Pairpoint Manufacturing Company was established in 1880 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The factory began as a metal works which first made fittings for coffins. Near the Pairpoint factory was the Mt. Washington Glassworks, which made fine glassware, and the two companies began exploring synergies culminating in a merger in 1894. From the late 1890s until the 1930s, lamps and lamp accessories were an important part of Pairpoint’s production.
There were three main types of shades, all of which were blown: puffy – blown-out reverse-painted shades (usually floral designs); ribbed – also reverse painted; and scenic – reverse painted with scenes of land or seascapes (usually executed on smooth surfaces, although ribbed scenes may be found occasionally). Cut glass lamps and those with metal overlay panels were also made. Scenic shades were sometimes artist signed.
Most shades were stamped on the lower inside or outside edge with either:
1) The Pairpoint Corp.,
2) Patent Pending,
3) Patented July 9, 1907,
4) Patent Applied For.
All Pairpoint shades were frosted through an acid process prior to painting, and the reverse painted effects required a great deal of talent on the part of the artist. Reverse painting combined the skills of watercolor painting and glassmaking with a perception of how light would play through the glass and paint when lit.
Bases were made of bronze, copper, brass, silver, or wood, and are always signed. As with most all makers of luxury goods, the company’s sales lagged seriously during the Depression, and over time they lost touch with the changing tastes and styles of the public to some degree. Consequently, Pairpoint continued to experience financial difficulties, and some buildings and equipment were sold in 1938.
The company reorganized in 1939 under the direction of Robert Gundersen and again specialized in quality hand-blown glassware. Isaac Babbit regained possession of the silver departments, and together they established Gundersen Glassworks, Inc. following the end of WWII and after a sharp decline in sales, it again became necessary to reorganize yet again.
The Gundersen-Pairpoint Glassworks was formed, and the old line of cut, engraved art ware was reintroduced. The company moved to East Wareham, Massachusetts in 1957. Business continued to be poor, and the firm closed early in 1958. In 1970, Robert Bryden, sales manager for the company since the 1950s, tried to reestablish Pairpoint and new facilities were constructed in Sagamore. In 1974, the company began to produce lead glass cup plates, which were made on commission as fund-raisers for various churches and organizations. These are signed with a ‘P’ in diamond and are becoming quite collectible.