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Identifying Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Millville Paperweights

by Mary Haberstroh

Millville, New Jersey is home to a number of glass factories that began in the nineteenth century and one of the most notable companies was Whitall Tatum. Opening in 1849, this company was home to a much earlier glass company that began in 1806 by James Lee. The company takes its name from Captain John Whitall and his wife, Mary Tatum.

Whitall Tatum became famous for its distinct rose paperweights and also manufactured a number of frit paperweights. A frit paperweight refers to the loose glass powder used in creating a design inside the weight. The loose glass would be sprinkled along the lines of the design them melted to create the desired effect. Glass maker Michael Kane was responsible for creating most of the high quality frit paperweights at Millville. This style of paperweight eventually became imitated by other glass factories across the east coast.

A Millville umbrella paperweight with red and blue. Circa 1900.
Photo courtesy of Old South Jersey Glass and Antiques.

The rose weights, however, belong to the genius of Ralph Barber, who managed to perfect the rose form in the paperweight after discovering the correct means of making the glass rose form remain in shape when fused with the clear crystal globe. A lime-based glass from the E. P. Gleason factory in Brooklyn, New York proved to be the solution, and Barber would fashion the rose from this glass before setting it in the base of the paperweight. These roses became the trademark symbol of Millville and usually came in ruby red or pink but there are a few white as well as blue roses in existence. A hint of yellow glass was used in making the rose as well but the particular shade of bright yellow was both rare and expensive to use in the making of paperweights. The rose is suspended inside of the globe and the petals are not compact but remain open with a hint of opalescence on the petal tips. The early roses, tulips, and lilies were made of lampwork glass set into the clear glass by means of a special crimp. During the later years as of 1860, immigrant glass workers were able to achieve the same effect by using hot glass instead of lampwork, which required great skill. Most of these immigrant workers came from glass factories in Europe, particularly England and France.

By 1899, Whitall Tatum employed over 1,400 people, making the company one of the most lucrative glass businesses in the late nineteenth century. Millville still manufactured decorative glass and frit paperweights as of the 1980's.

Some descriptions of Millville paperweights:

A paperweight has a deep pink tulip with yellow stamen in clear glass with a foot on the base. The tulip is open and has an opalescent finish at the tips of the petals.

A rose paperweight has mauve pink petals with dark green leaves and a foot at the base.

Another paperweight has a waterlily design of deep pink and white with dark green leaves and a foot at the base.

A frit paperweight has the design of the Masonic emblem in the center in blue, against a white base.

Another frit paperweight has the design of a red house with the motto "Home Sweet Home" in green around the perimeter of the base with a garland of leaves beneath the house.

One paperweight dated between 1905 and 1912 has a yellow rose and stamen with three green leaves and a smooth circular foot to the weight. The design is attributed to Ralph Barber.

Another weight dated circa 1900 has an opaque white crocus with five petals, a yellow stamen, and no leaves, against a clear base.

A weight dated circa 1900 has a white "crimp" lily with a spatter glass decoration throughout the base, and a circular flat foot on the base.

Another weight dated between 1880 and 1910 is dome shaped and has a frit design of "Remember Me" with wreaths of leaves encircling a spray of rosebud with a stem and four leaves. There is a punty at the top of the weight. The background is multicolor in a jasper design.

A paperweight with the umbrella form of white has frit in the colors of pink, yellow, light green, and dark blue, creating a mottled appearance. There is a small punty at the top of the weight and a foot at the base.

A bright yellow rose paperweight with dark green leaves in the Barber style dates circa 1900 and has a foot at the base.

A clear paperweight with a white ship suspended in the center dates circa 1900 and has a foot at the base.

Approximate values of Milleville weights:

A paperweight with an white umbrella form has stripes of red and blue alternating inside the umbrella. The red and blue is frit, and the weight has a foot at the bottom. $500.00

Most Millville paperweights range in value from $500.00 to $700.00.

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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