An Amelung Decanter?

Perhaps Maryland’s most famous glass product

18bc27 feat 30 decanter

Decanter discovered in a Baltimore privy filled  around the time of the Civil War.  Attribution to the Amelung New Bremen Factory is not certain, but it did produce similar decanters in the late 18th century.

ion facility was the New Bremen Glass Manufactory, which began operations south of Frederick in 1785. When owner John Frederick Amelung arrived from Germany, the United States was a new nation anxious to promote industry.  Encouraged in his endeavor by the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Amelung brought 68 experienced German glass workers with him to staff the new factory (Lanmon and Palmer 1976).  Within five years, Amelung employed between 400 and 500 workers, who lived in a factory village named New Bremen.  In 1788, Amelung advertised a range of glass vessels for sale, including “1/2 gill to quart tumblers, ½ to 1 quart Decanters…Wines, Goblets, Glass Cans with Handles, different sizes.” (Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser 1788).

Unfortunately, Amelung’s ambitious project failed to prosper and he sought financial assistance from Congress in 1790.  His petition, however, failed to convince Congress and the New Bremen industry collapsed around 1795 (National Register 1972). 

glass factory

Tentative reconstruction of the Amelung glasshouse, as suggsted by archaeological excavations (from Lanmon and Palmer 1976).

Archaeological investigations conducted at the manufactory in the early 1960s by Ivor Noel Hume located several of the glass houses.  One of the main buildings measured 112 by 65 feet and contained two furnaces for melting glass, nine ovens, and assorted store rooms (Noel Hume 1990).  A variety of glass vessels, as well as glass production tools, were found during the excavation.

The wheel-engraved decanter above, found in the Baltimore privy of the Nathan Mansfield family, may have been a product of the Amelung factory.  The wheel engraving and shape are similar to other examples of Amelung glass.If so, it would have been manufactured at the end of the eighteenth century.  Since other artifacts recovered from the pit indicated the privy was filled around the time of the Civil War, this decanter may have been a family heirloom.

The end of Amelung’s time in Frederick did not spell the end of his career in glass. He moved his business to Baltimore in late 1796 or early 1797 and began an operation that produced container glass and flat glass.  Although Amelung died in 1799, his son Frederick continued the business (Ruckert 1980:63).  This company lasted less than three years before going bankrupt.

Today, Amelung glass is considered “the most refined and distinguished glass made in America until the 19th century (Corning 1963).  Only a few authenticated pieces of Amelung glass are known today; institutions like Winterthur Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass own pieces of Amelung glass.


Corning Museum of Glass.  1963  Corning Museum of Glass Press Release, October 18, 1963, Corning New York.  Cited in National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination.

Lanmon, Dwight P. and Arlene M. Palmer.  1976  The New Bremen Glass Manufactory.  Journal of Glass Studies. Vol. 18, pp. 25-38

Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser.  March 14, 1788.

National Register.  1972  Amelung House and Glassworks.  National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. Accessed August 17, 2017.

Noël Hume, Ivor. 1990  Archaeological Excavations on the Site of John Frederick Amelung’s New Bremen Glass Manufactory, 1962-1963.  In John Frederick Amelung; Early American Glassmaker. Edited by Dwight P. Lanmon, Arlene Palmer Schwind, Ivor Noel Hume, Robert H. Brill and Victor F. Hanson. The Corning Museum of Glass Press, Corning, NY and Associated University Presses, Cranbury, NJ.

Ruckert, Norman G.  1980  Federal Hill; A Baltimore National Historic District.  Bodine and Associates, Inc., Baltimore.


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