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Glass Discussion & Research. No ID requests here please. => British & Irish Glass => Topic started by: ChrisStewart on February 28, 2004, 08:48:27 PM

Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: ChrisStewart on February 28, 2004, 08:48:27 PM
     Does anybody know what styles etc Sowerby made in Pea Blossom Glass?


Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom
Post by: Angela B on February 28, 2004, 11:19:57 PM
Hi Chris,
could you help get us started by showing us an example?
All the best
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: ChrisStewart on February 29, 2004, 12:09:44 PM
     In 1890 a form of 'natural glass' was discovered. Sowerby were appointed sole agents of this material. In July 1890 Sowerby advertised 'Pea Blossom Glass' made from this 'Natural Glass'.

What this mineral was and what Sowerby made using it I do not know, hence the question on the message board. The mineral was supposed to contain all of the elements which form the components of glass (silex, flux etc) and was much cheaper to melt than ordinary glass mix.


Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Bernard C on March 01, 2004, 02:26:36 AM

This is most intriguing.

The mystery to me is what is the point of advertising something if you do not give your potential customers any idea of what it is and what benefits it will bring them!   Or could it have been advertising along the lines of "Watch this space - it's something amazing - more to follow ...", rather like a new car wrapped up in a white sheet.

The alternative is that in 1890 those that this advertising was aimed at knew what Pea Blossom Glass was.   A possible parallel to the Marquis of Lorne saga, and its misinterpretatation by modern historians, failing to fully appreciate the prevailing context.

Could it have been advertising in connection with their production of stained glass windows?   ... or some type of industrial product, such as containers for corrosive chemicals, electrical insulators or battery components?   ... or imitation precious stones used in costume jewelry (someone had to make them)?

Best of luck, Bernard C.
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: louisc4me on March 01, 2004, 05:19:45 AM
Hello Folks,
I will chime in here as a new comer to the group thanks to Ivo.  The only natural material glass material that I am aware of is obsidian...volcanic glass.  It is a very dark green when found thin enough to let ;ight pass through.  It is concivable that a small amount of this was use in a diluted state to produce a glass of a lighter green color as well as having the potential for the advertising ploy.  I find this subject very interseting, because when Mt. St Helens erupted in the 1980's in Washington state, Bullseye glassworks gathered the ash, and melted it into a glass which they used to press iridescent green volcano ashtrays.
David D.
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: ChrisStewart on March 01, 2004, 08:35:10 AM
Hi Bernard,

The advert was contained in the 'Fancy Glass Supplement' to the Pottery Gazette so I assume Sowerby were using this material to make fancy or table glass.

The information about the discovery of this 'Natural Glass' and Sowerby being having the sole distribution rights was contained in a short 'Notes' section from the Pottery Gazette earlier that year.

As Sowerby is one of the best documented glass houses, I am surprised that it is not mentioned in any of the books.


Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Bernard C on March 01, 2004, 08:54:43 AM

Was PG only for fancy or table glass?   And would "fancy" have included jewelry, for instance?

I expect you have checked up on Sowerby's patents around 1890.   In case you haven't, you'd probably find this unproductive.

#3286, 1 March 1890 was for "moulds for blowing and moulding jugs, gas globes and other hollow ware", and
#not known, 23 December 1890 was for "cutting by electricity".

None of the other nearby Sowerby patents looks promising.

This thread may well surprise some readers who thought of Sowerby as a pressed glass works.   Not so.   It is difficult to find any aspect of glass manufacturing that Sowerby did not get involved with at one time or another.

One of the worst injustices prevalent today is the praise heaped upon Dr Christopher Dresser for the "Clutha" studio glass he designed, made by James Couper & Sons of Glasgow.   In fact it was almost straight plagiarism of Sowerby's studio art glass, lauched some three years earlier.   Simon Cottle attempted to correct this in his book accompanying the 1986 Sowerby exhibition, but no-one seems to have taken much notice.   Or, are there vested interests at work here in maintaining the high price of examples of Clutha glass?

Sorry Chris, I strayed into tub-thumping mode!    I must keep to the subject.

Regards, Bernard C.
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Anonymous on March 01, 2004, 11:53:23 AM
Hi  Bernard,

I have just noticed my posting said 'Fancy Glass Supplement' it should be 'Fancy Goods supplement' as it covers both pottery and glass.

The supplement was started in 1890 I think and ran for a few years. Printed on mainly yellow paper it carried adverts and articles for the fancy goods side of the pottery and glass trade. For example in 1890 and 1891 Davidson had colour inserts in the supplement promoting Blue and Primrose Pearline.

I don't think it included jewelry. I have never encountered jewelry discussed in the pottery gazette.

Title: More on Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Bernard C on March 01, 2004, 02:28:57 PM

Pea Blossom is a colour of glass.   There is a section on its formulation in:

Gillinder, William;  Treatise on The Art of Glass Making 2nd edition;  CBLS, 2002, ISBN 1878907816.   Strange title - I wonder if it is a reprint of an old book?

At USD $159.00 it is rather expensive.   You might like to try your local library for an interlibrary loan copy, but please don't use up all their budget as I need the same service occasionally!   Otherwise there is probably a reference copy at Broadfield House.

Regards, Bernard C.
Title: William Gillinder
Post by: Frank on March 01, 2004, 04:54:28 PM
(Operative glass-maker Birmingham)

A Treatise on the Art of Glass Making, Containing 272 Practical Receipts for Flint, Coloured, Crown, German Sheet, Plate and Bottle Glass; to which is added a Treatise on the Alkalis, Oxides, Silex, etc., Used in the Mixing and Colouring of Glass; and General Instructions for the Planning and Management of Flint and Coloured Glass Manufacture. 2nd Ed. Pp 128 8vo Birmingham. W. Gillinder, 1854. (1st Ed. 1851.)

So it is a reprint! Extortionately priced too and too early for this Natural Glass. If Sowerby had distribution rights only the glass is probably from another country.

What is an operative glass-maker?
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: paradisetrader on November 22, 2005, 05:07:48 PM
Interesting thread from before my time.
Maybe of interest to newer members and may benefit from a new airing ?
Or did you reach some conclusions not reported here, Chris ?
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Adam on November 22, 2005, 06:17:35 PM
I don't remember reading this last time round.  I'm intrigued and rather cynical.  If this magic material was much cheaper than traditional raw materials, why didn't Sowerbys just shut up about it, use it and pocket the difference?

I think my grandfather would have been clerk/cashier at Sowerbys in 1890.  I'm sure he wouldn't have been involved in anything slimy, but I'm still cynical!!

Yes please, did anything further come to light?

Adam D.
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: ChrisStewart on December 07, 2005, 09:49:11 PM
Hi Adam,

I got no further with this. The sowerby advert can be found here :


Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Bernard C on December 07, 2005, 11:12:07 PM
Chris — What a lovely advertisement.    Why no American office?

I have tried to visualize Sweet Pea blooms before modern plant breeders intensified and extended their colours.   The nearest I can think of in glass is S&W Alabaster.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Sowerby Pea Blossom Glass
Post by: Adam on December 08, 2005, 07:49:24 PM
Chris - thanks for that.  I think the inverted commas and the suffix about "glass batch", which of course is the generic name for the mixed raw materials suggests that it is the sort of drivel which advertisers could get away with in those days.  Think patent medicines!!

Adam D.