Reprint from The Hobstar, May 1985, Pages 1-3
!!! THE COMET IS COMING - !!!
by Connie Harwood
"Step right up, ladies
and gentlemen. Buy your comet pills now before they are all sold out. Protect yourself and
your loved ones from comet sickness with this amazing remedy."
Sound a bit far-fetched? Not at all in 1910. There were hucksters selling this very
product on the streets of New York when Halley's comet made its last visit near Earth. The
New had quite a lucrative business selling these phony pills. For thousands of years
comets have left their viewers with feelings of awe, fear, and wonder causing severe cases
of "comet crazies." They aroused in man a feeling of terror and foreboding, and
it was believed to mean that some cataclysmic disaster was likely to occur such as war,
famine, plague, the downfall of kings, or even the end of the world. No wonder, then, that
the population would fall prey to the ever present con man who would "help" them
through their traumatic time.
Con artists were not the only people using their creative talents in connection with
comets. Many bona fide decorative artiste were inspired by the beauty and spectacle one of
natures most beautiful sights. Eleventh century ladies embroidered a 70-meter piece
of linen showing onlookers gazing at a comet that strongly resembled a spaceship. There
was a caption that read, "They wonder at the star." This early depiction of a
comet is known as the Bayeaux Tapestry. Later an artist depicted the Nativity scene with a
comet shaped formation above the stable at the birth of Christ. There were many examples
of artistic interpretations of the wondrous event of a comets appearance, and none
more beautiful than those shown in the brilliance of American cut glass. The inspiration
for comet type patterns of the Brilliant Period was the appearance of Halleys Comet
in 1910, named after the English astronomer, Soc Edmond Halley's (The preferred
pronunciation of the scientist's name rhymes with alley.) Dr. Halley, without the aid of
computers and powerful telescopes, affirmed that the spectacular comet that arrived in
1682 was the same object that had been observed in 1607,1531, and 1456. Thus, he predicted
that it would again occur in 1758. And so this marvel has made its appearance about every
76 years since that time. Some astronomers say that this comet goes back to 2315 BC, but
there is much confusion with record and legend here. Dr. Halley showed that the comets
moved around the sun in accordance with Newtons theory of gravitation. We know now
that there are many comets and that they vary in the time they make their periodic
reappearance from 3 1/2 to 3,000 years.
But back to Halleys Comet of 1910. In early May of that year the comet was as
brilliant as the brightest stars. Its great tail stretched about 2/3 of the distance fron
the horizon to directly overhead. Even though it was traveling faster than a spaceship, it
spent weeks inching its way across the sky because it was no far off. With a bright,
roughly round head and a hair-like tail, it looked like a hurling missile with streak
marks in its wake. We have several pictures of this 1910 Comet, and it appears to have
taken many forms including the following:
Note the swirls particularly from the second and third sketches. These appear to
be the particular inspiration for some Brilliant Period artisans. However, we know that in
anticipation of the comet J. Hoare had already designed his Comet pattern before Halley's
made its appearance. Libbey, Bergen, Tuthill and many other companies produced beautiful
comet pieces that "showed originality and imagination," as the Pearsons noted.
Some of Hawkes' swirl patterns might even be said to have their inspiration in the comet.
One of the loveliest patterns is the "unknown" one that is pictured in several
cut glass books. Do any of our members have information that might shed some light on the
maker of this pattern?
There were other comets besides Halleys appearing prior to and during the
Brilliant Period. Donatis Comet in 1858 was visible to the naked eye for 112 days.
This was one of the most beautiful comets with a tail of 50 million miles long, curved and
very wide at the end. The last of the important comets of the nineteenth century was The
Great Comet of 1882. It was observed for nine months, and one author says it was visible
in full daylight.
In 1985 Halleys Comet will again swoop into the solar system and display its
tail. The predictable astronomical phenomenon will swing around the sun in early 1986 and
will be the most visible in the early months of next year. The awesome comet will make its
debut on television, and you will be able to view it in your a living room. Even though
this appearance of Halleys is said to be darker than had been anticipated, many
cases of "comet fever" have already been reported. Two comet-chasing cruises
have been sold out for quite some time. The count will be most visible in the southern
hemisphere, so the cruise ships will be in those areas. Because the position of the Earth
in its orbit around the sun will be different, our observations will not be as dramatic as
those in 1910.
But that shouldn't put a damper on our count celebration. How about throwing a comet
party with your cut glass friends using comet patterns as serving pieces. Each person
could bring one of his favorite comet-influenced patterns. Almost any swirl pattern might
qualify if you use your imagination. If you miss this opportunity for a Halleys
Comet party, you can't have another one until the comet returns in 2061.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started in your planning:
Crater Dip and Streamers (Spinash Dip in Round
Pumperkickel Bread Surrounded by Vegetable Strips)
Sublime Spirals (Sausage & Pastry Pinwheels)
Totally Awesome Caviar (Egg, Artichoke and Vaviar with Toast Stars)
Deep Dark Heavenly Fondue and Constellations (Chocolate Fondue Surrounded with Pound
Cake and Fresh Fruits)
Heads and Tails (Cheese and Sprouts on Endive)
Celestial Secrets (A tray of cookies)
Cometose Punch (Champagne Punch)
Pick up your copy of these far out recipes at the convention where we will have a
special comet exhibit. Please let Carol Parks know if you have special comet pieces.
Throughout the ages bright counts have excited people all over the world, and not the
least of these have been American Brilliant Period artists who recorded their awe for the
magnificent otherworldly objects with radiant designs. Halley-luyah! Arent we glad
that the comet did cometh?
(Photos of tray and bowl courtesy Ton Duncan)
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The Care and Cleaning of Cut Glass
By Vickie Matthews
After you have purchased your cut glass and have had it home for awhile, you notice that it has lost its sparkle; could it be that it needs cleaning? I would like to share with you a few cleaning ideas that I use on my cut glass and a few tips others have shared with me over the years for the preservation, cleaning, and security of your cut glass.
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