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Itinerant Glassworkers Digital Collection

Itinerant Glassworkers Digital Collection

John T. Backman flameworking glass ship, 1930s

For more than 300 years, itinerant glassworkers traveled from town to town entertaining audiences with their artistic, scientific, and technological skills. Their shows would often involve a lampworking demonstration and a display of glasswork made to impress customers, like models of famous ships or landmarks, fountains, and Cartesian divers. Later glassworkers and troupes of performers traveled with hydraulic skeletons and working glass steam engines. Glassworkers also traveled with circuses and had long-term engagements at museums, amusement parks, and World's Fairs. Many of their performances were advertised through handbills, posters, and newspapers.

The Rakow Library’s collection of itinerant glassworker materials spans four centuries of glassmaking demonstrations and displays around the world, and includes handbills, broadsides, photographs, newspaper advertisements, and more. These materials will be digitized to provide researchers and historians with information on featured glassworkers and troupes within the larger context of traveling entertainers.

Projected Outcomes

(completed)

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Come one, come all, to see amazing feats of glassworking! For more than 300 years, talented, traveling glassworkers entertained and educated crowds on the art, science, and skill of glassmaking, and the dizzying array of wonders that could be made completely of glass. Add in a dancing competition... more
In the 1840s, Finn demonstrated at the United States Hotel in Augusta, Georgia. CMGL 164968 Lawrence Finn never stayed in one place for too long. Like many in his profession, he was always on the move, traveling across the country to find new audiences. Finn was a 19th-century itinerant... more
We are making Cartesian divers at our Spring Break MakerSpace next week. Come join us and make your own! What is a Cartesian diver? A Cartesian diver is an object used to demonstrate the relationship between density and buoyancy. Density describes how much matter is in a certain volume. Imagine... more