Our Museum Feature this month includes a beautiful cordial and water goblet in the Monticello pattern, first produced by Libbey Glass around 1942. The Monticello cordial stands 7-inches tall, with a concave bowl that flares at the top, and a ribbed stem design that resembles a classic Doric column. The water goblet features the same elegant design elements, but stands 8 3/4-inches tall. Pieces in the Monticello pattern include iced tea glasses, wine glasses, sherry glasses, luncheon plates, and more. The neoclassical style of this blown glass pattern reflects the architecture of its namesake: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Construction of Monticello began in 1769, on Thomas Jefferson’s 5,000 acre estate located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Designed by Jefferson himself, Monticello’s architecture is based on the principles of Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Its design was also influenced by the classic architecture Jefferson observed while travelling throughout Europe during his time as Secretary of State.
Monticello was one of the first homes in America constructed in the neoclassical style, which typically features Doric columns, balanced proportions, and architectural symmetry. Comprising over 11,000 square feet of living area, the house sits at the summit of an 850-foot mountain in the Southwest Mountain range (the name Monticello means “little mountain” in Italian). Many of the building materials for the construction of the house, including bricks, timber, nails, and stones, were sourced from the land surrounding the house. Monticello served as Jefferson’s home for 56 years, and he was buried there after his death in 1826.
The Libbey Glass Company was founded in 1818 as The New England Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Bob Page and Dale Frederiksen in “A Collection of American Crystal: A Stemware Identification Guide for Glastonbury/Lotus, Libbey/Rock Sharpe & Hawkes,” William L. Libbey and his son, Edward D. Libbey, purchased New England Glass in the late 1870s and moved the company to Toledo, Ohio in 1888, lured there by an abundance of natural gas and other natural resources in the area. The name of the company was changed to “The Libbey Glass Company” in 1892.
In 1893, Libbey staged a huge exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair in which they constructed an entire glass plant on the fairgrounds. Showcasing the glassmaking process to crowds of up to 2,000 at a time, the Libbey exhibit was one of the fair’s most popular attractions, and became a huge marketing success for the company. In 1889, Libbey made a commemorative cut glass punch bowl for President McKinley, and by 1900, Libbey was known as one of the finest cut glass producers in the world. In 1935, Libbey Glass Company merged with Owens-Illinois, another glassmaking company specializing in bottle-making and jar production. In 1948, Owens-Illinois acquired the Cataract-Sharpe Manufacturing Company, which specialized in decorating stemware, tumblers, and accessory pieces supplied by other firms. Libbey is still in operation today, and is currently the second-largest glassmaker in the world.
The Libbey Monticello glassware in our museum is not for sale, but we do have a variety of Monticello patterns in china, crystal, and silver for purchase in 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 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. 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!