A look back into Massachusetts glassmaking past

If you crave a creative time that lingers on in a charming Cape Cod village, the Sandwich Glass Museum offers enthusiasts more than 5,000 objects to enjoy.

The museum, built in the region's traditional gray clapboard and brick style, is a three-dimensional encyclopedia of early American glass history. Autumns can be sunny and pleasant here.

Deming Jarves (1790-1869), a Boston businessman and former agent of the New England Glass Company, East Cambridge, Mass., founded a small factory in 1825 in Sandwich. The factory was incorporated the next year as the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, with an influence soon felt around the world. Sandwich itself began as a 17th-century farming community, But for glass-making, its forests provided wood for fuel, marsh hay for packing in crates and the Boston market was 50 miles away by water.

Jarves soon had boats carrying Sandwich glass to Bean City. He also hired many skilled glass workers from East Cambridge and elsewhere, including England. They all settled in Sandwich, where their designs had a distinct English look. There was, though, a major drawback.

The local sand — silica is the principal ingredient in glass — contained too much iron oxide and other impurities for fine results. So this factory and others that soon sprang up here had to import sand from New Jersey and western Massachusetts. This was a factor in the Sandwich industry's eventual failure. Besides sand, lead oxide, which gives glass its sound when tapped and its luster — as well as about 30 percent of its weight — also had to be shipped in. That also bode ill despite the high quality and diversity of Sandwich's products.

But founder Jarves knew what he was doing when he imported James Danforth Lloyd, a Welshman working with his brother in Birmingham, England. Lloyd had a flair for colored glass. He introduced at Sandwich glass objects in cobalt blue, light pink opal, ruby, gold and alabaster hues. They helped Boston & Sandwich rise above its competitors and spread its fame.

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