Duncan & Miller Hobnail-Pink Opalescent Punch Bowl Set
Featured from our Museum collection is this deliciously colored Hobnail-Pink Opalescent Punch Bowl Set, with bowl, platter, 12 cups, and ladle. The set was crafted by the Duncan & Miller company during the Depression era. The company founder, George Duncan, had worked in the glass industry since the end of the Civil War. In 1872, he formed a partnership with his sons, Harry and James, along with his son-in-law, a man named Augustus H. Heisey (another famous name in the history of American glass making). The company, George Duncan & Sons, was located in southside Pittsburgh, PA. “Southside” at the time was the industrial hub of the city, and there George Duncan & Sons enjoyed the benefits of inexpensive barge transport, plentiful supplies of the sand, silica, and potash needed to make high-quality glass, and just as importantly, highly skilled labor. Pittsburgh had been a leader in American glass making since Colonial times, and generations of European immigrants lived in the area, many of them drawn from the glass making centers of the Old World. One of those men was John Ernest Miller, a native German who joined the company in 1874. For more than 20 years, Miller had been involved in many aspects of the glass industry. He would go on to work with the Duncans for a span of 52 years. Miller was made a partner in the company in 1900.
For a short time, 1890-1892, George Duncan & Sons became part of the United States Glass Company combine, a conglomerate of several glass making firms in the region that tried to take advantage of size in acquiring production materials, negotiating labor contracts, and developing markets. In 1872, the original George Duncan & Sons plant was destroyed by fire. It was not until 1893 that a new plant was built, this time in nearby Washington, PA. Some 70 employees from the Pittsburgh plant joined the new factory on Jefferson Avenue in Washington. Some of the individuals had been involved in glass making for as many as 70 years. With the keen design talent of Miller and these skilled workers, Duncan & Miller was widely recognized for the excellence of its glassware. It was during the Depression that the company introduced some of its most popular designs, including Sandwich, Canterbury, Teardrop, and the pattern featured in our Museum piece, Hobnail-Pink Opalescent. In her excellent book, “Depression Era Glass by Duncan,” published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Leslie Piña cites a Duncan & Miller catalog from the period:
“The Early American Hobnail pattern, in its many variations, graced countless homes in the last century. Today it finds renewed popularity in the current revival of interest in authentic Americana. Its origin is lost in antiquity; some authorities think it was inspired by the symmetrical pattern left in the soft soil of early American roads by the hobnails in the soles of soldiers’ boots.”
“Duncan Hobnail is from the original Duncan molds; a continuation of an authentic old line. The Duncan & Miller Glass Company’s almost four score years of experience run back to that period in the last century when Hobnail was first developed. Duncan had drawn upon this experience to translate the best features of one of America’s finest glass patterns into a line of table and incidental glass for the discriminating woman of today.”
Those words were true in the 1930s, and they are certainly true today. While the exquisite Duncan & Miller Hobnail-Pink Opalescent punch bowl set that is our Museum Feature is not for sale, there are thousands of crystal and pressed glass patterns, including hundreds by Duncan & Miller that you may peruse and purchase when you visit.
We invite you to visit our facilities to see an absolutely stunning variety of glassware! Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. The Showroom 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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