Pillar-Molded Pitcher
Prob. Pittsburgh area; c. 1860
H: 9 3/8"
NBMOG Collection
Museum Purchase
Acc. 1998.042
Collector, author and long-time Pittsburgh resident Lowell Innes illustrated numerous examples of pillar-molded glass in his book Pittsburgh Glass 1797-1891(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976). Innes claimed that pillar-molded glass was a favorite for use on the frontier and could be found "on every elegantly appointed paddle-wheel boat that plied the Western rivers." The term "riverboat glass" was associated with it, according to the author (p.195). "By its sturdiness and pleasantly rounded lines," he wrote, "pillar-molding possessed a dignity inherent in middle-class America. Examples of pillar-molding turn up today anywhere along the great valley from Pittsburgh to the Gulf of Mexico. Dealers, collectors, and authorities unite in declaring that these pieces belong to Pittsburgh." To support the Pittsburgh associations of pillar-molded glass Innes referenced numerous illustrations from trade catalogs issued by the Pittsburgh glass firm of M'Kee and Brothers between 1859 and 1871.These catalogs were reprinted by The Corning Museum of Glass and Dover Publications in 1981 (see engraved images below). Innes also illustrated examples with a distinctive casing of colorless glass over opal and cited an important compote that descended in the glassmaking Bakewell family of Pittsburgh.
Pillar-Molded Pitcher
Prob. Pittsburgh area; c. 1860
H: 8 3/8"
NBMOG Collection
Museum Purchase
Acc. 2001.053
Pillar-Molded Decanter
Prob. Pittsburgh area; c. 1860
H: 12 1/8"
NBMOG Collection
Museum Purchase, ex. coll.
    Lowell Innes
Acc. 2001.0002 (A&B)
Attribution of pillar-molded glass to Pittsburgh, although still the convention, is complicated by the challenge of distinguishing Pittsburgh examples from their English counterparts. Furthermore, evidence suggests that several New England factories also employed the process. Vases can be found with blown pillar-molded tops joined to bases pressed in the "Monument" design firmly attributed to the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company. A magnificent pair in emerald green distinguishes the collection of The Bennington Museum in Bennington, VT. Additionally, a photograph of the display mounted by New Bedford's Mt. Washington Glass Company at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition shows three pitchers that appear to be pillar-molded (Shirley Papers photograph, NBMOG Collection, acc. 2005.253.087, see above, right). It is not known at the present time how much pillar-molded glass was made in New Bedford or how to distinguish this glass from the production of other companies.

Pillar-molded glass is extremely rare in color, and NBMOG is fortunate to have three fine examples in its collection  (illustrated to left). Notice that the amethyst pitcher has been embellished by the application of white glass threads along the ribs.  This was achieved by placing pieces of white glass cane into the mold before the glass was inserted. Related examples are known in colorless glass with blue threads.   The canary decanter has a pewter cup-shaped cover that Innes describes as a "jigger" slip stopper. This decanter is exciting for its rare color and also because it came from Mr. Innes's personal collection.
The frontier associations cited by Innes notwithstanding, this sturdy, relatively inexpensive glass apparently also appealed to the English. English glass manufacturer Apsley Pellatt discussed pillar-molding in his 1849 book Curiosities of Glass Making and claimed that it was an ancient Roman technique but also the recent introduction of English glassmaker James Green. Pellatt illustrated the mold used to create the sharply projecting vertical ribs, often eight in number, that characterize pillar-molded glass (see below, left), and he described the production process in detail. Articles were made with two layers of glass, generally both colorless. The first or inner layer was allowed to cool and harden somewhat before the application of the second. The glass was then immediately blown into the mold. Glass from the soft outer layer completely filled the lobe-like channels in the mold, creating solid projecting ribs in the finished article without making corresponding concavities inside the article. Pellatt maintained that these solid ribs were more refractive and "cut-like" in effect than ribs molded from a single gather of glass.
Pillar-Molded Glass
The New Bedford Museum of Glass