Glassmaking was the first industry in the American Colonies and, with the New York State area being America’s first frontier, it played a major role in our early economy. Much of this industrial lineage is reflected in the story of Corning Incorporated, which was founded in 1851 and operated as the Brooklyn Flint Glass Works in Williamsburg until relocating in 1868 via river barge to its namesake headquarters in the Steuben County city of Corning. This month, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the historic voyage, the Corning Museum of Glass is sponsoring the journey of GlassBarge, a floating glassmaking shop offering live demonstrations. During its commemorative trip from Brooklyn to Corning, GlassBarge will make several stops along the Hudson River in our region: at Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie (June 8-10), the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston (June 15-17), Catskill Point in Catskill (June 19), and Riverfront Park in Troy (June 21-22).
“Glassblowing is a very intricrate craft, and to be able to see how it’s done, in a setting that’s actually on the Hudson River, is going to be a unique experience,” says Dutchess Tourism President & CEO Mary Kay Vrba. “The visits by GlassBarge also speaks to the local history of the Hudson, with the many glass companies that were once located at towns along the river.”
In addition to demonstrating the 30-foot-by-80-foot barge’s electric glassmaking equipment, the crew will offer glassblowing demos and discuss the history of glassmaking in Corning in talks that also highlight the role of the state’s waterways in influencing its community and culture. Accompanying GlassBarge at each port (except for Catskill Point) will be a group of historic vessels that includes a replica of an 1862 canal barge named the Lois McClure, which will be open for tours. The free half-hour-long glassblowing demos on GlassBarge will take place every 45 minutes between 11am and 5pm each day. Due to limited space on the boats, pre-registration is required; visit https://www.cmog.org/glassmaking/demos/hot-glass-demos/glassbarge to register.
“Our team of gaffers [glassmakers] welcomes the opportunity to share the art of glass with new audiences,” says Steve Gibbs, senior manager of Corning’s Hot Glass Business and Technology Development branch. “GlassBarge gives visitors the chance to see our glassmakers demonstrate how to shape glowing globs of molten glass into vases, bowls, and sculptures. We’re eager to fire up the furnaces to 2100 degrees for a summer of glassblowing on the waterways of New York!”
At the Poughkeepsie docking, in addition to the glassblowing demos (to be held rain or shine), there will be a festival on shore featuring the Dutchess County Historical Society’s World War I exhibition “Over Here” will be on display and local musical act Ill Harmonix will perform live.
Here’s a short film about GlassBarge and its 2018 journey:
For more information on GlassBarge and a full summer schedule of its historic, informative, and entertaining voyage, visit www.cmog.org/GlassBarge.