The excavation of the SS Republic wreck site produced 18 intact green pressed glass crucifix candlesticks plus an additional seven fragments as well as eight intact white glass crucifix candlesticks and six additional fragments. The body of the object takes the form of a three-dimensional crucified Christ, with a slanted Latin inscription reading ‘INRI’ set on a banner affixed to a Latin-style cross above his head, which is inclined onto the right shoulder. The Gospel According to John (19:19-20) describes Pontius Pilate writing an inscription which read “Jesus of Nazereth, King of the Jews” in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. In Western art only the Latin version is generally depicted, abbreviated to ‘INRI’ (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum).
Crucifix-themed glass candlesticks were popular at the time of the Republic’s final voyage and were used in private homes, convents and churches. Just about every major American glass company offered at least one form from c. 1840 until the latter part of the century. Research has identified approximately 31 different varieties, very probably an incomplete sampling of the total number of manufactured forms that were produced in a variety of colors, heights and designs.
The candlesticks recovered from the Republic were cast in separate two-piece iron molds, the socket and base then fused together by a glass wafer or merese at the top of the standard while the glass was still hot. This distinctive feature attributes their production definitively to the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, which produced these candlesticks in great numbers from 1840 to 1880, typically selling them in pairs ranging in height from 8-12 inches. The many Catholics who worked at the glass company had their influence on what was produced, including religious-themed articles such as these crucifix candlesticks.
Founded in 1825, the Boston and Sandwich Glass company was one of the first glass firms to utilize the press for the mass production of glass and was one of the leading manufacturers of pressed glass prior to the American Civil War. A strong commercial connection existed between this Massachusetts glass house and New York City, from where the cargo was loaded before the Republic departed for its New Orleans bound journey. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company had a New York City agent and a showroom, which by 1877, and perhaps earlier, was located on Barclay Street, the center of the city’s trade in religious articles.
Replicas of the green crucifix candlestick holder are available for purchase here.