GREED, GLASS & GOVERNMENTS… Part — II
You Mean to Say that Talk of Trade Wars is Not a Recent Development?
“The Influence of the Era”
The United States first responded with an economic retaliation. In 1807, Congress passed the Embargo Act, which banned all American shipping from foreign trade. This did nothing to change British or French policies, and instead effectively devastated the New England shipping industry. In 1810, the country’s mood prompted a group of Congressmen known as the War Hawks to demand war against Great Britain. The Federalist Party, which represented the New England shippers, and believed any such conflict ruined future prospects for trade, opposed this group of Democratic-Republicans, led by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and Henry Clay of Kentucky. Clay and his followers prevailed by a close vote in Congress, passing the Declaration of War favored by President James Madison, which resulted in the War of 1812 with Great Britain.
The years immediately following the war’s end in 1815 brought politicians to power who favored the protection of American industry from foreign competition, and interestingly enough, paperweights produced by the New England Glass Company honored several of these men.
These weights fall into 2 categories, intaglio (medallion), wherein artists impressed the person’s image into the bottom of the weight with a die, and sulphides, in which they encased white clay cameos or relief plaques in the glass. Although not particularly attractive, these are some of the most historically interesting paperweights one can collect. If one’s exposure in school to American history was mainly limited to memorizing dates, then these weights probably have limited, if any, appeal and will end up in the back of your display shelf, gathering dust.
Feelings ran high in these times as the issues of slavery and trade affected people’s lifestyles and livelihood. Many powerful senators and congressmen of the period significantly influenced American foreign and domestic policies, and their heartfelt, sometimes inflammatory speeches polarized the electorate. They were either patriots or rabble rousers, depending upon one’s political persuasion, and their supporters undoubtedly bought these paperweights and proudly displayed them in their homes.
The pressed-images paperweights resemble famous medal of the day, and one reasonable assumes that they made the mold for these directly from the original engraving. First, the glass worker created the impression in a block of
molten glass which, after annealing, he dipped into hydrofluoric acid to create a hazy or “camphor glass” effect. They carefully polished this acid-etched finish away, except in the area of the impression. This left the subject with a finish that duplicated the engraved medal, while the rest of the weight gleamed with a crystal clear brilliance.
Two congressional giants of this period, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, became subjects of intaglio-type paperweights. NEGC usually impressed the subjects’ names beneath the head in these weights, but they made some without inscriptions, as evidenced by the Webster example. Charles Cushing Wright, an engraver of bank notes whose credentials included a business affiliation with Asher B. Durand, a founder of the National Academy of Design, originally honored our heroes in medals.
Okay; we don’t want to wear you out in 1 or 2 readings so we’re going to finish this saga in a third and final chapter next week.
If you’d like to see some examples of glass weights works from the New England Glass Company
and/or the Boston & Sandwich Company just contact us at http://www.theglassgallery.com