In 1904, the Potomac Glass Co. was started. It was located along the west side of Wills Creek in the center of Cumberland, between Market Street and Washington / Baltimore Street. The area where the factory was built had been known as the "Carnival Ground". This factory had an excellent life that lasted for 25 years. The product line included common clear hotel and barware, a broad selection of hand blown stemware with hand formed stems, more sophisticated mold formed stems, and also some press mold products. They did glass decorating with cutting, acid etching and even engraving in the early years. Click on the photo at left to see a larger image.
Their advertisements had the following statement: "Our specialties are hand-blown Stemware, Cut Flute Tumblers, Deep Etched Tumblers, and White Acid Etched Tumblers". The following is an explanation of these products. The hand blown stemware included several colors with hand made and pulled stems, along with "Hokey-Pokey" molded stems. The hand made stems were made from additional glass added to the bowl after the bowl was blown. Then, more glass was added to the bottom of the stem for the Foot Setter to form the foot. The bowl was blown as a hollow cylinder, which was snapped off of the blow pipe when the item was finished. The item was then transferred to the lehr for controlled cooling or annealing. Glassware must be annealed if it is going to have a long life. Otherwise, it could shatter at anytime. When cooled, the stemware is scored around the perimeter of the desired bowl and a touch of heat separates the bowl from the blow-over. The bowl is then ground and finally fire polished for safety. The pulled stem was made from excess glass left on the bottom of the bowl when it was blown. The foot was then formed with additional glass added. This procedure was quicker and no additional glass was required for the stem. The molded stem was made in a small mold when hot glass was forced into it from a cylinder below. The mold was then opened, and the stem was attached to the bowl. The foot was formed from additional glass added to the bottom of the stem. These types of molded stems were know as "Hokey-Pokey" stems as named by the glass blowers in the Cumberland area. These skilled glass blowers making hand blown stemware were not thrilled to be using a mold to make their stemware. They also had a very low opinion about those glass workers in the press molding shop where everything was made by pressing glass in molds.
The cut fluted tumblers were cut with concave grooves around the outside near the base as shown in the catalog. This was an expensive method of attaining this type fluting when a fluted press mold would have made the same thing. But, then, the tumbler would not be hand blown. The deep etched tumblers were decorated with acid plate etching which looks somewhat like a pressed glass design. To start, the design is engraved on a metal plate in reverse. The desired designs are the high points of the engraving. A thin layer of resist is then applied to the plate and the excess removed to leave the desired design with no resist. The resist is then transferred to the tumbler or stemware using a thin tissue type paper. The paper is removed and the item is dipped in acid. By using a longer exposure to the acid or by using a stronger acid, the design can be made deeper into the glass. It is even possible to have a double plate design, where one design is deeper than the other. Because of the extra work (double dip) to this type of decorating, there are not a lot of examples of double plate designs to be found.
The final type of goods mentioned in the advertisement are white acid etched tumblers. These are the surface type of acid etching design, the same method as used by George Truog at the Maryland Glass Etching Co. The resulting product has a white appearance, which stands out and is easily visible. This method is explained in the George Truog section.
Another source of items made at the Potomac Glass Works, (known locally as "The Potomac") is a catalog called the "Catalogue of Pure Lead Blown Tumblers and Stemware / All Goblets Fire Finished Edges / Goblets and Stemware Hand Made / Cut Whiskies a Specialty". The catalog has 29 pages of the goods made at "The Potomac". The catalog infers that most of the wares were made of lead glass. They offered the fire polished edge which was a safety feature over ground edges, and they offered whiskies with cut glass decoration. The catalog shows several pages of the acid etching designs offered by "The Potomac". It is known that George Truog had some input into the Potomac etching designs because there was a design patent let to George Truog that is assigned to the Potomac Glass Co.
Additional products can be determined by inspecting the artifacts or discarded broken glass from the factory dump. Although this is not as definitive as a catalog, it can give an idea of additional products. Shown elsewhere are the different types of stemware stems made at "The Potomac" as defined by recovered artifacts. These artifacts also define the colors produced. Artifacts were found with the deep acid etching designs which include the gold rim decoration. Before this find, it was thought that only The Maryland Glass Company made the gold rim stemware and tumblers. But we now know that The Potomac also made some gold rim decorated stemware and tumblers. We recovered an example of the medallion or minton style design for the gold rim. This allows the assumption that they also had additional acid etching gold rim designs. The minton design that Potomac used is different than that of Maryland Glass Co. It takes close inspection to see the difference of the two.
Artifacts were also found of typical plain pressed depression glass. Unfortunately, the examples are not large enough to define any of the exact products, and without a catalog, I cannot elaborate on that part of the production line. The glassworkers interviewed during this research effort would have not so nice things to say about the glass workers from the press mold shop. They felt that the pressed mold workers really were not glass blowers and that they had inferior skills. From this we can see the reference to a shop at the glass factory which made everything by press molding instead of by hand. But just what these products were is presently not known.
From artifacts found at the factory dump, it can be determined that they made dinnerware which had rings around the outside or plate lip. They made regular dinner plates, sandwich plates, saucers, center piece bowls and cups in several different colors, including amber, pink, and light blue. We were fortunate to find the site of this factory dump, since it had been elusive to glass collecting enthusiasts for many years. Factory dump artifacts indicate there were several different types of molded stem designs made by The Potomac.
The Potomac Glass Company was represented at the 1910 Annual Glass Exhibit at Pittsburgh. They had their display set up at the Seventh Avenue Hotel by their representative Geo. S. Pugh. The line of deep etched goods was said to be especially attractive.
The Potomac had various design patents on items they made. Some were on stemware etching designs, candle holders, and they had a patent on a glass process.
The end came to the Potomac Glass Co. by fire in 1929.
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