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Author Topic: James Keir white opaque glass and blue glass - Matthew Boulton Soho Manufactory  (Read 546 times)

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Offline flying free

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What do we know about James Keir and his links with Matthew Boulton of Soho Manufactory please?

I came across a strange article I think must be late 18th century,
http://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/ariss-birmingham-gazette-holiday-at-soho-manufactory/
because I'm interested to read about what they used to call 'toys' - ( I've read that toys in relation to glass actually mean things like small jewel boxes etc. not toys)


Anyway, that article led me to this apparently c.1770 - white opaque glass vase by James Keir
http://www.coulborn.com/furniture-categories/notable-sales/george-iii-opaque-glass-ormolu-mounted-vase-by-matthew-boulton/

The article on that link says:
'Nicholas Goodison explains that although blue john took a prominent role in Matthew Boulton’s plans for 1769, it was only one of several materials which Boulton considered suitable for the bodies of his vases. He wrote a list of suitable vase bodies that year, which included: ‘Glass blew and other colours’. (Nicholas Goodison, Matthew Boulton: ORMOLU, London, 2002, p.48). Goodison writes of Boulton’s vases: ‘Coloured glass was used occasionally’ and notes that: ‘Several of the other vase bodies were bought from specialist producers… [He] ordered twenty-four glass vases from James Keir in 1772, twelve in each of two moulds. Some of these white glass bodies were probably for the wing-figured vases… Others could have been for the glass versions of the vases with satyr masks on their handles… [A] year later Keir’s firm was asked to supply three pairs of white opaque glass bodies to the dimensions of a drawing appended to the letter, and another three to the dimensions of a drawing send two months earlier. - See more at: http://www.coulborn.com/furniture-categories/notable-sales/george-iii-opaque-glass-ormolu-mounted-vase-by-matthew-boulton/#sthash.OIIDLAhP.dpuf'


Obviously of interest because I noted 'coloured glass was used occasionally' and also that Boulton wanted 'Glass blew and other colours' .
This is in relation to my blue opaline vase with depiction of Herakles and Hippolyte (I think) from engravings my by Kirk published 1804.


This article says that James Keir became the occupant of Holloway End glasshouse Amblecote later in the 18th century and says he primarily made flint glass -by flint glass what does it mean?  does it mean 'clear' glass or glass made of flint?  That article is quite underwhelming in it's description of what James Keir did so I'd never have imagined he was producing opaque white glass and coloured glass for Boulton from that.
http://www.glassquarter.org.uk/welcome/history/

But the Met Museum has this description which is altogether more fulsome:
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/727155

'Matthew Boulton’s documented design for a graceful vase, with pine cone, oak leaf, and satyrs’ masks detailing, is clearly recognizable in this piece, which combines matte, opaque, white glassware sourced from the Birmingham-based workshops of the chemist and inventor, James Keir, with the pre-fabricated ormolu mounts produced and applied in Boulton & Fothergill’s Soho manufactory. While Boulton’s characteristically elegant Classical style harkens back to an idealized vision of ancient Rome, Keir’s chemical innovations set this glass right at the cutting edge of Europe-wide experiments to manipulate and expand the medium’s colors and density. To Boulton’s affluent and fashionable clientele, this vase was stylish, tasteful, and modern.'



This white glass vase was made in Germany c.1810 as well
http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/238970

(Obviously I'm going to look mad as a box of frogs when my vase turns out to have been made last week  ;D)

Thank you for any help :)
m

Offline agincourt17

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Another Boulton & Keir vase (this time a 'candlevase') with white opaque glass:
http://www.bmagic.org.uk/objects/2002M26.1

See also:
http://www.moilliet.ws/Ingenious_Keir.pdf

From Jason Ellis's " Glassmakers of Stourbridge and Dudley 1612-2002" (page 78 & seq.):

"James Keir, FRS, b. 20th Sep 1735; Educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University; commissioned at age 22 in the 61st Regiment of foot - now the Gloucestershire Regiment; left army in 1768 having just reached rank of Captain; brief sojourn in London, then came to Wordsley in 1770; chemist; partner in Keir, Blair and Playfair's Tividale Collieries; Colonel, Staffordshire Militia; manufacturer of soap at Tipton; died 11 October 1820; bur. All Saints, West Bromwich.

[In 1771] the celebrated scientist James Keir leased Holloway End Glasshouse.. On 19 October 1771 fellow scientist Dr  William Small wrote to James Watt: 'Mr Keir has turned glass maker at Stourbridge and has married a beauty... you must get Mr Keir customers, if you can, for white flint glass, tho' by and by he will make other kinds.'

On 16th December 1771 he wrote: 'Pray do not your Glasgow merchts send abundance of glass to America? If Mr Keir should be employed by them, altho at present he makes only flint glass, he will provide them with any kind they  may want upon the best of terms.'

Keir managed the works and lived at Holloway End House... Keir was an enquiring man , typical of the scientist entrepreneur of the period, who used the glassworks, not only as a business but also as a laboratory in which to carry out experiments, particularly on the properties of  alkalis.

Keir sent a bill to Mattthew Boulton on 22 October 1772, accompanied by a letter referring to his 'chemical operations in an old glass-house'. Chemistry was revolutionised in the Georgian period in the same way that physics had been under the Stuarts... Scientific research went hand in hand with entrepreneurship, This was the period when the Lunar Society brought together the leading intellectuals of the time. Scientists, inventors and engineers James Watt and Matthew Boulton.. Erasmus Darwin... and potter and scientist Josiah Wedgwood. James Keir became a member of the Lunar Society in 1776, the year after its formation.

keir was the leading light of the Lunar Society. Keir has been introduced to Josiah Wedgwood in 1767. facing similar problems in their process of manufacture, the two found many interest in common. In glazing his ceramics, Wedgwood frequently used a frit of ground flint glass from raw materials. He sought advice from Keir on the glazing process and annealing. In return for his advice , Wedgwood offered to help Keir with the problem of cords in flint glass. Although hardly noticeable in flint glass, imperfections were a serious problem in glass to be used for lenses. Over a period of five years Keir and Wedgwood carried out many experiments and corresponded extensively...

Keir's agreement for the glassworks expired on 1st January 1778 although subsequent records suggest he retained an interest well after this date. Since the previous year he had been wooed by Matthew Boulton to take on the management of Boulton and Watt's Soho manufactory. Boulton realised that he would have to spend more time in Cornwall where his engines were at work and saw in Keir the combination of practical, entrepreneurial and scientific skills to manage the Soho works in his absence. By the beginning of October 1778 Boulton went to Cornwall leaving Keir to manage the Soho Works. Keir was never introduced into partnership and insisted on independence to continue his chemical investigations. However, he studiously and conscientiously carried out his duties as manager . For this he was rewarded with a partnership in Watt's new busines  to sell his invention of the copying press... see ]http://www.bada.org/antiques/d/a-rare-portable-copying-machine-by-james-watt-%26-company/85350 ]

Keir remained a partner in the Holloway End business trading as Scott, Keir, Jones & Co.  In 1784 Scott, Jones & Co. were running two clay mills, pot rooms and two glassworks in Amblecote.

Fred.

Offline flying free

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Fred, thank you so much!  :)

This is so interesting, the quality of the glass is stunning.  The Wedgwood link is also intriguing. I often pontificate about the information crossover and communication channels between art and science of earlier times and now ... and think current society  needs to understand more about why the crossover is necessary, and concentrate less on trying to divide and separate  the skills into sciences and humanities/arts.  Science and art are not mutually exclusive >:(
That's my current political rant over for the day   ;D

m


Offline tropdevin

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Fascinating as all this material about Samuel Cole may be, I suggest that the book 'Glassmakers of Stourbridge and Dudley 1612 - 2002' by Jason Ellis would be well worth reading.  It is primarily a combined history and genealogy of the glass furnaces and their many owners and combinations of owners.  As I think you have concluded, Jonathan Richardson of Wordsley is a different person from the one in Stoke on Trent.  As someone born in Stoke on Trent, and who has studied family history and genealogy for over 50 years, I have not heard of any high quality crystal glass works there making items like paperweights.  A lot of the big glass makers knew each other - but it made business sense to specialise in your own areas.  Stoke on Trent was not a major glass making town, unlike Birmingham and Stourbridge.  Stoke was the Potteries.  And I still think it is a Clichy paperweight.

Alan
Alan  (The Paperweight People  http://www.pwts.co.uk)

"There are two rules for ultimate success in life. Number 1: Never tell everything you know."

The comments in this posting reflect the opinion of the author, Alan Thornton, and not that of the owners, administrators or moderators of this board. Comments are copyright Alan Thornton.

Offline flying free

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...As I think you have concluded, Jonathan Richardson of Wordsley is a different person from the one in Stoke on Trent. ...

Alan

Alan, I think conversely we have concluded that the Jonathon Richardson is one and same -
i.e. Jonathon Richardson of Richardson Glass was the father-in-law of Samuel Cole (Samuel was married to Jonathon's daughter Mary Ann.)
It was an exciting and unexpected discovery that Anne made :)


I have already posted on the paperweight thread about the Clichy paperweight and showed a similar item to the one shown on the potteries website i.e. indicating that the potteries website might have it wrong :)

And it appears  there was a Falcon Glassworks in Stoke on Trent.

It might be better if we move the last two posts on this thread to the Samuel Cole thread as they are now on the James Keir thread.


m


Offline flying free

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And thanks for another recommendation to get Jason Ellis' book.

I have just bought a copy  :)
m

 

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