We believe this rolling pin was made in either the 1870s or 1880s.
Dear Helaine and Joe: I believe this glass rolling pin may have been made by my grandfather’s brother, Joseph Pote. He was a glassblower around the late 1800s and lived in East Stroudsburg, Pa., for a while. The piece has a hole-in-one end, which I think was where a cork might be placed. Could you supply some information about it? Thanks for you help. — C.R., Aiken, S.C.
Dear C.R.: The Etruscans are thought to be the first people to have used rolling pins for food preparation. In more modern kitchens, rolling pins can be found made of wood, ceramic, marble, stainless steel, copper, aluminum and silicone but seldom does a glass rolling pin turn up in a drawer.
When most collectors think of glassware made in Pennsylvania, they think either of the many factories located in the Pittsburgh area or perhaps the Northwood Glass Co. (later Dugan-Diamond) located in Indiana, Pa. Both locations are in the western part of the state (Indiana is a little more central than Pittsburgh), but East Stroudsburg is located in the far northeastern portion.
We suspect that if Joseph Pote made this piece, he probably did so in Pittsburgh. Glass rolling pins were commonly made there for kitchen use, but sometimes the workers would make a special example to give as a love token to a mother or sweetheart.
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Many might describe the decoration on this piece as being in the style of Nailsea, an English glass house located about seven miles from Bristol. Others might call the decoration “drag loop,” and some Englishmen (or women) might say that this piece is “festooned” glassware.
We believe this rolling pin was made in either the 1870s or 1880s (it is hard to be more precise without a little more family history). Along with being made as a gift for a loved one, it might also have been made to show the glassblower’s skill. Glass craftsmen often made objects such as glass parade canes and long chains of glass loops to display their skills to the public.
As for the hole-in-one end of this rolling pin, it was there to allow cold water to be placed inside the barrel. The end was sealed with a cork, as C. R. surmised. This cold water facilitated the dough-rolling process by keeping such items as puff pastry cool, and the water gave the rolling pin more heft for pushing and rolling the dough.
In the 19th century, rolling pins could be quite elaborate. Some were painted with images of ships and messages such as “A Present From a Friend” or “A Present to My Mother From Her Son.” Glass examples were spattered with several types and colors or came in solid colors that ran the gamut from clear colorless to red, blue, green and white.
If C. R. can present a reasonable case for this particular rolling pin to have been made at a particular glasshouse in Pennsylvania by her relative, it would be valued at about $650. But without this provenance, the insurance replacement value ranges from $300 to $400.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 27540, Knoxville, TN 37927. Email them at email@example.com.)