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Erich Groebe's Online Home

Boston & Sandwich

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 Early American Pressed Glass
(1826 to 1850) 

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Assorted Lacy Period Cup Plates (1830 - 1845)

 
 
My Cup Plate Collection  
Boston & Sandwich Glass Co.
 1826 to 1850.
 
     Leave it to me to be intensely interested in obscure and unusual items. Most people have never heard about The Boston & Sandwich Glass Company -OR- Cup Plates and that's just fine with me! Ruth Webb-Lee was a collector in the 1930's and got together with Mr. James Rose to assemble a comprehensive catalog of American Glass Cup Plates that is still regarded as a classic and used by the handful of collectors to this day. She explained in the book back in 1948 that if just 200 new collectors were to appear and be interested in puting together a complete collection of cup plates, even todays most easily found cup plates would become rare overnight.
 

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The Boston Tea Party.

     You probably recall from your early school days the story of The Boston Tea Part in which a group of Americans, dressed like Indians, boarded a British ship in the middle of the night and threw its cargo of tea into Boston Harnbor. They were protesting not only the high price of tea from Britain but also the high taxes on it. Tea was an expensive luxury enjoyed only by the wealthiest of Americans.
     Drinking tea was a formal event in which the wives of the elite would invite one another to their homes for "Tea Time". They would dress in their finest because such gatherings were also an opportunity to show off to one-another how wealthy & cultured they were. Gossip filled the air as they chatted and enjoyed their tea.
 
     You may notice in the photos below that the dish that we would now call a "saucer" is actually a sipping bowl. They were used for a very practical reason. After filling a handleless tea cup with hot tea it quickly became far too hot for a proper lady to hold with her delicate hands, For this reason the tradition was to pour some of the tea into the Sipping Bowl to cool. Once it had cooled sufficiently the bowl was then raised to the mouth and the tea was sipped/slurped from it. It was at this point that the guest suddenly had a problem of epic Victorian proportions. The sipping bowl was now filled with hot tea, what to do with the tea cup? It would be a horrific breach of etiquette to set the cup down on a fancy tablecloth or wooden table top where it would leave a ring.

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Handleless Cup & Sipping Bowl (1845)

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Handleless Cup & Sipping Bowl (1840)

Voila !
The birth of The Cup Plate!
 
     That's the history of the cup plate in a nutshell but there is much more to this story. So far we know that cup plates were odd little dishes used by stuffy victorian ladies to keep their tablecloths clean.
      The other half of the story is about where and how they were made. The 1820's saw the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and one of the advances of the era was the manufacture of "pressed glass". We see and use glass containers everyday but in the early 19th Century all glass was hand blown and expensive.
     The Boston & Sandwich Glass Company introduced Americans to affordable pressed glass lamps, candle sticks and...
CUP PLATES.
The earliest years of production saw some "crude" pieces but quality improved rapidly. These peices were the very first pieces of glass to be pressed in our young nation. Initially most pieces were made to imitate much more expensive cut crystal. Most of them are quite good. These pieces also had a very high lead content which qualifies it to be called crystal. Tap a cup plate's rim and it will ring like the finest crystal. During The Lacy Period (1830 to 1845) cup plates were made with stippled backgrounds and complicated designs that gave the plates an incredible flash and sparkle as light reflects on them.

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My Boston & Sandwich Collection1

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