W (Script) Wax Sealer

Provenance: Jerry McCann Collection

This beautiful hand-blown wax sealer was made using a deep-blue glass and has an embossed cursive or script “W” that is slanted left on the face of the jar. The “W” stands for Thomas Wightman, who is referred to as a pioneer glass manufacturer and the “father of the window glass” industry in the United States.

Our subject jar has a tooled applied lip. The closure is a grooved ring wax sealer mouth finish and comes with an early unmarked tin cap. The jars are typically found in aqua with rare yellow and citron quarts reported. Our blue example is exceptionally rare.

There are quite a few earlier variants of this type of script “W” wax sealer jar that are primarily embossed “L & W” on the front in somewhat crude script lettering that stands for Lorenz & Wightman.

According to the 1873 advertisement above, Lorenz & Wightman were “Manufacturers of Vials, Bottles and Window Glass, Also Manufacturers of the following Reliable, Patent Self-Sealing Fruit Jars, L. & W.’s “XL.,” 1 Glass, “Pet,” All Glass, L. & W.’s Metal and Glass To The Old Reliable Mason, Also the Union and Cork Jars for Wax. 32 Wood Street, Pittsburg, Pa.”

There are versions of the wax sealer with ghosted letters and typographic variations illustrated above. These jars had the initials embossed in large cursive characters on the jar sides reading “L & W’s XL.” The “XL” may have inferred “excel.”

The jars embossed “PET” on the front had the “L&W” initials on the reverse and were finished for the T. G. Otterson patent of August 31, 1869. No reason for the “PET” name has been established and possibly it was an arbitrary choice.

In some cases, the “L” and “W” typography varies slightly and there are distinct variations in the ampersand and slant of the letters. One could make quite a collection of all these jars and variants.

When Lorenz and Wightman ceased to exist, Thomas Wightman altered and eventually made new molds with the same script “W” as our museum example.

Thomas Wightman

Thomas Wightman was born on January 8, 1818, in Belfast, Ireland. Of sturdy Scotch-Irish stock, he was one of twelve children who came with their parents to America settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1825.

When Thomas Wightman was 14 years old, he entered a queensware house in Pittsburgh as an office boy. He rose quickly and was one of the earliest men to engage in the manufacture of bottles and window glass.

In 1834, Wightman was employed by William McCully & Co. and in a few years became a member of the successful and well-known glass concern. See the museum example of a Standard McCully jar which is very similar to our subject jar. This relationship terminated in 1851 when the new glass company Lorenz & Wightman was formed. Thomas Wightman’s partner was Frederick Lorenz. In 1854, Frederick died and was replaced by Atwood Lorenz. The firm retained the name, Lorenz and Wightman.

Lorenz & Wightman embossed the company initials on most if not all of their containers. Many bitters bottle collectors are aware that Lorenz & Wightman used a block style lettering “L&W” mark on the bases of Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters bottles, among others. A number of Mason jars were also embossed with the L&W block typestyle mark. Typically these marks were embossed on the base of the bottles. The wax-sealing fruit jars that were made with the initials “L&W” in large letters on the side were an expansion of this company branding.

With the death of Lorenz, a problematic glass workers strike, and other factors, Lorenz & Wightman ceased to exist in late 1873 or 1874. This is probably when our wax sealer was made when Thomas Wightman & Company was formed. His Pittsburgh glass house specialized in making bottles, vials, jars, liquor ware, and window glass. For his jars, Thomas Wightman merely peened out the letter “L” and the ampersand “&,” leaving only the “W.” Many jars were made from molds so incompletely peened that the ghosted letter “L” and the “&” can be easily read.

Thomas Wightman would continue in the window glass business and eventually moved his window and bottle factories to a much larger plant in Monongahela City and eventually sold his window interests to American Window Glass Company. He would die on September 1, 1908, leaving behind quite a path in early American glassmaking.

Primary Image: The “W (Script) Wax Sealer” jar imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio

Support: Reference to Fruit Jar Annual 2020 – The Guide to Collecting Fruit Jars by Jerome J. McCann

Support: Reference to Red Book #11, the Collector’s Guide to Old Fruit Jars by Douglas M. Leybourne, Jr. The use of Creswick illustration courtesy of Doug Leybourne.

Support Images: Image of three examples of L&W cursive or script lettering on aqua jars – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Images: Auction Lot 15987: W w/ghosted L & Wax Sealer Quart. Bright Yellow Green. Closure: Grooved ring wax sealer mouth finish and comes with an early unmarked tin cap. Appearance: Some light usage scuffs Condition: Mouth chips on the outer ring in one spot. Embossing: Medium. Base: Unmarked. Age: 1870s. Availability: Rare in this appealing color – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Images: Auction Lot 2755: L & W’s XL w/ Ramped Kline Stopper, Quart, Aquamarine. Closure: Original ramped style Kline stopper with 1863 patent date, and possibly original wire clamp. Appearance: Sparkling. Condition: Small flake on the top of the glass lid. Strength of embossing: Strong. Base: A single raised dot. Age: 1860s. Availability: Scarce – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Image: L&W Patd Dec 6 1870 Square Tin Lid for Jelly Jar. Size: about 3-¼” tall. Color: Colorless. Closure: Original slide-on tin cap with “L&W” logo (for Lorenz & Wightman of Pittsburgh) and “PATd DEC 6TH 1870” – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support Images: Auction Lot 2772: PET Rev: L&W Aqua Quart, Aquamarine, Closure: Correct original glass lid with 1869 patent date, and a replica wire clip. Appearance: Shiny. Condition: No damage. Strength of embossing: Strong. Base: Unmarked. Age: late 1800s. Availability: scarce – Greg Spurgeon, North American Glass

Support: The Lorenz Family Glass Companies (including Lorenz & Wightman) by Bill Lockhart, David Whitten, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr

Support: The Thomas Wightman Glass Companies by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey, Carol Serr, and Bob Brown with contributions by Jay Hawkins and David Whitten

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