Thursday, July 6, 2017


A Glassmaker at 2010 Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair

Have you ever heard the expression, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?” This is referring to someone whose house is made of glass. Today, I'm describing someone who worked Read More
in another kind of glass house in colonial times. 

The glassmaker’s business establishment used to be called a glasshouse. Small glasshouses making dark colored glass opened in the early days of colonial Philadelphia. They made cups, glasses, bowls, sugar pots, and pitchers for meal time. They also made bottles, candlesticks, and window glass.
A glassmaker stored ingredients including silicon dioxide called silica, soda from sodium oxide, and lime from limestone in bins. When ready to make a piece, his assistant mixed the ingredients in the proper ratio, and brought them to the master in a fire-resistant clay pot. The glassmaker then inserted the pot into an extremely hot furnace which melted the components together.
 After removing the molten glass from the furnace and letting it cool slightly, the glassmaker picked up a portion of the melted glass with the end of his blow pipe and blew the glass into the shape he wanted. As it cooled, he used different tools to shape it into the item desired. Reheating at various times helped him to continue to work on the piece. Finally, the glassware moved through a special oven. This is called annealing and allows the glassware to cool slowly, giving it strength. 
            Window panes required a different method. Basically, the molten glass, fastened to a long metal rod, grew bell shaped when spun in a circle inside the furnace. Taking it out of the furnace, the glass maker fastened another metal rod to the inside of the bell and removed the first. The glassmaker spun the bell-shaped disc again inside the furnace. Once heated, the piece lost its bell shape and became flat. The resulting pane appeared more opaque than clear, but colonial people still preferred it to the oiled skin or paper they had to cover windows. 
In 1765, Henry William Stiegel opened a glasshouse in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Using some different ingredients than most glassmakers, he made a clear glass instead of the customary dark colored glass. A bell sound occurred when one tapped a spoon against it. Although this glass cost more, people loved it for its luster, strength, and beauty.                                                            


Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Glassmakers. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1964. Print.

Fowler, David Web. “About Colonial Windows and Glass,” Colonial American Digressions, 7 Sept. 2014. Web 5 Oct 2016. <>

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