DVPCA: A Brief History, Chapter Six
By Stanley B. Kruger and Eileen M. England
Buoyed by the success of the first three meetings of 1997---we had as Guest Artists Barry Sautner, Debbie Tarsitano and Paul Stankard, for heaven sakes---during that July the new President wrote to five prospective paperweight speakers, trying to schedule 1998 programs, and heard back either nothing or swift declinations. This was not the way it was supposed to go! Then, on September 9, Doug Merritt of Vandermark-Merritt Glass Studios called. He had been on vacation for six weeks and had just returned from Long Island. He readily agreed to be Guest Artist on January 31, 1998, for our Winter Meeting. The 1998 “ice” was broken.
As mentioned in Chapter Five of this History, the membership voted, at the 10/18/97 Fall Meeting, to increase annual dues by $5.00 per membership category, to compensate somewhat for increased publication costs, through a professional printing service, of the Chapter’s quarterly Newsletter. When this issue was discussed, Bob Banford, Guest Artist at that Fall Meeting, made the perceptive suggestion that we solicit ads from paperweight dealers and galleries because “they consider this [advertising] a cost of doing business.” Three days later the following letter was sent on the Chapter’s letterhead bond paper to 26 paperweight dealers and galleries:
“Dear Paperweight Enthusiast:
Please find enclosed a copy of the 10th (address) page of DVPCA’s most recent quarterly Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 4, dated September, 1997. (We fold the Newsletter in half and mail it that way.) You may be interested to learn that our members are allowed to advertise for free, one ad per quarterly issue.
Here, then, is your opportunity to reach a dedicated group of almost 100 paperweight collectors in the populous Northeast for the slight annual fee of $20, for that is what we now charge professional and business members. If you wish fewer than four ad insertions per year, each will cost $5.00. If you do choose to join, your membership will run through calendar 1998.
A membership application form is enclosed for your approval. Please make your checks payable to Andrew Dohan, Treasurer and mail with completed application to him at the indicated address. Mail your ad copy, however, to the undersigned.
Thank you for your kind consideration of this proposal.
Stanley B. Kruger, President
Delaware Valley Chapter-PCA”
We then sat back and waited. In the next two months, nine positive responses were received from this mailing; George Kulles, The Paperweight Shoppe (Larry and Betty Schwab), Ed Poore, Warren Abrams (The Paperweight Exchange), Leo Kaplan, Ltd., Dan McNamara (Teri Antiques), Harvey and Doris Robinson Fine Paperweights, William Pitt and Bertram Cohen (The Great American Marble Company) all joined our member rolls for the privilege of Newsletter advertising. A $20 outlay for this mailing produced $180 in new business memberships, not at all a bad return on the investment.
Additionally, 1997 witnessed another innovation, formally known as The Paperweight Patrol. The Krugers constituted themselves a visiting team of paperweight devotees, committed to visiting (eventually) all members of the Chapter and photographing their collections for inclusion in the Chapter Memories Photo Album. The first collection so recorded was that of John Douglas and Don Formigli, of Levittown, PA, on July 10. The Paperweight Patrol next visited Sumner and Kay Reid, of Reading, PA, on August 6. During the school break between Xmas and New Year’s Day, on December 28 Stan and Thelma were invited to brunch by VP Lee and Florence Kvalnes, of Wilmington, DE, and took that opportunity to photograph their extensive marine-oriented (underwater, not military) paperweight collection. Lee has been a diver for over 40 years and an underwater photographer for over 30 years. He is also a lifetime member of the National Association of Underwater Instructors, teaching that subject at the University of Delaware. He has taught, among many others, Jim Donofrio and Gordon Smith to scuba dive and he runs a dive shop evenings from 6-9 PM. He also consults about 35 hours a week, working in his home office for the Dupont Company, from which he was retired several years ago. His long-term interest in the undersea world explains the orientation of the 160 piece Kvalnes paperweight collection. Florence just sits on the boat and reads. It was during this Sunday get-together that Lee suggested three possible guest speakers for 1998 programs. The New Year was just around the corner and only one program speaker, Doug Merritt on January 31, was as yet scheduled.
Thus it was that on the morning of December 31, 1997, Stan called Bill Burchfield of Cape Cod Glass Works in Sagamore, MA and suggested that he be Guest Artist at our Spring Meeting, 1998. Bill sounded quite pleased with the prospect of getting away from the shop for a long weekend with his wife, Karen; the date was set for April 4, the same weekend as the Spring program in 1997.
Meanwhile, back at the typewriter, Eileen England had taken on the task of documenting the Chapter’s early years for “DVPCA: A Brief History,” the first installment of which appears in the January, 1998, Vol. 5, No. 1, Newsletter. Eileen reasoned that ten or fifteen years hence, there would be a turnover in membership. At that time there might not be collective memory about what the club did early on. Better to set it down on paper now than let memory of those formative events slip away. Eileen is almost entirely responsible for the first four chapters of this “History” which appear in the four quarterly Newsletters published in 1998 (January, March, June, September). With her full-time college teaching position and other responsibilities, one wonders how she did it. But a grand job she made of it, as you have seen.
The first important event of 1998 occurred on January 2 when Stan and Toby (nee Thelma) attended an antique show in North Jersey, finding there an auction catalog dealer who claimed to own a quantity of HARDCOVER Sotheby’s New York Historical Society 1/18/95 auction catalogs. Knowing how rare these volumes were and thinking of a possible Chapter fundraiser using them, Stan conferred with Treasurer Andy Dohan about the possibility of acquiring a number of these catalogs with DVPCA funds. With Andy’s approval, we eventually obtained eight Sotheby’s NYHS catalogs, leading to the Sealed Bid Auction to be discussed later on.
The second significant event of 1998 arrived in the form of a note dated January 9:
“Dear Pres. Kruger:
“I note in the October minutes a mention of the possibility of a club library. If this becomes a reality, I would like to donate my collection of books and periodicals – some 2 dozen books and a greater number of periodicals – none recent except Bulletins.
“The library idea sounds like a good one - being knowledgeable and informed certainly makes weight collecting more enjoyable as well as a safer investment.
Yours, Martha Darlington”
Stan wrote Martha immediately, on January 13, accepting her generous offer, but noting essential issues to be resolved before the Chapter’s lending library could become a reality. For example, where would it be housed; who would be Librarian; would expansion of the Library come through the club’s Treasury or otherwise? Subsequently, these concerns were aired during the business portion of the Winter Meeting on January 31, 1998, before 42 attendees.
The Morning Program at this first meeting of the New Year was an interactive discussion of “Silhouette Canes” led by Past President Eileen England. She began her discussion in antiquity when silhouette canes first appeared in scent bottles and other archaic forms and progressed up to the present day. Eileen and Boyd had brought from their personal collection examples of the various periods and several members had contributed specimens from their collections as well. With Eileen leading the discussion and Ken Brown, Theresa Greenblatt and Ethel Henry adding knowledgeable comments, the attendees enjoyed an informative and quite fascinating morning session.
In addition to the proposed Chapter lending library, another item discussed during the business meeting was the prospect (and cost) of the Chapter’s own Website, an element which is certainly in our future but was not resolved at this meeting.
Doug Merritt, of Vandermark-Merritt Glass Studios, Branchburg, NJ, was Guest Artist at this meeting; his topic, Paperweight Vases and Cane. The history of Vandermark-Merritt was instructive. Swedish-born Carl Erickson began working in 1913 (at age 14) at the Pairpoint Glass Company in New Bedford, MA. Over the years, he worked for several different glass factories until 1944, when, with his brother, Steven, he opened Erickson Glass Works in Bremen, OH. They hired and trained local boys, one of whom was a 16 year old farm boy named Gerald Vandermark. Erickson Glass Works operated until 1960; however, before the factory closed, it had already been the first to turn out museum reproductions of glassware for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 1956.
When Erickson Glass Works closed, Carl arranged for Jerry Vandermark, whom he had taken under his wing, to work at the Jamestown, VA glasshouse run by the National Park Service. In 1968, Theodore C. Merritt, Sr. conceived the idea of building a historic 18th century village in Flemington, NJ and Jerry Vandermark was asked to consult on the design of the glasshouse to be built in the village. Liberty Village opened to the public in 1972, Jerry overseeing the construction of the glass furnaces. When they were completed, Jerry took back with him to Jamestown the young Merritt boy, Douglas, and taught him to blow glass.
The Vandermark Glasshouse at Liberty Village produced replicas of 18th century glassware, museum reproductions and paperweights until 1981when Liberty Village was sold and the Vandermark-Merritt Glass Studios (VMGS) was incorporated. In October, 1981, after being introduced to William and Douglas Merritt by Debbie Tarsitano, the New York/New Jersey PCA Chapter visited the new studio, writing about the experience in the 1982 Annual Bulletin of the PCA. VMGS thus represents the combined glass making traditions and skills of three generations spanning almost the entire 20th century.
During his presentation, Doug narrated a videotape demonstrating how he and his partner, Steven Smarr, created the magnificent large vases, paperweights and smaller silver overlay perfumes, weights and other forms displayed on a table at the side of the Adams Room (at Williamson Restaurant, Horsham, PA, where the meeting was being held). He noted that he and Steven were now training the fourth generation of glassblowers, John Fitzwilliam and John Soward, at VMGS. Doug apparently did great business with his beautiful cane-decorated vases as even the notoriously tight-fisted Krugers bought a piece, a silver overlay weight.
All in all, this first meeting of 1998 was a resounding success as well as being snow-free.
By early 1998, Treasurer Andy Dohan’s book “The Dictionary of Paperweight Signature Canes: Identification and Dating” had been published by Larry Selman’s Paperweight Press and was in wide circulation, recognized by many authorities as an essential addition to the reference library of any serious collector. It seemed perfectly proper to request of Andy that he present the results of his signature cane research at a Chapter meeting. Andy agreed to do so and was scheduled for the summer session on July 11.
On Saturday, February 28, by appointment, the Krugers visited briefly with Martha and Tom Darlington in New Lisbon, NJ, about 25 miles from Voorhees, to follow through on Martha’s generous offer to donate her collection of paperweight books and periodicals to form the nucleus of a Chapter lending library. Along with his other duties, Stan volunteered to act as Librarian, cataloging items and tracking circulation. Page 8 of the March, 1998 Chapter Newsletter, Vol. 5 No. 2, lists the books and other major publications of the Darlington donation; Page 8 in the June and September, 1998 Newsletters lists the periodicals, articles, papers and additions of and to the Darlington donation. (As of 2/15/99, the Delaware Valley Paperweight Lending Library numbered some 165 separate publications, all available for loan-out as requested.)
By now, CyberSpace, exploring the wealth of information on the World Wide Web, the Internet (call it what you will) had become an integral part of global commerce, especially the antique trade in “smalls” and even including the specialized world of paperweights. In the Internet paperweight discussion group hosted by Larry Selman in late 1997, one participant asked the group what seemed like a simple question: “How do you identify an antique paperweight?” This prompted a lengthy and very accurate response by Jerry Gard, Los Altos, CA, a well-known collector and authority. Jerry’s answer was published on Page 6 of the March, 1998 Chapter Newsletter and should be required reading for every beginning weight collector, whether interested in antique pieces or not. When Theresa Greenblatt, one of the Chapter’s most knowledgeable members, saw this article she exclaimed, “That’s exactly what I would have said to answer that question!”
April 4, 1998, a beautiful Spring day, one of our smaller turnouts enjoyed one of our liveliest gatherings ever at our usual venue, Williamson Restaurant, Horsham, PA. George Kamm Paperweights was absent but there were substantial exhibits of other Chapter newsletters, Internet paperweight auction listings, James Perna’s glass advertising weights circa 1880-1920, Diane Atkerson’s antique marbles, recent glass industry periodicals, the day’s raffle prizes, free-for-the-taking photos and brochures from Larry Selman and others, and Stan Kruger’s For Sale items to take up the slack. Of course, the main attraction of the 10:00 AM Paperweight Fair was the short, stocky, Kris Kringle-like figure of the founder of Cape Cod Glass Works, Bill Burchfield, and his eye-catching display of CCGW Weights.
The 11:00 AM Morning Program was an ID Clinic conducted by three of our most experienced members, Theresa and Arthur Greenblatt and Kenyon Brown. They puzzled over about 30 weights submitted by members hoping to stump the experts. To the delight of the listeners, Theresa often burst into song when her husband correctly identified various weights, often following Kenyon’s lead. The weights ranged from Murano to Ken Brown’s own work, from new Chinese to English and Scottish, early Perthshire, Czech, Baccarat, Clichy, even some buttons and marbles. Not every “mystery” weight was solved and the three experts did not agree on every attribution; but for about 45 minutes, the three senior members displayed their wit, charm and knowledge and everybody learned something.
During the business meeting, President Kruger announced that elections would be held the following October and that the current slate of officers had agreed to stand for another two year term. He appointed Sandra Mikelberg as Chair of the Nominating Committee to accept other nominations and to conduct elections during the Fall Meeting. He expressed the Chapter’s appreciation to Martha B. Darlington for her donation of books and periodicals to form the nucleus of a Chapter lending library. He advised the group that he had invited DVPCA business members Harvey and Doris Robinson (Fine Paperweights, Needham, MA) to attend the Summer Meeting but they were unavailable. Finally, he solicited the attendees for paperweight-related articles for inclusion in the quarterly Newsletter.
Guest Artist Bill Burchfirld was introduced to glassblowing while stationed at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod between 1966 and 1970. To earn extra money, he secured a job as night watchman at the Pairpoint Glass Company in Sagamore, at the entrance to the Cape. He watched as the three glassblowers the company hired from Scotland blew and whirled gobs of molten crystal into sparkling works of art…and that was the beginning of his addiction. At 26, Bill was considered too old to become an apprentice-in Europe, glassblowers begin their careers at 15-but he persuaded Pairpoint to take him on. In those days, glassblowers were very secretive about their craft so Bill had to learn through watching and trial and error.
After leaving Pairpoint around 1976, Bill decided to build his own glassblowing shed. It took him only seven months to fire it up. The small studio, constructed at Bill’s home in Bourne, MA, included a furnace with a “glory hole,” a kiln and a bench, the tools essential for a glassblower. The shed was so small only one person could work in it at a time. For the next 13 years, aided by his son, Mark, Bill produced glass animals, paperweights, vases and other glass pieces for sale locally, especially after he found a new location, 20 times the size of the shed, off the Cape at Buzzards Bay. His big breakthrough came in 1989 when a buyer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art ordered 6000 boxes of glass candy canes. The rest is history. His son, Mark, recently left CCGW to take up computers and Bill’s wife, Karen, has been helping out in the shop.
During a Question and Answer period that lasted about 45 minutes, Bill answered many questions about his own goals, injuries he had sustained while working with glass, how his workload had changed now that Mark had left the company, his two apprentices, where he plans to be in the next five years, the continued success of his Xmas items (trees and canes), and how Karen has pitched in to cover for Mark’s loss. Laughter frequently punctuated Bill’s responses to the many questions put to him. This meeting was adjourned at 2:30 PM but members continued to visit with Bill and Karen Burchfield until the room cleared half an hour later.
Wheaton Village’s Paperweight Weekend 1998 intervened between the Spring and Summer Meetings that year. A superlative overview of the Weekend by Treasurer Andy Dohan is featured in the Chapter’s June, 1998 Newsletter, Vol. 5 No. 3, and reappears in PCA’s Quarterly Newsletter No. 131 for Quarter 2, 1998. Three photos accompany the article as printed in the Chapter’s Newsletter. One shows Dan McNamara, Bob Banford and Ray Banford during the Saturday evening cocktail hour, one has Thelma Kruger standing next to Ken Rosenfeld (one of her favorites), Barry Schultheiss, PCA Treasurer, and James Lefever, PCA Vice President at that time, and one with President Kruger and Treasurer Dohan presenting a check for $2600, proceeds of the previous summer’s Grand Paperweight Raffle, to Gay and Barry Taylor, with Christine Kressley standing in for her father, Paul Stankard, who had donated the Grand Prize Paperweight. During this Weekend, Jim Lefever consented to give his celebrated “show and tell” lecture/demonstration on paperweight-related objects, one of his two major collecting areas, and agreed to be available on Saturday, January 23, 1999. Also during this Weekend, PCA President June Morfe agreed to publicize the Chapter’s Sealed Bid Auction of the eight hardcover Sotheby’s New York Historical Society 1/18/95 Auction Catalogs mentioned earlier by including the following letter with the next PCA Newsletter (which was issued during the first two weeks of July):
Dear Paperweight Enthusiast:
About 18 months ago, the coveted HARDCOVER, full color, limited edition Sotheby’s New York Historical Society 1/18/95 Auction Catalog was offered at raffle by several PCA Chapters. This letter is directly to those of you still eager to acquire this volume, arguably the most beautiful paperweight book ever published and an instant classic.
Through a stroke of good fortune, Delaware Valley Chapter-PCA has run across a cache of EIGHT (8) of these highly desirable volumes, still in shrink-wrap. And we hereby offer them to the PCA membership in a sealed bid auction that will run through this summer. Bids must be received by August 14, 1998 and will be opened at DVPCA’s Fall Meeting on October 10, 1998.
According to Sotheby’s, these volumes were printed, in a very limited edition, as marketing tools for the auction house and were never intended for sale. To ensure the widest possible distribution of these EIGHT copies, only one bid per entrant will be permitted. The minimum acceptable bid will be $100. Proceeds will enhance the Chapter’s educational mission. To enter, complete the tear-off slip and mail to Andrew H. Dohan, Lentz, Cantor and Massey, Ltd., 20 Mystic Lane, Chester County Commons, Malvern, PA 19355.
Enthusiasm for these beautiful, rare and highly significant auction catalogs runs high. So enter the top dollar amount you can live with and hope that yours one of the EIGHT highest bids opened on 10/10/98. In case of a tie, the bid with the earliest postmark will win. Send no money now; if yours is one of the EIGHT winners, you will be contacted. Good luck to all
Stanley B. Kruger, President, DVPCA
The Summer Meeting of 1998 was held at---where else---Williamson Restaurant, Horsham, PA on July 11. Paperweight signature canes were the theme of the day. The Morning Program was “Identify the Mystery Signature Canes Contest.” On a long, narrow table at the rear of the Madison Room, 34 assorted weights greeted the attendees, some covered over so that one could only see the signature cane embedded in the glass. These weights were numbered and each member was given a game sheet and asked to identify the weights using only the signature canes and no other aspects of the piece. The group puzzled over the mystery weights for about 45 minutes, after which Andy Dohan made the identifications. Barbara Stitt had the most correct answers with 22 of 34; Kay Reid was second with 16. Both won prizes.
During the business meeting, President Kruger announced that due to the Darlington donation of books, periodicals and papers, the Chapter was now in possession of a complete color file of DVPCA quarterly Newsletters and joked that this file would be required reading for all prospective new members, there being one in the room (Judy Crawley). The President asked for, and was voted, authority to purchase a 19” combined TV/VCR for the club’s use. Treasurer Dohan reported a Treasury balance of $4856.20, after donations of $2600 each had been made to the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village and the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, WI, proceeds of the Grand Paperweight Raffle.
After the business meeting came the main presentation, Paperweight Signature Canes, Past and Present, by Andy Dohan. For over an hour, he showed slides of signature canes, a selection from some 300 specimens pictured in his book, and gave clues on how to identify and date them. As a result, several members asked for copies of his “Dictionary.” Based upon results of the morning’s Mystery Signature Canes Contest, we all needed to do more studying of this important weight identifier, and were grateful for Andy’s research.
Again, during the summer, the Paperweight Patrol was active, adding two more members’ collections to the Chapter Memories Photo Album. On June 30, the Patrol visited with Ilse and Bill Payne in Southern Delaware and photographed their small but colorful collection. On July 22, following a sumptuous dinner at the Victorian home of Eileen and Boyd England in Doylestown, PA, the Patrol viewed their extensive weight and art glass collection and Boyd’s glass workshop in the barn behind the house.
By August 14, the Treasurer had received 12 sealed bids for the eight hardcover Sotheby’s catalogs; we could hardly wait until the Fall Meeting to see what the top bid was. Our Guest Artist for the Fall Meeting on October 18 was Bob Banford, celebrating with his father, Ray, 25 years of paperweight making. We had snared Bob when he attended the Fall Meeting in 1997 to visit with his buddy, Drew Ebelhare, the Guest Artist then. We had also invited Harvey and Doris Robinson, Fine Paperweights, Needham, MA, so this Paperweight Fair included THREE PCA-registered paperweight dealers: George Kamm Paperweights, presided over by Pat Ackerman, R. Banford, Inc., and the Robinsons, a first for the Chapter.
The Morning Program, Paperweights and Other Glass Whimsies, was hosted by Sandra Mikelberg. She displayed a great number of whimsies from her collection and used as reference the book “Glasshouse Whimsies” by Joyce Blake and Dale Murschell. During her 45 minute lecture, Sandra made many points about these fascinating and unusual glass objects. The reception given this Morning Program was so positive that the Blake-Murschell book was added to the Delaware Valley Paperweight Lending Library, even though the subject matter is glass objects rather than paperweights.
President Kruger began the business meeting with the somber announcement that loyal DVPCA member John Douglas had succumbed to lung cancer on September 22. The Chapter had sent a large fruit basket including gourmet items to John’s home in Levittown, PA, receiving the following “Thank you” note from John’s housemate: “Dear Paperweight Friends, To thank you for your thoughtful kindness at a time when it was greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your support and friendship. Don Formigli. P.S. I will be attending the October meeting. Don.” As Chair of the Nominating Committee, Sandra Mikelberg conducted biannual Elections. No one objected to the re-election of the current slate of officers to a second two-year term. The next two meeting dates were announced: 1/23/99 with James Lefever and 3/27/99 with Joe Mattson, Chief Gaffer at the T. C. Wheaton Glass Foundry at Wheaton Village as Guest Speakers. The eight winning bids for the hardcover Sotheby’s NYHS Auction Catalogs added up to a gross total of $1651, which we now had to collect…another chore for the over-burdened, hunt and peck typist President.
Guest Artist Bob Banford began his talk “Paperweight Makers of the 1970’s Revisited” by showing a slide of the glass artists who attended the first Paperweight Weekend at Wheaton Village in 1974 and asking if we could identify them. For the next 50 minutes, Bob took us down Memory Lane with his slides of the paperweight artists of 25 years ago, regaling us with little-known tidbits of information about these gentlemen, many of whom are no longer with us. Bob’s talk was a binge of nostalgia for the older collectors among us and an insight into the past 25 years for our newer collectors. After the Question and Answer period, the meeting ended at about 2:30 PM, but with three dealers present, the room did not clear until close to 4:00 PM, marking the end of our sixth year of operation.
Editor’s Note: This “Brief History” has caught up, practically, to the present day and will now be suspended temporarily. As time advances and significant events occur, further installments of this series may become necessary. We’ll keep you posted.