Today’s artifact is a pressed-glass tumbler in the “Cabbage Rose” pattern, made by the Central Glass Co. of Wheeling, West Virginia. The “Cabbage Rose” design was manufactured in the 1870s and 1880s…. And that’s about it for this artifact!
Well, not quite. A few weeks ago I mentioned that over the Historical Society’s 66 years of collecting, some records have gotten lost or confused. This little glass tumbler is a victim of one such paperwork mishap, so to speak. However, I should not give the impression that I appeared on the scene in my Super Curator cape to rescue decades of neglected mysteries. From our very first donation in 1944, a large number of dedicated volunteers have worked to put, and keep, our collections in good order. One of these volunteer curators devoted herself to researching and cataloging over 200 pieces of glass, ceramics and silver, allowing me to easily cite our tumbler’s pattern name, manufacturer and date. With older donations she made note of any early records she could find, providing a measure of continuity as we switched catalog systems during the 1980s. For this piece she mentioned that “the name Pierpoint appears on records on this tumbler, but with no explanation.”
There are a few early pieces in our collections associated with the name “Pierpoint,” but the identity is still something of a mystery. The best guess is Mrs. Harry Y. Pierpoint, who is recorded as donor of a crib quilt and several photographs of the Seneca Quarry, which she appears to have owned in the early 20th century. That’s a start, at least; perhaps this tumbler was used while the donor lived in Seneca, but I wish we knew more. The items donated by Mrs. Pierpoint are the crib quilt, this glass, a woven coverlet and two fountain pens. Why those pieces? What did they mean to the donor, and why did she think they were worth preserving in the museum collections? The only clue so far is a note added to the crib quilt’s record (it was probably conveyed to us over the phone, since it does not appear in the written correspondence with the donor): “Belonged to Baines.” Who is Baines? Baines has haunted me for many years. The Super Curator cape comes with a few abilities – er, some might call them “obsessive tendencies” – but sadly, reading the minds of long-vanished donors is not one of them.