Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dispatches from the Quiet Corner

Pitkin Glass Works ruins, Manchester, Connecticut, February 2015.

The northeastern part of Connecticut, more or less from the suburbs of Hartford out to the Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders, is sometimes promoted as the Last Green Valley, a wooded agrarian gap in the Boston-New York-Jersey-Philadelphia-DC megalopolis. Compared to truly rural expanses away from the mid-Atlantic region, the Hartford, Tolland and Windham county area has of course been pretty thickly settled for a long time, but there's still enough hardscrabble dairy farms, shadowy hemlock groves and lichen-covered stone walls around to justify another regional nickname: the Quiet Corner.

Early New England free blown and dip molded utility bottles, plus Eden the cat.
From the late eighteenth century through the Civil War period, the Quiet Corner was also one of the earliest centers of glass making in the New World. Manchester, Coventry, Glastonbury, Willington and Westford, now home to working-class suburbs and farmstand vegetable patches, were once known for abundant supplies of wood for fuel and ash, valleys filled with Pleistocene outwashes of clean sand, and cheap labor from illiterate Yankee farm boys, which all were put to use manufacturing flasks, snuff bottles and demijohns. The primitive, earth-colored bottles made by hand in these small factories 200 years ago have a crude beauty that has caught the eye of connoisseurs since the earliest days of academic and collector interest in American glass, and some of the rarer products of early Connecticut glass works are more or less the most coveted and valuable mass-produced glass objects in existence.

This blog is intended to be a repository for occasional musings on the early glass works of northeastern Connecticut, covering the factory sites themselves and their history and archaeology, as well as topics related to the bottle collecting world, auctions, museums, photography and art. Posting will probably be pretty sporadic, but I hope to eventually build up a repository of useful or interesting articles on glass from my part of New England.