Wednesday, February 3, 2016

John Mather House

John Mather's house, January 2016
John Mather, of the Parker Village area of Manchester (formerly East Hartford), Connecticut, was an early nineteenth century merchant and manufacturer of gunpowder and glass. The Mather Glass Works have been an object of speculation among students of early American glass for some time; they were long known only from period advertisements and brief newspaper articles. John Mather's 1827 house still stands on Mather Street, close to the site of his glass factory, though the factory seems to have ceased operations about six years before the house was built.

The area around Mather's house and its small corner plot of land was subject to intense suburban residential and industrial development in the mid-twentieth century, and any above-ground remains of the glass works that might have existed at the time were apparently bulldozed. My own preliminary investigations of the site have turned up period glass, bricks, furnace lining and other typical glass factory waste beneath some of the back yards in the neighborhood. The shards that have turned up indicate that Mather's factory made typical New England free blown, dip molded and pattern molded glassware, but so far there has been no indication of the production of historical flasks or other glass blown in more advanced two part metal molds. 

John Mather's house in a painting by Russell Cheney (1881-1945) that hangs in the Manchester Masonic Temple. Note that the giant white oak on the corner has hardly changed in the past 70 years or more. Photo via the Manchester Historical Society.

Pitkin Glass Works ruins, January 2016
The famous Pitkin Glass Works ruins are located less than two miles south of Mather's house, but have been preserved and stabilized, and are generally much more thoroughly studied and understood than the Mather Glass Works. This spring, when the weather warms up, I hope to get back to some of the properties on Mather Street where I have received permission to excavate shards, and eventually gather enough material to write up a more formal description of the likely products of the glass works there.