An Overview Of Wheaton Village’s Paperweight Weekend
May 18 - 20, 2000
It has been said, and wisely so, that “anticipation always exceeds realization.” This maxim does not apply, however, when referring to Wheaton Village’s Paperweight Weekend, held on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday each even numbered year (1996, 1998, 2000, etc.) following Mother’s Day. We await each Weekend for a full two years but the actual Weekend always exceeds our expectations. And as soon as one Weekend ends, we begin the process of “anticipating” the next, which, for your information, will be held May 16-18, 2002.
Because I had signed up for Toby to make a paperweight, she worked only through Wednesday, May 17, that week. Her appointment in the T. C. Wheaton Glass Factory was for 2:45 PM on Thursday, May 18, but we arrived in Wheaton Village much earlier, at about 11:30 AM. BIG MISTAKE! Our room at the Country Inn was not yet ready for use and the desk clerk suggested that we return in about an hour. What does a woman do when she has an hour to kill? She goes SHOPPING! So, long before Paperweight Weekend opened officially at 7 PM that evening, my beloved had already “busted the budget” for the entire Weekend while wandering through the Village shops for that hour. (And she was by no means finished with that endeavor!)
Every serious paperweight collector should avail him- or her- self of the opportunity to make a paperweight, in order to derive some faint sense of the skills, actions, problems and HEAT involved. When Toby, with the hands-on supervision and assistance of Jason Klein, had completed her cobalt blue, lime green and white irregular swirl weight, her face was the color of an open glory hole, so intense is the heat near the Factory furnace. I was never more proud of her than at that moment!
At 5 PM we went off the Village grounds for our traditional Thursday evening Chinese dinner at a buffet restaurant in downtown Millville. We hurried back to change for the 7-9 PM Reception and Registration hour in the Museum of American Glass. There, along with our blue bi-fold registration folders containing the Weekend Program, List of Participants and other important literature, we received as this year’s favor a one inch acrylic magnifying bug box cube containing a white cane section, by Cape Cod Glass Works, showing “W V…2000” and seven star silhouettes, all perfectly formed, with “W V” and two stars in the center and five stars and the year around the periphery of the cane. GREAT souvenir! By the way, CCGW is moving from Sagamore, MA to Knoxville, TN in the near future (or has already done so), Bill Burchfield returning to his roots, so to speak.
Two exhibits were featured during the Reception and Registration period: “American Glass 1900-2000” in the hall just to the left of the entrance to the Museum, consisting of glass products representative of each decade of the last century, and “Trabucco Retrospective,” in addition to the bi-annual Artists Reception of individual exhibits by contemporary paperweight artists. Since we had just come from dinner, we were not interested in the delightful trays of finger foods found in the first two rooms to the right of the entrance, instead greeting DVPCA members and others we knew from previous such gatherings. After that, the first artists we saw were the Trabuccos, Victor, Jon and David, showing their work in the large Museum hall just before the paperweight room. Victor’s magnum salamander is breathtaking, a fitting modern counterpart to the Pantin salamander that sold at Sotheby’s two years ago for $156,500. And his enormous, mostly crystal “Veneer Reflection” is even more so. Paul Stankard showed his latest work, featuring veined leaves in the floral bouquets, and Assemblages of nine separate elements, perfectly laminated in all four directions, $40K a pop. We wondered how many of these beauties were lost in the making. Randall Grubb continued with his enormous cylindrical underwater scenes, some 13” tall and weighing 25 pounds. Richard and Karen Federici displayed (for the first time at Paperweight Weekend, I believe) Karen’s marbles and Richard’s paperweights with murrhini faces incorporated. Charles Kaziun III showed only a few mini-weights whereas Bob Banford brought a full display of his creations. (Ray and Ruth Banford, as usual in Room 111 of the Country Inn, showed even more of Bob’s weights and Ray’s modern and antique collection.) Ken Rosenfeld greeted us warmly, Toby being one of his biggest fans, while I suggested the possibility of his appearing as Guest Artist at DVPCA’s Summer Meeting, 2001. DONE! Rick Ayotte, ably assisted by Clara, showed two magnificent heavily cut bowls so captivating I had to photograph them. I assured Rick that Toby and I would not try to copy his designs when we start up our own paperweight studio! Rick is donating one of these “Flora Bowls” to the PCA for a raffle next year to complete the funding of the extraordinary antique paperweight-related object exhibit being staged at the Corning Museum of Glass in conjunction with the 2001 PCA Convention. Jim Donofrio, Gordon Smith and the Perthshire factory, represented by Peter and Catherine MacDougall this time, rounded out the artists’ displays, the Perthshire “One Offs” being a significant percentage of that factory’s total exhibit. The only somber aspect of the Artists Reception was the inescapable fact that their prices are definitely on the rise. For example, Gordon Smith’s new weights now carry a $2400 price tag, rivalling Stankards of only four years ago. And Paul is at a minimum of $4000 now, no doubt trying to dampen demand so that he can keep up.
From the Artists Reception, we segued into the Paperweight Fair Opening in the Heritage House. Here we found the major dealers and their displays: Gem Antiques by Jack and Else Feingold, Roger Jacobsen assisted by Ben Drabeck, Leo and Ruth Kaplan, Gary, Marge and Mabel McClanahan assisted by Colin and Debby Mahoney, Dan and Therese McNamara, Harvey and Doris Robinson, Roslyn Rose and her husband Lawrence, William Pitt (for the first time at Paperweight Weekend), Bill Burchfield and, of course, Larry and Marti Selman. Altogether, probably 6000 weights, books and related items were available for our perusal and we made the most of it. Unfortunately, the good time had by all that evening was momentarily shattered when a glass shelving system in the McClanahan booth cracked, gave way and tens of paperweights “came tumbling down.” I was standing in the very next booth, the Robinsons’, when this happened and the sound of breaking glass was heart-stopping. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, help with clean up and salvage was immediately offered and Gary, of course, was insured for this untoward event. More about this later. It had been a long first day of Paperweight Weekend and by 10:30 PM when the Paperweight Fair closed, we were ready for our king bed in the non-smoking second floor room of the Country Inn.
The next morning, Friday, May 19, dawned bright but cold, the temperature having dropped 25-30 degrees overnight. At 9 AM we headed over to the T.C. Wheaton Glass Factory, in a light drizzle that lasted most of the day, for a very nice Continental Breakfast, the program to begin there at 10 AM with two hours of torchwork demonstrations by the three Trabuccos. Barry Taylor, Director of Wheaton Village, welcomed attendees to Paperweight Weekend 2000 and introduced Victor, David and Jon Trabucco. Barry noted that Victor began working in glass in 1974 and his twin sons joined him in 1986. Two torches had been set up at one worktable on the Factory floor. At first, Victor and Jon worked at the torches, David narrating. While David stood off to the left narrating, Don Friel, Manager of the Glass Factory, manned the video camera, showing close-ups of what was happening at the two torches on six monitors mounted high up for the benefit of the gallery seating. For about 45 minutes, Victor crafted the pistils and stamens of a floral bouquet while Jon spent at least an hour and a quarter fabricating a crystal buffalo. During his narration, David remarked that Victor likes to experiment and Jon enjoys making animals but all three are proficient at all parts of any assembly. This involves their doing ALL their own cold work, grinding, polishing, laminating, whatever. Thus, they keep all costs of manufacture in-house. After a time, David and Victor traded places, Victor narrating and David continuing the floral bouquet work. While answering some funny questions from the gallery, Victor admitted that, at age 50, he wears magnifying sun/safety glasses while working at the torch but the twins, at 32, do not. He noted that a locked body position was no good for torch work and he has learned to shift positions when seated for lengthy periods of time. When Jon’s buffalo was complete but still attached to its crystal handling rod, Jon walked around the Factory floor, showing it off to those seated in the gallery audience. Many took pictures of the completed work. Then, Jon dumped it into a trashcan and an audible “Ooh!” went up from the crowd. Afterwards, Jon started work on a chess piece, which later met the same fate. Demonstrations by all three continued until noon when a Buffet Luncheon was set out in the Heritage House. Had the weather cooperated, this Luncheon would have been held outdoors, as in previous Weekends, but it was simply too cold, both Friday and Saturday, for dining al fresco. On the plus side, however, this was the best and tastiest food service we have experienced in our four Paperweight Weekend adventures (and we were not alone in this assessment).
At 1:45 PM, John D. Hawley, long-time collector, author, connoisseur, raconteur and current Editor of the PCA Bulletin, led off the formal lectures with a slide talk on “The Serendipity of Scrambles,” first explaining the absence of Paul and Karen Dunlop…it was their 20th anniversary and they were away celebrating. On his subject, John noted that originally scrambles were considered almost junk but closer examination of them could reveal some exciting and rewarding visions. The first known scrambles date from about 1845 and were produced by Giovanni Franchini. As John spoke, he showed slides illustrating his theme that close scrutiny of scramble weights is required to receive maximum benefit from their study. In his many years of research, he has found no Bohemian scrambles but showed a slide of a rarity…a Bacchus scramble!!! The New England Glass Company often made scramble weights and it is relatively easy to find them with “running rabbit” canes throughout. Some of John’s slides were the result of research conducted for his books “The Glass Menagerie: A Study of Silhouette Canes in Antique Paperweights” and “The Boston and Sandwich and New England Glass Companies,” one of Larry Selman’s series “The Art of the Paperweight.” As with any slide talk, you had to be there to appreciate the niceties about which John was speaking.
After a brief break, we were treated to a review by the Trabucco men of their history and developments in glass, under the title “Traditions and the Future.” The close comraderie between the three men allowed them to jump right in to one another’s speeches with additional detail and answers to questions from the floor. One almost incredible development shown in their slides was the revelation that they had recently built their three homes, by themselves (!), on the same tract of land outside Buffalo, NY. Also discussed and shown in their slides was their most recent innovation, called “Veneer Reflections,” in which a squared section of crystal containing lampworked elements is laminated between huge, relatively speaking, blocks of clear glass. The optics and dimensionality of the huge work results in constantly shifting images of the lampworked elements in the central block. No other glass artist is working in this form currently.
At 3:30 PM, the Paperweight Fair re-opened in the Heritage House. With so much imput into the program by the Trabuccos, I predicted that that the dealers would do a land office business in their weights. Sure enough, my beloved quickly fulfilled my prophecy by acquiring a blueberry floral weight by the twins, the same piece they had shown and worked on that morning in the Glass Factory. As we explored the dealers’ booths, with our fingers crossed against any other unpleasant occurrence, I spied an antique Baccarat “Fireworks” weight with a super large center cane that “sang” to me. Actually, on viewing this weight, I heard in my head something like a Wagnerian opera, serious music accompanied by a serious price, $8000. Needless to say, the Baccarat did not go home with me.
Dinner that evening was “on your own” and we soon found ourselves in a group of seven mostly DVPCA members (Krugers, Englands, Andy Dohan, Karen and Richard Federici) heading for an Italian restaurant off Exit 32 of Route 55 in Vineland, NJ, about 10 minutes from Wheaton Village. Surprisingly for a Friday night, we had no wait but were seated immediately, enjoying the company and the food, the latter, too well! I gained back four pounds at Paperweight Weekend and at this writing have been unsuccessful in losing them! During our absence from the Village, there had been a reception in the Gallery of American Craft for the exhibit and sale there entitled “2000 Flowers.” What we heard later about the food service at this reception made us wonder whether dinner out had been a wise decision.
At 7 PM, back in the T. C. Wheaton Glass Factory, the four Spring Fellows of the Creative Glass Center of America (CGCA) presented slide shows of their work and later demonstrated their glass working skills and special projects. Although three are from distant locations, Gary Andolina from Seattle, WA, Carole Frere from Quebec and Jeff Zimmerman from Brooklyn, NY, we were pleased to see that the fourth, Magan Stevens, was a local, from Philadelphia.
Since the Paperweight Fair was closing early that evening, at 9:30 PM, we hurried from the Glass Factory back to the Heritage House to catch the last half hour or so. Although Friday had been another long day, we were still not through at 9:30 when the Fair closed. Instead we visited the Country Inn accommodations of two artists who had laid out their glassware on beds and counters in their rooms. At the second visit, I bought my beloved a paperweight button she spent at least fifteen minutes selecting. Then, finally and thankfully, we were done for the day. It was 10:30 PM and we had been up and about since 6 AM.
Did I mention that after a pretty Thursday, the weather turned cold and drizzly, most unusual for mid-May Paperweight Weekends? Well, we weren’t finished with water problems yet. At 8 AM on Saturday, the water at the Country Inn turned brown and dirty. Luckily, Toby had already showered but I was stuck. As we walked to the 9 AM Continental Breakfast, this time in the Heritage House, we saw a City of Millville truck and work crew flushing out a hydrant in the parking lot outside the Heritage House, and later learned that the problem was soon corrected.
One of the Weekend’s most interesting sessions was the 10 AM Panel Discussion, moderated by Kathy Moyer, former Editor of the PCA Bulletin and current PCA Vice President: “10 Most Important Paperweight Events of the Century 1900-2000.” Marshall Deitsch, well-known California collector, led off, Dave Letterman fashion, with his list of events in reverse order of importance. Number 10 was the development (or re-development) of modern millefiori techniques by Gary and Doris Scrutton of Parabelle Glass. Both are now retired but their daughter Julie Scrutton Lewis is carrying on the millefiori tradition (and one can see Gary’s fine hand in her output). Number 9 was the donation of two major paperweight collections to public institutions, in 1958 by Evangeline Bergstrom to the institution now known as the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, WI, and in 1978 by Arthur Rubloff to the Chicago Art Institute. These two major donations for the first time brought paperweights to the attention of the general art-oriented public. Number 8 was the inventing and perfecting of cold glass fabricating techniques by Barry Sautner, who took his equipment and methods from the dental mold sandblasting process…a truly unique artistic development. Number 7 was the development of the home studio glass artist movement, spurred by the contributions of Dominic Labino and Harvey K. Littleton. Now we have those glass “hockey pucks,” Marshall’s term for blanks of optical crystal, used almost exclusively by the likes of Ayotte, the Banfords, the Tarsitanos and the Trabuccos (alphabetical order only) during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Number 6 was Paul Stankard’s solitary decision to invent new and original paperweight designs and insisting that weights do not always have to be round! Number 5 was the discovery in 1951 of the Baccarat closepack millefiori piece, known universally as “the church weight,” which was the major antecedent of all paperweight development in the century’s second half. Two towering figures from the 1930’s and 1940’s occupy slots 4 and 3; Paul Ysart and Charles Kaziun, Jr. both recreated lost weight making techniques, Paul in Scotland and Charles here in the U.S. Number 2 was the formation in 1953 of the Paperweight Collectors Association by Paul Jokelson, providing a forum and a rallying point for weight collectors worldwide. Finally, Number 1, and the most recent event in time, was the creation of the on-line paperweight auction (read eBay), which permits collectors to view thousands of paperweights, good and bad, daily, interact with each other via email and become part of a vast electronic community.
James Lefever, a paperweight collector since 1980, with specialized collections in two areas, pansy weights and paperweight-related objects, Past President of PCA and a member of DVPCA, was next. His list of the ten most important events of the last century was in no particular order. At Number 1 was the formation by Paul Jokelson of the Paperweight Collectors Association in 1953. At Number 2 were the four auctions in 1952 and 1953 of the collection of Mrs. Applewaite-Abbott, many of which weights formed the core of other famous collections. Also, famed, at the time, Sotheby’s auctioneer Timothy H. Clarke (1913-1995) developed new terminology for these auctions to describe paperweights that made the auction catalogs landmarks and guideposts for subsequent paperweight sales. Clarke’s list of paperweight definitions was first published in the May, 1954 PCA Bulletin, Vol. I No. I, under the title “Notes on a Terminology of French Paperweights.” [Editor’s Note: If enough interest is expressed, we would be happy to reprint Clarke’s “Notes” in a future DVPCA Newsletter.] At Number 3 Jim placed Larry Selman’s debut as a paperweight dealer (1969) and Larry’s establishment of Paperweight Press, which has been instrumental in disseminating information about paperweights worldwide. At Number 4 stands the towering figure of Paul Ysart, the progenitor of the entire Scottish paperweight movement. At Number 5 Jim lists the 1969 publication of “the Bible,” Paul Hollister’s Encyclopedia of Glass Paperweights.” It is the one volume most avid paperweight collectors would choose as reading material if they were to be stranded on a desert island. At Number 6 is Evangeline Bergstrom’s donation of her paperweight collection to the Neenah, WI museum which now bears her name and her publication of the first latter day book in the field, “Old Glass Paperweights.” These two events, combined, “brought paperweights out of the woodwork and into the light of day.” At Number 7 is the other towering maker, Charles Kaziun, Jr., the leader of the modern American paperweight artist movement and the creator of paperweight techniques based in a studio rather than a factory setting. At Number 8 is the invention of the crimp, probably in America and possibly about 150 years ago. At Number 9 Jim lists Stuart Drysdale, the country lawyer in Scotland who, in 1969, founded Perthshire Paperweights, resulting in the production of a broad line of less expensive weights, making them more accessible to the general public. And, at Number 10 is the creation of the on-line auction, bringing thousands of paperweights to the auction block for all to see EVERY DAY. Jim recognizes that there is a lot of junk on eBay but emphasizes that the on-line weight auction provides an introduction for many who would never otherwise seek out paperweights.
The next panel discussant was Ben Drabeck, former Education Director of the PCA and a retired college professor. Ben stated that his approach to the subject was pedagogic and his list was in chronological order, making no mention, this time, of the Internet’s influence on paperweights. Nor did he find any connection between Ysart and Kaziun. The first event was Kaziun’s rediscovery of technique in 1942 at the University of Pennsylvania and his decision to do all the work himself, using only a torch, not glass from a furnace. The second event in time was the invention at Corning of a new torch design for working Pyrex glass. The third event was the donation in 1958 of the Evangeline Bergstrom paperweight collection to the Neenah, WI museum, followed by Arthur Rubloff’s donation to the Chicago Art Institute 20 years later. The fourth event, a collective one, was the publication of important books, between 1940 and 1970 roughly, by Bergstrom, Jokelson and Hollister. The fifth event, in the early 1950’s, was Paul Jokelson’s alliance with the two great French factories, Baccarat and Saint Louis, and his formation of the Paperweight Collectors Association. The sixth event was the production by Saint Louis in 1973 of a magnificent 55-pound piedouche presented to Jokelson, spurring the creation of super magnums by contemporary artists. The seventh event, during the decade of the 1970’s, was the emergence of incredibly important makers…the Banfords, the Tarsitanos, Rick Ayotte and, of course, Paul Standard. The eighth event was Stankard’s success in bridging the gap between the paperweight craft world and the fine art glass world. The ninth event was Larry Selman’s establishment of Paperweight press, in 1970, and his publication of his first book, Paperweights for Collectors, in 1975. The tenth event occurred when Stuart Drysdale fell in love with paperweights and founded Perthshire Paperweights, bringing a broad range of more affordable weights to a greater audience than ever before.
As panel moderator, it fell to Kathy Moyer, Editor of the PCA Bulletin from 1986-1996, and a collector since 1981, to summarize the panel’s findings. She noted that her first two events were in chronological order and the eight remaining were in order of importance. First was the revival of classical paperweight making techniques by Paul Ysart, around 1932. Second was Charles Kaziun, Jr.’s invention of torchwork, about a decade later. The most important of the eight remaining in her list was the founding of PCA by Paul Jokelson. The fourth was Paul Hollister’s publication, The Encyclopedia of Glass Paperweights (1969) and the recognition of the annual PCA Bulletin as a national prize-winning volume. Fifth were the great paperweight collections either sold or donated to major institutions (Applewaite-Abbott, Bergstrom, Rubloff) and the great 1978 Corning exhibit, “Flowers Which Clothe the Meadows,” all bringing attention to the world of paperweights. Sixth was the contribution by Sotheby’s auctioneer Timothy H. Clarke in first developing a standardized glossary of terms to describe the great paperweight auctions in the early 1950’s (Applewaite-Abbott, King Farouk, Maurice Lindon, etc.). Seventh was the formation of the three distinct groups associated with paperweights: dealers, artists and buyers, with Larry Selman being one of the major dealers. Eighth were the conventions, meetings, exhibits and other affairs that bring paperweight devotees together. At Number 9, Kathy listed the creation and maturation of the entire studio art glass movement, which allowed individual artists to develop designs, techniques, forms and various innovations all on their own. Tenth were the myriad technical advances made over time: the crimp, compound weights, dimensionality of forms, development of various tools essential to the glass trade, and so forth.
Before the next session began, Dr. Julius Tarshis, long-time President of the New York PCA Chapter, was given the floor. He urged everyone to attend PCA’s Convention next year at Corning, NY, Wednesday, May 15 through Saturday, May 18, with related activities (tours and glass working) from Monday through Sunday of that week. His wife, Dena, who curated the special exhibit of paperweight-related objects to be on display then,
also wrote the accompanying catalog that will be given to each attendee at Convention.
A second panel discussion, at 11 AM, titled “Out of Round,” presented by Barry Taylor, consisted of glass artists Edward Poore, Randy Grubb and Rick Ayotte discussing their individual histories in glass working. Ed Poore, celebrating his 30th anniversary as an expert cutter, declared that paperweight makers are a different breed from paperweight cutters. He thought that these makers depart from the traditional round form in order to express their creative natures. As examples of non-traditional forms, Ed listed Randall Grubb’s “monstrous” (in size) cylindrical underwater scenes, Rick Ayotte’s “Flora Bowls,” and the new display domes from Bill Burchfield’s Cape Cod Glass Works. Despite the difficulty in adapting cutting techniques to these new forms, Ed welcomed the challenge they represented and vowed to continue his efforts to accommodate these innovations as they occur. Randall Grubb said he first became interested in glass in 1982, and in paperweights in 1985. Eventually, he arrived at his cylindrical forms, many of which weigh more than 20 pounds. He noted that there was a major difference between East Coast and West Coast paperweight makers; those in the East grew out of a scientific glassblowing tradition and those in the West, out of the art glass blowing movement. The learning process in working glass is important to Randy, which is why it has taken him 15 years of creating
paperweights to feel comfortable with the process. Rick Ayotte noted that he began in glass 31 years ago. He felt that collectors’ interest might wane if artists did not occasionally go off in new directions, such as his “Illusion” series and his “Flora Bowls.” He felt that these “out of round” experiments often added to the total knowledge of paperweight making skills enjoyed by the artist community.
Luncheon at noon was a “Deli to Go” box lunch distributed and eaten in the Heritage House (the cold weather, remenber). From that time until the Small Workshops began at 2 PM, attendees had their last opportunity to visit the dealers’ booths and make a selection. Toby has always wanted a Selman “Millennium Cube” and, as usual, I could not dissuade her, settling, instead, for insisting on the smallest size, at $90. The 2 PM afternoon program gave us a choice of two Small Workshops and I had signed us up for Gay Taylor’s “Frit Weights” and Bill Price’s “Pittsburgh’s Portrait Paperweights.” I regretted missing Jerry Gard speaking on “Paperweights and the Internet” but had spoken with him during the opening Glass Factory session the day before. By happenstance, Jerry sat next to me in the Factory gallery seating, our wives flanking us. He saw my name on my nametag and introduced himself to me. I was thrilled, as this man is a hero to me. A few months back, I began sending out messages to eBay vendors correcting their paperweight Item Descriptions, when my meager knowledge permitted, always copying Jerry, and usually Mark Smith as well; however, we had never met. During the Factory demonstrations, Jerry and I had a delightful, intermittent, conversation during which he told me most of what he was going to present at his Workshop. He is eBay’s unofficial “paperweight police” and is charged with correcting vendors who mislabel or incorrectly describe their paperweight listings. Ebay is, of course, concerned that customers get what they bargain for and is also concerned with “leveling the playing field” for both buyers and sellers; thus, Jerry’s role as “paperweight police.” Jerry said that 90 % of vendors contacted appreciate the corrections and change their Item Descriptions. However, a few become hostile, and he has even been threatened with law suits if he continues the practice, (I have had the same experience from one out of ten contacted, this one telling me to mind my own business and questioning whether I understood the nature of an “auction.” Jerry’s comment: An ‘auction” is NOT an opportunity to commit fraud, nor should fraud be attempted in front of so MANY witnesses, the thousands who may be viewing the on-line auction.) Jerry, in paperweights for some 27 years, a regular on the PCA’s ID panel at each Convention and a connoisseur of “serious” weights, has his personal eBay watching down to just a couple minutes a day! He brings up the listings ENDING TODAY, runs quickly down the column of NUMBER OF BIDS and looks for items with eight or more bids and over $100. Those relatively few paperweights that match these two criteria MAY be something that Jerry wants, because, let’s face it, the man has everything already! With this method of reviewing the paperweight listings, at the ending rather than at the beginning of the listing, he does not forewarn anyone of his interest in a piece and prices are, thus, not affected by his interest. So, it is always a shock when Jerry Gard beats you out at the last second. At least, after the fact, when this happens, you have confirmation of your good taste in paperweights! Small consolation, indeed! However, this is Jerry’s premier tactic and he freely offers it to any on-line paperweight collector.
At 2 PM, Toby and I settled into Building 8 (The Down Jersey Folklife Center) for Gay Taylor’s slide talk on frit weights. “Frit” comes from the Italian fritta meaning a mixture of materials to make glass. It originated in millefiori factories in 1860 but there are no references to frit in the literature between 1860 and 1880. Here in the States, Whitall Tatum workers made most of the early frit weights, after completing their assigned quota of blown molded bottles. White milk glass, known as opal glass in the trade, was a difficult material to work with, since it would eat out furnace linings. Gay showed slides of early Whitall Tatum catalogs of glass and bottle wares available 120 years ago, and of the Millville Working Man’s Institute, a stately building (later the City Hall) which is no longer standing. The earliest known date on a frit weight is July 4, 1882. A 1900 photo of Millville weights includes two of the frit variety. Gay showed how the images on frit weights were taken from decorations used on early lettering plates set into bottle molds to identify the product inside. She passed around lettering plates and metal dies, noting that today such a die or lettering plate would cost around $2000 to produce. Probably the most common decoration transferred from lettering plates to frit weights was the laurel wreath, often with a bow, found on many “Rock of Ages” frits. (In addition to the artifacts passed around, there was a display of weights, literature and artifacts spread out that could be handled before and after Gay’s talk.) The “Home Sweet Home” was a popular frit design, as were two varieties of “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,” “Friendship,” the aforementioned “Rock of Ages” in several versions and “Faith, Hope and Charity.” [Editor’s Note: It seems that a century ago, the social climate of this country was gentler, kinder and more religious than today.] German immigrant Michael Kane became a master of frit weights, circa 1905, and is famous for his ship weight. In 1903, a bottle-making machine was invented by Michael Owens, and glass gaffers were no longer needed to blow bottles into molds. By 1920, the machine ruled and frit weight making declined, to arise later in the 1950’s, promoted by Gentile Glass of West Virginia, and Edward Rithner. Gentile’s flying goose is a frit weight; Gentile also made many “Friendship” frit weights. Since the original metal dies still exist, one cannot assume that a frit weight discovered today is an antique, for it may have been made Tuesday!
At 3 PM, in Wheaton’s Administration Building, we were treated to Bill Price’s review of “Pittsburgh’s Portrait Weights.” Price, a Pittsburgh area attorney and collector of souvenir and advertising paperweights, 2000 (!) so far, stated that virtually nothing has been written about the Pittsburgh glass makers who developed portrait paperweights in the 1880’s and 1890’s. William H. Maxwell, a native of Ohio who settled in Pittsburgh, opened his first small glass factory in 1876. On June 15, 1882, he made application to the US Patent Office to secure a patent for the process he had invented for the manufacture of paperweights. Granted on September 5, 1882, this patent explains in detail how Maxwell would print a name, monogram, photograph or design on a thin plate of white glass and then place it into a mold so that molten glass could be used to encase the image. He formed Brown, Maxwell & Company to promote this product, which he termed “the eureka paperweight,” and assigned the patent to the company. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, in January, 1883, Brown, Maxwell & Company burned down and the company was sold off, Maxwell disappearing from the Pittsburgh glass scene. He was succeeded by another Pittsburgher, Albert A. Graeser, who went on to develop a completely different process for manufacturing portrait and advertising weights, explained in the patent issued to him on November 29, 1892. There are substantial differences in the Maxwell and Graeser domed portrait weights so that, even though unmarked, they often can be told apart. For one thing, the Maxwell patent process was used to produce one-of-a-kind images of ordinary people whereas the Graeser process was used for mass production. Also, there are physical differences between Maxwell and Graeser portrait weights. Maxwell dome weights have an unusual concave base, often with a small pontil scar. Graeser’s dome weights tend to be larger and always have flat bottoms and ground off pontils. Bill went on to show slides of a variety of plaque portrait weights, which fall into many different categories: those with a commercial orientation, such as the one picturing the founder of the Stetson Hat Company (we think); family portraits, such as today would be found in a photo album; memorial weights, as, unfortunately, the mortality rate for infants was much greater 120 years ago than today; political weights…there are many of President William McKinley both before and after the assassination; celebrity weights, of famous actors and actresses and Buffalo Bill, for example; but by far the greatest use of the Maxwell and Graeser patents was in the manufacture of glass advertising weights, usually in a rectangular format measuring 4” by 2 _” by 1” thick. Bill ended with a fascinating story. In the early 1980’s, he spotted two portrait weights at a tag sale at the Pittsburgh residence of Eulahlia Howard. One of these contained a portrait of the owner, Eulahlia Howard, born October 20, 1893. The other contained an image of her sister, Bernice Howard, born October 31, 1896. Eulahlia actually had not intended to sell these two until she saw how much Bill liked them. She told him that her parents had named her after the Spanish princess who had visited the Chicago Columbian Exposition the year she was born. Her father, Francis A. Howard, had worked as a glassblower for Kopp Glass in the Swissvale Borough outside Pittsburgh when she was a child. She was convinced that her father had made the two paperweights at Kopp Glass around the late 1890’s. Bill promised her then that if she sold the weights to him, he would cherish them and preserve their history. He has kept that promise.
The fourth Workshop, South Jersey Techniques, demonstrated in the T.C. Wheaton Glass Factory by Don Friel, Tony DePalma, Jen Pagliarini and Joe Mattson, we had to miss completely, unfortunately, but the two Workshops we attended were well worth the price of admission to the entire Weekend.
Beginning at 4 PM, we were free until 6:30, when the cocktail hour was to begin. This break gave me time to shower (now that the Country Inn water was clear again) and for us to rest our weary bones before changing into dress-up clothes for the closing banquet. Again, it was too cold to locate the cocktail hour on the Lakeside Lawn, as in the program, so we headed for the Heritage House, now clear of the dealers’ booths and ready for our sit-down final event. During the cocktail hour, I managed to take a number of pictures of people important to us, some of which decorate this article. Dinner was an excellent surf and turf combination, completing the impression of the best food service so far at a Paperweight Weekend. Many announcements were made before, during and after dinner, and a huge number of door prizes were awarded. It MUST have been a huge number because even yours truly won something…wouldn’t you know it, another Millennium Cube, donated by Larry Selman. I later thanked him. Gary McClanahan addressed the group to bring everyone up-to-date on “the crashing paperweights” from Thursday night. He thanked the Trabucco men for being immediately available with assistance and noted that Jon and David had already repaired several of the weights slightly injured in the accident. One Baccarat antique “rock” weight had split apart so Gary now knows what is under those sandy mounds…nothing! He described the courage of Bonnie Geiger, of Beaver, PA (an attendee at DVPCA’s 7th Anniversary Celebration Weekend last July) who tried, soccer-fashion, to field some of the falling weights with her leg, and was cut in the process. For her efforts, Gary presented Bonnie with one of the paperweights that survived intact. DVPCA member Judy Crawley was named “Bubble Queen” for the paperweight she had made on Thursday incorporating individually selected grains of colored glass along with multitudes of randomly placed tiny bubbles. And our Candid Photographer, Diane Atkerson won for “Most Colorful Weight” made during this Weekend.
From 9:30 to about 10:15 PM, entertainment was provided by Steve DeFelice, who used to perform a medicine show act at Wheaton Village during special events. He was brought back this time to act as M.C. of “The Not-So-Newly-Wed Game” in which three mature couples, including Harvey and Doris Robinson from our table, were brought forward and, as in the namesake TV game, were asked questions to see how much agreement existed between the life partners. Steve made this a funny bit, and much laughter ensued during the playing of this game. As might be expected, one couple ended up with very little agreement, the Robinsons agreed about half the time, but one couple, married about 60 years, I believe, almost always agreed on their answers to the questions put to them. Again, you had to be there.
At the conclusion of the entertainment, we said our goodbyes and headed for Room 237, since we were staying over to meet with Kenneth J. Leap at the Stained Glass Studio on Sunday. The next morning, we met DVPCA members David and Helen Horn on our way to breakfast at The Paper Waiter Restaurant attached to the Country Inn. We asked them to join us and they did. We spent a delightful hour at breakfast, listening to their life stories; they have been married about 60 years also and have such an interesting history together. Afterwards, while walking over to the Stained Glass Studio where Kenneth was to meet us at 11 AM, we ran across William Drew Gaskill, coming from the Glass Factory where he had just made a paperweight. He and I had been emailing back and forth for eight months or so and I had been eager to meet him face-to-face. (Let me say something here: Bill Gaskill is huge, perhaps 6’ 4” and 300 pounds; Bill Price is also large, 6’ 1” and maybe 240 pounds. John Hawley and Andy Dohan are each 6’ 4” or so, Jim Lefever is no slouch in the size department, and Toby and I spent time with all of them during Paperweight Weekend, thinking we were in the Land of the Giants for a few days there.) Take my word for it…Bill Gaskill is a TRIP! Highly intelligent, witty, verbose, focussed, the owner of the 500+ frit collection mentioned earlier, and paperweights are not all he collects. A computer whiz and resident of Silicon Valley, he is constantly in travel status and carries a laptop computer with him to keep abreast of eBay auctions. Anyway, we asked him to wait with us for Ken Leap to arrive and he did. With Ken, we five, since Judy Crawley had joined us, had an hour-long tour of the Stained Glass Studio, Ken’s current and future projects, his plans for turning the front part of the Studio space into a permanent exhibit on the history of stained glass, and others of his fascinating endeavors. He provided the tool for Judy to use in signing her name to the weight she had made. He is a sweet and very talented soul and we hope he stays at Wheaton Village for a long time to come. It was now about 12:15 PM. Bill G. had to leave for the Newark Airport and we were ready to head for home, also. We said goodbye for the second time and this time meant it.
On the drive home, my beloved asked me what was the best part of Paperweight Weekend, for me. My answer: “The people.” When you have the opportunity to interact with such as Bill Gaskill, John Hawley, Jerry Gard, Jim Lefever, Dr. Ed Sheldon, Joe Hutt, Andy Dohan, Helen and David Horn, Gay and Barry Taylor, Marjorie and Richard Parsons, Clarence Brunner, Bill Price, Richard and Karen Federici, Gordon Smith and Paul Stankard, Ken Rosenfeld and Jim Donofrio, Harvey and Doris Robinson, Gary and Marge McClanahan, Colin and Debby Mahoney, Larry and Marti Selman, the Englands, the Reids, the Browns, the Banfords, and many others too numerous to mention, you are privileged, indeed. What do you know? She agreed!!!