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TI Collectables, Part I Squiggle Glass


When my wife, Prudence, and I began to collect, we didn’t understand or recognize the value of glass and consequently left it alone. When we “discovered” Thousand Island memorabilia all that changed. We soon fell in love with ruby flash glass as it had all the ingredients that appealed to us – beauty, variety, availability and a reasonable price [at the time].

“Flash” is often misused as some people refer to all red glass as ruby flash. Solid red glass is not flash. Flash glass has a thin layer of colored glass applied to clear glass [called the carrier glass]. Application of the layer of colored glass requires great skill. Today craftsmen able to perform the process have all but disappeared. There are a few small shops in Europe, predominately in Germany and France, who still practice the art but the procedure is mostly confined to sheet glass. For example, some stained glass windows are flashed. Ruby designates the color and the best ruby color uses gold dust in the mix as it produces a lighter, more transparent red. This explains why you see little, if any, new ruby flash glass today.

After we became comfortable with Thousand Island ruby flash glass, we turned our attention to other Thousand Island glass. It’s an opportunity of which you should be aware as the variety and the beauty seem to be never ending. What you collect will be unique as no two pieces seem to be alike. The similarities with Thousand Island ruby flash glass are the squiggle and the handwriting. Focusing on these two characteristics should provide a degree of comfort.

The squiggle mark speaks for itself. The second step is to study the word “Islands.” The “I” should be written while the first “s” should be printed. The second “s” is sometimes printed but not always. Once you become comfortable with these characteristics, you can buy with confidence. The lack of the squiggle[s] is rare but not uncommon so don’t depend entirely on the squiggle. If you view the accompanying pictures, it should help clarify my jibber jabber.

My definition of the “golden era” is the thirty to forty years before World War One. Squiggle glass fits nicely into that time period as the earliest date for squiggle glass, of which I am aware, is 1894 and the latest date is 1910. If you, the reader, have a date outside these perimeters, please let me know.

Squiggle glass is a great connection to the early history of the Thousand Islands and if you’re lucky, you’ll find it’s still available. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

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My guess is that the gold color might really be gold. Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

Custard glass? Just a guess but isn’t it unusual? Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

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Maybe custard glass! [again] Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

Cranberry glass was also made with gold in the mixture but it’s not flash as the color is solid throughout the item. Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

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It’s unusual to see an exact date. Maybe it was a wedding gift [the date the couple married] or someone’s birthday. Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

No squiggle but notice the printed “s” in the word “Islands.” Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

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The “Mable” canoe dated 1907. Photo from the P & R Matthews Collection.

By Robert L. Matthews

This will be the first of three articles Robert L. Matthews will write this winter giving us a sample of Thousand Islands memorabilia.  Robert  is the author of two popular books:  Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life: Souvenirs from the Thousand Islands: Robert and Prudence Matthews Collection, and A History of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, published in 2009.  Bob presented five articles last winter.  He and his wife Prudence ( well known River artist whose work was presented in Hooked on Prudence in 2009) have one of the most extensive collections of  Thousand Islands memorabilia.  When not at their beautiful River cottage at Fisher’s Landing, they live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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