Greentown glass buffalo paperweightBy Dr. James S. Measell
Greentown Glass Buffalo Paperweight
Among my favorite novelty items in glass is the Buffalo paperweight. The original was made by the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Works (ITGW) of Greentown, Indiana. Unfortunately, it has been reproduced, but it's quite easy to separate authentic pieces from the reproductions.
The reproduction buffaloes were made by the St. Clair Glass Company of Elmwood, Indiana. Most are marked on the underside in clear, easy to see block lettering "Joe St. Clair" in the mold. Early on, however, the St. Clair Buffalo was made without the mark and these are the figures that cause problems for collectors. The majority of the St. Clair reproductions were made in a chocolate slag type of glass.
On these unmarked pieces, the foolproof way to spot the reproduction is to look at the lowered head. The head of the new St. Clair figure merges into the front legs. In contrast, the authentic Greentown Buffalo has an open area between the front legs and the head. Some genuine buffaloes may have smaller openings than other old figures, but even the smallest opening is completely unlike the St. Clair reproduction.
The authentic buffalo comes in several varieties, although some difference are subtle. The date "1901" may or may not be present, and there may be a row of beads on the underside of the base. The eight-sided base is plain and the well detailed figure stands upon a mound of simulated prairie grass. Authentic buffaloes are known in crystal, (the figure may be frosted), in opaque white and in an opaque chartreuse green called Nile Green by Greentown Glass collectors. A buffalo fragment in original chocolate slag was found at the factory site but a whole example in this color has never been located.
The Buffalo paperweight was probably developed for the Pan-American Exposition which was held (where else?) in Buffalo, New York from May through September, 1901. At this time, ITGW was part of the nineteen-member National Glass Company which had a model glass factory on the exposition grounds where glass souvenirs were sold. The 1901 exposition was one of the shortest ever held. It was closed shortly after President William McKinley was shot by assassin Leon Czolgosz.