For more than 300 years, itinerant glassworkers entertained and educated crowds on the art, science, and skill of glassmaking, and the dizzying array of wonders that could be made of glass. Known to many during their heyday, they have quickly faded from view.

This site documents the history of itinerant glassworkers, their demonstrations, and the world around them.

Itinerant glassworkers, likely Mrs. and Mr. F.A. Owen, stand behind a table covered in lampworked glass.

Glass Exhibition Featuring Spinning Wheel and Glass Steam Engine, 1904. Collection of the Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, CMGL 131372.

What is an itinerant glassworker?

An itinerant glassworker is a lampworker (or flameworker) who traveled from town to town performing for audiences, much like a member of a circus or a traveling theater troupe. These artisans contributed to a tradition that lives on today in flameworking demonstrations at museums, studios, and other attractions.

A typical itinerant glassworker show included three main elements: (1) demonstrations of lampworking techniques such as glassblowing, spinning, and working; (2) showpieces such as elaborate glass models and scientific experiments; and (3) displays of glass objects that audiences could purchase or were given with the price of admission. Additional entertainments included lectures, live music, dancing, and competitions for glass prizes.

About the site

This site provides information about itinerant glassworkers and context for their lives and livelihoods.

About the author

My name is Rebecca Hopman. I am an archivist and historian who fell into this corner of history by chance. Find more of my work on itinerant glassworkers (and other subjects) on my website.


Many images on this site come from library, archives, and museum collections, and are credited as such. I do not own the rights to these images and therefore cannot give permission for others to use them. The same applies to images from subscription databases and Wikimedia Commons. If you would like to use an image on this site, please contact the holding repository or individual noted in the title or caption.

Creative Commons LicenseIf you would like to use an image labeled as an “author image,” you may do so unless otherwise noted using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please credit the source so others can find this site.

The rotating images in the site banner all come from the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass.

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