ANOTHER "GREAT FEATURE ARTICLE" FROM THE PAGES OF
ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE OF THE ANTIQUE BOTTLE COLLECTING HOBBY
The first Germantown
By Richmond Morcom
Braintree, Mass. was incorporated in 1628 and became the home of the two Adams presidents and John Hancock, among other notables. In 1746, Joseph Palmer (B.1716), an Englishman, arrived in Boston with many German glass blowers. Palmer moved them all to a piece of land in Braintree, a wooded peninsula bounded by the Atlantic ocean and the Neponset River, and only six miles from Boston. Here he built a glassworks, homes, a chocolate factory, and a whale oil works. Soon he imported hundreds of more workers and his holdings became known as Germantown. The glassworks was soon putting out 360 square feet of window glass per day, and with ten pots, each of which could daily produce eighty bottles, glass production became profitable. By 1748, Palmer was making bottles for John Mascarene, a Boston wine merchant. Some seals turned out badly (Fig. 1) and were thrown into the scrap heap, but they survived.
|Fig. 1 - John
Mascarene seals showing poor quality of one on right.
Proof of Germantown Production.
|Fig. 2 - Pieces of light green and amber bowls|
On June 3, 1755, the factory burned down and a larger one was built about 1/2 mile to the southeast. This factory flourished for many years, but now the remains are covered by homes.
Although I was born, and for twenty years lived, four miles from the original factory, it wasnt until age thirty-five that I decided to take a look. It was on government property and having paid my taxes, I felt free to dig, if not obligated to do so, since, little by little, fragments of glass were being thrown into the salt water by children or being carried away by souvenir collectors.
I found the place to be a small grassy field not much larger than a tennis court. The first day I uncovered many pieces of window glass and fragments of amber and light green bowls (Fig. 2). With the assistance of sixteen local children, I went about digging and collecting bits and pieces of manufactured goods. All else was left in situ; including what remained of the brick floor. Eventually, seven bottle seals were found (see AB&GC July 99), including one for Thomas Hutchinson (late governor) date 1755. Also found was a seal for John Quincy the original landowner and grandfather to John Quincy Adams. All seals showed imperfections and so could be accepted as Germantown products that didnt pass inspection.
|Fig. 3 - Linen smoother, 3" in diameter.||Fig. 4 - Rum bottles necks.|
One of the items found was a linen smoother (Fig. 3) exactly like one attributed to a Willington, CT (1814-1872) a much later factory. It makes one wonder about the accuracy of attributions. The necks of over 200 rum bottles were uncovered (Fig. 4). All were black glass with bladed tops. Some heavy bottoms were found, but most of the bottles sides were missing, causing me to believe they were tossed back into a pot where their thinness would help to melt quickly. I managed to construct one bottle using a base, a neck, and painted putty.
As might be expected, the fragments found showed production of a variety of bottles used around 1755; light green and black colored gins, beveled cornered snuffs, round quart, and pint and 1/2 pint rums. One light green tumbler (5) was complete but was collapsed by the fire. It is visible on the left of Figure 5.
Incredibly, the leg of a chair survived only light charred and because it was not on the diet of termites. Also, strangely enough, there were three pieces of Stiegle-type clear glass with etching, probably made in Germany twenty years before the Baron got started. There were also two fragments of a reddish amber glass with white striations, no doubt made in England since no cullet of this color was found. One opalescent bead showed up.
|Fig. 5 - Tumbler and bottle fragments.||Fig. 6 - Metal pieces including ends of 37 blowpipes.|
Nature had protected the factory remains with six inches of soil and a really tough glass. While glassmen had carried usable things to the new factory, they left 37 ends of blowpipes from 1 to 7 in length (Fig. 6). These had broken off from pipes due to the strain of heating and re-heating. The crude blowpipes appeared to have been made from local bog iron. Braintree had an iron factory on Elm Street.
Also found was a piece of iron-cooking pot with handles, a hinge, a brass ring for tying up a horse, a screen door hasp, pieces of glassmakers tools, one spoon, two dinner knives, a two-tined fork and wig curlers in two sizes. Joseph Palmer may have used wig curlers, but on one occasion he put feathers in his hair (Indian style) and attended the Boston Tea Party along with Paul Revere. The metal objects have been coated with paraffin for preservation reasons.
|Fig. 7 - The German Princess, 4 1/2 inches tall.|
Noticing certain pieces of light green glass with a hint of blue, I put them aside and began gluing them together until I had a nearly complete 4 1/2 chestnut flask slightly concave on one side due to fire damage. It is an authentic bottle (Fig. 7) made in 1755 in Colonial America. It is called the German Princess and sits on green velvet in its own small glass case. The bottom shows no wear.
Note: Mr. Morcom, 82, was on two Olympic teams. He now coaches track at a local middle school. His nerves are shot.
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