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Identifying Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania Glass Paperweights: Gillinder, Challinor and Taylor, W. H. Maxwell

by Mary Haberstroh


William Thynne Gillinder started his first glass company in the nineteenth century, Philadelphia Flint Glass Works. He was born in England in 1823 and learned his trade when he was only eight years old. He progressed quickly through the ranks of master craftsman and taught glass chemistry classes and wrote a book on glass making by the time he was twenty-eight years old. Gillinder eventually came to America where he tried to get work at the New England Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, but discovered that jobs were hard to obtain in the glass industry. Gillinder finally moved to Pittsburgh in 1855 and got a job in a glass factory. He opened his first factory in 1861 and called it the Philadelphia Flint Glass Works. He relocated his business to Howard and Oxford Street and renamed the company Franklin Flint Glass Works. In 1863, he renamed the business to Gillinder & Bennett and by 1867, the company was known as Gillinder & Sons. His sons and grandsons continue to operate the glass manufacturing business and today, Gillinder Brothers manufactures glass for both commercial and industrial use.

Antique Gillinder paperweight.
Photo courtesy of Larry Selman, The Glass Gallery. TheGlassGallery.com

After observing the popularity of pressed glass used by Sandwich and the New England Glass Company, he added pressed glass designs to his company. Gillinder also created methods for acid etching in making designs for decorative glassware and also creating frosted glass which is popular with antique collectors. Blown glass was also used in round and oval shapes, such as decorative glass Easter Eggs.

From 1861 to 1871 Gillinder made millefiori paperweights, inspired by those made by Bacchus and Sons back in England. The 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia showcased paperweights made by Gillinder's sons that had frosted busts in the sulphide style, and both oval and round paperweights with sculpted edges.

Some descriptions of Gillinder paperweights:

A millefiori paperweight has a carpet background of blue and white with a white and dark blue center flower cane. There are six facets on the side with one facet on top of the weight.

A paperweight made between 1861 and 1871 has a female profile in the center against a white carpet background. The carpet has white canes and a circle of serrated white rods that extend to the center from the base parameter edge. This weight has a polished concave clear base and also has six oval facets on the side plus a facet at the top.

A sulfide style paperweight is dated 1876 and has a pressed round flat form with a frosted edge grooved with two rings. There is a frosted bust of Lincoln at the center of the weight.

Some price values of paperweights:

A paperweight with a frosted bust of George Washington against a clear base with a beveled edge has a price value of $300.00.

A sulphide paperweight with a frosted bust of Shakespeare has a price value of $125.00.

Challinor and Taylor, LTD.

Challinor and Taylor began in 1885 in Tarentum, Pennsylvania and were a popular glass company in that state. Most patents of Challinor and Taylor were issued to David Challinor, who became known for marble or slag glass in 1886. The company became known for manufacturing covered dishes of opalescent glass in the shapes of hens, roosters, ducks, and plate ware. Milk glass was also used in covered dishes, compotes, and plates. Challinor made paperweights in the 1880's and his son owns two of the weights he made. It appears that the few paperweights he did make were intended for personal use as they were not mass manufactured. .

W. H. Maxwell

W. H. Maxwell was born in Ohio in 1845 and he lived in Pittsburgh near the glass factories. In 1876 he started a factory making blown glassware. Maxwell started making paperweights in the 1870's. Some of his weights are marked Brown and Maxwell but those that are not marked are easily identified by the special method he used in making the weights as well as the advertising element of the paperweight. He believed the popular demand for paperweights was limited but he was known for making advertisement paperweights. The company and address would be placed upon a narrow sheet of white glass then placed into a mold where the glass would encase the entire advertisement. This method was patented by Maxwell.

Maxwell also made one-of-a-kind paperweights for decorative use and they frequently contained the owner's name, intending these paperweights as custom order items. These paperweights were hand decorated. Two such paperweights in existence have train designs on the glass. The company closed in 1883 after one of their furnaces broke down.

About the Author

Mary Haberstroh lives in Tucson, Arizona and she is a collector of millefiori paperweights. She can be reached at: daryavaush@yahoo.com

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