Jeff and Holly Noordsy

Dealers Specializing in the Sale of Early American Bottles, Glass and Period Decorative Arts

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THE EVOLUTION OF FORM AND DESIGN IN AMERICAN BOTTLES: 1739-1903

CHRONICLING THE TRANSFORMATION FROM ART TO INDUSTRY

As Presented by Jeff and Holly Noordsy at the Eastfield Village Glass Symposium in August 2005

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Although bottles and flasks freeblown, dip-molded and pattern molded lingered into the 1820s and 1830s (especially in the Midwest), these manufacturing techniques were gradually superseded by usage of full sized two and three-piece molds. In fact, it is usage of these molds and the emergence of the figured flask that precipitates the birth of the 2nd period in the growth of the American Glass Industry. An era I have termed "Becoming American," the 1815 to 1830 period is characterized by technological advancements, burgeoning national sovereignty and the birth of an independent American economy. Aided by the 1804 embargo, the glass industry had flourished throughout the first fifteen years of the century but it was put to a stern test following the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. With no protective tariffs in place to protect domestic industry, a flood of cheap English and European glass bottles and tablewares swamped our shores following the signing of the Treaty, precipitating a four year period of economic depression. In order to compete with these inexpensive, high-quality imports, American Glass Houses needed to find a way to cut costs while at the least maintaining and hopefully increasing the quality of their own wares. It was with use of full-sized two and three-piece molds that our domestic glass houses found their salvation, slowly working through the recession/depression of 1816-1820 and gradually gaining strength through the 1820s.

The advantages offered by use of two and three-piece molds are relatively obvious - the blowing of the bottles required workmen of less skill, the resulting bottles were generally uniform in size and shape and perhaps most importantly, speed and efficiency were greatly increased. Still, hand-craftsmanship and artistry was clearly evident, not only in the work of the glassblower, but in the efforts of the moldmakers as well. Of unintended consequence was the degree to which relief decorations celebrating American heroes and/or symbols of American sovereignty appealed to the general public. These symbols and images were widely successful in arousing nationalistic sentiments within the general populace and use of popular imagery spurred growth of the industry. And, though gradually utilized with great effect in bottles of all types, it is with the figured flasks that this technology had the greatest impact.

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