New England glass companies were the first to develop methods for pressing glass, but manufactories west of the Alleghenies quickly embraced the new technology. By the late 1820s, “glasshouses” were established in the river cities of Pittsburgh and Wheeling. This fanciful pane is a rare, early example of fine glass production in western Virginia. It features lively flowers and a robust thistle – suggestive of the region’s Scots-Irish heritage – and a side-wheel steamboat that makes its way beneath an oversize American flag. Besides conveying passengers, such packet ships transported commodities to markets along the nation’s waterways.
Panes of this size were typically set into doors, cupboards, or lanterns. While there is no documentation of the intended use for this piece, an 1836 advertisement for a Pittsburgh glass company promoted “pressed panes for steamboats.” And, indeed, the pictured steamboat sparkles with small windows.
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