My Brother’s Glass Redux 2016

By Gerald Thomas

Where art thou my Brother? A good question leading into my updated narrative about fraternal carnival glassware. Eight years ago, I wrote about an old black and white Masonic convention photo coupled with a carnival glass purchase, a Shriner’s convention toothpick holder. The early 20th century Shriner’s and Templar’s conventions often provided a dated convention souvenir glassware item. Frequently the glassware was meant to hold libations.

When we speak of fraternal glassware, the known catalogued items that frequently come to mind are the U.S. Glass Shriner’s Champagne glasses, the Northwood Dandelion Templar mugs and the U.S. Glass Shrine Sheath of Wheat toothpick holder. Since 2008, one or more reference books and websites allude to that many of the glassware Champaign glasses and cordials might possibly be Westmoreland products. Difficult to confirm as U.S. Glass used paper labels rather than pressed trademarks on their products. To my knowledge, neither U.S. Glass nor Westmoreland used permanent trademarks on their older glass products. 

 Let us for a moment, reflect on those past fraternal conventions and the time and place in history. The time is 1908. There are approximately 45,000 new cars rolling off the assembly line, but reliable roads interconnecting American cities have yet to be part of the American landscape. Commercial air travel does not exist. Yet, hundreds if not thousands of men incur great personal expense. They travel to distant cities for the purpose of attending regional or national Masonic conventions. Their likely mode of travel is by train. Hence, when we examine fraternal glassware items we note the conventions are held in major east coast and Midwest cities served by train. Many major cities are identified on the glassware items- Pittsburgh, Rochester, New Orleans, and, St. Paul. 

My examination of black and white Masonic convention photos shows men in formal attire, seated at long white linen covered tables listening to speeches, enjoying a fine meal and most likely savoring a cigar and libations. Eat, drink and be merry! 

I remain quite pleased with my Shriner toothpick holder. This toothpick holder is not the one we see pictured in Edward’s Encyclopedia of Carnival Glass. This toothpick holder is entirely different. Dated 1908, I previously described it as a U.S. Glass product, light amethyst glass in color (ruby flash body) with gold gilding treatment on the wheat sheath and lettering. The toothpick lists Syria Temple of Pittsburgh, and St. Paul plus four names, Brown, Motheral, Moore and Robinson. I procured it from the Mickey Reichel Auction Service.

I have inspected the toothpick holder several times. It dawned on me one day that these carnival toothpick holders (as we casually refer to them) are most likely whiskey or cordial shot glasses. I will explain.

Contemplate this thought. Would you travel hundreds of miles by train, dress in a tuxedo and incur the costs of a convention only to take a toothpick holder home as a souvenir? Probably not. The toothpick scenario sounds good if alcohol temperance IS practiced in your household or if you wish to make a good impression on the wife. I will elaborate with this following text. “Hi Honey, I’m glad to be home from the Pittsburgh convention. I missed you. Smooch! I even brought you a toothpick holder home as a gift”. If that fellow has his wits about him, he should have a flower bouquet to go with that so called toothpick holder.  All I can say is that the innocent “toothpick holder” was probably filled several times over with hard liquor during the convention. Multiple toasts made to incoming and outing officers plus others being honored. Please remember that this was the time well before Prohibition.

I did speak to several Shriners years ago asking them what they thought of my shot glass hypothesis. With good natured humor, they informed me that there was no such thing as a Shriner’s toothpick holder. All glassware vessels made for THEIR conventions were designed to hold camel’s milk, whatever that means. These secret societies, their riddles and mysteries confound me. Is there is a secret or hidden meaning behind Masonic glassware items? Only time will tell. Possibly, I will travel to Europe, take a ride on the Orient Express and seek out more information... There are so many unanswered questions remaining in my quest for true carnival knowledge.

Masonic glassware items are interesting. One might consider collecting these glassware items for their unique artistic designs, history and affordability.

Good hunting on the “mystical” carnival glass trail wherever it may lead you. 

Gerald Thomas 

Copyright January 20, 2016. All media, reproduction and distribution rights reserved.