If you thought Sandwich, Massachusetts was the birthplace of sandwiches in America, you may be surprised to find it is really the home of historic glass manufacturing factories. Along the scenic Cape Cod coast is the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company museum in no other than Sandwich, Massachusetts.
Sandwich was given its name after Sandwich, England and is an area chosen because of its shallow waters and shipping capabilities. There were other glass factories in New England during the industrial revolution but the name Sandwich always intrigued me so I visited the glass museum while touring “the Cape”.
As I walked through the building, I marveled at over 6,000 pieces of glass on display and many of them reminded me of my grandmother’s salt shakers, sugar bowls, cologne bottles and vases kept in her curio cabinet. Pink, amber, violet, green and red were hand painted on the designs and a special process enabled the vibrant colors to be infused into the glasses in later
times. Some of the works I saw in the various display cases looked to be from Ireland and Great Britain and I wondered why they would be in this Americana museum. Turns out, the company recruited and hired knowledgeable glass makers from Ireland and England and they left their imprint in America with this booming business of its day.
Women joined the work force, too, making stoppers for bottles, painting, etching and staining glass works. I viewed a special exhibit about the women who had worked in the factory including pictures from the 1800’s and the glass works they hand crafted. There are continuously changing exhibits and I found out more about glass blowing, shaping, pressing and design within the museum than I learned from any history books.
The civil war changed the success of the glass making factories and more competition came from other states eventually shutting down the Boston and Sandwich Glass company. The museum gives a person the opportunity to see
firsthand the process for creating and shaping glass with a 20 minute video and demonstrations by a glass blower showing different techniques. On the way out, the gift store sells glassworks from local artists and a curator is on hand to identify the antique items since there are no markings on the older pieces. Christmas time is especially bright and colorful with twenty
glass blowers making ornaments to decorate the indoor Christmas tree.
Children are given a treasure hunt brochure to find the early handmade glass and pressed glass in display cases with items such as fly traps, roosters, hats, sitting hen and vases. As they exit, the children are given a small package of marbles made on premises, not from China.
Glass works tell a history of bygone times and reaching for Grandma’s lacy glass candy jar made me realize how factories evolved into our current daily lives.