That Which We Have Heard & Known

Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Category: Hobby

Baseball and a Father’s Death: A Funeral Homily, 18 November 2015

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A sermon offered at the requiem for James E. Freiberger, held November 18, 2015, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, where Fr. Funston is rector.

(The lessons for the requiem were Lamentations 3:22-26,31-33; Psalm 27:1-7; Romans 8:14-19,34-35,37-39; and John 11:21-27. These lessons may be found at the Burials Lectionary Page The Lectionary Page. Mr. Freiberger’s obituary may be found here.)

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Baseball and GloveThe death of anyone important in our lives is a tragic and painful thing, even if the relationship was strained or even broken. This is especially so when a parent dies and, for some reason, more so when that parent is our father, perhaps because we use that metaphor of fatherhood to explain God’s relationship to us. Whenever someone’s father passes away, I cannot help but remember the poem by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The death of a parent, especially a father (I think) no matter what our relationship with him may have been, fills us with rage, with conflicted emotion, with a frustration difficult to name. Let us commend all of that to God, as we commend the soul of James E. Freiberger to God’s eternal care.

I didn’t know Jim Freiberger; I do not know if he was (to use poet Thomas’s labels) a wise man, a good man, a wild man, or a grave man, so I cannot eulogize him. But I do know that he was a father and I know that he was in the Navy, that he had a career in data processing, and that he had three children, one of whom I know. I am told that he was a gifted athlete and almost had a chance to play professional baseball, a game about which he was passionate . . . a love I know he passed on to his daughter.

So I got to thinking about baseball and did some research and found an article about the lessons baseball can teach us, lessons that can be applied in business and management. I think what the author has to say suggests that baseball can also teach us something about our spiritual life, as well. It’s a cliché, I think, that baseball is a metaphor for life, but (in many ways) it actually is.

The author of that business article contrasts the timing of baseball with the timing of sports such as football or basketball, noting that in those sports there is a clock which limits the time of the game and ticks down inexorably and finally, and although there might be overtime in the event of a tie at the end of regulation play, even that is bounded by the clock. In contrast, he writes:

Baseball is a game that is pastoral in nature, a reminder of a time that our life was slower and most of us lived on farms and small towns. You have 27 outs and the game is not over until all outs are exhausted. There is no clock to pressure you. You simply go on your business until it is done. Time marches slowly in baseball and baseball allows us to simply relax for three hours while drinking a few adult beverages.

I think this is part of the message of the lesson from Lamentations: “[God’s] mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” God’s time marches slowly and it is always merciful and every morning is new. We can relax into God’s time; we can find comfort in God’s time; we can find all things renewed in God’s time; we can abandon our frustrations, our rages, and our fears in God’s time. “The Lord is the strength of my life,” says the Psalmist today, “of whom then shall I be afraid?”

In the article, then, the author talks about the way baseball deals with failure:

Baseball teaches about failure as the length of the season reflects the pace of our life. You have 162 games and there are days in which the batter can’t see the ball or the pitches look more like beach balloons as the opposing hitters feast on the big fat pitches coming their way. The beauty of baseball is that you can suck one day but the next you can redeem yourself. You don’t have to wait a week before getting a chance to get it right.

And you don’t have to dwell on getting it wrong. It occurred to me this morning that there’s a real contrast between football and baseball with regard to getting it wrong. In football, every mistake a player or a team can make has a name and is remembered by that name: the quarterback sack, the fumble, the incomplete pass, the missed block, and so forth. Fans and players relive, again and again, all the mistakes of past games. In baseball, on the other hand, there’s just one word for every sort of mistake: error. The scorekeeper and the statisticians keep track of “errors,” but the rest of us move on. There’s no point in dwelling on mistakes, because (after all) they are forgiven. They will be of no consequence in the end. As Paul said, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, [and I would add that includes ourselves and any mistakes or errors or bad decisions we have made] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The author of our article on baseball and business then takes a look at the game’s attitude towards success, something that none us (especially in our families and interpersonal relationships) really have much of. He writes:

In baseball, if you hit .300, you are very good. In most sports, hitting .300 represent failures. Quarterbacks lose their jobs if their accuracy is 55% but in baseball, a manager who win 55% of the games is brilliant. In college football winning only 55% of your games will get you fired. Ask any good salesman and they will tell you if they get 30% of their prospects to buy their products, this will produce a successful year. There are days that you wonder why you got up and then there are days in which wow, you can’t do no wrong just like the baseball player who hits for the cycle.

In the Christian faith we believe in a cycle . . . a cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth that we call “Resurrection,” not a rebirth into this world as taught by some other religions, but a rebirth into the Presence of God. This is the assurance Jesus gave to Martha, to Mary, to their brother Lazarus; it is the assurance that his own birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension gives to us. “I go,” he told his disciples, “to prepare a place for you . . . and I will gather you to myself, that where I am you may also be.” Martha said to Jesus about her brother, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” And we can say that now about Jim Freiberger and about all of us, no matter what our “batting average” or our “percentage of accuracy” may have been.

So, baseball (about which Jim was passionate) has something to teach us about our spirituality; it may be a cliché, but it is true that baseball can be a metaphor for life. If you “Google” that phrase – “baseball is a metaphor for life” – you will find, among many other less colorful explanations, this somewhat off-color monologue by the character Kenny Shea in the television program Rescue Me:

Anyway, baseball and life, one in the same. Everybody always says that life is too short. Bullshit. Life, unless you get cancer or hit by a bus or set on fire, takes forever. Just like baseball. It’s a series of long, mind-boggling boring stretches of time where absolutely nothing happens. So, you take a nap, and then, after a little while, when that crisp crack of the bat hittin’ the ball, so crisp you could almost smell that wood burning, jolts you awake and you open your eyes to see something so exciting and intricate, and possibly, very, very meaningful has just happened, but you missed it ’cause you were just so goddamn bored in the first place. Oh, you know, a couple of hot dogs, throw in some beers, . . . and that’s that.

So baseball is a metaphor for life with its long boring stretches and its moments of excitement and its disappointments. The author L.R. Knost didn’t mention baseball but she made the same point when she wrote:

Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Today, we commend to almighty God the soul of James E. Freiberger – Navy man, father, grandfather, data processing worker, lover of baseball – whose life was amazing and awful and ordinary and routine and, like everyone’s in its own way, breathtakingly beautiful. Remember that, remember the beautiful part, and remember that, whatever else may be true about Jim Freiberger, remember that “nothing in all of creation will be able to separate [him] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

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A request to my readers: I’m trying to build the readership of this blog and I’d very much appreciate your help in doing so. If you find something here that is of value, please share it with others. If you are on Facebook, “like” the posts on your page so others can see them. If you are following me on Twitter, please “retweet” the notices of these meditations. If you have a blog of your own, please include mine in your links (a favor I will gladly reciprocate). Many thanks!

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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

Life Is Like Time Magazine – From the Daily Office – May 20, 2013

From the Book of Ruth:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.

(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Ruth 1:1-5 (NRSV) – May 20, 2013.)

Time Magazine cover, December 23, 1929And there you have it, ten years in the lives of six people, and the deaths of three of them, put to rest in five short Bible verses. As Antonio said to Sebastian, “What’s past is prologue” (The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1) and for the author of Ruth apparently not very interesting prologue. The storyteller is (pardon the pun) ruthlessly efficient in his introduction (I assume the author was “he” – maybe not). He clears away the unnecessary detail of sixty “person-years” of life to set the stage for what is to follow.

When I realized that, it hit me pretty hard. I’m sixty years old! Could the sum-total of my life be as easily summarized and shuffled off simply as prologue for something else? I suppose it could, but I would hope not.

Recently I was at a gathering with a bunch of other clergy and at some point during our deliberations comments were made about the use and organization of time; someone else made a remark about how we compartmentalize the different areas of our lives; and then I heard someone say something about a magazine. I have to be honest and admit that (a) I wasn’t paying close attention and (b) I don’t know if these comments were all made in the context of the same conversation. In my head, though, they merged into a rumination about Time magazine as a metaphor for a human life.

I used to be a very faithful subscriber to and reader of Time magazine. I took out my first subscription when I was in high school (1967) and didn’t stop subscribing until I attended seminary in 1991. And before that, my parents and my brother had been subscribers, so I’d been reading that magazine for a long time. It didn’t change much in all those years and I suppose it still hasn’t, at least insofar as the magazine is organized.

The classic issue of Time magazine is a study in compartmentalization. There are “departments” for all the areas of news, or if you prefer the areas of life (although Life is a different, if related publication): U.S., World, Politics, Sports, Lifestyle, Religion, Fashion, Tech, Science, and so forth. Which departments appeared in a given weekly issue depended on what was making news that week. There were always overlaps between these departments, of course, and I suppose the editors would have to determine if a story about regulation of new oil technologies fit better under Politics or Tech or Science; one would guess that the decision would be based on which subject predominates.

Life (life, not Life magazine) is a lot like a Time magazine. We have “departments” – Family, Job, School, Church, Friends, Hobbies, Politics, and so forth – and somehow, like the editors of Time magazine, we decide how all the stories of our lives get organized. We decide what order they are put in and how, like the magazine, they are arranged; we put some things closer to the front cover of our lives, where the public is most apt to see them, and other things we bury in the back pages. Then stories are neatly bound for our presentation of self to the world.

Time magazines were held together with staples through the spines. Sometimes, the pages would come loose from the staples. First, the four center pages would come away. You’d put them back in and hope the magazine would hang together until you finished reading all the articles of interest, but it wouldn’t always work out that way. Sometimes someone would take the magazine apart because they needed a picture for a school report, or wanted to send an article to someone in a letter, or whatever . . . sometimes the staple would get pulled out or work its way out on its own, and then all the pages would be loose. If you weren’t careful, the pages would get mixed up in a mishmash. As you were sitting out by the pool, a breeze would come along and blow them away, and you’d chase them across the yard hoping to gather them all. Some would blow into the pool and get soaking wet; some would blow into the neighbor’s yard on the other side of the fence and you couldn’t get them because of the vicious dog; some would take flight and get caught in the branches of trees. The articles would be all jumbled and some pages would be missing and the stories would be incomplete and not make sense.

And sometimes life can be a lot like that unstapled, jumbled, blown apart, partly missing, chaotic Time magazine, too.

Suppose someone actually did report on everything you did everyday for a week, on every work related task, about every friend or co-worker or family member with whom you talked, on every school assignment, every leisure activity, every television program you watched, on everything. Suppose they wrote it all out, organized it into departments, bound it with a staple, and produced a magazine of your week. Suppose they did that every week. Suppose those magazines were stacked week after week, month after month, year after year. Can you visualize those stacks? Can you see the piles and piles of magazines with your face and your name on the cover like the Time magazine Person of the Year?

Now think about this . . . if Antonio was right that “what’s past is [simply] prologue” and some storyteller were going to summarize what’s in those stacks of magazines, those piles of stories as foreword to a new story, would five verses be enough? Do you think it could even be done in a way that would honor your existence? I don’t.

I think life is a lot more like Time magazine and a lot less like the introduction to the Book of Ruth! And I believe the Author of life is a lot more interested in the stories of our lives than the author of Ruth was in the stories of Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion. And for that, I’m grateful.

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A request to my readers: I’m trying to build the readership of this blog and I’d very much appreciate your help in doing so. If you find something here that is of value, please share it with others. If you are on Facebook, “like” the posts on your page so others can see them. If you are following me on Twitter, please “retweet” the notices of these meditations. If you have a blog of your own, please include mine in your links (a favor I will gladly reciprocate). Many thanks!

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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

Glass Mug Collecting: Another (Partial) Bryce Set

Bryce Set including Robin in a Tree, Feeding Deer & Dog, and Grape Bunch. Also Strawberry & Pear. Missing from set is Chicks & Pugs.

Bryce Set including Robin in a Tree, Feeding Deer & Dog, and Grape Bunch. Also Strawberry & Pear. Missing from set is Pugs & Chicks.

Like the “beaded handle” set shown in an earlier entry, these mugs were made Bryce Brothers in the 1880s at a time when the company may have been known as Bryce, Walker & Co. In 1891 Bryce joined other glass manufacturers to form U.S. Glass Co. and became known as “Factory B” of that concern; it continued manufacturing these mugs, although I don’t know for how long. According to John B. Mordock and Walter L. Adams in their book Pattern Glass Mugs (The Glass Press, Inc., Marietta, OH: 1995), they are known to have been made in clear, amber, blue, canary, and light amethyst. All of the mugs have similar bowl shapes, the same shape of handle, and bases showing an eight-pointed star.

Bryce Set Showing 8-point Star Bottoms (graduated sizes; color: amber)

Bryce Set Showing 8-point Star Bottoms

The set is made up of four mugs, the largest of which is called Robin in a Tree, although the branches on which the two birds sit have roses and rose leaves on them; it could be a tree rose, I suppose. This mug measures 3-1/4″ in diameter and 3-1/4″ in height. I have several of this size in the colors amber, green, blue, opaque white (sometimes called “milk” or “custard” glass), clear, and carnivalized cobalt. Mordock and Adams report that this mug was later reproduced by another manufacturer, Mosser Glass Co., but that these are marked with Mosser’s maker’s mark, the letter “M” inside an outline of the state of Ohio. Although I would not be surprised to learn that the cobalt mug, especially, is a reproduction, none of my mugs bear the Mosser emblem.

Robin in a Tree; handle at left (size: 3-1/4" diameter x 3-1/4" height; color: amber)

Robin in a Tree - Handle at Left

Robin in a Tree; handle at right (size: 3-1/4" diameter x 3-1/4" height; color: amber)

Robin in a Tree - Handle at Right

All of these mugs were made in two-part molds which can be determined by the number of seam lines on the bowls. Each has a seam line along or underneath the handle (which is part of the molded mug, not an applied handle) and another directly opposite the handle. This can be seen in the following photo of the Robin in a Tree mug.

Robin in a Tree; handle to the back (size: 3-1/4" diameter x 3-1/4" height; color: amber)

Amber Robin in a Tree - Handle to the Back

Here are photographs of two of my Robin in a Tree mugs in other colors, the solid or opaque white known as milk or custard glass and the carnivalized cobalt.

Milk & Cobalt Carnival Robin in a Tree

Milk & Cobalt Carnival Robin in a Tree

Milk & Cobalt Carnival Robin in a Tree

Milk & Cobalt Carnival Robin in a Tree

The second mug in the set measures 3″ in diameter and 3-3/8″ in height. It is known as Grape Bunch and is the only one of the four mugs to bear the same design on both sides.

Grape Bunch; handle at right (size: 3" diameter x 3-3/8" height; color: amber)

Grape Bunch - Handle at Right

Grape Bunch; handle at left (size: 3" diameter x 3-3/8" height; color: amber)

Grape Bunch - Handle at Left

Similar in many respects (size, bowl and handle shape, and bottom pattern) to Grape Bunch, but not considered a part of the set, is Strawberry and Pear. According to Mordock and Adams, this mug is only “presumed” to have been made by Bryce (and later US Glass) because of these similarities. (A 1940 reproduction reportedly has a 24-point star on the bottom; I’ve not seen this copy.) Unlike Grape Bunch, this mug bears different designs on its two sides. The side with the pear, which might actually be a fig, also bears a bunch of grapes; the leaves shown with the fruit do not appear to be those of any of those fruits, however.

Strawberry & Pear; handle at left; strawberry showing (size: 3" diameter x 3-3/8" height; color: amber)

Strawberry & Pear - Showing Strawberry

Strawberry & Pear; handle at right; pear side showing (size: 3" diameter x 3-3/8" height; color: amber)

Strawberry & Pear - Showing Pear & Grape Bunch

The next smallest mug is Feeding Deer and Dog, which measures 2-3/8″ in diameter and 2-5/8″ in height.

Feeding Deer and Dog; handle at left (size: 2-3/8" diameter x 2-5/8" height; color: amber)

Feeding Deer and Dog - Showing the Dog

Feeding Deer and Dog; handle at right (size: 2-3/8" diameter x 2-5/8" height; color: amber)

Feeding Deer and Dog - Showing the Deer

The smallest of the set, which I have yet to obtain, is Chicks and Pugs. It measures 1-7/8″ in diameter by 2″ in height.

I have elsewhere provided information about the Bryce company (in the post entitled Glass Mug Collecting: Bryce Beaded Handle Set), so I will not do so again here. The Mosser Glass Company can be found today in Cambridge, Ohio. The company history and their current catalog can be found at their website, MosserGlass.com. (None of these mugs is shown in the current Mosser catalog.)

Glass Mug Collecting: Bryce Beaded Handle Set

These beaded handle mugs form a four-size set. I have five of them, two of the Bird on a Branch design which is the second-largest of the set.

Set of five mugs (in four sizes) made by the Bryce, Walker Glass Co. in th 1880s (and the U.S. Glass Co. after 1891)

Bryce Beaded Handle Seat

Bryce Brothers made these mugs in the 1880s at a time when the company may have been known as Bryce, Walker & Co. In 1891 Bryce joined other glass manufacturers to form U.S. Glass Co. and became known as “Factory B” of that concern; it continued manufacturing these mugs, apparently for another 20 or more years. They were made in clear, frosted, amber, opaque white, and blue. All of the mugs have beaded handles and pleated skirt bases.

Dog Chasing Deer (Size: 3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.; Color: Amber) To the right of the handle, sculpting shows a young stag looking back over its left shoulder.

Dog Chasing Deer (3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.)

Dog Chasing Deer is the largest mug in the set. It measures 3-1/4″ in diameter and 3-3/4″ in height. To the right of this mug’s handle one sees a young stag looking back over its left shoulder. Directly opposite the handle there are a doe and two stags running from the dog further around the bowl of the mug. To the left of the handle one sees the dog chasing these deer. The animals are framed by trees. The mug was made in a three-part mold; the mold seams run up the trunks of the trees.

Dog Chasing Deer (Size: 3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.; Color: Amber) Directly opposite the handle, sculpting shows a doe and two stags running from the dog further around the bowl of the mug.

Dog Chasing Deer (3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.)

Dog Chasing Deer (Size: 3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.; Color: Amber) To the left of the handle, sculpting shows a dog chasing the deer shown further around the bowl of the mug.

Dog Chasing Deer (3-1/4" dia. x 3-3/4" ht.)

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Amber) To the right of the handle, the sculpting shows an upright singing bird perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

The second largest mug in the set is Bird on a Branch, which measures 2-7/8″ in diameter and 3-3/8″ in height. To the right of this mug’s handle is a perched bird on a branch; the bird is sitting upright and appears to be singing. Directly opposite the beaded handle, one sees as owl perched on a branch. To the left of the handle, the sculpting shows a crouching song bird perched on a branch. Like its larger companion, this mug was made in a three-part mold and, again, the mold seams are hidden in the trunks of the trees.

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Clear) To the right of the handle, the sculpting shows an upright singing bird perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Amber) Directly opposite from the handle, the sculpting shows an owl perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Clear) Directly opposite from the handle, the sculpting shows an owl perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Amber) To the left of the handle, the sculpting shows a crouching song bird perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

Bird on a Branch (Size: 2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.; Color: Clear) To the left of the handle, the sculpting shows a crouching song bird perched on a branch.

Bird on a Branch (2-7/8" dia. x 3-3/8" ht.)

Pointing Dog (Size: 2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.; Color: Amber) To the right of the handle, sculpting shows a hunting dog looking backward over its left shoulder.

Pointing Dog (2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.)

Pointing Dog is the third mug in the set, measuring 2-3/8″ in diameter and 2-5/8″ in height. On the right side of this mug, one finds a hunting dog looking backward over its left shoulder. Opposite the handle there is a singing bird in a crouching position perched on a branch. To the left of the handle is another hunting dog looking straight ahead and pointing toward the bird. Like the two larger mugs, this one was made in a three-part mold and the seams are hidden in tree trunks.

Pointing Dog (Size: 2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.; Color: Amber) Directly opposite the handle, sculpting shows a singing bird in a crouching position perched on a branch.

Pointing Dog (2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.)

Pointing Dog (Size: 2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.; Color: Amber) To the left of the handle, sculpting shows a hunting dog looking straight ahead and pointing toward the bird.

Pointing Dog (2-3/8" dia. x 2-5/8" ht.)

Swan - aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (Size: 1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.; Color: Clear) To the right of the handle, sculpting shows a swimming duck among water grasses.

Swan aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.)

Swan (which is also known as Water Fowl) is the smallest of the set. It measures 1-7/8″ in diameter and 2″ in height. It is seen in packers’ goods catalogs as U.S. Glass No. 3802 or Federal Glass Company’s 1914 Packers’ Catalogue as Federal’s No. 3802. Mugs (and other vessels) made as “packers’ goods” were used to distribute condiments and could afterwards be used for whatever purpose the consumer might choose. Often they were intended as toys for children, which was probably the case with this little item. (Note: There are many mugs and other glass items featuring a swan motif. Another Swan pattern, also known as Plain Swan or Swan with Mesh, was made by Canton Glass Co. circa 1882. There seems to be no mug associated with that pattern. See Darryl Reilly and Bill Jenks, Early American Pattern Glass: Collector’s Identification & Price Guide, pp. 443-44 (2nd Ed.: Krause Publications, Iola, WI: 2002) and Ruth Lee Webb, Early American Pressed Glass, pp. 531-32 (36th Ed.: Lee Publications, Wellesley Hills, MA: 1960).)

On the right side of this little mug one sees a duck swimming among water grasses. Opposite the handle, a bird (either goose or duck) is taking flight from among the rushes. To the left of the handle, a swimming swan glides among the cattails. This mug also was made in a three-part mold; one seam line is well-hidden in the stem of a cattail, while the other is only partially obscured by a palm. My copy of this mug is marred by impurities within the glass: an arc of what seem to be ash particles is imbedded in the glass.

Swan - aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (Size: 1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.; Color: Clear) Directly opposite from the handle, sculpting shows a duck or goose taking flight from among water grasses. Impurities in the glass obscure the sculpted image.

Swan aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.)

Swan - aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (Size: 1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.; Color: Clear) To the left of the handle, sculpting shows a swimming swan among cattails.

Swan aka Water Fowl, U.S. Glass No. 3802, or Federal's No. 3802 (1-7/8" dia. x 2" ht.)

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides this information about the Bryce Brothers Glass Co.

James Bryce, born in Scotland in 1812, migrated to the United States at the age of 5 with his family and first lived in Philadelphia before moving to Pittsburgh in 1819. At the age of 15 he was indentured to Bakewell, Page & Bakewell in 1827. James left the factory when it was temporarily closed by a Financial Panic in the 1830s, but returned to glassblowing in 1845 with the firm of Mulvany and Ledlie.

The firm Bryce, McKee and Co. was established by James in 1850 with his brothers Robert and John who were joined by the McKee brothers, Frederick and James. Their Factory was located at Wharton and 21st streets on Pittsburgh’s South Side. The McKee brothers withdrew from the company in 1854 to establish their own business and two new partners were brought into the company—Joseph Richards and William Hartley— who remained until 1865.

The Walkers who joined the partnership when William Hartley departed added their name to the firm which became known as Bryce, Walker & Co. until 1882 when the Bryce family sold their interest to U.S. Glass Co. which was known as Factory B. Three years later the Bryce Brothers reestablished their business in Hammondville where glass products were produced until 1896 when a new factory was built at Mt. Pleasant.

Bryce Brothers produced tableware, lamps, apothecary wares and bottles. Their pressed glass patterns—Roman Rosette, Ribbon Candy and Ribbed Palm or Sprig were well known as were patterns named Diamond Sunburst, Thistle and Strawberry for which design patents were secured.

Lenox Co. acquired Bryce Brothers in 1965.

The Glass Etch and Pattern Gallery provides this additional (and slightly conflicting) information about the company’s history (adapted from The Glass Candlestick Book: Volume 1, by Tom Felt and Rich & Elaine Stoer):

BRYCE BROTHERS COMPANY, Hammondville, Pa. (1893 1896), Mount Pleasant, Pa. (1896 1967). The involvement of the Bryce family in glass manufacture extends back to the early 1840s. The original Bryce brothers, James, Robert and John, founded Bryce, McKee and Company in Pittsburgh around 1850. After various changes of name, the company was reorganized as Bryce Brothers in 1882 – two of the original brothers, Robert and James, being joined by five of the latter’s sons, as well as one son of Robert’s. In 1891, Bryce Brothers became factory “B” of the United States Glass Company.

Most of the Bryce clan took positions with U.S. Glass. However, in 1893, two of the younger generation, Andrew H. and J. McDonald Bryce, withdrew to found the new Bryce Brothers Company. They purchased the bankrupt Smith-Brudewold Company’s plant at Hammondville, which they operated until 1896, when they moved to a brand new factory in Mount Pleasant. Their specialty was blown stemware and tumblers, with a full variety of offerings for the hotel and bar trade. From the beginning they also offered many forms of decoration, including etching, cutting, sand blasting, iridescent finishes, enameling, gold bands, etc. Bryce Brothers remained a major producer of blown stemware and tableware through most of the twentieth century. In 1948, they began using a logo that advertised “Bryce, hand blown, since 1841,” apparently referring to the year when the original John Bryce got his first job in the glass industry, working for Bakewells and Company. In 1965, Bryce Brothers Company was purchased by Lenox, Inc., the Trenton, New Jersey, china manufacturer, who continued to operate the factory under their own name until the 1990s.

Glass Mug Collecting: Medallion Pattern by Atterbury

Five Medallion mugs, three large (black, clear, amber), one medium (white), one small (clear)

Set of five Atterbury & Co. Medallion mugs

This is my set of five mugs in this pattern, Medallion by Atterbury & Co. Other names for this pattern are Ceres, Cameo, Profile & Sprig, Goddess of Liberty, and Beaded Medallion

According to Mordock & Adams, Pattern Glass Mugs, page 8 (The Glass Press, Inc.: Marieta, OH, 1995):

Atterbury & Co. manufactured this mug and this pattern about 1870. The large mug’s mold has been remade at least once. One variation is called Washington & Lafayette (compare the hairline and the base of the bust). Ceres mugs were made in clear, amber, blue, opaque turquoise, opaque black, opaque raspberry, dark amethyst, opalescent, blue opalescent, blue alabaster and pink alabaster. Over 20 different items were made in this pattern.

I have all three sizes: 2″ x 2″; 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″; and 3-1/8″ x 3-1/4″ (The first dimension is diameter; the second, height.)

Amber Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Ceres variant

Amber Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Ceres variant

Opaque black Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Washington & Lafayette variant

Opaque black Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Washington & Lafayette variant

Clear Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Washington & Lafayette variant

Clear Medallion mug (3-1/8" x 3-1/4"); Washington & Lafayette variant

Milk white Medallion mug (2-1/2" x 2-1/2"); Ceres variant

Milk white Medallion mug (2-1/2" x 2-1/2"); Ceres variant

Clear Medallion mug (2" x 2"); Ceres variant

Clear Medallion mug (2" x 2"); Ceres variant

The Glass Lovers Glass Database offers this information about the manufacturer:

‘James S. and Thomas B. Atterbury joined brother-in-law James Hale to form Hale and Atterbury in 1860 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The grandsons of Sarah Atterbury Bakewell (sister of Benjamin Bakewell and founder of Bakewell’s Glass Company), opened their White House Factory at Carson and McKee streets in Pittsburgh’s South Side. Hale was the firm’s glassblower. He was replaced two years later by James Reddick who left Atterbury in 1864. The company’s name thus was changed from Hale, Atterbury and Co., to Atterbury, Reddick and Co., then Atterbury and Co. before finally bearing the name Atterbury Glass Co. in 1893. Thomas Atterbury served as the company’s president throughout its history.

Thomas Atterbury was the principal inventor in the firm.’ (1) ‘The Atterbury Company was looked upon as the finest producer of milk glass. All their early pieces were marked with a patent date and the animals all had glass eyes that were glued in. Many of the animal’s dishes had lacy edge bases. Extra detail was given to all their molds to create realistic looking animals. The most popular animals included a hen, cat, fox, duck and fish. Atterbury also made many non-animal dishes that collectors are on the search for, such as the hand dish, maple sugar bowls, whiskey bottles and other table pieces. All their pieces are highly sought after by collectors.’ (4)

Atterbury and Co. also made a variety of items: canning jars and lids, bar bottles, covered dishes, salt and pepper shakers and other tableware, and lamps. Its covered dishes made out of opal or milk glass often featured animal designs – rabbits, ducks, chicks, bulls and boars heads.(1)

It’s most famous designs are its covered dishes, in which the covers were shaped like animals. ‘Rabbit’ appeared in 1886. ‘Duck’ in 1887 and the ‘Boar’s Head’ in 1888. The glass menagerie also included dish covers called ‘Chick and Eggs’, ‘Entwined Fish’ and ‘Hand holding a Bird’.(2)

Along with his brother James, Thomas created one of the finest kerosene lamp producing companies of the late 1800’s. They received over 100 patents for glass and lamp design and production. Their lamp patterns were numerous and varied: Chieftain, Prism, Tulip, Icicle, Loop, Fine Rib, Wave are only a few examples. When financial problems hit in the late 1880’s Atterbury and Co. joined with several others to form a new single company called the United States Glass Company.(3) “Atterbury remained an independent factory until 1903.”(1)

Ref: (1) The Lampworks
Ref: (2) The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Gordon Campbell, Editor
Ref: (3) royslamps.com
Ref: (4) Article by Go Antique’s Debbie Coe

Glass Mug Collecting: Introductory Post

I decided that I would start chronicling my hobby of glass collecting on this blog. (These posts will be intermingled with sermons and whatever other random thoughts I may have….) So, to be specific, I collect early American pattern glass mugs.

Five Medallion mugs, three large (black, clear, amber), one medium (white), one small (clear)

Set of five Atterbury & Co. Medallion mugs

Since this is a first post, let me dissect those terms.

Early

“Early” refers to the first era of pressed glass production in America, from about 1830 up to 1910 (roughly, some of my mugs are from later years). Glassware historians divide this into three periods: the Lacy Period, 1830-40; the Flint Period, 1840 to about 1860; and the Non-Flint Period, 1860-1910. What primarily distinguishes the periods are the stabilizers used in the glass and production methods used in the making of the glassware, and the retail price and availability of the products. In the earliest periods of human history, glass was something only for the wealthy; this continued to be true until the late 19th Century.

Clear Goblet in Bryce's Derby or "Pleat & Panel" Pattern

Clear Goblet in Bryce's Derby or "Pleat & Panel" Pattern

Although a glass is a substance that is non-crystalline, it is almost completely undeformable and thus brittle. Glass tableware is made of silica (silicon oxide); such glass, without the addition of other elements, is extremely brittle. Therefore stabilizers are used to give the finished product particular characteristics. Calcium carbonate can be added as a stabilizer that will make the resulting glass insoluble in water. Lead oxide added as a stabilizer gives the glass extreme transparency, brightness, and a high refractive index (the measure of glass’s ability to bend light); it also makes glass easier to cut. The glassware known as “lead crystal” uses lead oxide (up to 33%) as the stabilizer. Zinc oxide can be added to glass to make it more resistant to changes in temperature as well as to increase its refractive index. Aluminum oxide can also be added as a stabilizer to increase the physical strength of the glass.

The earliest American glass makers added flint or lead to stabilize glassware. However, the military need for lead during the American civil war lead to the search for alternatives. In 1862, William Leighton, Jr., devised a formula using soda lime. This produced a less brilliant, less resonant, but also much less expensive type of glass. Together with advances in molding techniques brought on by the industrial revolution, and by the advent of natural gas to fire furnaces in the 1880s, the changed formula reduced the price of glassware and made mass manufacturing and mass marketing possible. Glassware became available to the larger market of the growing American middle class.

American

Well… that ought to be self-explanatory. On the other hand, I should acknowledge that not all of my mugs are American! I have a couple that are definitely English and one that is definitely German, and a couple I’m not at all sure about. Also, “American” glass includes products of some Canadian manufacturers. (So perhaps it should be “North American”?)

Pattern

Amber Mother Goose lunch set (1930s era copy)

Amber Mother Goose lunch set (1930s era copy)

What is the difference between “molded” glass, “pressed” glass, and “pattern” glass? Not much. Nearly all pattern glass is pressed, but not vice-versa. All pressed glass is molded, but not vice-versa.

Some molded glass is blown into the the mold; pressed glass is, obviously, pressed into the mold. Nearly all pattern glass is pressed glass with this characteristic: that several different items (or “forms” as collectors call them) share the design pressed into the glass. Darryl Reilly and Bill Jenks in their book Early American Pattern Glass: Collector’s Identification & Price Guide (2nd Ed.: Krause Publications, Iola, WI: 2002) define “pattern glass” as “only those designs produced in forms large enough to constitute a basic 4-piece table setting.” (Page 7) Others defined “pattern glass” as pressed glass tableware, and some related novelty glass items, made only during the Victorian period (1850-1910), only in America, and in “sets” such that all of the pieces in the set matched in design, without setting a minimum on the number of forms. And some make no distinction at all between “pressed” glass and “pattern” glass.

How many patterns are there? One expert has suggested that there may have been up to 5,000 patterns produced by American glassware manufacturers during the Victorian era! See Bob Batty, A Complete Guide to Pressed Glass, page 7 (Pelican Publishing Co.: Gretna, LA, 1998).

Three-handled spooner of unknown pattern

Three-handled spooner of unknown pattern

Glass

Here’s a technical definition: “Glass is often referred to as an amorphous solid. An amorphous solid has a definite shape without the geometric regularity of crystalline solids. Glass can be molded into any shape. If glass is shattered, the resulting pieces are irregularly shaped. A crystalline solid would exhibit regular geometrical shapes when shattered.” Good enough? Good enough – I think we all know what “glass” means.

Mugs

Clear Medallion mug (2" x 2"); Ceres variant

Clear Medallion mug (2" x 2"); Ceres variant

Mug: “A drinking container with a handle” is about the simplest definition one can give, but it begs the question. John B. Mordock and Walter L. Adams in the introduction to their book Pattern Glass Mugs (The Glass Press, Inc.: Marieta, OH, 1995) note that there are all sorts of particularly shaped mugs: lemonades, whiskey tasters, steins, and so forth. As they say, “It is difficult to determine what should be included as a mug. Items that are on the borderline are custard cups, cup and saucer sets, punch cups and some mustard containers.” Toothpick holders and children’s toys are on the borderline, as well. My definition: if it’s a handled drinking vessel, not obviously a tea cup or a punch cup, and I like it – it’s a mug!

So that’s what my collecting hobby is all about. In future posts, I’ll post pictures of my mugs and give as much detail about them as I can find. As I get more information on a piece, I’ll edit the posts. I hope those who read them and look at the pictures of my mugs will enjoy these little works of art as much as I do.