In January 2019, I was fortunate enough to organize an event about itinerant glassworkers at The Corning Museum of Glass. Their Behind the Glass lecture series was the perfect way to introduce the topic to hundreds of attendees (and now thousands more viewers on YouTube). In addition to my presentation on the history of itinerant glassworkers, the evening featured a lecture and demonstration from lampworker Bandhu Dunham and demonstrations by lampworkers David Sandidge, Caitlin Hyde, and Eric Goldschmidt.
Here is our modern take on an itinerant glassworker performance:
The program for the evening was as follows:
- 00:00:05: Glass spinning demonstration, Eric Goldschmidt
- 00:01:10: “Curiosity Highly Gratified: An Illustrated Lecture on the Most Interesting History of Itinerant Glassworkers,” Rebecca Hopman
- 00:19:05 (and ongoing): Loop-stitch pirate ship demonstration, David Sandidge1
- 00:22:00: “Kinetic Glass Sculpture” lecture, Bandhu Dunham
- 00:48:15 (and ongoing): Steam-powered magnifying glass demonstration, Bandhu Dunham
- 00:53:42 (and ongoing): Hollowed pig demonstration, Caitlin Hyde
- 00:55:53 (and ongoing): Crystal-clear decanter demonstration, Eric Goldschmidt
- 00:56:50 to end: additional footage of demonstrations
The troupe members were:
- Bandhu Dunham, The Prince of Glass Blowers
- Eric Goldschmidt, The Champion Glass Blower of the World
- Caitlin Hyde, Lady Glass Blower and Artiste in Glass
- David Sandidge, The Unique Crystal Manipulator
- Steve Gibbs, The Master of Ceremonies
- Rebecca Hopman, Lecturer and Proprietor
Corrections and updates
Of course, the history of itinerant glassworkers is still a developing field, and new information surfaces all the time. In addition to sharing this video, I’d like to include the following corrections and updates to my presentation:
- 00:06:08: The slide of American-born glassworkers features an advertisement for Samuel Owen. While Owen emigrated to the United States at a young age and became a naturalized citizen, he was born in England.
- 00:08:21: It’s true that the Woodroffe brothers were not Bohemian, but George and Charles Woodroffe were born in England, not the United States. Younger brother William was born an American citizen in New York state.
- 00:13:45: A few nuances about the Howells. Robert Howell Sr. told many stories about how he came to be an itinerant glassworker, and seeing a glass steam engine at a state fair is perhaps the most romantic. It’s very possible this is true, but equally possible that he made it up at a later date. I also mention that Grace Howell learned to lampwork as early as the age of six. Like her father and her siblings, Grace varies the details of her beginnings as an itinerant glassworker. I have since found a reference that Grace began lampworking at age five. Again, it’s equally possible this is the truth or an exaggeration. In each case, it may be impossible to find the truth.
- 00:14:08: Nora Allen sold Excelsior and Columbia to Robert Howell Sr. (instead of gifting them to him).
- 00:14:50: Grace Howell’s Bluebird of Happiness is one of two pieces of glass currently connected to specific itinerant glassworkers in the museum’s collection. The other is Diorama of English Stag Hunt made by Charles David Aubin.
- 00:15:25: A clarification about this slide and Nona Deakin. The slide shows two black-and-white photographs: the left features Robert Howell Jr. and his wife Marie Howell; the right features Grace Deakin and John Deakin. Grace was John’s second wife, who he married several years after Nona’s death. John Deakin learned lampworking from the Howells, so Nona did not marry into a lampworking family, her connection enabled the family to become so.
- 00:16:09: Nona Deakin died in 1944, several years before John and his second wife Grace moved to Florida to set up their business.
You can learn more about the featured itinerant glassworkers from my presentation – Charles Woodroffe, Nora Allen, and Grace Howell – on this site, as well as the Woodroffe, Allen, and Howell families. Additional information about the other glassworkers, experiments, and trends mentioned in the lecture is also available (search the site for more).
Thanks for this event go to Karol Wight, director of The Corning Museum of Glass; museum staff Kris Wetterlund, Eric Meek, and Steve Gibbs; the amazing staff of the Rakow Research Library; the museum’s events and A/V staff; and of course my fellow presenters, in particular Eric Goldschmidt, who was my partner in organizing this evening. While this was a one-time event, I’d love to see The Grand Bohemian Troupe of Fancy Glass Workers reunite again!