Marked as a pair

Two strikingly similar blown and cut nine inch tall pitchers left a Midwestern glasscutter's shop together in the 1840s, marked as a pair.

Each is marked with a small scratched number '5' to the right of its upper handle attachment.

Small scratched numbers were more normally used to relate stoppers and decanters as part of a fine table service. Each stopper was made to fit its decanter tightly using a stoppering lathe. As the stopper rotated inside the neck of its decanter, abrasives allowed each to shape and then polish the other, leading to a fit that was not only tight but unique to that specific stopper and decanter. As a result, stoppers were not interchangable. Simple scratched numbers speeded the matching up of stoppers with decanters if they were ever separated.

The numbering of other articles, such as these pitchers, must have served a different purpose — not fitting, but matching.

A matched pair was not so much made as selected. Blown, shaped and finished by hand, it took an unreasonable amount of effort to make just one pair of closely similar pieces. However, most of the 50 or 100 pitchers resulting from a larger production run could be quickly paired up. Marking the selected pairs helped keep them together. Whether that happened before or after the pitchers were sent to the cutter is uncertain.

This particular pair was most likely made in Pittsburgh or Wheeling in the 1840s or late 1830s. The broad cut flute-over-flute decoration was typical of this period throughout America and England.