that were used by both of these companies between 1910 and 1914. Hassell W. Baldwin, who owned a majority interest in the Hoare firm from 1913 to 1917, probably purchased a part interest in the Elmira company in 1913.20 The evidence for this is supplied by the 1913–1914 Corning city directory, which lists the address of the Elmira Cut Glass Company as "foot of Walnut Street" (the same address supplied for Hoare and Corning Glass Works). The directory also indicates that these firms shared officers. Hassell W. Baldwin, vice president, treasurer, and general manager of Hoare, is listed as Elmira's president; and E.H. Finney appears as both secretary-treasurer of Elmira and secretary of Hoare. The 1913 directory for the city of Elmira omits any mention of the Elmira Cut Glass Company, which implies that it remained an independent entity only until that year.

On April 12, 1913, a DBA (doing business as) document was filed at the Steuben County Clerk's Office stating that John C. Ferris and George R. Ferris, residents of Corning, were operating a glass cutting business in the Heermans & Lawrence building there under the name Ferris Bros. Cut Glass Co. This suggests that, before the Elmira Cut Glass Company disappeared as a corporate entity, it was operated as a Hoare subsidiary for only a short time. Less than a week after the DBA document was filed, the Heermans & Lawrence building sustained $7,000 worth of damage in a fire, $2,000 of which affected the Ferris firm. While this setback is thought to have signaled the end of that company except as a shop specializing in repair work,21 "rich, sparkling cut glass from the Ferris Corning factory" was heavily advertised in an Elmira newspaper during the 1913 Christmas season. These notices stated that "the designs this season are exclusive and different. The Ferris Cut Glass has always been noted for richness and sparkling brilliancy. And when you can secure Ferris Cut Glass at factory prices, it means a tremendous saving."22 Additional Ferris advertisements were published during the Christmas season of 1914.23

In the next edition of the Corning city directory, Hassell W. Baldwin and E.H. Finney are listed only as officers of J. Hoare and Company at 56 Bridge Street, that company having moved from the premises of Corning Glass Works. There is no listing either for the Ferrises or for the Elmira Cut Glass Company.

John C. Ferris is said to have sold guava jelly in an effort to pay off his debts, which he eventually did. The 1920 census lists him as selling canned goods. Thereafter, he went to Brooklyn and engaged in other entrepreneurial enterprises. He died about 1940.24

Enterprise Cut Glass Company

The Enterprise Cut Glass Company is said to have opened in Philadelphia "with a few hands," operated briefly in Honesdale (Pennsylvania), and then moved to Elmira Heights.25 It bought land in Elmira Heights on June 12, 1906,26 and began cutting there the following year. The certificate of incorporation27 shows that the firm started with capital of $11,900. There were five original stockholders: George Gaylord, president; James W. Bennett, treasurer; William Loring of Elmira Heights; and Frederick C. Farnham and Pierson B. Peterson,28 both of Honesdale.

Bennett probably learned his trade in Corning, where he is listed in the 1895 city directory as a glass cutter. Gaylord was likely trained in the White Mills/Honesdale area. In the first years of the 20th century, both men were in Philadelphia, and they presumably met at the Quaker City Glass Company, where Gaylord was employed.

Some of the information I have gathered on the Enterprise firm comes from the daughter of James Bennett.29 She was born in Elmira Heights in 1908, and her family lived only a few blocks from the factory. Because she suffered from motion sickness, it was her mother's practice, whenever she needed to ride the trolley to Elmira, to take the child to the factory, where the young women in the office would look after her for a few hours. Even today, Bennett's daughter has a wonderfully clear memory of the factory. She described the cutting shop, the existence of a room where "the men wore long rubber aprons and I wasn't allowed to go in" (obviously the acid-dipping room), and the showroom—a windowless room lined with black velvet, in which the glass was lighted so that it shone like diamonds.

My hope of locating an Enterprise catalog has not been realized, but Bennett's daughter distinctly remembers throwing away a copy. She wanted to use the leather cover for her music. The absence of a catalog is especially unfortunate because the known examples of Enterprise glass (some of them owned by Bennett's daughter) are unmarked, and the only ways to identify such glass are (1) comparing them with known catalogs and advertisements, or with illustrations in reputable glass books, and (2) locating a collection with an impeccable provenance. Today, the pictures of wares published by Albert Christian Revi30 and the objects in the possession of Bennett's daughter are the only verified examples of Enterprise glass.

There is one mention in the literature of a trademark on Enterprise cut glass,31 but all of the other authors who have written on the firm state that it had no trademark.32 It may have used a pasted-on paper label for a short time, but there are no known surviving examples.

In a small company such as Enterprise, the officers had to perform multiple duties. In an article pertaining to a strike at the factory in October 1910, Bennett is listed as superintendent.33 His daughter recalls that he made several sales trips each year to the Midwest, where he visited St. Louis, Chicago, and Minneapolis. She said he would set up his samples in a hotel and then send a hack to collect jewelry store buyers so that they could inspect the wares. George Gaylord made periodic trips to New York City, which he announced in such words as "Mr. Geo. E. Gaylord will again personally exhibit the line in New York at the Marlborough Hotel ... and extends a cordial invitation to visiting merchants and buyers. ... Remember no figured blanks used in our entire products." The latter sentence appeared in all of the company's advertisements.34

Cut glass companies responded to the changing taste, and by the second decade of the 20th century, many firms were showing lighter glass with predominantly floral designs.

We know only a little about the sources of blanks used by Enterprise. An undated Dorflinger ledger records blanks supplied to the company in the shape of handled oils, water bottles, three sizes of baskets, one kind of bowl, four types of vases, six- and eight-inch footed comports, and one size of a violet holder.35 Unfortunately, this record is for blanks obtained when the firm was still located in Honesdale. We can only guess that Enterprise retained its suppliers after it relocated to New York State.

The company also reputedly purchased blanks from Pairpoint.36 Another source provides two documented instances of the use of Steuben blanks.37 These blanks were employed to create a footed sugar and creamer and an almond set consisting of a deep vase and shallow bowl, each with three feet.38 Blanks for both of these objects were also used by Thomas Hunt's cutting shop in Corning.

Between 1910 and 1914, Enterprise advertised heavily in the trade journal Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman. The company was frequently mentioned in the editorial columns of this publication. The cover of the August 1910 issue39 featured a vase cut in the "Rambler Rose" pattern. One month later, another journal stated that, "this is an exceptional ornamental pattern and comes in 124 numbers, comprising almost every useful article in tableware ... indications it will continue with unabated vigor for some time to come."40

In October 1910, this popular pattern was featured again: "Though on the market for some time and in constant competition with a score or more of decorations of the floral order, it still retains the grasp on patronage it has long enjoyed."41 The next year, 16 advertisements for Enterprise cut glass, all of them in the "Rambler Rose" pattern, were published in Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman.

This fascination with a single pattern was somewhat unusual, as the industry was under almost constant pressure to innovate. As William F. Dorflinger noted, "One of our great troubles to-day is the insatiable demand for new styles and patterns. The traveling man must not carry a 2nd time a design he has shown before. It is necessary too for the manufacturer to carry an enormous stock. The dealer kindly allows us to and even insists upon it."42

An advertisement for vases and a candlestick, which was published in February 1913, notes that "the volume of business on 'Rambler Rose' increases each season because the quality never varies and the variety of objects is constantly widened, affording greater choice of pieces than any other line in the market." It also describes the availability of a "complete catalogue in photo-gravure, including all the new things."43 Unfortunately, this catalog has not come to light. In May 1913, "Rambler Rose" was praised again in the following terms: "[This] design has made cut glass history and has brought out clearly the fact that a design that is really distinctive and different w[a]s worth while the making and the featuring ... Enterprise Cut Glass Co. keeps over 60 frames busy the year around."44

Despite the focus on "Rambler Rose," the firm advertised other light cut floral patterns, such as "Aster" and "Daisy," during this period. I have found only one advertisement for "Aster."45 The accompanying illustration appears to be, at the very least, an extremely subtle variation of "Rambler Rose." Two additional patterns, "Primrose" and "Syringa," were introduced in 191446 and February 1915,47 respectively. However, neither of these was illustrated in Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman.

Interestingly, in a 1915 sales brochure, Richard Briggs & Co., a china and glass retailer in Boston, offered two objects in the "Syringa" pattern. The quality of the picture does not allow us to see the cutting clearly, but the name is hardly common, so these may be Enterprise wares. Moreover, the prices are interesting. The 12-inch footed vase was reduced from $15 to $7.50, and a similar 8-inch footed vase, originally priced at $5, was on sale for $3.75. That the distinguished Briggs firm provided glass in this price range is surprising, but it should be remembered that even the sales prices are equivalent to $300 and $252 today.

Majestic Cut Glass Company

For researchers of American glass, the Majestic firm has always been something of a mystery. It is not mentioned in any trade directories or in Corning and Elmira telephone and city directories in any year.

Revi published photographs of five Majestic products, including a punch bowl (Fig. 6 [79.4.291]) and a lamp (Fig. 7 [79.4.293]).48 These wares are now in the collection of The Corning Museum of Glass, which received them as a gift from Mrs. Beatrice Perling, daughter of the company's owner.49 Since Majestic never issued a catalog and its advertisements were never accompanied by illustrations, these photographs represent the only known firmly documented pieces of Majestic glass found to date.

Figure 6: Punch Bowl (79.4.291)

Figure 7: Lamp (79.4.293)

As Revi reports, the firm was incorporated in May 1907 with Wolf M. Spiegel and two of his children, Saul and Martha, as directors. According to an Elmira newspaper, it was capitalized at $10,000 but began business with $500.50 Wolf Spiegel had started a very different kind of business in 1895. In the 1901 Elmira city directory, he was described as a "wholesale dealer in scrap iron, metal, rubber, rags, hides, furs, beeswax, tallow, ginseng, &c." In 1912, he was listed as a dealer in scrap iron, junk, and machinery.51

The earliest mention of the Majestic glass firm appears in the May 1907 issue of the trade journal Glass & Pottery World.52 It notes that Saul Spiegel was to be the company's superintendent, acid dipper, and salesman. This suggests that he was not himself a glass cutter.

The trade journals also supply the only clue about the demise of the firm. An item in Pottery & Glass in September 1909 says that "T.S. Millard and Paul Huber, both referred to as expert glass cutters, will establish a plant [in Owego, New York], the machinery having been purchased from M. Spiegel, of Elmira, who has closed his plant; both Millard and Huber were employees of Spiegel. Part of the machinery has already been transferred."53 This note, as well as an advertisement in a local newspaper that invited the public to visit the factory to see glass being cut,54 demonstrate that a Majestic cutting shop was located in Elmira. In addition, a series of advertisements published in June 1909 shows that the firm was still in operation at that time.55

One of the few times the Majestic name appeared in a newspaper article seems to indicate that labor problems prompted the company to relocate to Corning, probably in mid-1909. In discussing one of the Elmira Cut Glass Company's periodic moves to Corning as the result of labor difficulties, the writer reports that, "the trouble experienced by the Ferris interests seems to be a sequel of the difficulties of the Majestic Cut Glass Co. a few years ago which resulted in the firm removing to Corning where it is now enjoying a flourishing business."56

Even after supposedly relocating to Corning, Majestic made a habit of renting a storefront in Elmira during the Christmas season, at which time it advertised cut glass heavily in the local newspapers. These notices continued to appear into early January. Like the advertisements placed by the other two Elmira cut glass firms, they were almost indistinguishable from editorial material. They rarely contain any direct reference to Majestic Cut Glass; often the address of the store (East Water Street in Elmira, which was also the location of the Elmira Cut Glass Company) was the consumer's only source of information about where to obtain the advertised items.

Among the various mysteries surrounding the Majestic Cut Glass Company is the question of when—and from whom—the firm began to purchase cut glass in Corning. The practice may have started before the firm left Elmira. As early as December 1908, it was advertising the sale of "Corning cut glass" without the use of the company name, relying solely on the address of its rented storefront.57 This advertising continued during the 1909 and 1910 holiday seasons. It is unlikely that the glass came from Corning Glass Works or from Hoare or Hawkes. The most likely supplier was the Corning Cut Glass Company, which was in business from 1901 to 1911.

Did Majestic sell seconds? The evidence is conflicting. In January 1909, an advertisement invited buyers to "Hurry! Hurry! If You Want Corning Cut Glass Bargains." The text of the notice read, "We have just received from the factory a few more 'seconds' that can hardly be told by experts from the firsts ... Of course you know the quality of Corning Cut Glass for it is advertised the world over."58 A few days later, readers were informed, "Never before in the history of Elmira or any other city has such high-grade cut glass been offered for so little money. ... There are still about one hundred 'seconds' left, many of them it would take an expert to pick out the flaw. ..."59 However, another notice, which appeared the following year, stated, "We have received from our factory at Corning some new shapes and designs. No Seconds."60

The company also denied selling seconds in several advertisements published in December 1910. One proclaimed, "Corning rich cut glass, new designs, sparkling colors! Why not decide on a piece of Corning Cut Glass? We ship glass all over the world. ... We do not carry seconds." There was another mention of "no seconds carried" several days later. Finally, under the heading "Corning Rich Cut Glass at Reasonable Prices," buyers were told about "rich cut, sparkling color, new designs at prices within everyone's reach. ... We carry no seconds."61 In all three cases, the address provided the only clue that the merchandise was made by Majestic. In addition, these are the only mentions of colored glass sold by the firm, and no authenticated pieces of colored glass sold by Majestic have come to light.62

In December 1911, an advertisement referred to "Manager Spiegel of the Corning Cut Glass Co."63 Although that company was apparently still cutting glass until about 1911,64 there is no reference linking Spiegel to it, except for his advertisements for "Corning Cut Glass." However, Michael Grady, the original Corning Cut Glass Company manager, resigned about 1908, so Spiegel may have been his successor.

Did Majestic trademark its glass? A 'trademark—a serifed capital "M" enclosed in a circle—is cited in the literature,65 and it derives from two sources. The first is an interview with Mrs. Perling, who seems to recall that such a mark was used.66 However, none of the glass in her possession that was published by Revi shows a trademark. The second source is a notation that "a dealer showed us a nappy signed with an M in a circle."67 To my mind, neither of these is convincing. In the absence of other evidence, it is likely that there was no trademark.

Discussion

The certificate of incorporation for each of the three Elmira cut glass companies contains this succinct notation, written vertically in the margin: "Dissolved per proclamation of the governor filed July 2, 1928—Asaph B. Hall, Clerk." What went wrong? Why did each of these firms fail after a relatively few years? There was no single cause, although all three companies were subject to the following conditions:

Competition

As early as September 1905, a columnist in Glass and Pottery World stated that, "there is an oversurplus of shops, manned often with expert workmen, whose knowledge of the methods and money needed to profitably market goods has been very limited."68 In the case of the Elmira Cut Glass Company, the competition factor may have been mitigated for the first eight years of its existence, during which Wanamaker's purchased almost all of its wares without any promotional effort on the company's part. Later, the firm employed an agent to do its selling.69 However, because there is no evidence that it advertised nationally, either in trade journals or in consumer magazines, it appears that promotion was not part of its business plan. Another clue regarding its method of distribution is supplied by one of its local newspaper advertisements, which advises customers that, "during the next two weeks factory prices will prevail, which means a saving of two profits [that of the jobber and that of the retailer] to those who take advantage of the generosity of the Elmira Cut Glass Co."70

Even after 1908, the firm seems to have advertised only in Elmira newspapers and theater programs.71 These notices were sometimes accompanied by pictures of merchandise that are so "generic" or poor (or both) that it is impossible to identify patterns. While the Elmira Cut Glass advertisements published in December 1909 contain no names of competitors, they do advise, "Do not be deceived and remember that the only factory sale in the city is [ours]"—an obvious reference to Majestic.72 In December 1910, Elmira newspapers published 19 advertisements for the Elmira Cut Glass Company and 16 for Majestic. By Christmas 1911, Elmira had increased its advertising count to 24 for the month, while Majestic had placed only three notices.

Another kind of competition came in the form of supplying cut glass as a premium. In the November 1908 issue of Ladies' World, the publisher, S.H. Moore Company of New York City, advertised a glass berry bowl cut in the "Olivette" pattern. This bowl, which retailed for $2.75 (equivalent to almost $48 today), was offered free of charge with the purchase of a one year subscription to the magazine for $3.10. In the hope of boosting sales to middle-class customers (the market in which the three Elmira companies were operating), glass firms also provided wares at reduced prices. As an example, the Bush Glass Company of Lansing, Michigan, noting that, "there are more people with 2 dollars to spend for cut glass than there are with $5," advertised 66 pieces at $1.49 each, which would produce a 55-percent profit for the retailer.73

Just after Christmas 1909, the Eastern Consolidated Distilling Company advertised Christmas packages selling for $1 each until New Year's Day. The packages contained one bottle each of "Bestonearth pure rye whiskey ... Cherry Brandy ... and White Banner Port," as well as "a valuable cut glass dish."74

Labor Problems

The Elmira Cut Glass Company suffered labor difficulties throughout its brief history. Whenever such trouble arose, the company's officers appear to have threatened to move to Corning.75 A strike lasting several weeks occurred in November 1910. Some of the company's cutters had demanded recognition for the American Flint Glass Workers' Union (AFGWU). An Elmira newspaper reported, "Mr. Ferris [Elmira's president] states he will not conduct a union shop."76 In defense of his decision, Ferris pointed out that he paid higher wages than all but two of the nation's other cutting shops.77 Hoping to defuse the situation, Ferris threatened once again to move his operation to Corning, but several days later, the Elmira newspapers reported that he had decided not to relocate.

By contrast, the Enterprise Cut Glass Company, following a brief strike in October 1910, capitulated to demands that the firm affiliate with the AFGWU. This is confirmed by local newspaper stories,78 by trade journal commentary,79 and by "Help Wanted" advertisements for roughers and smoothers accustomed to flower patterns, which appeared in The American Flint, the union's house organ.80 And, as indicated earlier, labor problems likely brought the Majestic Cut Glass Company to Coming in mid-1909.

Stylistic Changes

The Elmira companies entered the cut glass business too late to enjoy the peak of popularity in Rich Cut glass sales that was enjoyed by firms such as Hoare and Hawkes. At the time in which they operated, Carnival glass was establishing itself in the marketplace, the influence of Art Nouveau was continuing to be felt, and household furnishings made in the Arts and Crafts style were also popular.

Shortages of Raw Materials

By 1917, cutting shops could no longer count on the arrival of blanks from factories in England, France, and Belgium. Shortages of raw materials, especially potash, precluded the manufacture of blanks in America even by producers who were not engaged in supplying essential wares to the war effort. This forced the Enterprise Cut Glass Company and a host of other small cutting shops to close. An editorial on business conditions flatly states that, "trade in the warerooms is undeniably dull. ... Retail trade has undoubtedly fallen off materially. The women who do the real buying for the ultimate consumer, show a timidity which the men do not seem to share. Along the eastern coast the women are preparing for war. ... There is no question but that a lot of money which would go into crockery is going into bandages."81

Management Decisions

The manner in which some companies reacted to the factors listed above may also have precipitated their demise. It is generally believed that the Elmira Cut Glass Company fell victim to its continuing labor problems. The Enterprise company doggedly continued to cling to its "Rambler Rose" pattern against the perceived wisdom that glass companies needed to innovate constantly, but the immediate causes of the firm's bankruptcy in 1917 were war shortages and a blizzard that badly damaged the factory's roof.

Two of the three Elmira companies were founded by glassworkers, but some of these principals had more management/business experience than others. A trade journal article summarizes the situation well: "There is no industry connected with the trade in which so little capital is required to start in business as that of cut glass. The ancient trade joke of the manufacturer whose equipment consisted in a combination folding bed at night and a glass cutting frame in the daytime, may be all too nearly true."82

Majestic continued its Christmas-season advertising of cut glass at least until December 1911, more than 2 1/2 years after it had ceased production in Elmira. Yet the parent company, Wolf Spiegel & Sons, continued to operate. Like several of the Corning cutting firms, Majestic was founded by inexperienced entrepreneurs solely because of the popularity of cut glass, and when that popularity faded, Majestic closed.


Norma P.H. Jenkins
This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 44 (2002), 167–189.


1. Chemung County, New York, Certificates of Incorporation, bk. 2, pp. 65–66.

2. Estelle Sinclaire Farrar and Jane Shadel Spillman, The Complete Cut & Engraved Glass of Corning, Corning, New York: The Corning Museum of Glass, and New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1979, p. 280. It is difficult to know exactly when the name change took place. There is nothing in the Chemung County Court records on this subject, and the Elmira newspapers were inconsistent in their use of the company's name.

3. Chemung County [note 1], pp. 120–121, recorded October 12, 1900.

4. Ibid., p. 228, recorded January 24, 1902.

5. Crockery & Glass Journal, v. 48, no. 2, July 14, 1898, p. 23, which erroneously reports that "the factory is owned by Jos. Ferris and his two sons, George and John."

6. I am indebted to Craig Carlson, who shared with me the results of his research on the three Elmira glass cutting companies, including this citation from Glass & Pottery World, the Green Book, May 1907, p. 28.

7. Ibid., September 1908, p. 26.

8. Golden Book of the Wanamaker Stores, comp. Joseph Herbert Appel and Leigh Mitchell Hodges, [Philadelphia?: J. Wanamaker, n.d. (about 1911–1913)].

9. John Wanamaker, Catalogue of China, Cut Glass, Art Wares and Lamps, New York, [1907]. This catalog, which was found by Dr. Michael Clark and Jill Thomas-Clark of Elmira, was acquired in 2000 by the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library (hereafter, Rakow Library) of The Corning Museum of Glass.

10. This and other price conversions in this article are based on John J. McCusker, How Much is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States, Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1992.

11. Elmira Cut Glass Company, [sales catalog], Elmira, New York: the company, [1909]. This catalog is in the collection of the Rakow Library (F-140C).

12. "The Elmira Cut Glass Co. Working Day and Night," Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 3, no. 131, December 4, 1909, p. 7. The article also states that, "the demand for the product of the Elmira Cut Glass Co. is extensive from coast to coast. The merchants know that they can rely on the quality and reliability of their output as being up to the high standard of perfection at all times. That is the reason for the rush just now."

13. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 286.

14. These template books, as well as the Hoare scrapbooks noted below, are in the collection of the Rakow Library: J. Hoare and Company, Templets & Drawings, Corning, New York: the company, 1909–1916 (microfilm R-683 and R-684); idem, [Photographs No. 1] and [Photographs No. 2], Corning, New York: the company, 1909–1915 (F-8247C and F-8664C); idem, Advertisements and Cuttings No. 1, Corning, New York: the company, [1895–1917?] (microfilm R-640).

15. Jane Shadel Spillman, The American Cut Glass Industry: T.G Hawkes and His Competitors, Woodbridge, England: Antique Collectors' Club in association with The Corning Museum of Glass, 1996, p. 39.

16. Of these 98 citations, 82 are listed under the name "Elmira Cut Glass Company" or "Elmira Glass Cutting Company" and dated 1910–1912. The remaining 16 citations appear with the name "Ferris Bros." and are either undated or dated 1913–1914. Blanks from Pairpoint were used only by Ferris Bros., which also did not purchase any foreign blanks.

17. Only two of the 96 mentions of blanks used by Elmira and Hoare were for figured blanks.

18. H.C. Fry, remarks presented at the 1912 meeting of the National Association of Cut Glass Manufacturers, reported in Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman, v. 5, no. 20, June 13, 1912, pp. 27 and 33.

19. E.g., Elmira Advertiser (v. 58, 1911), "New Floral Designs in Cut Glass," no. 291, December 6, p. 2; no. 294, December 9, p. 5, which states that, "there is an exclusiveness about the new floral designs of cut glass"; no. 298, December 14, p. 2; and no. 299, December 15, second section, p. 1.

20. Spillman [note 15], p. 36.

21. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 172.

22. Elmira Advertiser, December 9, 1913, p. 3. Additional advertisements for Ferris Cut Glass appeared in this newspaper (v. 60, 1913) on December 2 (no. 287, p. 2), 11 (no. 295, p. 3), 15 (no. 298, p. 6), 16 (no. 312 [sic], p. 7), 18 (no. 300, p. 7), 20 ("Ferris Cut Glass Is Unexcelled," no. 302, p. 9), 23 ("Finest Samples Ever of Rich Cut Glass," no. 304, p. 12), and 24 (no. 305, p. 7).

23. Elmira Star-Gazette (v. 8, 1914), December 14 (no. 140, p. 15), 18 (no. 144, p. 23), and 22 (no. 147, p. 3).

24. John J. Simmins (great-grandson of John C. Ferris), communications with author, February 6 and March 15, 2000.

25. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 292.

26. Chemung County, New York, Deed Book, Liber 143, p. 97. The company purchased Lot 9 (920 by 200 feet) in Block 38 along College Avenue in Elmira Heights from Matthias H. Arnot, president of the Elmira Industrial Association. Conveyance was on the condition "that the premises described shall always be used for factory purposes and in case the premises shall at any time cease to be so occupied the property shall revert to the ... Elmira Industrial Association."

27. Chemung County, New York, Incorporation Book #3, pp. 233–234.

28. Peterson was the largest stockholder.

29. Bennett's daughter, who wishes to remain anonymous, supplied this information during a telephone conversation January 16, 2000. This was followed by additional correspondence and two visits to her home in May and June 2000.

30. Albert Christian Revi, American Cut and Engraved Glass, Camden, New Jersey, and New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1965, pp. 158–166. Two illustrations that are said to show Enterprise cut glass are published in J. Michael Pearson's Encyclopedia of American Cut and Engraved Glass, 1880-1917, Miami Beach, Florida: the author (v. 1, Geometric Conceptions, 1975, p. 237; and v. 2, Realistic Patterns, 1977, p. 165).

31. "The women who buy and the trademark on each piece have well advertised the ware." Glass & Pottery World, October 1907, p. 27.

32. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 292; Martha Louise Swan, American Cut and Engraved Glass of the Brilliant Period in Historic Perspective, Lombard, Illinois: Wallace Homestead Book Company, 1985, p. 257; Revi [note 30], p. 159. The absence of a trademark was also maintained by the daughter of James W. Bennett [note 29].

33. Elmira Advertiser, v. 57, no. 240, October 7, 1910, p. 2.

34. Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman (v. 3, 1911 ), no. 1, February 2, p. 14, and no. 7, March 16, p. 16.

35. C. Dorflinger & Sons, [factory office price list], White Mills, Pennsylvania: the company, n.d. [about 1900]. A copy of this document is in the Rakow Library.

36. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 292.

37. Steuben number books owned by Robert F. Rockwell III and annotated by Robert Levy.

38. Ibid., nos. 1199 and 1714, respectively.

39. V. 5, no. 2.

40. Pottery & Glass, September 1910, p. 13.

41. Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman, v. 2, no. 13, October 27, 1910, p. 21.

42. Ibid., v. 4, no. 15, November 9, 1911 , p. 11.

43. Ibid., v. 7, no. 4, February 27, 1913, p. 17.

44. Ibid., v.7, no.17, May 29, 1913, p. 19.

45. Ibid., v. 6, no. 4, August 22, 1912, p. 47. On August 22, 1912, p. 47, the same publication announced, "Such has been the success of the 'Rambler Rose' cutting that the Enterprise Company are now featuring strongly in conjunction therewith a new pattern, which they are pleased to call the 'Aster' and which is appealingly pleasing, being a rich mitre cutting of somewhat unique nature ..."

46. Ibid., v. 8, no. 24, January 15, 1914, p. 24: "The new pattern is called the 'Primrose' and is cut in over 400 items, including many novelties exclusive with this factory. The 'Primrose' is a combination of miter and floral cutting, but differs in many essentials from any other so-called combination pattern in the market, in that the mitered portion of the design is not the predominating characteristic. ..."

47. This pattern was first advertised in Jeweler's Circular Weekly, February 3, 1915, p. 206.

48. Revi [note 30], pp. 156–157.

49. Acc. nos. 79.4.291–301, presented by Mrs. Perling in memory of Wolf and Saul Spiegel.

50. Elmira Gazette and Free Press, v. 53, no. 304, May 17, 1907, p. [2].

51. Elmira, Elmira Heights, Horseheads and Chemung County Directory, Elmira, New York: Elmira Advertiser Association, 1912, advertisement, p. 376.

52. P. 28.

53 . P. 123.

54. Elmira Advertiser, v. 55, no. 5, January 6, 1908, p. 5.

55. Ibid. (v. 56, 1909), June 5 (no. 136, p. 5), 8 (no. 138, p. 2), 10 (no. 140, p. 5), 12 (no. 142, p. 3), and 15 (no. 144, p. 2).

56. Elmira Advertiser, v. 57, no. 285, November 29, 1910, p. 3. This article, which appeared that same day in the Corning Evening Leader, is quoted in Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 175.

57. Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 2, no. 134, December 7, 1908, p. 7.

58. Elmira Advertiser, v. 56, no. 2, January 2, 1909, p. 5.

59. Ibid., v. 56, no. 5, January 6, 1909, p. 3.

60. Ibid., v. 57, no. 304, December 21, 1910, p. 3. It is unknown whether Majestic had its own factory in Corning, or whether it was purchasing finished glass from one or more of the small shops that proliferated in Corning.

61. These advertisements appeared in the Elmira Advertiser, (v. 57, 1910) on December 10 (no. 295, p. 8), 13 (no. 297, pp. 2–3), and 19 (no. 302, p. 12), respectively.

62. It is possible that the printer or copywriter inadvertently added an "s" to the word "color" in the December 10 advertisement, since the "s" was omitted in the December 19 notice. Cut glass is sometimes spoken of as reflecting "a rainbow of colors."

63. Elmira Advertiser, v. 58, no. 288, December 2, 1911, p. 9.

64. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 322.

65. Ann G. Pullin, Glass Signatures, Trademarks and Trade Names from the 17th to the 20th Centuries, Lombard, Illinois: Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 1986, p. 228.

66. Farrar and Spillman [note 2], p. 327.

67. Originally published in Bill and Louise Boggess, Collecting American Brilliant Cut Glass, New York: Crown, 1977, p. 70, and repeated in each subsequent book by these authors.

68. Typed reference from the J. Stanley Brothers file. Collection of the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass.

69. Elmira Advertiser, v. 58, no. 296, December 12, 1911, p. 3.

70. Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 3, no. 139, December 13, 1909, p. 5. This was repeated two years later in almost the same words: "This will afford an opportunity extraordinary to secure the latest in cut glass samples for manufacturers' prices-thus saving two profits. In these strenuous days it means much to save two profits" (Elmira Advertiser, v. 58, no. 290, December 5, 1911 , p. 3).

71. This company's scarcity of advertising was hardly unique. Although T.G Hawkes and Company advertised directly to the consumer, notices from Hoare, Dorflinger, and Tuthill are few and far between.

72. Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 3, no. 133, December 6, 1909, p. 3.

73. Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman, v. 7, no. 15, May 15, 1913, inside front cover.

74. Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 3, no. 150, December 27, 1909, pp. 3–4. "Owing to the crippling of an Erie railroad car in which our souvenirs were, some did not reach us in time for Christmas," was given as the reason for the special offer.

75. In 1903, 50 employees walked off the job after the company refused to dismiss an unpopular worker. This was reported in Corning's Daily Journal on February 10, 1903. See Farrar and Spillman [note 2), p. 280. The same newspaper discussed another work stoppage on August 3, 1903.

76. Elmira Star-Gazette, v. 4, no. 108, November 5, 1910, p. 7.

77. Although the pay scale at those two firms was five percent higher than at Elmira, their factories were in operation only part of the year.

78. E.g., Elmira Star-Gazette, (v. 4, 1910), October 6 (no. 82, p. 7), 7 (no. 83, p. 17), 8 (no. 84, p. 2), and 10 (no. 85, p. 13).

79. E.g., Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman, v. 2, no. 15, November 10, 1910, p. 25, reporting on the activities of a union organizer, Mr. Luckock, who, upon returning to Honesdale, "stated ... he had been instrumental in inducing the proprietors of 5 important factories to sign contracts which are now running under the jurisdiction of the AFGWU. Among the number are the Quaker City Cut Glass Co. of Philadelphia; the Jewel Cut Glass Co. of Newark, N.J.; the Enterprise Cut Glass Co. of Elmira Heights, N.Y.; and the Flemington Cut Glass Co. of Flemington, N.J."

80. November 1910, p. 20.

81. Crockery and Glass Journal, v. 85, no. 17, April 26, 1917, p. 9.

82. Pottery, Glass & Brass Salesman, v. 16, no. 20, December 13, 1917, p. 77.

Published on July 19, 2013