The Original Kensington Glass Works of Robert Towers and Joseph Leacock 1771
The Kensington glass works were established in the city in 1771, when Robert Towers and Joseph Leacock, bought from William Ball,a property on the east side of Bank street in 1770. The property was bound by the following dimensions. Beginning one hundred and ten feet south of James street, having one hundred and fifty feet fronting on Bank street,and extending to the low water mark in the Delaware River; crossing Delaware Street. Towers and Leacock built the 2 pot glasshouse on the property, but a little more then a year later, on November 5, 1772, they sold the land and buildings to John Elliott,Sr., John Elliott, Jr., Isaac Gray and Samuel Elliott, a brother.
In the deed, John, Sr., is mentioned as a " Merchant;'John,Jr., a "Brush-maker;" Isaac Gray, a "Merchant;and Samuel Elliott as a "Tanner." John Elliott, Sr.,was a "Cabinet-maker," and a "looking glass-maker;and sold books, jewelry and brushes. His first advertisement appears on December 30, 1756, and his place of business is located at Chestnut and Fourth streets. He is later found at Chestnut street near the State House and, and in 1768, on Second street above Market at,"The Three Brushes," where he probably established his son of the same name. Later in 1768 we find him at Walnut Street near Third street. In 1776, he is advertising the property as well as the business on Walnut street for sale, as he was apparently devoting his attentions to the glass making plant.This business was carried on under the name of John Elliott & Co., and in their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Packet of February 27,1775, the several kinds of glassware produced are described in this large ad below.
Note the last paragraph of the advertisement that the public were charged two shillings per person for visiting the plant. In the same newspaper April 10,1775, another ad appears stating that Isaac Gray, in Chestnut street near Strawberry alley, had for sale "an assortment of Glass Ware, made at Kensington. Under the management of the Elliotts the works were enlarged and operated for about eight years, making all kinds of glassware; during which time Samuel Elliott had sold his one-fourth interest to Isaac Gray, and in the deed for this transfer, the propery was described as being in Richmond. It is worthy of note and important to students of the history of glass making in Philadelphia, that even though both of the advertisements cited use the phrase "made at Kensington," yet In the deed dated May 6, 1780 from the Elliotts and Gray to Thomas Lepper who was originally from Brooklyn and a founder of the(Glass House Co.) there in 1754-1758,they described the works as being "in the Town of Richmond, on the River Delaware, in the Northern Liberties."
This is the only deed, from 1771 to 1833, that makes any reference to a glasshouse being on the property. In this deed we find that Elliotts and Gray "after being so seized of the lot or piece of ground above described with the buildings thereon, have built another house and made additions to the Glass house." That the original owner of this property did not consider it within the district of Kensington is evidenced by an advertisement of William Ball, in the Pennsylvania Packet of November 21, 1782, for some stolen goods,when he gave his address as "about a mile above Kensington.
'Thomas Lepper,operated the glass works until May 6, 1800, when he sold it to Joseph Roberts,Jr., James Rowland and James Butland. James Butland operated the plant for fifteen years, although he is described in the Business directory of 1793 as a cordwainer (leather dresser), at 80 North Fourth street. In the same directory for the years 1800 to 1809 James Butland & Co. are listed as glass manufacturers or glass blowers, at the same address. James Butland deeded his interest in the property to James Rowland on September 1, 1815 (describing it as being in Richmond); whose heirs finally sold it on July 10,1833, to Thomas W. Dyott
The Glass below was originally part of the Cornelius Weygandt collection.