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Identifying Nineteenth Century Sandwich Paperweights

by Mary Haberstroh

Glass making in the United States began during the colonial period in New England and on the east coast (New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania). It continued through the Revolution era when glass factories extended into New England, producing some of the finest glassware from that period. Sandwich glass began with Deeming Jarves, who also started the New England Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1818. Jarves started his glass factory in Sandwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod in 1825. Workmen from Austria and France came to Sandwich to work as glass makers, bringing the art of paperweight making with them. These glass makers previously worked at the Bristol, England glass company and they were perfectionists when it came to making paperweights. Many paperweights at Sandwich were made by Nicholas Lutz. Lutz, originally from the Saint Louis Company in France, created paperweights with both poinsettia and fruit paperweights were a specialty although he also made millefiori weights. He liked using red, white, and blue, which are definitely patriotic colors for the United States, but also for the French flag, his homeland.

A Sandwich poinsettia paperweight.
Photo courtesy of William Pitt Paperweights.

The paperweights, as with other Sandwich glass, were pressed rather than hand blown. The glass would be placed in a special mold and under high pressure, the glass would be pressed, or fused, together. The process of pressing glass was invented by Enoch Robinson in 1827 and became a popular method of making decorative and practical glassware in New England. Sandwich paperweights also utilized metal which revealed itself through tiny gold flecks commonly found in Sandwich paperweights. Jarves came up with a series of color formulas for the glass and the shades used were very similar to those used in Baccarat glass, where some of the workmen at Sandwich came from.

Potichromia, or the application of pictures or decals to the inside base of the paperweight was another technique also utilized by Sandwich. One of these paperweights has a Valentine's theme in Victorian fashion with rabbits, hearts, birds, and the signs "To My Dear" and "Forget Me Not" one the decal inside of the glass paperweight.

Sandwich did not use any hallmarks to identify their paperweights thus making it difficult to identify their origin. Some Sandwich glass may very well have come from another factory in New England or Pennsylvania. Most Sandwich glass was sold by peddlers to individual customers, and even then, only a few were carried along with other glassware, considering the expense of making a paperweight in nineteenth century New England. It cost a paperweight $5.00 and up to make back in 1852, thus making paperweights from that period very valuable and collectible. Two Sandwich flower paperweights were shown at an exhibit in 1878 at Mechanics Hall in Boston.

One favorite design used in Sandwich paperweights was the pink poinsettia, but millefiori and candy style paperweights became popular in Sandwich weights. Some Sandwich paperweights bear the date 1852 although the majority of the weights made by Sandwich remain undated. A few of the weights were made with the last two numbers transposed on the center flower so that the date reads 1825 instead of 1852 but paperweights were not made by Sandwich in 1925. One of the weights with the transposed numbers bears a design of white twisted ribbons running from top to bottom in the paperweight.

Sandwich still manufactures paperweights today, including the ubiquitous poinsettia weights.

Some descriptions of Sandwich paperweights:

A paperweight has a white latticinio background with a glass lampwork flower in the foreground. The flower is a dahlia and the style it is made in is comparable to those of Baccarat and Saint Louis.

Another weight has the white latticinio background with a pink poinsettia and a white poinsettia with green lampwork leaves and yellow and orange fruit.

A paperweight with the latticinio background has a fuchsia flower with a pink lampwork stem.

A paperweight with five strawberries, also has four strawberry blossoms, and green lampwork leaves.

Another paperweight has a clear base with various lampwork fruits and pears with green leaves.

A weight made between 1852 and 1880 scrambled millefiori canes with four eagle and two rabbit silhouette canes with opaque ribbon twists and white filigree segments.

Another paperweight also made between 1852 and 1880 has scrambled millefiori canes and two layers of various colored canes with bits of gold flecks visible in the glass.

A paperweight made between 1869 and 1888 has red clematis flowers with two rows of overlapping petals, three green lampwork leaves and a blue and white mottled background.

A paperweight made between 1852 and 1880 has a cobalt blue clematis with a blue and white cane in the center, two green lampwork leaves, and a red, white, and blue mottled background.

Another paperweight has fruit made of lampwork blue plums, green stem and leaves against a clear background.

A paperweight has a flat spray of berries in red lampwork glass and dark green leaves in the foreground against a wide space white latticinio background.

Another weight has ribbons in multicolors: red and white, blue and white, yellow, red and blue, and a white and blue millefiori cane in the center. The ribbons run vertically through the paperweight.

Sandwich paperweights and their values:

A paperweight with a red poinsettia and a center white millefiori cane with lampwork green leaves: $800.00

A weight with a pastel blue lampwork glass poinsettia with a red and white center cane against a mottled red, white and blue background: $900.00

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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