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Jeanette Glass Pheasant Bowl
Maker: New Martinsville Glass Co
Color: Red
Made: 1936-1939
Jeannette Donkey Powder Jar
Cranberry Vase

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 EducationHistory of Glassmaking   

Glassmaking, America’s First Industry

Glassmaking in America began at Jamestown, Virginia in 1608, where a glass factory was operating just a little more than a year after the first colonists arrived from England. The "tryal of glasse" sent back to England that year was not only the first glass made by Englishmen in the New World, but was also their first factory-made product.

·        The Corning Museum of Glass has the largest and most comprehensive public collection of American glass in existence, with more than 20,000 pieces ranging in date from the middle eighteenth century to the present day.

 ·        Unlike cabinetmaking and silversmithing, glassmaking did not prosper in the first two centuries of American settlement, primarily because glassmaking required three types of knowledge and skill:
1.     the ability to construct a furnace that could maintain a temperature of at least 2,300 degrees;
2.    a knowledge of glass recipes;
3.    and proficiency in glassblowing; capabilities rarely found in a single person.
4.    Sand and other raw ingredients, ceramic pots for melting these materials, and wood for firing the furnace were additional necessities that were easier to obtain.
·        It was not until the 1820s, when the idea of mechanicallypressing glass into molds was conceived, that the American glass industry achieved its greatest success. We do not know who first patented this process, but patents for improvements to the technique were granted to several glassmakers, including Deming Jarves of the Boston and the Sandwich Glass Company. 
·        The glass pressing process spread quickly. In 1829, English writer James Boardman attended an exhibition of American manufactured goods in New York City. In his America, and the Americans (London, 1830), he commented 'the most novel article was the pressed glass which was far superior, both in design and execution, to anything of the kind I have ever seen in London or elsewhere. The merit of its invention is due to the Americans and it is likely to prove one of great national importance.' Boardman's prophecy would prove accurate.
·        The pressing industry continued to grow rapidly, permitting American makers of glass tableware to compete successfully with European manufacturers.
·        By the 1840s, many shapes and patterns were being produced, and housewives were being persuaded that they needed matching sets of wineglasses.
·        Following the introduction of natural gas as a furnace fuel in the 1870's, the production of pressed glass tableware increased markedly in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Jane Shadel Spillman is Curator of American Glass at The Corning Museum of Glass and the author of numerous books and articles on glass and its use in the home.
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Depression Glass History

·        The term "Depression Glass" refers to the often colorful, but sometimes clear (crystal) glassware produced beginning in the late 1920s through the 1940s. As many of the patterns continued to be popular entire patterns and pieces were produced beyond the 1940s.

·        The earliest patterns of Depression Glass were produced in colors that we refer to as pink, green, cobalt blue, amber and yellow. These often were not the original color names used by the manufacturers. For instance, pink was often called Flamingo. As homemakers tired of these colors crystal was produced beginning in the late 1930s. This was looked upon as the "modern" color.
·        As poorer quality glassware that was often given away with the purchase of a product or service, Depression Glass is full of flaws. 
  1. A straw mark is a line on the surface of glassware that is a result of manufacture. A straw mark is not a crack and it will not get larger. A crack will have a dimensional look that will catch the light and often look silver or gray while a straw mark will show up only on the surface if the glassware is tilted just so in the right light. A straw mark should not negatively affect the value of an item. 
  1. It is normal to find bumps of extra glass, especially along mold lines. We recommend the "fingernail test." Run your fingernail along exposed edges. If your nail feels a protruding bump look carefully for extra glass. This is normal, perfectly fine, and does not diminish the value of the item in any way. If your fingernail seems to go down it is time to stop and examine the spot in question. It may still be an imperfection and not a chip.
  1. You may find pieces that lean to one side, wobble on the counter top, and seem slightly misshapen. Two identical items may have slightly different dimensions. One pattern may have several shades of the same color. This is Depression Glass!  
  1. Here's a warning: Foggy, cloudy and lime-deposited glass cannot be cleaned! Buyer beware. Likewise buying outside on a dewy morning can cause one to inadvertently purchase "sick" glass. Dew can mask the real surface of the glassware leaving one with an unhappy surprise later in the day.  
  1. Yes, Depression Glass has been reproduced, and continues to be reproduced. (Mauzy's Comprehensive Handbook of Depression Glass Prices, second edition, Barbara & Jim Mauzy)
·        Most people equate Depression Glass with the “prizes” found in boxes of oatmeal many years ago. And, yes, it was found in oatmeal. The Quaker Oats cereal company literally saved one glass company from going bankrupt by ordering several boxcar loads of the product during a particularly lean time during the Depression years.
·        But this type of glass not only found its way into American life through oatmeal boxes. Movie houses gave it away to lure customers in on sluggish nights, gas stations offered it as a reward to patrons frequenting their businesses, and even restaurants used this eye-catching and inexpensive glass to cement relations between new customers as well as their regulars.
·        But most of the Depression Glass sold no doubt came from the numerous so-called “five-and-dime” shops that abounded at the time – where housewives could buy much of their basic day-to-day necessities at low prices, somewhat like the precursors to today’s Wal-Mart and Target giant discount stores. 
·        The pretty  pastel colos and its often-intricate patterns appealed to many people then, just as they do now. The various shades of yellows, greens, pinks, blues, and ambers, along with the designs, also served to hide the flaws inherent in this attractive, yet cheaply made glassware.
·        Some manufacturers produced Depression Glass made with clear glass to, among other reasons, “enable revelers to see the bubbling exuberance of their champagne on New Year’s Eve.” Of course, the patterns of these colorless pieces also hid major flaws. And although clear Depression glass had its appeal, most people preferred the colorful pieces to not only decorate their homes, but to use – often on a daily basis.
·        Today, the flaws made in Depression Glass from mold marks and air bubbles help constitute its authenticity, so don’t make the mistake of discounting the value of this highly collectible glass because of that! Although not every piece of authentic Depression glass may have these manufacturing flaws, reproductions generally don't. 
·       The mass production techniques – new at the time – involved in producing Depression Glass, caused the flaws we look for today in authenticating the glass. Back in the days when glass producers made Depression Glass, the molds in which it was produced did not last long, causing the glass to accumulate around the edges as the mold got older with use. “Straw-mark” ripples, most often found on the bottom of the pieces, occurred because of these older molds and those, along with air bubbles in the glass, hallmark a true piece of Depression Glass more than any other characteristic. Some manufacturers took to grinding the bases to reduce this fault.
Now that you know what Depression Glass is and a little about its characteristics and appeal, why not start your own collection? As with every type of collecting, the more you know, the better equipped you become to get what you want.
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