Book of the Week
This week’s book of the week is A Tryal of Glasse.
No visit to Historic Jamestowne is complete without a visit to the Glasshouse. America’s first English industrial manufacture began here with a “trial of glass.“ At “glass point” near Jamestown, the glass furnaces were rediscovered and excavated in 1948. Today, in a reconstructed interpretive facility, glassblowing is again performed at Jamestown. Modern artisans, in reproductive clothing, produce common glass objects very much as they must have done almost 400 years ago. This book makes you part of the history of the art of glass and glassmaking.
The Roots of America at Colonial NHP
We went back in the archives for this week’s Book of the Week to learn about glassblowing in the Jamestown settlement, and the mid-20th century efforts of the National Park Service to build a new glasshouse, a short distance from where the original stood. Now that we’re here in tidewater Virginia, where the first permanent English settlements in America were made, let’s explore more! At Colonial National Historical Park and surrounding areas, visitors have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the experiences of people who arrived here over 400 years ago.
Jamestown Glass and the First American Manufacturing
As part of the Virginia Company, the main goal of the Jamestown Settlement was a profitable return on investment. One of the first attempts at industry in Jamestown was the production of glass. The remnants of the first glass furnaces were excavated in 1948. The Jamestown Glasshouse was constructed near the spot of the original to provide visitors to Historic Jamestowne an immersive living history experience.
In period dress, through the sweltering heat of a working glass furnace, master glassblowers provide interpretive demonstrations using tools and techniques that would have been used four centuries ago. The pieces created by the Jamestown Glassblowers show the care and dedication to craft of a true artisan. In addition to creating objects that would have been used in everyday life, they also create an annual collector’s piece that highlights a historical innovation in the art of glassblowing. Watch this video for a five-minute lesson from a Jamestown Glassblower!
The Jamestown settlement would not have become the first permanent English settlement without the aid of the Powhatan people. The settlers were able to trade goods for food and other essentials needed for survival. As time wore on, and a drought made resources scarcer, the settlers became more demanding of the Powhatan. The relationship deteriorated and, apart from a period of relative peace surrounding the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe, became more violent.
Learn more about the stories of these early conflicts from Native voices on the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail.
Not far down the road from Jamestown is Fort Monroe National Monument. This new park helps preserve Point Comfort, the place where the first enslaved Africans arrived on America’s shores in August of 1619. As recorded by John Rolfe, a ship called the White Lion carried with it “20 and odd negroes” who the ship’s captain exchanged for food.
Read more about the history of African Americans on Jamestown Island in this thorough National Park Service study.
Bacon’s Rebellion occurred in Jamestown in 1676, a century before the American Revolution. It was one of the first examples of conflict between the colonies and representatives of the royal government. Economic hardships, taxation disputes, and aggression against local Native tribes were at the heart of this rebellion and would continue to be major themes in American conflicts for years to come.
A short drive down the Colonial Parkway, and about 150 years forward in time, takes visitors to one of the most significant sites of the Revolutionary War. Yorktown Battlefield, part of Colonial National Historical Park, tells the story of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Events at Yorktown led to the surrender of British General Cornwallis and his army, and virtually ensured independence for the Colonies. Learn more about the history of Yorktown in this excellent video series from the park!
Bonus Content – Glass Around
Explore some of the story of glassmaking before it came to the colonies.
Many visitors to Jamestown Glasshouse find themselves mesmerized by the process. Here’s a video from the Corning Museum of Glass in England that puts you inside a glass furnace!
Enjoy this excellent lecture on early glassmaking in Nigeria.
Watch this video on glass in Ancient Egypt with the family.
Artisans at Jamestown tried more than glass to make the settlement profitable. Learn about iron making in Jamestown in this video.
Passport Virtual Cancellation
The Jamestown Glasshouse offers a chance to experience authentic glassblowing – and now you can have this experience from home with this virtual tour. Explore the site of America’s first English industrial manufacture and collect your virtual Passport stamp while you’re at it!
Shop The Experience
Want a beautiful one-of-a-kind piece of history on display at home? For a limited time, get 25% off Jamestown Glass pieces using code JAMESTOWN at checkout, like the 2020 Special Collector’s Cobalt Spanish Vase pictured here. All pieces are handmade at the historic Jamestown Glasshouse at Colonial NHP by artisans trained in the traditional glass-blowing style.
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If you are passionate about education and your national parks, consider a gift today. Your gift of $10 or more will make more books available online for free and allow us to reach new audiences with the stories of our history, culture, and environment that your national parks preserve.