Wednesday, December 16, 2020

 A LOOK AT THE EARLY SAN FRANCISCO GLASS WORKS

 

The year of 1860 was a truly historical milestone for the early manufacture of glass in San Francisco, including the entire West Coast. The partnership of Francis Cutting and Augustus Baker had already produced a small amount of pickle bottles by late in 1859 but, with no experience in glass making, this attempt was extremely challenging for them. The reject rate for passable bottles must have been quite high but it appears that Baker was still optimistic about success. Judging from Baker leaving their partnership in the pickle business, and forming a separate partnership in the California Glass Works, with Cutting, it would appear that both were still hoping the venture would work but Cutting was not willing to impact the assets of the pickle business if the glass works venture failed.

 

Daily Alta California, January 3, 1860



The only known intact specimen of the Baker and Cutting pickle jar, blown in 1859.



A surprisingly large number of the Baker & Cutting pickle bottles have been excavated over the years, except all but one have been found in pieces.

The partners earnestly continued their quest for a successful glass works in an environment that was new to such a venture. Expertise was not easy to find in California and their search for competent glass blowers was extended as far away as Wheeling, Virginia.

 

After a month of trials Baker and Cutting placed this advertisement in The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer of Wheeling, Virginia. The ad ran for most of February and March 1860.

It is not known if the plea for experienced bottle blowers was successful, but it is evident that Francis Cutting became weary of the mounting expenses involved in getting the glass works to a point of success. He apparently decided to cut his losses and ended his partnership with Baker in the San Francisco Glass Works at the end of February 1860.

 

                                                 Daily Alta California, March 5, 1860

To say that A.D. Baker is not well documented in the record while he was operating the San Francisco Glass Works is an understatement, as newspaper information about this new and important California venture is quite scarce. The attempt to produce good glass for the bottling of their food products finally caused Francis Cutting to abandon the project as noted by the dissolution of their partnership in the glass works on February 29, 1860. Baker continued on his own, and whether he was ready to operate a fully functioning glass works as a profitable venture is a cause for speculation – but he decided to open for business anyway in early March 1860. This was most likely a move of desperation, for surely, he was heavily in debt at this point. Regardless, in the next few weeks Baker produced a number of historically significant bottles, most of which were not lettered, which does make it difficult to identify them. Just three embossed medicine bottles were found in the wastage area of the works in such a quantity as to assume that they had to have been blown at this factory.







 


Photos of some of the bottle types found in the 'wastage area' of the San Francisco Glass Works, including liquor, insulators, soda and wine bottles. The last two pictures includes a batch of glass sand ready for the furnace. It includes selected frit, mostly lighter colored broken bottles, which act as a flux in the melting process. The last photo shows the side wall of a furnace pot along with a batch just beginning to melt.


A.D. Baker’s opening of his San Francisco Glass Works occurred on March 6, 1860. He advertised the sale of “WINE, SODA, PICKLE, And most kinds of BOTTLES, TELEGRAPH INSULATORS, etc.” (Daily Alta California, March 11, 1860) 


 Probably in a move of desperation to garner some operating capital, Baker advertised for sale three tons of fire clay. This would have been product to be used in the construction of pots for melting glass. (Daily Alta California, April 6, 1860)

 

The terminal date of the San Francisco Glass Works under the direction of Augustus Baker was almost certainly near the end of April 1860, with a total run of almost two months.

 The exit from San Francisco by A.D. Baker was unceremonious to say the least. Based solely on a small newspaper article containing a confusing error, it is clear that Baker skipped town due to mounting debts that he could not pay. The noted error, shown in the actual article below, states Baker as the proprietor of the San Francisco Iron Works, instead of the San Francisco Glass Works. This can be well documented as an error since no person by the name of Baker was ever noted as the proprietor of the San Francisco Iron Works. And, further, the San Francisco Iron Works was not even established until 1865.

 

There is some indication that Baker may have left for Australia for several years but it has not been proven to be the same A.D. Baker.  (Sacramento Daily Union, April 26, 1860)

 

The article notes that the buyer of the San Francisco Glass Works was Lucien Bell, who was obviously a victim of fraud, and who apparently was a novice at making such a purchase. Lucien Bell is non-existent in San Francisco in 1860, or any other time,  but there was a tea broker listed in the SF directory for that year named Lucius Bell. First noted in San Francisco as early as 1852, he initially worked for his brothers-in-law, the Goodman Brothers, who were general commission merchants. Bell later partnered with Washington Elliot as grocers in San Francisco in 1858 and 1859. He was apparently not a good money manager and had to file for insolvency in both previous businesses. Then, in 1860, he was a tea broker, which was his last business listing in San Francisco. If the article shown above is correct, and Baker did sell his heavily indebted business to Bell, this event must have been a heavy financial burden on Bell, and Baker likely wasted no time in removing himself from San Francisco.  In fact, to further document Baker’s removal from San Francisco, 12 cases of pipe clay in the name of A.D. Baker were auctioned off to pay for unclaimed freight in July 1860. (Daily Alta California, July 11, 1860)

 Bell was discharged from his debts in April 1860, probably due to the unusual circumstances of being duped by Baker. (San Joaquin Republican, April 20, 1860). Unfortunately,  Lucius Bell found himself in the same predicament about a year later when he filed for bankruptcy and his assets were ordered to be sold. (Daily Alta California, April 14, 1861) Bell then moved to Napa for a few years and then, about 1865, moved back East to Brooklyn, New York, where he died on November 18, 1906. He was buried in Rochester, New York.

 As fate would have it the brother of Sarah L. Bell, the wife of Lucius Bell, was a wealthy banker named James Harvey Goodman. He left a trust fund to Bell’s wife in the amount of $136, 800, which passed to her upon Goodman’s death in 1891. (Napa Register, April 24, 1891) After a long history of business failures in both California and New York, his wife finally brought some financial stabilization to the family, and Bell retired from business.

 In some way, whether through a court ordered sale, or some other unknown conveyance, the San Francisco Glass Works that had become virtually abandoned by its owners, must have passed to someone. The next name in the written historical record that is associated with its name, is J. Lambert. The most likely candidate would be Joseph Lambert, who was also experiencing some difficult employment issues in 1860.

 A newspaper article fairly secures his full name: “ OFFICERS OF THE ALTA CALIFORNIA TELEGRAPH COMPANY.- An annual meeting of the Alta California Telegraph Company was held at their office in this city last evening, and the following elected officers: W. W. Welty, President; J.M. McDonald, Superintendent; J.W. Coleman, Secretary; R.H. McDonald, C.H. Swift, John Pattison and Joseph Lambert, Directors”.(Sacramento Daily Union, September 7, 1858)

 Likely the same Joseph Lambert is listed in the 1859 SF directory as “Lambert, Joseph, telegraph, bds, Hotel International.” 

 The telegraph company was hit with what was likely its death blow in mid-1860. “Morse et al. vs The Alta Telegraph Co. et al  - A suit has been commenced in the U.S. Circuit Court by S.F.B. Morse, F. O. J. Smith, Theodore Little, and George T. Cobb, residents of various Eastern States, against the Alta Telegraph Company, Jas. M. McDonald and Joseph Lambert, of this State, to restrain them from using Morse’s telegraphic patent, to compel them to account for profits which they have made by its use, and to require them to pay damages done to plaintiffs by its use. The argument in the case is to be heard on the 19th inst.” (Daily Alta California, June 12, 1860)

 J. Lambert was the operating agent of the Alta Telegraph Company for San Francisco in 1860, and as a member of the reporter’s union, was one of those who welcomed the first Pony Express rider of the Overland Pony Express. (Daily Alta California, April 13, 1860). A week later a newspaper advertisement documented that Lambert had been selected as the San Francisco agent for the new Pony Express service. (Daily Alta California, April 20, 1860, p. 4)



 August of 1860 is the earliest that the glass works of Lambert & Co. had successfully produced glass, with the silica component coming primarily from the extensive quartz deposits near Folsom. The absence of the darker elements, as found in most sand grains, would, theoretically produce a very light colored batch. Perhaps the most difficult part of using quartz rock would be grinding it finely enough to easily melt and thoroughly mix with the other ingredients of soda and lime, as well as the frit.

 

News article explaining Lambert’s testing and using quartz for use in glass making. (Sacramento Daily Union, August 16, 1860)

 

But, how do we know that the J. Lambert noted above, is the same person who operated the San Francisco Glass Works, after the exit of A.D. Baker? One small news article mentioning a display of bottles at the Mechanic’s Institute Fair by the San Francisco Glass Works, includes its business address as 153 Montgomery Street. This address is the same as that of Joseph Lambert for his business office.

 

 (San Francisco Daily Herald, September 10, 1860)

 

Note the same address for both the California Glass Works and Lambert’s Pony Express Office is 153 Montgomery St. Also of interest – this ad is the last for Lambert as agent for the Pony Express. (Daily Alta California, August 24, 1860) J.W. Brown became the second San Francisco agent and the office was moved to Olney’s Washoe Exchange at the corner of Montgomery and Merchants Streets in September 1860.

 Aside from a few additional news reports about the glass works display, virtually no information has been located, and it must be concluded that the works were not successful and closed its doors shortly after the fair. Only one small note has been located to date. (For additional contemporary news reports see EARLY GLASSWORKS OF CALIFORNIA, by Warren B. Friedrich. N.D.)

 

Essentially, this article is championing a glass factory in the town of Folsom since that is where the raw material – Folsom quartz – was mined to make soda bottles for a Folsom proprietor. The article is obviously referencing the California Glass Works of Lambert & Co. To my knowledge no soda bottles have been found in or around Folsom that may fit the description of those noted. (Marysville Daily Appeal, September 21, 1860)

 

Certainly, there are soda bottles whose origins are in question and may actually be attributed to Lambert’s factory, even though they are extremely rare.

 


 

This rare partial bottle of Napa Soda is a fine candidate for being made at one of the iterations of the  California Glass Works. It is market P & W  SF, near the base. The crudity of the mold is nearly childish in nature and surely could not have come from any glass factory with experience. I have seen two other specimens of Napa Soda bottles, almost clear in color but also lacking in execution of the mold. The glass color could certainly fit that expected if Lambert was using pure quartz rock.

 

 

Little to no information was gleaned about Lambert until a possible mention in September of 1861, when a news article noted a meeting of the Silver City Quartz Mill Company was to take place. Lambert was noted as a president of the company (Daily Alta California, September 28, 1861, p. 2)  Another news article a month later excoriated Lambert for acting without authority of the Board of Trustees of the Milling Company. (Sacramento Daily Union, October 12, 1861, p. 2)  At a meeting of the stockholders, he was absolved of any wrongdoing, with the members noting, “By virtue of the By-Laws, as amended, he is General Superintendent and Manager of the Company’s mill and property, and not subject to suspension or removal by the Board of Trustees. (Daily Alta California, October 16, 1861, p. 2)  Keep in mind, however, that it is not possible to determine if this is the same Lambert. In later news articles there are too many John Lamberts to determine if it is the same person, so he becomes effectively lost.

 

To summarize the timeline of this early San Francisco glass works, that began simply as a side business of the Baker & Cutting pickle trade in 1859, and by the beginning of 1860, was to be an entity in its own right, but quickly failed. It is highly unlikely that it was ‘in blast’ during much of its short lifespan. The following timeline is noted:

 

The California Glass Works

December 31, 1859 to February 29, 1860. Baker & Cutting, proprietors.

February 29, 1860 to about April 22, 1860. Augustus D. Baker, proprietor.

About April 22, 1860 to about May 1, 1860. Lucius Bell, owner. (Was probably never in blast under his ownership.)

About May 1, 1860 to about October 1, 1860. Joseph Lambert, proprietor. (It was probably idle for at least the first three months of his ownership.)

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