Exposition In London First Hint About
America’s Unique Skills
In London in 1851, the Great Exposition in the Crystal Place opened, displaying the new inventions of the world. The United States had its space, but on opening day no one was very impressed. In fact, it was mostly open space, with more than half of the exhibits still to arrive.
Gradually, they began to trickle in, but still people were not impressed. Compared to the luxurious tapestries and sculptures that had been brought by some countries, America’s rubber boots, rifles, false teeth, printing presses and cast-iron stoves didn’t look too thrilling. In fact, Queen Victoria came right out and said it was “certainly not very interesting.”
However, as the Exposition continued, gradually the uniqueness of America’s contribution became noted. One writer noted the “absence in the United States of those vast accumulations of wealth which favour the expenditure of large sums on articles of mere luxury,” and observed that “both manual and mechanical labour are applied with direct reference to increasing the number or the quantity of articles suited to the wants of a whole people...”
Colonel Colt was there, displaying a table full of his six-shooters, convincing the London Times that they were capable of revolutionizing military tactics.
Charles Goodyear had his display of items made from vulcanized rubber. There was everything from boats to boots.
Gail Borden was another of the exhibitors, offering the public his meat biscuit. (He wasn’t quite ready with his condensed milk in tins yet.) His biscuit, while unappetizing, was ideal for sailors, travelers on long journeys through barren country, hospitals and even family use in warm weather when other meat might spoil. The judges of the exhibition found “a more simple, economical, and efficient form of concentrating food has never before been brought before the public,” and awarded Borden their most coveted prize.
It took McCormick’s reaper, however, to really make the public recognize that what was taking place in America, invention-wise, was worth noting. When it was used to cut a field of wet grain on a damp day in July, outside of London, the Times commented, “The reaping machine from the United States is the most valuable contribution from abroad to the stock of our previous knowledge that we have yet discovered.”
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Quality of Mold Or Die Maker’s Work
Noticeable In The Finished Product
P. J. Jacobus was a gifted German glass mold maker, employed by many of the glasshouses in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today he is recognized by collectors of both Presidential memorabilia and old pressed glass for the extraordinarily fine portrait plates he was commissioned to make by the Gillinder Company for the 1884 election.
The four Classic Pattern portrait plates are considered by some to be the ultimate in historic glass excellence. They depict Republican candidates James G. Blaine and John A. Logan and their successful competitors, Democratic candidates Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks. The realistic detail of the plates is set against a lightly stippled and frosted background. Around the edges of the plate are a rim of pointed Gothic panels featuring a daisy-and-button pattern and arches with a leaf design.
Jacobus came to the United States in 1851, when he was just 7 years old. When the Civil War began, he was left in charge of the engraving firm of his older brother, Peter.
Most of the profits of the firm were used to help support the Union Army. Eventually, the firm was forced to close due to financial difficulties. However, by this time, Jacobus had become a skilled steel engraver. He had also learned to make dies and molds.
Jacobus made a lifetime career of mold and die making, preferring to work as a freelance craftsman. In his simple workshops he created the molds for such items as desk sets, commemorative medals, birds, animals and beer mugs, for products in both glass and metal.
His political glass pieces are most sought after by today’s collectors. Prior to the 1884 campaign, he had made molds for busts of Washington, Lincoln and Grant in clear and milk glass for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
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Pussy Willows Feature Of Lehn
Joseph Lehn, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, made a simply painted woodenware, now known as Lehnware, from about 1860 to 1890. His painted designs were similar to the brightly painted pottery pieces of the Pennsylvania Dutch, on a background of soft pink or yellow. A distinguishing feature of most Lehnware work is a pussy willow border.
Lehnware can be found as cups, egg cups, spice cabinets, vases, wash basins, seed cabinets, lidded sugar bowls and trinket chests.
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