English Cameo glass burst upon the Victorian scene in 1876. Yet, in a mere fifty years the style had peaked, exhausted its exotic, glamorous life span, and disappeared as had its ancient cameo glass progenitor 2000 years before. That reawakened interest in cameo glass which inspired the revival, caused it to flame so furiously and disappear so quickly, continues to excite all who love the great creations of glass. It was Benjamin Richardson, known as “The Father of the Glass Trade,” who blazed the way to the rebirth of cameo glass. With the repeal of the stifling Excise Duty in 1845, the glass industry of England began to emerge from its economic restrictions. The removal of the tax sparked change and innovation and allowed for experimentation and progress. At Stourbridge, where the English glass industry had centred since the 17th century, Thomas Webb and Benjamin Richardson and William Haden Richardson entered into the partnership of Webb & Richardson in 1829 to form the Wordsley Glass Works. In 1836, Thomas left the partnership to found the firm that would become Thomas Webb & Sons. The third Richardson brother, Jonathan, then joined the firm, which became known as W. H., B. & J. Richardson. By 1852 this firm discontinued its existence, and in 1853 it carried only the name of Benjamin Richardson. By 1863 it was known as Hodgetts, Richardson & Son. Benjamin Richardson died in 1887 at the age of 85. For forty years Benjamin Richardson had been the beacon light that helped to guide the destinies of many great glass craftsmen. His leadership and his inventiveness resulted in the recreation of cameo glass. His willingness to tread new pathways and his stimulating personality inspired the many young craftsmen who worked for him and with him in those creative years. A great triumph occurred in the last half of the nineteenth century for the glass men and manufacturers of Stourbridge, for new tiny copper wheels and steel gravers made it possible for the glass engravers and sculptors to increase the extensive detail in their work. These infinitely patient and skilful artist-craftsmen were as important-perhaps more so - to the industry - as the visionary manufacturers with their capital resources and great,enthusiasm for their own products.
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