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Gloucester Glass Works

All About Glass

Clementon, New Jersey circa 1800-1825

The Gloucester Glass Works was apparently established about 1800 and from that date until about 1820 made a variety of bottles typical of the period.1 From then until about 1825, the works seem to have been used for the production of window glass. On December 23, 1819, T.W. Dyott, agent for the Kensington, Olive and Gloucester Glassmanufactories, advertised that these works were "IN BLAST" and offered more than sixty types of bottles, including essence of peppermint, London Mustard, vials, retorts, chemical ware, etc. for sale.2 Jonathan Haines, born in Mansfield, New Jersey in 1791, was listed as proprietor of the Gloucester Glass Works. Except for such advertisements, very little has been known about the products of this glasshouse. Now, as a result of limited archaeological work recently undertaken by A. Richmond Morcom, amateur archaeologist and glass collector, fragments of numerous bottles, flasks, and vials corresponding to many of the products advertised as above have been found, which shed more specific light upon the products of this factory.3 Unfortunately, much of the hill which was the original site of the glassworks has been removed in recent years for fill, so that by May 1961 the site of the Gloucester Glass Works had been reduced to a small plot approximately 50 x 12 m, thus limiting the scope of the excavation.

A considerable number of glass sherds, including about twenty percent from fabricated articles representing over 100 different items, were found, along with the remains of several iron tools, numerous sherds from glassmakers' pots, bricks covered with fused glass, and other items associated with a glass manufacturing operation. Probably the most significant find was about 300 fragments of "Pitkin" flasks. There are examples of both left and right swirls, as well as broken swirl designs. The glass colors range from light straw to deep amber, and from aqua through numerous shadings of green. In addition, numerous moiles, or "knockoffs" from the blowpipe, were found. Thus, another definite source for the manufacture of "Pitkin" flasks has been established.

Fragments of snuff, gin, porter, essence bottles and vials for patent medicines or perfume were found, many of them like some excavated at the site of John Frederick Amelung's New Bremen Glassmanufactory. Among them are a small honey colored bottle bearing the legend "Essence of Peppermint Made By The King's Pat," another bearing the lettering "True Oephalick Snuff by the King's Patent," and a number of London Mustard bottles with their characteristic square shape and fluted corners. Many fragments of common chestnut bottles were also excavated.

In addition to these fragments of aqua, green, amber and "black" glass, a small quantity of colorless glass fragments from such objects as goblets, decanters, vials and drinking glasses was found. Among them were six moiles or knock-offs, offering strong evidence that these objects were part of the production of glass made at Clementon and not cullet brought into the factory. Furthermore, careful inspection of the decanter bases indicated no wear marks that might normally he expected on used objects. This evidence suggests at least a limited production of colorless, or flint glass, at this factory. In addition, two small fragments of deep blue glass were uncovered as well as several chunks of light blue glass, along with two vials of the latter color.

Among the iron artifacts were the lower end of a fairly large blowpipe and the mouthpiece of another. Another short, solid piece of iron rod with small bits of glass adhering to it was undoubtedly part of a pontil; and a prong-like form may have been part of a carrying-in tool for taking finished glasses to the lehr. Two other significant artifacts were clay closures for stopping up the eye of the furnace while the melt was in process. Both are oval in form, one measuring 2.5 cm thick, 11.5 cm wide and 8.5 cm high, the other 2.0 cm thick, 12.0 cm wide and 19.7 cm high. Both somewhat resemble a turtle shell, flat on one side and slightly curved on the other. Each contains a finger-sized indentation near the center and an inverted v-groove at the bottom. One had been used and is coated on the flat, inner side with a thin layer of glass. From the distribution of the coating it seems evident that the grooved end was at the bottom when the closure was in place. A tool was probably inserted in the hole and groove to remove the cover from the eye of the furnace. These covers were rather crudely made from coarse clay, somewhat resembling dry oatmeal. It is interesting to note that in both form and method of construction, these two closures are almost identical to one uncovered during the excavation of the site of John Frederick Amelung's glassmanufactory at New Bremen in 1963.

Fragments of glassmaking pots are typical of other early 19th-century crucibles used in American glasshouses, such as those excavated at the Glastonbury Glass Factory Company near Hartford, Connecticut in 1962.4 The rims vary in thickness from 1.2 cm to 2.4 cm; the pot diameters are estimated to range from 31.0 cm to 61.0 cm. The sand used may have come from Clementon, since a very fine, white grade is still to be found there. The lime may have been in the form of oyster shells, of which quantities were uncovered during the excavation, mingled among the glass fragments.

In addition to the primary production of bottles, including free-blown, pattern-molded and mold-blown products—but apparently no historical flasks—it is evident that this factory also made at least a limited quantity of "off-hand" wares, such as bowls with applied threaded decoration; decanters; containers with handles, such as mugs; tumblers; and whimseys, such as canes, all made in the South Jersey Tradition from varying tones of the aqua, amber, green and "black" glass used in the production of bottles.

This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 10 (1968), 191–193.

1. George S. and Helen McKearin, American Glass, New York, 1950, p. 587, quote Stephen Van Rensselaer, Early American Bottles and Flasks, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1926, p. 132, "in 1818 or 1820 Samuel Clement and associates purchased the property for the manufacture of window glass" and state that the works had closed by 1825.

2. American Centinel and Mercantile Advertiser, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

3. This note, by Kenneth M. Wilson, is based upon a more extensive report prepared by the excavator.

4. Kenneth M. Wilson, "The Glastonbury Glass Factory Company," Journal of Glass Studies, V, 1963, p. 127.

Published on July 11, 2013