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THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO JOE ZARRO AND HIS WIFE DANA, I NEVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING JOE WHO PASSED LAST YEAR, BUT HAVE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING BUT GREAT STORIES. HE & AND DANA PUT TOGETHER A COLLECTION NOTHING LESS THAN IMPRESSIVE. I PICKED A FEW THAT DANA HAD PUT UP ON HER FACEBOOK PAGE AND SHE CONTINUE TO ADD WHEN SHE CAN. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THE GREAT MEMORIES AND STORIES THAT DANA HOLDS OF THE BOTTLE COLLECTING ICON THAT WAS JOE ZARRO. THE BOTTLE COLLECTING COMMUNITY IS BETTER BECAUSE OF JOE AND HE WILL MISSED BY ALL WHO HAD THE PLEASURE OF KNOWING HIM. THANK YOU DANA FOR ALLOWING ME TO SHARE SOME OF HIS LEGACY HERE.~ OTHER COLLECTORS SUCH AS RICK CIRALLI HAVE BEEN GRACIUOS ENOUGH TO ALLOW ME TO SHARE SOME OF THEIR GREAT PITKIN PIECES AND THOSE ARE LABELED AS SUCH. THANKS EVERYBODY.
In 1783, Connecticut's General Assembly granted Captain Richard Pitkin and his sons a 25-year monopoly on manufacturing glass, as recompense for their providing gun powder, at a loss, to the Connecticut militia, 1775-1781. The Pitkin Glass Works, the first successful glass factory in Connecticut, was built in
Manchester (then the Orford Parish of East Hartford) on the Pitkin farm, now on the corner of Putnam and Parker Streets. Remaining in operation until about 1830, the factory produced demijohns for the West Indian trade, and bottles, flasks, inkwells and other small items, mostly in shades of green. These were considered to be the best color and design in the country. Rare today, Pitkin flasks have brought tens of thousands of dollars at auctions.
It is not known why the factory was closed down. Perhaps it was because of the cost of transporting sand from New Jersey, or because the firewood supply was decreasing with the growth of farming in the area. There may have been poor management, or increasing competition from other factories once the monopoly expired. Gradually, the massive stone building fell into disrepair.
In 1928, Mr. And Mrs. Fred W. Pitkin and others of the Horace Pitkin family quit-claimed the property to the Orford Parish Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Finding the cost of maintenance a burden, a suggestion was made in 1977 that it be sold for commercial purposes.
A group of interested citizens, led by Mr. Edson Bailey, protested this possibility, and formed a committee to preserve this historic site for the community.
Pitkin Glass Works BottlePitkin Glass Works Inc. (the Corporation) was organized, with executive officers, and five representatives from the Orford Parish Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; five representatives from the Manchester Historical Society, Inc.; and five representatives from the citizenry at large. Papers were filed for incorporation, and by-laws were drawn up. The site was approved for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since then, the Corporation has overseen the landscaping of the area, and installed a flagpole with a flag that has flown over our national capitol. The monumental stone ruins have been stabilized by repointing the stonework and replacing the wood lintels.
In the 1980s, students from Central Connecticut State University made a preliminary archaeological dig, but only shards of glass and pottery were found. In recent years, several archaeological digs have been carried out by middle school, high school and university students under the direction of the state archaeologist. Numerous pieces of bottles, flasks and inkwells have been discovered and cataloged. The fragments have confirmed the characteristics of the products made here.
All the funds to support the work of the Corporation have been raised by the generosity of private benefactors, or through the sale of replicas of a Pitkin flask and an inkwell, and pendants made from fragments of glass. An illustrated hard-cover book by Dr. William E. Buckley, "A History of the Pitkin Glass Works," has also been published.
The Corporation remains active, carrying out its mandate to maintain and preserve this part of our heritage for future generations.
Connecticut's first successful glassworks was formed by William Pitkin, his cousin Elisha pitkin and Samuel Bishop and they were granted a 25 year exclusive privelage from the states general assembly to produce all types of glass. The Pitkin family was large, old and influential with many land holdings in pre-and-post revolutinary pies including guns, gunpowder, textiles, flour, iron, silver, tobacco and snuff. Two of the names of former superintendents and managers are Robert Hewes of the Temple glassworks fame in New Hampshire and John P. Foster, whose initials are embossed and appear on an inkwell and a figured flask GII-57. The glassworks has always been considered a bottle glasshouse of which commercial products blown there consisted of chestnuts, demijohns, utilities, snuffs, globular bottles and tableware like pitchers, creamers, bowls & pans. The most popular and recognizable wares were the inkwells and molded flasks blown in the german half-post method consisting of ribs & swirls. The figured flasks and sunburst flasks are all prized by collectors with some extreme rarities. We do know window glass and clock faces were also manufactured there in the early years. The Pitkin colors are yellow-amber, olive-amber, olive-yellow, yellow-olive, olive-green, yellow-green and a bluish to deep green. These are the New England "earthy" tones and were basically carried on in the future Connecticut glasshouses. The site containing the romantic ruins of the glassworks is owned and managed by the Pitkin Glass Works Inc and professional excavations are conducted there on a regular basis. Some examples of Pitkin glass are on display at the Old Manchester Museum in Manchester, CT.