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History of Mt. Washington Glass Co.

Russell's glass House 1850 - 1857

Mt, Washington Glass co. 1857 -  1870

Mt. Washington Glass Works:  1871 - Present

Boston, MA

     Mt. Washington Glass Co. was founded by Mr. Deming Jarves in 1837 and was the second oldest operating glasshouse (now known as Pairpoint Crystal Co.) in the U.S.   Mt. Washington Glass was originally located in south Boston, MA.   Mr. Jarves was also associated with the founding of New England Glass Co. in 1818.  Additionally, he established the Sandwich Manufacturing Co. between 1824 and 1825.  Jarves sold Sandwich Mfg. in 1826 due to lack of capital. Subsequently, it was then renamed the Boston Sandwich Glass Co.  He managed Boston Sandwich Glass Co. until 1858.   

Mt. Washington glassworks went without an official name and was known as the “Russell’s Glass House” until about 1850.  It acquired this name from Luther Russell, the glasshouse superintendent.  This small glassworks was located on First Street in Boston.  The first official known use of the name Mt. Washington Glass Works was in an 1857 publication, “History of South Boston.”

Mt. Washington was successful until 1860; from 1861 to 1863, G. D. Jarves & Cormerais were in receivership.  William Langdon Libbey handled the business as court appointed receiver.  In January 1870, Libbey purchased New Bedford Glass Works (built in 1867).  As a result of an earlier negotiated leased, Libbey started moving the Mt. Washington operation to New Bedford in November 1869. The New Bedford works originally consisted of one ten-pot furnace and cutting shop of 15 frames. 

William’s brother, Henry Libbey, invested in the company in 1870 and the company name was changed to W. L. Libbey & Company.  In 1871, a stock holding company was formed and incorporated as the Mt. Washington Glass Works.  In 1874, Frederick S. Shirley took over management of Mt. Washington Glass Works.  He left Mt. Washington in 1891.

During the years of 1876 through 1881, Mt. Washington produced an extensive line of lighting goods and other glassware.  During this time period, Mt. Washington obtained several patents for its glass chimneys.  Mt. Washington’s other glass goods consisted of fine cut blown glass and pressed glassware.  In 1877, they introduced the first art glass line to Mt. Washington’s production.

They produced Opal glassware Easter eggs in 1878 and introduced Sicilian or Lava Glass.  Also in 1878, Shirley was granted a patent for Bronze Glass a form of iridescent glass.  Webb was granted a patent for bronze glass in England in 1878; another patent was granted to J. & L. Lobmeyr in 1875; and the first recorded patent was granted in 1859 to J. J. H. Brianchon of Paris.  These patents all preceded Shirley’s patent. 

In 1880, the directors of Mt. Washington Glass Co. voted to build a second furnace and establish Pairpoint Manufacturing next door to Mt. Washington.  In the latter half of the 1880s, Mt. Washington switched from manufacturing chimneys and pressed glass work to art glass. 

Rose Amber was introduced during this period and later litigation ensued between Mt. Washington (Rose Amber producer) and New England Glass Co. (Amberina producer).  The court ruled in favor of New England Glass Co. in 1886.  At some point thereafter, Mt. Washington discontinued production of Rose Amber.

In the fall of 1885, Mt. Washington introduced Burmese art glass, a translucent, heat reactive glass that gradually shades from yellow at the bottom to salmon pink at the top.  Mt. Washington is known for this form of glass.  From 1886 to 1891, much of Mt. Washington’s production capacity was devoted to the production of Burmese glass. 

In 1886, Mt. Washington obtained a British Patent No. 8023 for Burmese glass.  The same year on a trip to England, Mr. Shirley presented to Queen Victoria a number of pieces of decorated Burmese ware including a tea set.  The items were so well received by the queen purchased additional Burmese items.  During this trip to visit the queen, Mr. Shirley also signed an agreement granting Thomas Webb & Sons all rights to produce glass covered by Mt. Washington Patent No 8023. 

One other famous Mt. Washington glass, Peach Blow, was introduced around the end of 1885 and the first quarter of 1886.  Other American manufacturers of Peach Blow included the New England Glass Works, who called their product Wild Rose and Hobbs, Brockunier & Co. who called their product Coral Ware(Note:  Please see the Glass Types section, Peach Blow for the technical differences between the three manufacturing companies of Peach Blow glass.)   A fourth U.S. company also known to have produced Peach Blow was Phoenix Glass Company.  Phoenix’s decorated Peach Blow was known as Mandarin.  An interesting note is that Phoenix was producing their peach glass prior to Mt. Washington receiving their patent for party-shaded glasses such as Peach Blow and Burmese.  In 1887, Shirley brought lawsuits against Phoenix for alleged patent violations.  An agreement was later reached in which Phoenix paid royalties and continued to make the glass.  After reading some of the Shirley legal actions, it appears that he had better attorneys than technology. 

On December 15, 1885, Shirley applied for a patent for a manufacturing process, which a portion of included MOP (Mother of Pearl) satin glass. The patent was granted on June 29, 1886 (Patent #344,415).  Joseph Webb, the Superintendent of Phoenix, applied for a similar patent on MOP on December 2, 1885.  However, the patent was not approved until July 6, 1886 (Patent #345,265).  Both MOP processes were basically the same.  Later Mt. Washington i.e. Frederick Shirley brought legal action against Phoenix Glass Co. arguing the seven day patent approval difference.  Neither, Shirley or Webb was the first to obtain patents for MOP production.  The noted English glassmaker Benjamin Richardson filed an application in July of 1857 in England (English Patent #2045). Then, William B. Dean and Alphonse Peltier of Brooklyn, N.Y. obtained a patent for MOP production on February 8, 1881 (Patent #237,371).

The method for manufacturing MOP requires molten glass being blown into a mold that has a designed pattern of projections built into the mold.  This piece of glass when removed from the mold is then cased, thus trapping air internally in the voids between the base glass and the cased glass.  This manufacturing technique creates the pattern and is sometime called “air trap MOP.”  MOP is also normally found in satin glass, which means it has been dipped in acid to create a satin finish. 

MOP or Mother of Pearl satin glass is a relatively new term. This type of glass was originally known as Pearl Satin Ware, Pearl Ware, Nacre de Perle and Satin Moiree.  Not only was MOP made in the U.S., it was also produced in England, Bohemia and elsewhere in Europe with large quantities imported into the U.S. between 1886 and 1888.  It is difficult to tell the difference between the imported pieces and those domestically produced by Mt. Washington from 1886 until early 1890s. Mt. Washington referred to their MOP as “Pearl Satin Ware.” 

Phoenix Glass Company advertised their MOP as “VERD PEARL.”  Phoenix produced their MOP from about 1855 until 1889.  About 1895, Phoenix ended its production of art glass to concentrate on making lampshades and other lighting products.   

Mt. Washington also produced Cameo glass and Coralene between 1885 and 1890.  Cameo glass was originally produced by hand carving, then later wheel engraving.  Finally, acid etching was used to produce a relief cut image from multiple layers of glass.  Cameo glass was made in England in the late 1700s and was expensive to produce due to the intensive labor requirements.  Cameo was made in quantity in England with large amounts exported to the U.S. 

A limited number of companies produced much smaller quantities of Cameo glass in the U.S.  William A. Bowen, a student of John Northwood’s established himself in south Brooklyn as a cameo glass carver.  Gillinder & Sons produced a dozen or more pieces between 1880 and 1890.  Mt. Washington from 1885 to about 1895 produced acid etched cameo glass.  The primary color found on Mt. Washington Glass is pink, light blue is scarce, while yellow is rarer still.  Much of Mt. Washington’s cameo glass production went into what is now called bride’s baskets.  They also produced lamp shades and complete lamps.

Phoenix Glass Co., Mt. Washington’s competitor, also produced cameo glass by the acid etched method.  Phoenix may have produced a slightly broader line than Mt. Washington including cameo vases.

Most of Coralene glass was produced in Bohemia and exported to the U.S.  However, Coralene was produced by both Mt. Washington and Phoenix Glass Company.  Known Mt. Washington’s shapes of Brumese glass have been found with Coralene decorations.

From 1895 till 1900, Mt. Washington produced a broad line of novelty items such as toothpick holders and salt shakers.

Mt. Washington Glass Company is still producing glass under the Paripoint Crystal Company. 

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