Answered By: Ken Burns
Last Updated: Jul 19, 2016     Views: 473

There was little glassblowing in the American colonies in the 1600-1700s. From Jane Spillman's book, Masterpieces of American Glass, I found this information:

The first colonists arrived in Jamestown in 1607. In 1608 a second ship arrived with 8 artisans who were recruited to set up and run a glasshouse. It probably ended when John Smith retuned to England in the fall of 1608. The following winter 550 of the 610 colonists died, including all the glassmakers. There is a recreation of the furnace at Jamestown today.

The London Company tried to bring glass manufacturing to the Virginia colony a dozen years later, by an investor named William Norton. "This glasshouse fared no better than the first one. The furnace cracked, the glassblowers quarreled among themselves. Captain Norton died, and the venture was finally given up when the virginia colony came under the direct control of the Crown in 1624. Despite these failures, glassmaking can be said to have been America's first industry -- the first manufacturing enterpirse started in the English colonies of the New World." p. 2.

Wealthy American colonists imported glassware. "Less prosperous settlers used wooden and pewter drinking vessels." Window glass was very scarce in the 17th century.

It was not until the 18th century that commercially successful factories were started in North America. There was a large market for window and bottle glass. Nearly 20 factories were started between 1732 and 1780, many founded by Germans.

There are three "big names" in this period:

1) Caspar Wistar started the first successful glasshouse near Alloway in Salem County, New Jersey (south of Philadelphia) - in production by 1739

2) Henry William Stiegel, who operated two or three separate glasshouses in the Philadelphia area

3) John Frederick Amelung chose Maryland as the site of his factories after the Revolution. 

Attached are some bibliographies about Jamestown and American glass.

Related Topics