This week we are taking a departure from ceramics and pottery to look at some interesting glass that was found at Fort Hunter during the 2020 field season. Though only a few small fragments were recovered, this type of glass has an interesting history in Pennsylvania. Hand painted enameled pieces such as these found in the United States are known as Stiegel-type glass due to their association with ironmaster and glassmaker, Henry William Stiegel.
|Stiegel-type enamel painted tumbler from two views. Photo from the Community and Domestic Life Collection, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.|
Henry William Stiegel was a German born immigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1750 with his mother and brother. Here he worked for two years as a clerk for ship merchants, Alexander and Charles Stedman, before taking work with ironmaster Jacob Huber, in Lancaster County. Within the year, Stiegel married Huber’s daughter Elizabeth who passed away shortly after the birth of their second daughter in 1758. Also in 1758, Stiegel along with his partners the Stedman’s, bought out Huber, becoming the new owners of the iron furnace, which was renamed Elizabeth Furnace after Stiegel’s late wife. Shortly after, the partners purchased an additional furnace near Lancaster County, named Charming Forge, to help expand Stiegel’s ironworks.
Cast-iron right-side stove plate made by Jacob Huber at Elizabeth Furnace. Photo from the Ephrata Cloister Collection, The Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission.
By this time, Stiegel had become a prominent member of the community and Lutheran Church and was well known as a great ironmaster, best known for his cast iron stoves. In 1762 Stiegel with the help of the Stedman brothers planned the town of Manheim. It was here that Stiegel built his mansion and in 1764 opened his newly built “glasshouse”, which the town was built around. Later called the American Flint Glass manufactory, Stiegel continued to expand on the glasshouse, hiring highly skilled workers from Europe’s prominent glassmaking centers. Beginning with window glass and utilitarian bottles, Stiegel’s glassworks later produced colored glass pitchers, wine glasses, dishes and bowls as well as scientific items. The American Flint Glass Manufactory also produced decorated pieces, some etched and others hand painted enameled in the traditional German red, yellow and blue motifs. Due to the lack of makers marks or signatures on the pieces produced by Stiegel’s glassworks and the similarity in design to European pieces of the time, it is near impossible to know for sure whether unmarked pieces were made here in Pennsylvania by Stiegel’s company or if they were imported from Europe, as many were.
Stiegel-type eight-sided panel bottle from Conestoga Indian Town site, 36La52. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
Eventually Stiegel became the sole owner of Manheim. He built schools to educate the children of his employees, donated the land for the Manheim Lutheran Church, and supported a musical band in Manheim. Stiegel has often been referred to as Baron Von Stiegel, the founder of Manheim, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, just before the Revolutionary War, Stiegel found himself in financial collapse and unable to pay his debts. In 1775 the glassworks ceased production and Stiegel had to sell off all his land. After spending some time in debtors’ prison, Stiegel came to rely on family for support and did some work as a bookkeeper and a teacher. Stiegel died in 1785 and since the glassworks had closed, Manheim was left to struggle as a small town with a low population and in 1838 was incorporated as a borough by the Commonwealth. Though Manheim is not the great metropolis Stiegel had planned for, he did build the town leaving a lasting impression on Manheim and iron and glassworks in the United States and Pennsylvania.
As mentioned above, the glassware produced by Stiegel’s company was not marked in any way to indicate when or who produced it. With new technologies, such as laser ablation, it may be possible to identify trace elements within the glass made by Stiegel to distinguish it from those of European origin, but limited research has been done at this time. Since there has been limited testing done with laser ablation and other new technologies in relation to glass identification it is currently unknown if glassware in this enameled hand painted style was produced by Stiegel or imported from Europe and is therefore called Stiegel-type glass. These fragments found at Fort Hunter are a great example of Stiegel-type glass that is found on archaeological sites today.
Stiegel-type glass found at Fort Hunter, 36Da159. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
We hope you have enjoyed this brief history of Henry William Stiegel, Stiegel-type glass and Manheim, Pennsylvania and how they are related. It is interesting how even the small artifacts can evoke the rich history of individuals and their mark on the world we live in. We invite you to explore additional examples of Stiegel-type glass and other artifacts via Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s online collections database.
Corning Museum of Glass, Glass of H.W. Stiegel: https://www.cmog.org/audio/glass-hw-stiegel-317Accessed July 19, 2021.
Greenough, John D. and J. Victor Owen
2018 A Laser Ablation Study of Glass Samples from Three Eighteenth-Century Germanic-American Glassworks: Amelung, Stiegel, and Wistarburgh. In The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archaeology, pp. 5-24. Society for Industrial Archaeology, Houghton, MI.
Hume, Ivor Noel
1969 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (reprint)
The Hershey Story, Henry William Stiegel – Ironmaster and Glass Maker: https://hersheystory.org/henry-william-stiegel-ironmaster-and-glass-maker/