mad in pursuit notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS

American Brilliant bowlAmerican Brilliant Cut Glass

I grew up in a family where glass was the most marvelous substance. At least that's how I remember it today.

My grandma Kitty Mom had a collection of cut glass bowls, dishes, and pitchers on her dining room buffet table. The mirror behind it made the glass even more dazzling and abundant. Of course, I remember them from a certain height -- my eyes level with the crystaline labryrinth. My cousin Barbara taught me to smack them lightly with a fork to hear them ring. Kitty Mom would yell at us if she heard the pinging (although she was hard of hearing, so it wasn't too often). No wonder a few of them now have grandchildren-chips.

The collection made me a bit of a glass snob, cut glass being so much finer than molded glass.

American Brilliant bowl, upside-downIt wasn't until the 2000s, when we first visited the Corning Museum of Glass, that I was able to give the amazing glass a label. It belongs to the class of American Brilliant, which was manufactured from the 1870s and till the hardships of World War I crushed the industry in 1917. So it is likely that my grandmother did not buy her pieces new. I'm not sure when she began accumulating them, but she was relatively prosperous during the Great Depression and was able to buy some good things from folks getting rid of their old stuff for cash. Or at least that's my understanding.

I have one bowl. I was sure we had found a tiny signature on it -- but now it has disappeared (or I have false memory syndrome). Anyway, it might have been made right here in New York State -- making cut glass was a big industry, with many small manufacturers, in the Corning area.

It's a wonderful treasure -- with a perpetual eye-catching sparkle.

Jan 8, 2012