Last Updated: Jul 31, 2017     Views: 570

Commemorative Wineglass,  American Flint Glass Factory of Henry William Stiegel, Manufactuer,
and Isaacs, Lazarus, England,Engraver, Manheim, PA, 1773. Gift in part of Roland C. and Sarah

Katheryn Luther, Roland C. Luther III, Edwin C. Luther III, and Anne Luther Dexter. 87.4.55.     

There was little glassblowing in the American colonies in the 1600-1700s, this video explains some of the history and difficulties of glassmaking in Jamestown. From Jane Spillman's book, Masterpieces of American Glass, I found this information on page 2:

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 returned 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 enterprise started in the English colonies of the New World. 

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, which are outlined in this video on American Glass. 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. This video on the Richard Wistar Bottle discusses Caspar Wistar's success.
  2. Henry William Stiegel operated two or three separate glasshouses in the Philadelphia area. Watch this video on the glasshouse and the work produced there.
  3. John Frederick Amelung chose Maryland as the site of his factories after the Revolution. 

Attached are some bibliographies about Jamestown and American glass for additional resources.