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Full text of "The drama of glass"


CALIFORNIA 

;RN 

RY FACILITY 

^1 L 



DRAMA 
GLASS 

KATE FIELD 










PUBLISHED BY THE 

LIBBEY GLASS CO. 





THE DRAMA OF GLASS was an 
inspiration born in the brain of 
Kate Field, as she watched the 
busy workmen, who with trained 
eyes and skillful hands, wrought 
out the products of one of America's 
great industries that found a tem- 
porary home in the World's Fair 
at Chicago. 

It is an addition to the long list 
of brilliant writings of this versatile 
woman, whose literary labors have 
made her memory so dear to the 
thousands of Americans who have 
found in them the reflection of her 
own individuality. 

\ The story of an art that is as old 
as the building of the City of 
Babylon, that formed a part in the 
life of Egypt, that was interwoven 
in the history of Rome, and that 



1702001 



gave a reputation to a nation, is 
re-told by Miss Field. 

From the beginning of the art, 
wrapped in mystery and legend, 
step by step her story has become 
history. She has carried it as far 
as the World's Fair, and it has de- 
volved upon Mr. Thos. M. Willey 
to complete what she so well begun. 






AVE you ever thought 
what a drama glass plays 
in the history of the 
world? It is a drama 
even in the French acceptation of 
the word, which infers not only 
intense action, but death. Can 
there be more intense action than 
that of fire, and is not glass the 
own child of fire and death ? 

The origin of glass is lost in 
myth and romance. Nobody knows 
how it was born, but there are as 
many traditions as there are cities 
claiming to be Homer's birthplace. 
Pliny says that the discovery of 
Nglass was due to substituting cakes 
of nitre for stones as supports for 
cooking pots. 





According to his story, certain 
Phoenician merchants landed on 
the .coast of Palestine and cooked 
their food in pots supported on 
cakes of nitre taken from their 
cargo. 

Great was the wonder of these 
Phoenicians the Yankees of an- 
tiquity, the builders of Tyre and 
Sidon, the inventors of the alpha- 
bet on beholding solid matter 
changed to a strange fluid, which 
voluntarily mingled with its nearest 
neighbor, the sand, and made a 
transparent material now called 
glass. 

This story is too pretty to spoil, 
and those of us who prefer romance 
to science will believe it, though 
Menet the chemist posi- 
tively declares that to 
produce such a fluid 
would require a heat 
from 1800 to 2700 de- 
grees Fahrenheit. Un- 
der the circumstances 
narrated by Pliny, such 



a tremendously high temperature 
was impossible. Science often 
interferes with romance, and were 
not truth better even than poetry, 
science would be a nuisance in 
literature. 

An art that Hermes taught to 
Egyptian chemists like good wine 
needs no bush, yet on its brilliant 
crest may be found the splendid 
quarterings not only of Egypt, but 
of Gaul, Rome, Byzantium, Venice, 
Germany, Bohemia, Great Britain, 
and last but not least the United 
States. 

He was a poor man, who, in 
Seneca's day, had not his house 
decorated with various de- 
signs in glass ; while Scau- 
rus, the Aedile, a superin- 
tendent of public buildings 
in ancient Rome, actually 
4?uilt a theatre seating 
forty thousand persons, 
the second story of which 
was made of 
glass. That 




masterpiece of ancient manufac- 
ture, the Portland Vase, was taken 
from the tomb of the Roman 
Emperor Alexander Severus, and 
should bear his name rather than 
that of the Duchess of Portland, 
who purchased it from the Bar- 
berini family after it had stood 
three hundred years in their famous 
Roman gallery. 

In the thirteenth century Venice 
reigned supreme in glass making. 
No one knows how long the City of 
Doges might have monopolized 
certain features of this art but for 
a woman who could not keep a 
secret from her lover. Marietta 
was the daughter of Beroviero, one 
of the most famous glass makers 
of the fifteenth century. Many 
were his receipts for producing 
colored glass, and as he had faith 
in his own flesh and blood he 
confided these precious receipts to 
his daughter. Alas, for poor 
Beroviero! Marietta, after the 
manner of women, loved a man, 



one Giorgio, an artisan in her 
father's. employ. History does not 
tell, but I have no doubt that 
Giorgio wheedled the secret out of 
his sweetheart. 

Once possessed of these receipts 
he published and sold them for a 
large sum, then turning on the man 
he had betrayed he demanded 
faithless Marietta in marriage. 
Thus it came to pass that the 
ignoble love of a weak woman for 
a dishonorable man helped to 
change the fortunes of Venice. 
The world gained by the destruc- 
tion of a monopoly, one more 





proof of the poet's dictum 
that " all partial evil is 
universal good." 

It was in the middle 
of this same fifteenth cen- 
tury that a number of 
Venetian glass makers 
were imprisoned in Lon- 
don because they could 
not pay the heavy fine 
imposed by the Venetian 
Council for plying their art in foreign 
lands. " Let us work out our fine,'' 
pleaded these victims of prohibition. 
Their prayer was warmly seconded 
by England's king, whose interces- 
sion was by no means disinterested. 
Yielding to royal desire, Venice 
freed these artisans, and thus glass 
making was established in Great 
Britain. Beyond the point of 
reason all prohibitory laws fail 
sooner or later. Go to the bottom 
of slang, and as a rule you will 
find it based on rugged truth. 
When in the breezy vernacular of 
this republic a human being is 



credited with " sand" or is accused 
of being entirely destitute of it, he 
rises to high esteem or falls beneath 
contempt. Possessing "sand " he 
can command success; without it 
he is a poor creature. For the 
origin of this slang we turn to 
glass making, the excellence of 
which depends upon sand. 

If Bohemia succeeded finally 
in making clearer and whiter glass 
than Venice, it was because Bo- 
hemia produced better sand. When 
the town of Murano furnished the 
world with glass, its population 
was thirty thousand. That number 
has dwindled to four thousand. 
Bohemian glass stood unrivaled 
until England discovered flint or 
lead glass; now, the world looks 
to the United States for rich cut 
glass, the highest artistic expres- 
sion of modern glass. 

Where does America begin its 
evolution in glass? Before the 
landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth 
Rock. In 1608, within a mile of 



the English settlement of James- 
town, Virginia, a glass house was 
built in the woods. Curiously 
enough it was the first factory 
built upon this continent. This 
factory began with bottles, and 
bottles were the first manufactured 
articles that were exported from 
North America. 

In those early days glass beads 
were in great demand. Indians 
would sell their birthright for a 
mess of them, so when the first 
glass house fell to pieces, a 
second took its place for the 
purpose of supplying the In- 
dians with beads. 

A few years later common 
glass was made in 
Massachusetts. It 
appears from the 
records of the town 




of Salem that the glass makers 
could not have been very success- 
ful, as that town loaned them thirty 
pounds in money which was never 
paid back. 

During the time of the Dutch 
occupation of Manhattan Island, 
when New York was known as 
New Amsterdam, a glass factory 
was built near Hanover Square, 
but not until after the Revolution 
came and went did glass making 
really take root in American soil. 
In July, 1787, the Massachusetts 
Legislature gave to a Boston glass 
company the exclusive right to 
make glass in that State for fifteen 
years. This company prospered 
and was the first successful glass 
manufacturing company in the 
United States. Then followed 
others that were successful. As 
early as 1865 there was manufac- 
tured, in the vicinity of Boston, 
glass that was the equal of the 
best flint glass manufactured in 
England. Two hundred and fifty 



years from the time the first rough 
bottles were exported from Vir- 
ginia to England seems a long 
time to us, but how short a time 
'., it really is in the life of this 
ancient art this drama of glass. 




18 




FROM 1850 TO 189^ 
AN EVOLUTION IN GLASS 





It is always interesting to trace 
the history of a great industry. 
Like the oak, it begins with a small 
seed that hardly knows its own 
mind, and is often more surprised 
than the rest of the world at the 
result of earnest effort. See what 
apothecaries did for Italy. Me- 
diaeval art and the Medicis go hand 
in hand. The drama of glass in the 
United States may have as signifi- 
cant a mission, for it is singularly 
true that James Jackson Jarves, son 
of Deming Jarves, the pioneer glass 
manufacturer of New England, was 
almost the first American to give his 
life to the study of 
old masters and to 




devote his fortune to collecting 
their works. The Jarves gallery 
now belongs to Yale University. 

William L. Libbey was born in 
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and 
became, in 1850, the confidential 
clerk of Jarves & Commeraiss, 
the greatest glass importers of 
Boston, and whose glass factory 
in South Boston was the forerunner 
of the Libbey Works of the Colum- 
bian Exposition. Having made a 
fortune the fortune his clever son 
spent in art and bric-a-brac Dem ing 
Jarves sold his glass factory to his 
trusted clerk in 1855, and for 
twenty years this Massachusetts 
industry gained strength and repu- 
tation. But the trend of popula- 
tion was westward. 

Cheap fuel was necessary to suc- 
cessful glass making. How could 
New England coal compete with 
natural gas ? So Ohio came to the 
front. A few years ago Ohio's 
natural gas became exhausted. 
Without a day's disturbance petro- 



leum succeeded gas, and better 
glass was made than ever, because 
oil produces a more even tempera- 
ture. Verily " there is a soul of 
goodness in things evil." From 
Massachusetts to Ohio, from coal 
to gas, from gas to petroleum, 
what would be the next act in the 
drama of American glass ? What, 
indeed, but an act the scene of 
which was laid in the grounds of 
the World's Fair ! 

Believing fully in the westward 
course of empire, Mr. Edward D. 
Libbey had the inspiration that if 
Chicago wanted the World's Fair, 
Chicago would not only have it, 
but would create such an exposi- 
tion as had never been seen. So 
before even the temporary organi- 
zation was formed in Chicago the 
Libbey Glass Company filed an 
application for the exclusive right 
to manufacture glass at the Colum- 
bian Exposition. 

The problem of erecting a build- 
ing that should be architecturally 



in keeping with the surroundings, 
that should afford every possible 
comfort to the thousands of daily 
visitors and still be used as a manu- 
factory, was not an easy matter. 

Begun in October, 1892, the ad- 
mirable building, put up in the 
Midway Plaisance to show the pro- 
cess of making glass, was finished 
one week before May ist following. 
On that bleak opening day thou- 
sands of overshoes were stalled in 
mud a foot deep before the Admin- 
istration Building, and the owners 
went home in some cases almost 
barefooted. 

But there was an expenditure of 
$125,000 in an idea, and the in- 
vestors had no reason to fear 




weather or neglect. From the 
opening to the closing of the big 
front door two million people found 
their way to this glass house, at 
which no one threw stones. The 
trouble was not to get people in, 
but to keep them out. A mob 
never benefits itself nor anybody 
else. To reduce the attendance to 
reasonable proportions a fee was 
charged, applicable to the purchase 
of some souvenir, made perhaps 
before the buyer's very eyes. Why 
was this glass house so popular ? 
Because its exhibit displayed the 
only art industry in actual opera- 
tion within the Fair grounds. 

All people like machinery in 
motion, and the most curious people 
on earth are Americans. They 
want to know how things are made, 
and, like children, are not content 
until they have laid their hands on 
whatever confronts them. " Please 
do not touch " has no terrors for 
them. In addition to this inborn 
love of action, there is a fascination 




about glass blowing and the fash- 
ioning of shapeless matter piping 
hot from the pot that appeals to 
men and women of all sorts and 
conditions. With eyes and mouths 
wide open, thousands stood daily 
around the circular factory watch- 
ing a hundred skilled artisans at 
work. They looked at the big 
central furnace, in which sand, 
oxide of lead, potash, saltpetre and 
nitrate of soda underwent vitrifica- 
tion ; they saw it taken out of the 
pot a plastic mass, which, through 
long, hollow iron tubes, was blown 
and rolled and twisted and turned 
into things of beauty. Here was a 
champagne glass, there was a flower 
bowl ; now came a decanter, fol- 
lowed by a jewel basket. A few 
minutes later jugs and goblets and 
vases galore passed from the nim- 
ble fingers of the artisans to the 
annealing oven below. 

All these creations entered the 
oven as hot as they came from 
the last manipulator, but gradually 



26 



cooled off to the temperature of the 
atmosphere. Getting used to the 
hardships of life requires twenty- 
four hours, during which the trays 
on which the glass stands are slow- 
ly moved from the hot to the 
temperate end of the oven. This 
procession was an object lesson in 
life as well as in glass. " Make 
haste slowly or you'll defeat your- 
self," was the burden of the song 
those things of beauty sang to 
themselves and to all who listened. 

If American cut glass has grown 
beyond compare, it is largely due to 
the superior intelligence of Ameri- 
can artisans. They have the "sand"; 
so, too, have the beautiful hills of 
Berkshire County, Massachusetts, 
whence comes the purest quality 
the whole world has known. The 
best flint glass exhibited at the 
Paris Exposition of 1867 owed its 
excellence to the treasure stowed 
away in Western Massachusetts. 

The finest Amer- 
ican flint glass of 




the Columbian Exposition found its 
inspiration in the same part of the 
old Bay State. 

Little did those visitors to the 
Fair know whence came the hot 
fires of Libbey's Glass House. 
They little knew that oil was drawn 
in pipes from Ohio, and that one 
hundred and fifty barrels of petro- 
leum lay buried under innocent- 
looking grass, that looked up and 
asked not to be trodden under foot. 

Of course, had lightning struck 
those two great hidden tanks of 
liquid dynamite, we should all 
have been sent to that bourne 
whence no World's Fair visitor 
could have returned. 

Seventy-five barrels of oil were 
burned daily on the Midway Plai- 
sance. How many gallons ? Three 
thousand. Multiply one day's fire 
by one hundred and eighty days 
and you discover that the drama 
of glass at the Fair was the death 
of fifty-four thousand gallons of 
petroleum. 



28 



THE ACTRESS 

AND 
THE INFANTA 





Ever since the era of fairy tales 
the world has heard of glass slip- 
pers. Cinderella wore them and 
great was the romance thereof. 
But whoever before 1893 heard of 
a glass dress, and who conceived 
such a novel idea? 

From that memorable day in 
the Garden of Eden when Eve ate 
that apple, which may literally be 
called the fruit of all knowledge, 
woman has been at the bottom of 
everything; it was a women who 
got it into her head that she 
wanted a glass dress. How did it 
happen? Thus: In the middle of 
>May, 1893, women from all parts 
of the earth took Chicago by 
storm. Theirs was the first of one 
hundred congresses, and among 




many artists was Georgia Cayvan, 
whose record on and off the stage 
does credit to her head and heart. 
Of course the clever actress visited 
the Fair and of course she followed 
the multitude and found herself 
watching the process of making 
American glass. It was not long 
before Miss Cayvan's quick eye was 
attracted by an exhibit of spun and 
woven glass lamp shades. 

" Do you mean to say those 
shades are spun out of glass?" 
she exclaimed; "the material re- 
sembles silk." 

"Nevertheless it is glass," re- 
plied the attendant. 

" Is it possible to make a glass 
dress ? " 

" Why not? It is not only pos- 
sible but eminently feasible." 
"Would it be very expen- 
sive?" 

"Twenty-five dollars a 
yard." 

This was a deal of 
monev to invest in an ex- 



peri men t, as at least twelve yards 
are needed for a gown, but when a 
woman wills she wills, especially 
when she is intimately acquainted 
with her own mind. Miss Cayvan 
knows hers perfectly, and in a few 
minutes she exacted from the Com- 
pany a promise not only to spin her 
many yards of glass cloth for a 
white evening costume, but she 
obtained from them the exclusive 
right to wear glass cloth on the 
stage. " It is agreed." said actress 
and manufacturer in chorus, and 
off hied the former to New York, 
where at the end of four weeks she 
received her material direct from 
the Midway Plaisance. Ho\\ to 
make it up was the next question, 
for Madame la Modiste vowed she 
wouldn't touch such material with 
scissors and needles. 

As a matter of fact a specialist 
is ^needed to cut and sew glass, 
which differs from other cloths in 
breaking and wickedly sticking 
into the hands, so a skillful and 



33 



artistic young woman employee 
from Toledo was sent to New York 
to do what the ordinary seamstress 
could not. She cut and made the 
unique costume with which Miss 
Cayvan sweeps the stage to the 
edification of feminine and the 
wonder of masculine eyes. 

The fame of that glass gown 
reached the ears of the Infanta 
Eulalia, who saw it worn by the 
ingenious actress and determined 
to inspect its counterpart set up in 
a case at the World's Fair. The 
Midway Plaisance was the Prin- 
cess's favorite resort in Chicago, 
and she soon turned her steps 
toward the glass house she had 
heard so much about. "Where's 
that dress?" asked the Infanta as 
she entered the factory. On being 
conducted to it Eulalia expressed 
great pleasure, declaring it was the 
finest thing she had seen at the Fair. 

"Would Your Highness wear such 
a gown were one made expressly 
for you ? " she was asked. 



35 




" Not only would I wear it, but 
I'd take the greatest delight in 
telling the story of its manufac- 
ture," replied the Princess. 

Before sailing away to Spain, 
Eulalia w r as fitted for her American 
glass gown, now wears it, and to- 
day there hangs in the Libbey 
Glass Company's private office the 
following official certificate : 

ROYAL HOUSE OF H. R. H. INFANTE DON- 
ANTONIO DE ORLEANS 

H. R. H. Infante Antonio de Orleans appoints 
Messrs. Libbey and Company of Toledo, Ohio, 
cut-glass makers to his royal house, with the use 
of his royal coat-of-arms for signs, bills and labels. 
In fulfillment of the command of His Royal High- 
ness I present this certificate, signed in Madrid, 
July i sth, 1803. 

PEDRO JOVER FOVAR 

Superintendent of His Royal Highness's Household 

Thus for the first time in the 
history of an industry almost as 
old as humanity, glass adorns alike 
the person of a Royal Princess and 
the person of a charming actress. 
Produced at the Court of Spain 
and on the American stage, am I 
not justified in calling this memory 
of a far and near past " The Drama 
of Glass"? KATE FIELD 

36 



3E DRAMA OF GLASSN 
BY 





In every story told of the sights 
worth seeing at the Columbian Ex- 
position the factory of the Libbey 
Glass Company, of Toledo, Ohio, 
has had an important part. It was 
more than a mere exhibit ; it was a 
practical education in the art of 
glass making, which, like an easy 
lesson that follows step by step, 
from the mixing of the crude ma- 
terial to the completion of the 
finest piece of cut glass, 
impressed itself upon 
the minds of hundreds 
of thousands of visi- 
tors. 

Recall in your 
memory your visit 
to the World's Fair 
in 1 893. Place your- 





self upon the Midway Plaisance, 
directly opposite the Woman's 
Building. Does your mind pic- 
ture a stately, beautiful building, 
with central dome and graceful 
towers ? This was the building of 
the glass factory to whom the ex- 
clusive right to manufacture and 
sell its products was awarded over 
many competitors by the Ways and 
Means Committee of the World's 
Columbian Exposition. This con- 
cession was given because the plan 
of the Libbey Glass Company was 
a plan of broad ideas, fully meet- 
ing the requirement that America 
should show that the whole world 
followed her in the manufacture of 
cut glass. 

How well that Company fulfilled 
its mission is known to the two 
million visitors who passed under 
thedeep-recessed semicircular arch- 
way, rich with sculptured ornament, 
that covered the grand entrance to 
this palace ; within, it was like a 
theatre, where the scenes in the 



40 



beautiful drama of glass were ever 
changing. Do you remember that 
the sides, the dome, the ceiling, 
were all glitter and sheen with the 
products of this mystic art, and 
that from thousands of cut-glass 
pieces, as from brilliant diamonds, 
sparkled the prismatic hues ? 

Do you remember the roaring 
furnace a hundred feet high, the 
melting pots made of the clays of 
the Old and the New Worlds, 
mixed by the bare feet in order 
that they have the requisite con- 
sistency? The products of this 
factory were born of fire. The 
plastic molten mass that came from 
the melting furnace, with its heat 
of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, was 
thirty hours before a mixture called 
by glass makers a "batch," whose 
chief ingredient was sand from the 
hills of Massachusetts. 

Did you watch the workmen 
the "gatherer" and the "blower," 
with their long, hollow iron pipes ? 
How the " blower," with his trained 





fingers, gave an easy, constantly 
swaying motion to the pipe, into 
which he blew and expanded the 
hot glass at its end ? The temper- 
ing oven, through which all glass 
productions must pass before they 
will resist changes in temperature 
or even stand transportation ? Did 
you follow the process of cutting 
glass ; see the wheels like grind- 
stones, driven by steam power ? 
Wheels of stone that come from 
England and Scotland, and carry 
with them the old-country names 
of Yorkshire Flag, New Castle and 
Craigleith, stones that are very 
hard and close-grained, capable of 
retaining a very sharp edge ? 
Wheels of iron, which are used to 
cut the design in the rough ; wheels 
of wood, cork, felt, and revolving 
brush wheels, used in finishing and 
polishing ? Did you know that the 
trained eye of the cutter and his 
experience were the only guides he 
had to secure the requisite depth 
to his cutting ; that he must exer- 



42 



cise great care and judgment, else 
the vibration of the glass renders 
it extremely liable to break, and 
that an intricate design requires 
many days of constant manipula- 
tion ? 

Did you watch with interest the 
making of glass cloth, see how the 
thread of glass was drawn out and 
wound on the big wheels that re- 
volved hundreds of times a minute ? 
How the glass thread was woven 
with the silk thread, producing a 
pliable glass cloth of soft sheen 
and lustre, that could be folded, 
pleated and handled in all ways 
like cloth ? 

Do you recall the Crystal Art 
Room ? Did you realize that under 
that ceiling, bedecked with ten 
thousand dollars' worth of spun 
glass cloth, was collected the finest 
display of cut glass the world had 
ever seen ? Do you remember an 
old glass punch bowl, used in 1840 
by Henry Clay, and that near this 
relic of ancient glassware was an- 



other punch bowl upon which five 
hundred dollars' worth of labor 
had been bestowed ? 

Did you mark the difference, the 
deep and brilliant cuttings, how 
effective they were, how they 
brought out the beauty and rich- 
ness of the design ? Then, when 
you examined the hundreds of 
other articles, the sherbet and 
punch glasses in Roman shapes, 
the quaint decanters in Venetian 
forms, the celery trays, flower 
vases, and the ice-cream sets and 
cut-glass dishes for every use, you 
saw the clearness of the glass itself, 
and that this deep and brilliant 
cutting of perfect design, that 
brought out the beauties of the 




great punch bowl, was a marked 
characteristic of the Libbey Cut 
Glass. Did you not, as an Ameri- 
can, feel proud of the progress that 
your countrymen had made in this 
old art of glass making ? 

Since the World's Fair at 
Chicago, two expositions of the 
industries of this country, the San 
Francisco Midwinter Fair and the 
Atlanta Exposition, have added to 
the honors and reputation of the 
cut glass of the Libbey Company. 
Certain trade-marks and names on 
silver and china are always looked 
upon with pleasure and with a 
feeling that the possessor has the 
genuine article. 

The same thing applies to cut 
glassware, so as a protection to the 
public against those who would 
profit by the reputation of others, 
the Libbey Glass Company cut 
their trade-mark the name Libbey 
with a sword under it upon every 
piece of glass they manufacture. 



45 



Half a century in the life of 
America has added much to the 
art upon whose brilliant crest, as 
Miss Field has said, may be found 
the splendid quarterings of Egypt, 
Rome, Venice, Germany and Great 
Britain, and today the United 
States stands unrivaled in the 
manufacture of cut glass. 

The honor conferred upon the 
Libbey Glass Company by the 
committee, in granting to them 
the exclusive concession to manu- 
facture and sell American glass- 
ware within the grounds of the 
Exposition during the World's Fair, 
was a great one. 

The honors conferred by the San 
Francisco and Atlanta Expositions 
are but added proofs that the selec- 
tion was a proper one. The Libbey 
Glass Company thus stands to-day 
to represent the best the United 
States produces in cut glass, and 
the best the United States produces 
is the world's best. 



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