During the 1880s, while the popular fashion was cut glass for luxury goods, several glasshouses, including the New England Glass Company, produced various lines of art glass. These decorative pieces, few of which served a utilitarian purpose, were distinguished for innovation in the color, finish, and quality of the glass and by the fine sense of design and craftsmanship. The glass developed for these decorative and somewhat experimental wares carried romanticized names such as Amberina, Aurora, Pomona, and Wild Rose. These names were not necessarily consistent between firms, with intentional adoption, in certain instances, of alternatives in an attempt to avoid the constraints of patents held by rival organizations. Yet these firms all marketed their wares at the same high-end retailers, such as Tiffany and Company.

The New England Glass Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, found early success as a manufacturer of pressed glass, yet after the Civil War, with the introduction of soda glass, a cheaper, lower quality medium, the company’s fortunes declined. William L. Libbey joined the firm as general manager in 1872 and shifted the company’s production toward luxury goods. This shift resulted in top honors at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.1 Even with their success at the Centennial, the company was still not on firm financial footing. With the hiring of glass artist and English emigre Joseph Locke, in 1883, a year after his arrival in the United States, the New England Glass Company began producing a considerable range of art glass. These innovative forms and mediums were integral to the budding American art glass movement, but they did not prove financially viable.

Wild Rose glass, known today as New England Peachblow glass, was patented in 1886 by the New England Glass Company as their version of Peachblow glass. A few years earlier a rival firm, Hobbs, Brockunier and Company, patented Peachblow, thus named to recall the two-tone glaze effect, peach bloom, found on a particular type of Chinese porcelain popular among American collectors at the time. The New England Glass Company slightly altered the production methods of the Hobbs, Brockunier and Company’s Peachblow, thus circumventing their patent.2 New England’s Wild Rose was a cased glass with white interior, shades from a deep pink at the top to a pale pink at the bottom. The glass surface was either a shiny or a satin (acid) finish.

The lily vase form was extremely popular during the 1880s, and the firm produced it in a variety of sizes, ranging from quite small, at approximately four inches, to the largest at nineteen. The vase form came in nearly all the firm’s considerable variety of colors and finishes. This nineteen-inch version is among the largest, with excellent quality of color distribution and an unblemished shiny surface. Its size would also dictate a higher cost in production and sale, significant factors contributing to the vase’s rarity. Although this form was popular, its production was limited in comparison to other vases. Art glass appealed to those with an avant-garde sense of design, thus limiting its consumption to homes embracing an artistic focus. James W. Tottis

Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1­–2 (2007): 28–29.

Notes

1. C. Venable et al., China and Glass in America 1880–1980: From Tabletop to TV Tray (Dallas Museum of Art, exh. cat., 2000),163.
2. K. M. Wilson, New England Glass and Glassmaking (New York, 1972), 352.
Artist New England Glass Company, American, 1818 - 1888
Designer Joseph Locke, American, 1846 - 1936
Title
  • Wild Rose Lily Vase
Date ca. 1886
Medium blown molded lead glass
Dimensions Overall: 19 inches × 6 7/8 inches (48.3 × 17.5 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Gibbs-Williams Fund; gifts from Mrs. George Kamperman, Robert H. Tannahill, Mrs. Edsel B. Ford, Mrs. Ernest Kanzler, and J. L. Hibbard by exchange
Accession Number 2001.4
Department American Art before 1950
On View American W293, Level 2 (see map)
Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc.;
2000-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Wilson, Kenneth M. New England Glass and Glassmaking. New York, 1972, pp. 351-352.

"American Decorative Arts Acquisitions 1985-2005." Bulletin of the DIA 81, 1-2 (2007): pp. 28-29, 66.