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Museum Feature

Thomas Webb & Sons "Mayflower" Goblet

This dazzling commemorative goblet was produced in 1970 by Thomas Webb & Sons to mark the 350th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. There were only 100 of these goblets produced, and the one in our collection is number 73. Designed by David Hammond and engraved by C. P. Kimberley, the goblet features an engraved scene of passengers on the shore with the Mayflower ship in the background. The word “MAYFLOWER” is beautifully etched around the bowl. The obvious care taken to craft this piece is a fitting tribute to the arduous journey it commemorates.

When the Mayflower left England on September 16, 1620 with 102 passengers and around 30 crew members, it was bound for the area around the Hudson River in what was then the northern part of the Virginia Territory. Half of the passengers on the Mayflower were religious separatists fleeing oppression by the English Church and British government. The other half of the passengers were hired workers, servants, farmers, and others seeking passage to the New World. In addition to passengers, the ship also carried cargo such as food, clothing, furniture, pets, tools, and other supplies the colonists would need to start their new lives in North America. Steered off course due to rough seas and bad weather, the Mayflower landed off the tip of Cape Cod in what is now Massachusetts sixty-six days after setting sail. Prior to landing, there was an occurrence of civil unrest aboard the ship. Passengers who had paid for their voyage by becoming indentured servants decided to renege on their obligation, feeling they were now in a territory not subject to English law. In order to restore order, the Pilgrims composed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement, signed by all men onboard, to abide by the laws established by the community. This Compact became the governing document of the new colony, as well as the first document of American democracy. 

With a rule of law established, the colonists sent an expedition ashore at what is now the tip of Cape Cod. There they discovered a barren, sandy landscape, covered in wild grasses and shrubs. Over the next several days of exploration, the colonists discovered an abandoned Native American village, and curious mounds covering stores of corn. The colonists also saw groups of Native Americans from a distance, and at one point were even attacked. After several weeks of coastal exploration, the colonists moved the Mayflower into Plymouth Harbor, where they had decided to locate their settlement. The group determined it would be best to wait until spring to begin construction, and rode out the winter aboard the docked Mayflower. Subjected to the harsh conditions of a New England winter, and exhausted from the long voyage, passengers and crew alike began to get sick. By spring, half of the colonists and nearly half the crew of the Mayflower had taken ill and died. By the end of March, 1621, all the remaining colonists moved ashore, and in April, the Mayflower set sail for England with its remaining crew. That spring, the colonists were approached by a Native American named Samoset, who was able to communicate with the colonists in broken English. Samoset and the colonists developed a mutual trust over the following weeks, and Samoset introduced the colonists to Squanto, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, and Massasoit, the Wampanoag’s tribal leader. This new relationship with the Wampanoag would prove instrumental to the colonists’ survival. Squanto was fluent in English, and gave vital instructions to the colonists regarding hunting, fishing, and foraging techniques. Squanto also taught them how to use the abundant herring population to fertilize their fields. Over the following months, the colonists, with guidance from the Wampanoag, worked together to plant and tend crops. By October, the fields had yielded abundance, and the colonists and Native Americans celebrated with a feast that lasted for three full days and fed 143 people. The colonists and Wampanoag dined on such fare as venison, duck, goose, turkey, clams, eel, cornbread, dried berries, and wine. The event included many games and contests among the two groups. This, of course, became the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday tradition Americans participate in today.

The Stourbridge area of England where Thomas Webb founded his glassworks is also steeped in rich tradition. Beginning in the early 1600s, glassmakers from France settled in the Strourbridge area, attracted by the abundance of both the ideal type of clay to make melting pots and coal for use as furnace fuel. The first glass products to come out of the region consisted mostly of window glass and bottles. In the eighteenth century, the area became famous for tableware and decorative glass, and later, cut glass, which was made possible by steam-powered cutting machinery. Companies in the Stourbridge region also became world-famous for crystal, colored glass, and cameo glass, a form of decorative glass produced by cutting through layers of differently colored glass. When Thomas Webb died in 1865, the firm passed to his son, Thomas Wilkes Webb. Thomas W. Webb maintained his father’s vision, leading the firm to become one of the top luxury glass producers in England in the nineteenth century. In 1876, Webb patented a decorative production technique in which colored threads of glass were heated to form various, colorful shapes within the pieces. Thomas Webb & Sons’ products gained widespread recognition after winning the coveted “Grand Prix” award at the Paris International Exhibitions of 1878 and 1889. The company also won prizes at Australian Exhibitions in 1880 and 1881. In addition to their normal wares, the company produced electric lamp bulbs, glass tubing, funnels, test tubes, and beakers during WWI. By 1920, the firm had been incorporated into Webb’s Crystal Glass Company. The firm was bought by Crown House Ltd. in 1964, which went on to merge with Dema Glass Ltd. in 1971. The company was then acquired by the Coloroll Group PLC who also owned Edinburgh Crystal. In 1990, Thomas Webb’s production facilities were moved to the Edinburgh Crystal facilities. Because of their innovative techniques and high-quality, detailed designs, Thomas Webb & Sons’ products continue to be highly sought by collectors.

Although the “Mayflower” goblet in our museum is not for sale, we do have many stunning Thomas Webb & Sons crystal pieces, as well as a wide selection of “Mayflower” china, crystal, and silver patterns available for purchase from our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you’ll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our retail store and museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 9:30am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. The retail store and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

 

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