Antiques candlesticks from Sandwich and Point West

 

The dolphin candlestick and its various half brothers, the fluted column, the loop-and-petal, and the baluster, have been popular with collectors for many years. They have been sought in all variations of form and colour and one would expect that a well-annotated family history had long since been compiled. On the contrary, in the literature of American glass one finds only occasional and brief references to these distinctive and decorative candlesticks.

That they were first produced at Sandwich seems certain, although it is known that some of the later designs, such as the bell dolphin type, were made by western factories, particularly those of Pittsburgh. It is also possible that after the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company had established a popular market for them, other eastern producers of pattern glass copied these types of candlesticks so carefully, in both colour and design, that it is now almost impossible to identify those that did not originate at Sandwich.

In support of the statement that the production of the dolphin and related candlesticks began at Sandwich, fragments of these various designs have been retrieved from the site of this Cape Cod factory, and from the same excavations that yielded some of the earliest of known Sandwich patterns. Among these fragments are colours of which perfect examples are unknown. An example of this is a dolphin design in a delicate orchid shade.

Sandwich origin is further substantiated by the fact that most of these candlesticks when discovered in their original habitat have been found with other pieces of typical Sandwich glass. Similarly, practically none of the dolphin and other designs, except those known to be of the later types, have been located in the Middle West, which was the primary market of the Pittsburgh factories.

Production of the dolphin and related types began about 1840 and continued for approximately thirty-five or forty years. In their making, the molten glass was cast in carefully cut two-piece iron molds and, where contrasting colours of glass were used for base and top, there must have been separate molds for these parts. Study of such examples shows that the top and base were fused together while the glass was still hot enough to be plastic. This is further borne out by the fact that sometimes these two-colour candlesticks separate at the point of fusion under pressure or a slight blow.

It is generally conceded that the various shades of transparent and opaque glass do not represent different periods of production, but reflect the conscious effort of the Sandwich factory to offer the public as many variations of colour as possible. A grandson of one of the workers once told me that he was convinced that the management of the Sandwich factory had, from the first, as one of its major objectives the production of glass in a wide range of colours. To this end Jarves and his principal workmen were constantly experimenting. A number of them carried on independent experiments in their homes, where with miniature glass pots they tried an infinite number of mixtures. When by this trial-and-error method one of them did stumble on a formula that produced a desired colour or tint, a specimen of it and the ingredients were laid before the superintendent with true craftsman pride. The hope, of course, was that this would be further tried at the factory and, if found practical, adopted as one of the standard Sandwich colours. Certainly such individual initiative could not injure the standing of the glassworker who had undertaken it and might win promotion.

As one examines the dolphin, fluted, and six-sided column, baluster, and loop-and-petal designs, it becomes apparent that they were probably more carefully executed than some of the other products of Sandwich. Instead of the rough edges characteristic of some of the work of this factory, all the candlesticks I have examined are so smooth as to indicate that they were "fire-finished," that is, reheated before being sent to the annealing lehr for the gradual process of cooling.

Of those pressed-glass candlesticks of the dolphin and related patterns made elsewhere than at Sandwich, the petticoat dolphin design was beyond question produced at Pittsburgh. There, Bake-well Pears & Company made various pieces of glass in which the supporting member between the base and top was a dolphin. The base was bell-shaped as with the petticoat dolphin candlesticks. A fine example is that very rare bellflower compote that has a bell base, a dolphin support, and the dish in the form of a scallop shell. Possibly this type of dolphin candlestick originated with this company. It was made in several shades of clear glass but always with an opalescence that is most marked at the top.

Just when Bakewell Pears & Company first produced dolphin pieces is not known; but by 1868 their chief Pittsburgh competitor, McKee & Brothers, had launched a similar design. In their catalogue of that year is shown a small dolphin candlestick with a round base, and another of the six-sided baluster design, which they designated as "Boston candlestick," possibly an unintentional tribute to the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company as the originators of this type. The prices quoted are: dolphin candlesticks, $6.75 a dozen; $7.50 for the other design. Also, I have seen a loop-and-petal candlestick of standard height in canary-yellow glass that was made at the Portland, Maine, factory.

Regardless of where these various types of pressed-glass candlesticks were first produced, one must go further afield for their inspiration. Although not generally recognized, that for the dolphin was taken from the fine examples of blown glass produced by the Venetian craftsmen. Here the delicately blown dolphin as the decorative treatment of the member between base and top of a piece of glass was in high favour before the beginning of the nineteenth century. Even today the glass blowers of Venice still make candlesticks, compotes, and other pieces with the dolphin motif.

Where the supporting shaft was a column, the fluted Ionic type seems to have been the most popular, judging from the number of examples that have survived. There were a number of variations, some with square bases and others with six or eight sides. Here the inspiration is readily found in the silver and Sheffield plate made in England and the United States, beginning with the classic influence of the Brothers Adam, and in the candlesticks made by various English potters such as Wedgwood. The loopand-petal appears to have been merely a Victorian style. There are no indications that it reflects any earlier design executed in some other material.

There are two types of dolphin candlesticks: those with a single square base, believed to have been the earlier, and those with a double base of two squares arranged steplike. The single base dolphin is nine and three-quarters inches tall; that with the double, ten and one-half inches tall. They were made in clear glass, canary yellow, and amber. In the opaque glass, they were made in milk white and combinations of a base of this colour and tops of turquoise blue and jade green. Occasionally, opaque glass dolphin candlesticks are found with the top decorated with small dolphins executed in low relief. Another rarity is the presence of added gold-leaf decoration. Here, the sides of the base were decorated with a shell motif and conventionalised sprays, the head and tail of the dolphin itself touched with lines of gold, and the sides of the top decorated with small four-petaled flowers.

Other types of the dolphin design, usually seven inches tall, are those with a circular base, a scallop circular base, a six-sided base in which the sides are equal arcs, and the petticoat already mentioned. These were made in clear glass, canary yellow, vitriol blue, and opaque with a milk-white base and turquoise-blue top.

Candlesticks of column design were made in clear glass and various tints. The fluted column type had the greatest range of colors. These with the double base are nine and a half inches tall and come in clear and canary-yellow glass, as well as in the opaque. With the latter the range of colours includes all milk white, all turquoise blue, and all indigo blue shot with flecks of silver, and various combinations with milk-white base and column varying from turquoise to a deep blue, as well as some in which the top has a faint yellow cast.

Loop-and-petal candlesticks are always seven inches tall and are found in clear, canary yellow, and shades of green, as well as opaque glass. Colour combinations include all milk white, all dark blue shot with silver flecks, a milk-white base combined with tops of turquoise blue, jade green, and a delicate yellow. Some have the petal-form top; others the six-sided, more frequently used with the baluster type; and still others have the petal top combined with the six-sided baluster base. These variations are generally found in clear-glass colours but sometimes occur in the colour combinations of opaque glass.

The standard baluster design, likewise seven inches tall, comes in clear glass, shades of yellow, green, and blue, and the various combinations of the opaque with milk-white base.

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