The Beginnings Of Stained Glass In The US

The US was relatively late to the stained glass game–given that settlers from Europe got here in the 1600s and stained was “invented” somewhere around 1000 AD.  However, this artform permeates the American church culture and is a prominent feature on many homes to this day.

The Beginning Of Stained Glass In The US

The first stained glass production was actually set up almost immediately in Jamestown shortly after settlement in 1607.  The reason for this? Wood in England was running out. And in order to make stained glass windows like those in churches all across Europe, incredibly hot furnaces fueled by wood were. Here in the Americas, there was plenty of wood, therefore, stained glass manufacturing made good sense as new world trade.  Many workshops were built, one of which was set up by Jan Smeedes, in 1679, in Lower Manhattan where made roundels. Another was William Gibson, who was labeled the “Father of Painted Glass.”

However, the Puritans rejected the religious imagery of the Churches of England, so almost no glass is left from the colonial times –as much more was exported than created for churches here in the US.  In fact, less than 1% of the Nation’s stained and leaded glass predates 1700.

However, the 1700s is what is called the golden age of stained glass in Europe and by the early 1800s an intense interest in the craft arose again in and production began to increase steadily throughout the century. The most significant early stained glass piece in America was by John and William Jay Bolton between 1843 and 1848, called St. Ann and the Holy Trinity.  

The Age of Stained Glass In The US

The 19th and 20th century gave rise to the incredible breadth of stained glass we see on churches and homes across the country, with notable contributions by

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Known for his designs of richly colored works of glass in the art nouveau style and also a type of iridescent glass called Favrile.

Frank Lloyd Wright:  A pioneer of geometric representations of natural motifs and use of angled glass.

While the “great age of stained glass” has ended, there are still many, many remaining stained glass windows remain all over the country today.  It is this rich history of stained glass in the US that we here at Church Stained Glass Restoration work to preserve everyday. If you have a vintage stained glass window in your church that you would like us to inspect for restoration, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.