Author Topic: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?  (Read 679 times)

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Offline neilh

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What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« on: July 08, 2010, 03:27:52 PM »
Hi folks,

The Manchester Art Gallery have put up a couple of fascinating images of Molineaux Webb glassware. Two glass balls, one of which has a company label on it. They date to 1888 but what are they?

http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/search-the-collection/display.php?EMUSESSID=2ee1bdcc630f453644cd314cff39d293&irn=65282
 
http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/search-the-collection/display.php?EMUSESSID=2ee1bdcc630f453644cd314cff39d293&irn=65281
 
They had a letter with them, not shown on the site, but it reads as follows:

The nominal size of the Ball in the paper is 2.5472 inches diameter. The difference between the largest and smallest diameter detected is 0.00187 inches

The only other clue is the name J Griffiths on the letter. I am wondering if this could be related to Birmingham lamp makers Eli Griffiths & Sons, but I don't know if they were active then.

Any idea what they are?


Offline Anne

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2010, 03:48:05 PM »
Neil, I did wonder if they were sun globes but they seem smaller than those noted elsewhere (4" diameter")  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell-Stokes_recorder and they didn't have the glass block base... so another thought was some type of illuminator, like a pavement light with an extra globe to help disseminate the light below..? I wonder if Ian Macky may know... http://glassian.org/index.html  Failing that, possibly a small crystal ball for use by a fortune teller, or even a plain and simple paperweight perhaps...?


Offline ian.macky

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2010, 04:57:43 PM »
Can't say for sure-- this doesn't look like anything related to my fields-- but here are a couple possibilities:

1. Wasn't Griffiths a lamp maker?  Molineaux Webb made lenses for lamps and such too, right?  Perhaps the spheres were part of a fancy lamp, and just meant to be illuminated and look nice?  A sphere is not a very useful lens, so seems doubtful it's part of anything truly optical.

2. In "On the Resistance of Glass Globes and Cylinders to Collapse from External Pressure; and on the Tensile and Compressive Strength of Various Kinds of Glass", by W. Fairbairn and Thomas Tate, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 149, (1859), pp. 213-247, it looks like the flint glass samples were provided by M. W. & Co.  Could it be one of these?

--ian


Offline neilh

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2010, 08:57:27 PM »
There was another name on this letter, "McGregor".  I think this relates to Agnes McGregor, the wife of Thomas George Webb. Her father, Daniel McGregor, was an industrialist who made his fortune from cotton/calico. So I am wondering if the ball has some arcane use in the cotton industry and the base is simply to rest the ball on, when it is not doing... whatever it is doing...


Offline Ivo

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2010, 09:17:57 PM »
other known producers of crystal balls around the same time are Val St.Lambert and Baccarat. No other use but fortune telling is known for these....
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Offline Lustrousstone

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2010, 06:38:48 AM »
Can't see a cotton industry use for them. (I spent two years reading textile industry documents)


Offline David E

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2010, 09:56:58 PM »
Sun Sphere is the likeliest answer - see this 1944 advert by Chance Bros. The size is quoted at 4-in and I do have an article stored somewhere amongst the gigabytes of CB data where they are discussed. They was used to measure the strength of the sun at any given time, I think by recording a mark on special paper. The stronger the sun, the darker/larger the mark.
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Offline Anne

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2010, 11:47:19 PM »
Neil's examples are only 2½" across though David.


Offline Lustrousstone

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2010, 05:52:48 AM »
Size probably doesn't mater in this case.


Offline neilh

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Re: What are these Molineaux Webb glass balls for?
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2010, 07:39:49 AM »
It certainly has to be an industrial or more likely scientific use as the letter with the balls mentions precision down to a tiny fraction of an inch. I like the sun sphere idea!

 

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