Jan 13, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Vintage and antique glassware remains one of our favorite things to collect and display. For example, watching the light dance off our carnival glass at night brings joy to our heart. But the world of glassware extends far beyond colorful carnival glass and today we explore the history of sandwich glass. Join us as we learn a bit more about this type of glass.
What is sandwich glass?
Sandwich glass takes its names from the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts. This town and region is renowned for its fine quality of glassware produced during the 19th century. Sandwich glass is a type of pressed glass: an apparatus, which is operated by a lever, is used to depress the liquid glass into a hand-carved, metal form.
What is the history of sandwich glass?
Sandwich glass takes its roots in 1826 with the founding of the prolific Boston and Sandwich Glass Company by Deming Jarves. Jarves established the company to put his glass pressing patents, which improved existing techniques, to use. In addition to employing revolutionary methods, he hired skilled glassblowers from New England, England, and Ireland to help build their reputation as the best quality in the industry. One of the first pressed items made was the tea cup saucer.
After the Civil War, the industry shifted as coal became easily accessible to Midwestern companies. These new firms could produce much cheaper pressed items and the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company had to evolve. By the 1870s they changed their focus to more delicate efforts – hand-blown and engraved productions. The firm hired French designer Nicholas Lutz during this time and he breathed new life into the company. Sadly, due to labor issues and economic constraints the company closed its doors in 1888.
Many of the company’s former employees tried to restart public interest in the sandwich glass industry, working under the old name or operating under the title “The Sandwich Co-operative Glass Company.” However, their success was limited to souvenir pieces and simple items. By the 1920s the entire glass industry in the town of Sandwich had stopped completely.
How to identify sandwich glass
Pieces prior to the 1850s often contained defects as the process was being refined. Tiny dots, known as stipples, would be added after the pressing to distract the customer from the inconsistencies on the surface. This type of glass is commonly known as LACY glass to enthusiasts.
Originally shiny, over time sandwich glass will become pitted or pieces may start to flake off. Look for collectibles that show this kind of character.
Lastly, earlier pieces will show a biscuit at the joint (the biscuit is an additional layer of glass in between the two joined pieces), while later work will just have a simple edge line. See an example here.
For our readers: do you collect sandwich glass? If so, what’s your favorite piece??