The sample of 10 short colorless fluted/paneled bar tumblers recovered from the Jacksonville “Blue China” wreck site represent the more common glassware produced in great quantities in the 19th century and is almost identical visually to today’s common ‘rock’ glass. The fluted or paneled pattern was produced in a number of different styles, which correspond with various different factory designations, such as French flute, reverse flute, gill flute, pillar flute, column, edge flute and so on.
The Jacksonville "Blue China" wreck glass fluted tumblers considerably post-date 1827, when Deming Jarves, using an iron mold, allegedly produced the first pressed glass water tumbler at the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company in Massachusetts, which he founded in 1826. The process of pressing molten glass by mechanical means was perfected in the United States between 1825 and 1826. The first press, a simple bench press catering to furniture knobs, was probably developed by the New England Glass Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Around 1827, the full-size press machine requiring two men to operate was invented and Sandwich was quick to exploit its potential. The company’s founder would later receive several patents for improvements in pressing techniques and mold designs.
Soon pressed glass was manufactured by other glass factories, including many centered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the mid-19th century American glass companies profited as never before as pressed glass wares threatened to seize control of the market away from the more costly cut and engraved wares. Many of the new designs imitated English and Irish cut glass patterns, but were more easily made and required less skilled labor. Efficiency in production produced cheaper products that were now more readily accessible to the modest American consumer. For the first time the average household could afford glassware to grace the family table.
The particular style of glass tumbler broadly dates from 1845-75 and could have been manufactured in any number of American glass factories producing bar and table wares in this period. Especially likely candidates are one of the New England glass factories, quite possibly the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company or its competitor, the New England Glass Company.
The identification glass tumblers as cargo is based on their significant volume, widespread distribution and the discovery of five examples inside five British dipped whiteware ceramic jugs into which they seem to have been packed for maximized space efficiency during shipping.
A handful of identical glass fluted tumblers was recovered from the later dated 1865 wreck of the SS Republic, testament to the longevity of this paneled pattern form.