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Glasses with American Views – Addenda

All About Glass

In 1977, the author discussed two groups of glasses engraved with American views, probably made in the United States but possibly abroad.1 In the last two years, several more glasses in each of these groups have been discovered, along with some new information which is here presented.

Five tumblers with views of Philadelphia were shown in 1977; that list can now be increased to nine. The newly found glasses are in the collections of Margaret Phelps Hopkins and the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum. Fortunately, Mrs. Hopkins inherited hers from her great-grandfather and thus could supply some new information about their origin. The glasses acquired by Winterthur are engraved with views of Girard's Bank (Fig. 1) and the Swedish Lutheran Church (Fig. 2), while those of Mrs. Hopkins show the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, all in Philadelphia. In addition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired a glass, showing the Bank of Pennsylvania (Fig. 3), which was described but not illustrated in the previous article.

Fig. 1: Tumbler, H. 11.1 cm, The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware.

Fig. 2: Tumbler, H. 11.1 cm, The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware.

According to family tradition, a set of these glasses was bought by George Crogen Rice in Philadelphia around 1852. Mr. Rice (born 1815) had seen the set as a boy in the Philadelphia home of the brother of their maker (whose identity is unfortunately lost). The glasses were sold at his estate auction where Rice acquired them for $2.00 apiece. The set is said to have numbered twelve originally, but there were only nine left when they came into Rice's possession. Two of the nine were broken by servants, and one was given to a Mr. Webster. The six remaining glasses were distributed to Rice's three children, and at least one more has been broken. It is not known exactly what views are on the other Rice glasses or whether they are still in the possession of George Rice’s descendants. However, given the fact that there are now nine such glasses known and that three more are known to have been broken, there were obviously more than twelve to begin with, either a larger set or, more probably, two or more sets since two of the known glasses have the same illustration. It is possible, moreover, that some of the original Rice glasses may be those now in museum collections.

All of the views are taken from Strickland's Views of Philadelphia, published 1827–1830, and as discussed previously, the glasses could not be earlier than about 1830 in origin. According to notes made by Rice's granddaughter in the 1930s, the glasses were made in Pittsburgh and represented the first cut glass made in the United States. However, the Winterthur Museum has had occasion to analyze its three glasses and the one at the Metropolitan and found that their chemical content is similar to that of German nineteenth-century glasses they have tested. Since the fine cut and engraved glass being made in Pittsburgh in the 1820s–1830s by Bakewell and others was lead glass, and the only table glass being made in Philadelphia at the same time was also lead glass, it seems most likely that this was a set of European blanks engraved in the United States by a master engraver working either in Pittsburgh or in Philadelphia. Further research may some day give us the name of this craftsman. Rice's family attached much significance to the set as a document of American history but the reason for this significance has not survived. The glasses are obviously not "the first cut glass made in America" as that honor probably goes to Benjamin Bakewell's Pittsburgh factory. It may be, however, that they represent the first cut glass decorated in Philadelphia.

Part II

The second group of glasses discussed in 1977 were stained glasses of the type called Americo-Bohemian in the nineteenth century. Several more of these have been found. One of them formerly in the collection of Jerome Strauss and now owned by The Corning Museum of Glass, illustrates the New York City Hall, and, like several others in Mr. Strauss's collection, is Germanic in form (Fig. 4 [79.3.160]). Another, in a private collection and more like some of the glasses illustrated in the previous article, shows, instead of an American view, the lowering of Christ from the Cross. In spite of its subject matter, it is included in this article because its form is so similar to those in the previous article.

Fig. 4: Goblet, H. 17.8 cm, Collection, The Corning Museum of Glass, 79.3.160

Fig. 5: Mug, H. 11.4 cm, Collection of The Chrysler Museum at Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia.

The last glass is a mug which shows the Capitol in Washington (Fig. 5). This is in the collection of the Chrysler Museum at Norfolk (71.3792), and its engraving is similar to that on a glass in the Henry Ford Museum and Figure 4 in the earlier print article.

All three of these glasses are ruby-stained, and it seems likely that the religious goblet and the mug were produced in the same workshop as the glasses illustrated in Figures 3 and 4 in the previous print article. No print source for any of these engravings has been positively identified yet, but the view of City Hall seems to have been copied from a print published by J. & F. Tallis of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, probably ca. 1850 (Fig. 6). The view of the Capitol shows the East Front as it looked from mid-1847 to mid-1848 when a lantern was placed on a pole atop the dome.2 The pole, which was removed in 1847, can be seen clearly on the mug. There are several prints showing the Capitol with this feature, but it is impossible to identify the specific print from which the mug's engraver copied.

The mug and goblet may have been produced by a German or Bohemian engraver in the employ of the New England Glass Company or the Brooklyn Flint Glass Works. The goblet with City Hall is more likely to be European, judging from its form. American collectors, however, eventually may have to accept the fact that all are European. Until that proof appears, we can consider that at least one group of the glasses may be American.

This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 22 (1980), 78–81.

Note: The author is indebted to Mrs. Margaret Phelps Hopkins for sharing the information about her family glasses with us.

1. Jane Shadel Spillman, "Glasses with American Views," Journal of Glass Studies, 19, 1977, pp. 134–146.

2. The Saturday Evening News, Washington, D.C., Aug. 21, 1847, p. 2, col. 1.

Published on July 15, 2013