Those who live in the Detroit Metropolitan area know The Henry Ford as a vibrant exciting educational living museum, of the past. For those who do not live in the area, The Henry Ford Greenfield Village museum is located at 20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, Michigan 48124-5029. This stunningly educationally rich location is home to historic homes, trains, vintage cars, antique transportation, glass antiques, furniture, an inside museum, an outside museum, a working vintage carousel, demonstrations of history, events, and an IMAX Theater. If you’re new to the area, henryford.org will give you a small introduction. The scope of the Henry Ford Greenfield Village museum is quite amazing, and beyond what can be covered in a single writing. Therefore, this piece will invite you to consider the inside museum, where there are many examples of antique paperweights.
Antique glass is always valuable, because of the obvious. Glass is fragile, and it breaks. Glass pieces that are hundreds of years old have had to avoid many a mishap, in order to survive. Paperweights were very inexpensive, when they were sold in the nineteenth century. A few pennies were all that one needed to purchase one of these exquisite colorful globes of glass. Over time, people used paperweights for their intended purpose, as an object of artistic beauty. People also used paperweights to pound in a nail, when a hammer wasn’t available. Additionally, paperweights were used as door stops, book ends, and for a host of other activities having nothing to do with art. The antique paperweights that survive are rare. Antique or contemporary, good paperweights have clear rich color, distinct design, symmetry, grace and beauty. When you observe the antique paperweights, at the Henry Ford inside museum, you might want to consider their origin.
There were many eighteenth century glass artists, who created paperweights. However, when you think of classic antique paperweights, think of the artists in France. There were three widely appreciated French manufacturing firms, which were famous for the production of paperweights. Though there were other paperweight manufacturers, Baccarat, Saint Louis, and Clichy were the most famous. Clichy paperweights were displayed at the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London, in 1851. Clichy paperweights were also displayed at the New York Crystal Palace, in 1853. By the way, if you’re ever antiquing, you may run across one of these spectacular weights, from the nineteenth century. Paperweights can be discovered in estate sales, flea markets, art collections, museums, and auction houses. The classic period of French antique paperweight production can be disputed. In general, it began around 1845 and continued until around 1860. Many other beautiful and valuable paperweights were also created at various times, over the last one hundred years. Paperweight production continues to the present day.
When you look at a paperweight, you will see small colored objects of glass that seem to float inside of the clear glass globe. These objects of glass are called canes. The small clear color rich glass canes often appear to rise up from the base of the paperweight. Flower canes often have this appearance. Other canes may display a date. Another type of white cane may present with the silhouette of a black running rabbit inside of the cane circle of white. The cane silhouette could also be a black rooster, or a horse. If you ever come across a paperweight with a cane that has a C inside of a circle, you may have found an antique Clichy. Though a paperweight like this may have begun as a decorative novelty, in perfect condition, it could be valued in the thousands of dollars today. Many people think of a signed piece of art as having a written signature. However, the signature of an antique paperweight is more often than not signed by the type of canes suspended inside of the glass globe. Some of the more distinctive canes are green cabbage canes with a pink cabbage center, various colored flat flowers with green stems, sulphides, or an intricately designed concentric colorful millefiori pattern.
Sulphide paperweights refer to a single object suspended inside of the weight. The suspended object could be a rooster, another type of animal, or a human head. The suspended object is often a silvery color. Millefiori refers to many flowers, because that is what the canes look like, when they are placed in a beautiful multi-colored concentric design. Canes can look like delicate twirling strands of fine white lace, or they can be striped like a candy cane. At the end of the day, the artist would gather up the unused canes, and incorporate them into a few final paperweights. It should be no surprise, that these paperweights were called end of the day weights. There was no rhyme or reason to the end of the day paperweight design; it simply contained every cane worked with that day.