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blackEARLYAMERICAN BOTTLE SEALS glass

ebay by Richmond Morcom nasa

Having read Dale Murschell's fine January 1998 bottleseal article and having enjoyed both the article and theexcellent pictures which accompanied it, I would like to add somebottle seal lore of my own.

Thomas Hutchinson,Governor of Mass. at time of Boston Tea Party.

My definition of an American seal is differentfrom Murschell's. If the bottle was made in England, it isEnglish no matter where it is used or whose name is on it. Infact, even if the seal was made in Massachusetts or Pennsylvaniaand had George Washington's name on it, or Ben Franklin's, orsomeone name Brian Conant, it would still be English if madebefore July 4, 1776 when these Englishmen declared themselves tobe American.

So, let's talk about seals made in Americawhether they are colonial or made in the United States. Havingdug at 15 American glass factories, I have found wondrous things,including bottles seals. Kenneth Wilson, author of New EnglandGlass and Glassmaking, said that one of my seals (J. Mascarene) “probablyrepresents a piece of cullet.” By that he means theseal was brought in from an outside source to be melted in theGermantown factory retort. But I have evidence otherwise and, soI refer to Kenneth as Mr. Culletganmen because of his propensityto label something cullet because the date may be two year beforethe factory came into existence. John Mascarene was a Boston winemerchant and son of a very famous man, John Paul Mascarene, who,as a general fought many of America's early colonial battles. TheMascarene seal is dated 1748, but the factory is thought to havebeen started in 1750. It is the age of the wine that takes theyear, not the age of the bottle. Further evidence that the twoMascarene seals in may possession were made at GermantownGlassworks in Quincy, Massachusetts, formerly Braintree, is thatone is of very poor quality. It appears that not enough glass wasgathered to make a round seal, so the glass blower took a bladeand tried to push the hot glass into a better shape. In doing so,he elongated the “M” and erased the letters “ascr.”This seal was most certainly a factory reject because anEnglishman would never, never put such a frightful mess on abottle to be sent to an important Boston wine merchant. TheBritish always set high standards in their exports and would beespecially cautions in dealing with the son of one their heroes.

Thomas Hutchinson Esq. 1755 seal. Seal on 1780-90 bottle - found in Hopkinton, NH 1963. Possibly first bottle blown at Temple, N.H. Glassworks. Otar Dupuis Cognac seal from New Granite Glass Works Mill Village Circa 1860, Stoddard, N.H.

During my Germantown excavation in 1955,another seal came to the surface. This one bore the initials I.Q.(“I,” in those days meant “J.” Don'task me why.) This seal most probably belonged to the famous Col.John Quincy who rented the land upon which Joseph Palmer foundedhis Germantown Colony. (Joseph Palmer ran with a rascally groupmade up of John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Adams, and John Paine,a bunch of dreamers and schemers.) The seal has a ratherunsightly depression and, so was probably a reject. The initialshad been carved onto a wooden rod, dipped in water, and placedagainst the very hot matrix so that steam caught inside the “Q”forced a cavity to form. So, luckily for us, another reject wascreated. Also found was another seal (two fragments) of mossygreen color. It has three initials: “IHW” andto probable date 1750 (the “five” is missing).This is a very poorly made example, the lettering being thin andwavy and, so, here, no doubt, is a throwaway. Once again we havea Germantown product. This seal belonged to Isaac Winslow, one ofthe proprietors of the Germantown Glassworks.

Germantown Glass Works, Quincy, Mass. Reject Seal John Mascarene 1748. (Circa 1750) Seal found in Philadelphia, PA. Possibly Wistarburg Rejected Seal, John Mascarene, Circa 1750. Probably the most significant piece of glass in American history. Made at Germantown, Mass Circa 1750. Such a misshapen seal would never have been sent to an American wine merchant by an English man. The date is the age of the wine.

Perhaps the most historicallysignificant seal found was made for a young lawyer who would riseto the top political position in Massachusetts. The seal, abeautiful thing of light green glass with an almost metallicsheen, bears the words “Thomas Hutchinson Esq.1755.” Here, once more, the circular form of the sealis imperfect with indistinct lettering. Hutchinson, from Milton,Massachusetts, would become governor just in time for the BostonMassacre and the Boston Tea Party and, no doubt under greatpressure, needed a personalized bottle to hold his rum. Afterall, 1755 was ayear in which the first whisperings of revolution were in theair. Hutchinson was admired by both the colonists and the throneand might have prevented the revolution had he not sailed back tothe motherland when Ben Franklin (who else?) exposed some ofHutchinson's private letters which were critical of thefreedom-seeking colonists.

MascareneSeals excavated 1955, Germantown Glassworks, Quincy, Mass.

Could the Hutchinson seal have been made inEngland? Hardly. It would take some doing to date it 1755, get itacross the Atlantic (a six week sail), get the bottle toHutchinson, have him use it, discard it, and have a junk man rushit to the Germantown glass house in time for the spectacular May28, 1755 fire which destroyed everything.

In May of 1963, I visited the site of theshort-lived New England Glass Works (1780-81) in Temple, NH. Uponarriving, I knelt down beside an ice cream cone-sized hole andpicked up what appeared to be a dirt encrusted stone fit forscaling on a mill pond. Holding it to the light, I saw that itwas glass and, so, slipped it into my pocket without realizingthat, within a few seconds of arriving at the site, I had made anastounding discovery. C. Malcolm Watkins of the SmithsonianMuseum would call it the most significant piece of glass inUnited States history because it is the earliest dated glassknown to havebeen made on our shores since we became a nation.

Helen McKearin, in American Bottles and Flasks,called it “a most exciting and fortuitous find.” Here,again, the seal appears to be a castaway because the “17”in the date is exceedingly faint. The glassmakers evidently madea better seal, for they also discarded two slugs matching theHewes seal in size and color, but never printed. Hewes was theglassworks owner.

A Mr. John Gayton had previously found a sealfragment with the letters “ple” which wereprobably part of the word “Temple” rather thansomething like Constantinople. Common sense would opt for Templeuntil proven otherwise.

FirstU.S.A glass factory.

Two other seals discovered by the author werefound in quicksand ten feet below Front Street in Philadelphiaduring the construction of I-95. The seals say “S.Lewis, Haverford, Pennsylvania” Haverford is just westof Philadelphia and only 35 miles northwest of Alloway, NewJersey where the Wistarburg Glass Works was located. The seals,along with bottles found at the time, arethe type that would have been made at Wistarburg. Maybe time willtell.

Summing up, it is my belief that the J.Mascarene 1748 is the earliest dated piece of glass known to havebeen made in Colonial America. The Hewes seal, as C. MalcolmWatkins said, is the oldest dated piece of glass known to havebeen made in the United States. I can live with that.

Seal belonging to Col.John Quincy who rented land to Josseph Palmer, the Germantownfounder.

Lady Luck must have been standing by while Iwas digging at New Granite Glass Works (1861-71), Mill Village,Stoddard New Hampshire for, once again, I would find that greatrarity, bottle seals known to have been made at that particularglassworks. One seal had been discarded because it had been bentin the making. A seal fragment showed that it had never beenapplied to a bottle. The seals have circular beading, inside ofwhich, in a circle, are the words “Otard Dupuy and Co.Cognac.” After a search of some 30 years, a DupuyCognac bottle came into my hands in an antique shop in Boscawen,New Hampshire for $30.00. The bottle is extremely rare and may beunique.

 

There is one more bottle with a seal which Iwould like to identify. The letters on the seal are “AIRN.1.” It was made in the 1780 era and was purchased inHopkinton, New Hampshire for $20.00 in 1963. The bottle had beenbroken and glued together as though it was some great, prizedobject. Could this possibly be the first bottle made at theTemple Glass Works and, if so, who was AIR that he deserved sucha terribly important object of United States glass history?Research continues.

RobertHewes seal New England Glass Works, Temple, N.H. earliest datedglass in U.S.A 1781.

GLASSTOIDS:

A digger must process about 2,000 pounds ofglass waste to find one pound of manufactured glass. Since bottleseals more or less died out with the end of the 18th century,they are an extremely rare find at an American glass factory.Many bottles with seals bearing French, Italian, German and otherforeign language words were actually made in America; it allowedforeign vintners and traders to ship their wine and other liquidsin large barrels whose contents were then bottled by Americandealers. Many bottles made at the Gloucester Glass Works inClementon, New Jersey bore the words “By the KingsPat.” Dyottville Glassworks in Philadelphia madethousands of bottles with olive oil, cognac, claret, Medoc,dolive, and clarified seals written in a foreign language.

About the author

Mr. Morcom was born in Braintree, Massachusettsin 1921, was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania for35 years, was a member of two Olympic teams, and served as aparatrooper during World War II and the Korean War.


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