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Marinha Grande (Portuguese Glassworks)
by Glen Thistlewood and John Hodgson

 

We were amazed by what we saw in the 1901 catalogue from the Marinha Grande (Portuguese Glassworks). There in front of us were images of some very familiar items, including the Sunk Daisy (aka Amerika) pattern plus a candlestick known as Thebes (aka Patrician).

 

Background history

 

Marinha Grande is a town on Portugal’s “Silver Coast” famed for its glass manufacturing industry. Set amongst an ancient pine forest, the wood from which was used to fuel the glass works in the area, Marinha Grande is an unlikely place for us to have discovered an important link for Carnival Glass.

 

The history of glass making there has its early roots in Cornwall, England in 1731. A Cornishman, William Stephens, whilst living in Portugal befriended the Marquis of Pombal, dictator of Portugal, who not only lent him money but also was highly influential in Stephens’ rise to fame and fortune. In 1769, Stephens bought a glassworks in Marinha Grande from another Englishman, John Beare. Stephens was later granted a monopoly of glass supply, exemption from all taxes and permission to use the surrounding pine forests for fuel for the glass works. Stephens’ brother, John James, joined him and they developed the glass works, transforming it into the Royal Glass Factory (Real Fábrica de Vidros).

 

In 1826, the factory was given to the state and became one of the country's main producers of traditionally made fine crystal. Marinha Grande continued production until 1992 under the name Fábrica-Escola Irmãos Stephens. Glass making continues in the area today under the aegis of Vitrocristal ACE, an organization created to market the range of “designer” glass called mglass (Marinha Grande glass).

 

Sunk Daisy in Marinha Grande catalogue

Sunk Daisy rosebowl, blue

   Thebes in Marinha Grande catalogue   Thebes candlestick, marigold

Thebes nightstick catalogue image

Extracts from the Marinha Grande 1901 catalogue. Left:  Sunk Daisy pieces and  right - Thebes candlestick and nightstick.  Catalogue images courtesy Siegmar Geiselberger and Pressglas Korrespondenz (see Links). Thebes photo courtesy of John Hodgson.

 

Sunk Daisy (aka Amerika)

We (Glen & Stephen Thistlewood) have already revealed some of this pattern's interesting history - see Carnival Glass The Magic and the Mystery. The pattern is known to have been made by Cambridge in the USA in 1910; Minnie Watson Kamm showed it in her "Second Two Hundred Pattern Glass Book" and noted its distinctive "special foot was patented by the firm". Just a few years later the pattern appeared in the Riihimaki (Finland) catalogue and subsequently also in the Eda (Sweden) catalogue, where it was called Amerika. Later, in 1939, the pattern appeared yet again in the Riihimaki catalogue.

However, the appearance of the Sunk Daisy pattern in the Marinha Grande 1901 catalogue poses all sorts of questions. John Hodgson spotted the pattern name given to it by the Portuguese factory was Japoneza (Japanese). It clearly appears to pre-date the Cambridge and the Scandinavian output.

 

The most likely scenario is that the pattern was first made in Portugal at the Marinha Grande glassworks and was then plagiarised by first Cambridge and then Riihimaki and Eda. Even the unusual and very distinctive foot was copied. Our thinking used to be that possibly the actual moulds were transferred, but given the new evidence of manufacture in Portugal this seems unlikely.

 

Thebes (aka Patrician)

 

The maker of this very decorous candlestick has been a puzzle: it has variously been attributed to Riihimaki, due to its stylistic similarity to Riihimaki's Firefly candlestick, and to Brockwitz. However, there is no catalogue evidence so far to support either of these attributions. 

 

It was therefore very revealing to see the candlestick clearly illustrated in the 1901 Marinha Grande catalogue, where there was also a matching night stick or chamber stick.

John Hodgson describes the Thebes candlestick for us in more detail. The base "is thin, right down to the base rim and is not polished". John also explains that the iridescent colouring is uniform but not overly deep in tone. This is consistent with what we were told by the
curator of the Marinha Grande glass museum, that Carnival Glass was indeed made there in "a kind of salmon tone, very simple".

 

However, although we know that the Thebes candlestick was being made at Marinha Grande in 1901, we cannot confirm the exact date when iridised production began. It was probably contemporary with other Carnival in Europe (which we now know to be much earlier than originally thought).

 

We also know of other marigold Carnival Glass being made in the area, albeit at what was probably a later date. A spin-off from Marinha Grande was called Crisal and several Carnival items are known with the Crisal name moulded on the base. There is no clear evidence when they might have been made; it could have been at any time between 1940 and 1975.

 

 

 

In these photos, courtesy of John Hodgson, you can see two miniature tankards with the moulded words CRISAL PORTUGAL on their bases.

A candlestick very similar to Thebes, was also illustrated in the Bayel catalogue.

Copyright ©  G&S Thistlewood and John Hodgson 2009