Francis Wynn's Excavations at Sandwich and their Interpretation

Deming Jarves' choice of remote and rural Cape Cod as the location of his Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory was an advantage not only during its operation, but for the bolstering of its reputation among glass scholars during the first half of the 20th Century.

Successive generations of property developers disturbed and covered the sites of the perhaps equally prodigious urban factories of Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Jersey City, the Pittsburgh area and Wheeling, leaving little accessible material for archeological study. As such, the attribution of pieces to most of the major lead glass factories has required considerable ingenuity and scholarship.

In contrast, when Francis Wynn of Sandwich uncovered a hoard of glass fragments beneath an old brick floor in the mid-1930s, glass scholars were able to painstakingly assemble a clear picture of glass made in the factory's early years. Since the floor belonged to a building appearing on an 1849 surveyors map, and likely built around 1836, it is assumed that most of the fragments were made at Sandwich between its opening in 1825 and the 1836 construction of the building.

Prior to their examination, Wynn's fragments were acquired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Early interpretations of Wynn's findings include:

A Most Important Discovery at Sandwich
Charles W. Green. The Magazine Antiques, August 1937
The initial public announcement of the find, with illustrations of early pressed glass attributable to Sandwich based upon the M.I.T. fragments.
Cup-Plate Fragments Excavated at Sandwich
Lura Woodside Watkins. The Magazine Antiques, September 1938
Cup plate molds attributable to Sandwich based on the M.I.T. fragments.
Interpreting the Sandwich Fragments
Homer Eaton Keyes. The Magazine Antiques, September 1938
An entertaining discussion of the perils of attributing glass based on overly slim evidence.
Blown Three-Mold Fragments Excavated at Sandwich
Helen McKearin. The Magazine Antiques, May 1939
The largest attributable group of molds in Blown Three-Mold glass.
American Glass
George S. McKearin and Helen McKearin. Crown. 1941
Sandwich Blown-Three Mold glass identified from the M.I.T. fragments is discussed on pages 278-282.
Sandwich pressed glass identified from the M.I.T. fragments is discussed on pages 353-363.

These interpretations of Wynn's finds swept aside earlier assumptions about glass production at Sandwich. Even as Sandwich's importance was confirmed, attributions to Sandwich became less sweeping. Much American glass made between 1825 and 1840 remained to be attributed. The likely importance of the urban lead glass factories became more apparent.

A final word of caution. Attributions to Sandwich made before Wynn's excavations - including the following by the unfortunate Homer Eaton Keyes - should be treated with suspicion:

Sandwich Lacy Glass
Homer Eaton Keyes. The Magazine Antiques, August 1933
Writing before Wynn made his discoveries, Keyes is overly eager to attribute lacy glass to "Yankee ingenuity and commercial alertness."
While many of these pieces were made at Sandwich, many are now assumed to be from Pittsburgh. And yet Keyes was merely expressing common wisdom in stating that "For reasons that need not be rehearsed [all lacy glass] may be credited to the factory at Sandwich."