Restoring a Glass Liberty Bell

Stephen Koob, the Museum’s conservator, demonstrates where the missing piece would be adhered.

Glassmaking was one of the first industries to develop in America, with the first glasshouse built in the colony of Jamestown in 1608. This weekend, we celebrated 234 years as an independent nation, so it’s timely that a team of Museum staff installed in the galleries a large, American cut glass Liberty Bell that is on long-term loan to the Museum from Dr. Kenneth Braunstein.

The glass Liberty Bell during reconstruction.

Made for display at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, OR, the glass Liberty Bell was cut in Rochester, PA, by the H.C. Fry Glass Company. One of the largest single pieces to have been cut during the Brilliant Period, the bell weighs 32 pounds and measures 18” tall and 20.5” wide, with some of the cuts at least 3/4” deep. The piece depicts crossed American flags and the Great Shield of the United States, with large 24-point hobstars. It was shown at the Fry showroom in New York City for an unknown length of time and was discovered in a storeroom by a worker at the Fry plant when the company was being dissolved. The worker bought the bell and displayed it in his living room until his death. It passed through the hands of several owners, until being bought by Dr. Braunstein.

The glass Liberty Bell after conservation, now installed in the Museum’s American Glass Gallery.

The piece had not had any restoration work done until arriving at the Museum this past spring. You can see some of the phases of restoration work in these photos. The glass Liberty Bell is now on display in the Museum’s American Glass Gallery.

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