Another Mystery Solved! The King George Wine Glass

A few months ago at the Smith’s St. Leonard site, volunteers and crew discovered a small colorless glass fragment. Finding glass at an archaeological site is not that unusual since it preserves fairly well in the ground. So what makes this little fragment so blog worthy you ask? This piece is very thick, with a square shape and curved figures molded on the sides. We were a little stumped when the piece was initially found. What type of vessel was it from? Is the molding a design or letters? Is it even contemporary to the site (1711-1754)? Left scratching our heads, the artifact was put back into its bags and we continued with fieldwork.

king george glass 1king george glass 2

Figure 1.  The small fragment of leaded glass from the Smith St. Leonard plantation.

Then, last week, while researching some other forms of table glass for cataloging, we stumbled onto a picture that looked a little familiar. It was a wine glass fragment, with a squared chunky stem and molded lettering around the sides. A light went on, and we pulled our mystery glass fragment out from its bag to compare it with the photograph. Sure enough it was a match!

King George Wine Glass

Figure 2.  What the wine glass fragment from Smith’s St. Leonard probably looked like. “God Save King George” molded wine glass. Text is at the widest part of the stem beneath the bowl.  Museum of London, Wine or Cordial Glass 1715-1717, image number: 007227

This type of wine glass has a “pedestal stem” which is heavy, thick and tapers up to a flattened top rather than down like other wine glasses. The pedestal style was popular for a short time during the beginning of the 18th century. It was then replaced with a more delicate design after 1745 when the English government began taxing glass by weight.

Most exciting though, the molded lettering around the top of the pedestal says, “God Save King George”. This is interesting not only because it shows the Smith family’s patriotic feelings towards the crown (a sentiment that within the next few decades changes for much of the colonies), but also because this glass was only produced for a short period of time in honor of King George I coronation in 1715.

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