Is It Duncan?

by Bert Kennedy
Volume 30 No. 4 - July/August 2004

This article is about Duncan and Miller Sylvan swans, their look-alike cousins and how to tell the difference. Duncan and Miller makes some of the best examples of swans in the elegant glass field. We are going to look at the Sylvan line they made. They made this line in Crystal, Opalescent Pink, Opalescent Blue, and Opalescent Yellow. Knowing the colors can help in the identification process. So should you see an Opalescent Green, you should be very skeptical that it is a Duncan Sylvan swan.

I was in a very nice antique shop in Little Rock when I found a lovely swan in this wonderful Opalescent Green. I was in heaven thinking I had just found a very rare color for a Duncan swan. I was happy to pay the full asking price as it was in my mind very rare. When I got back home I started a search for the swan shape in my Duncan book. Well, as many of you know, it was not there. From some angles, it looked right, but from others, it was obviously NOT Duncan. My heart was broken, not to mention my wallet and ego. Well, okay, if it is not Duncan, what is it? I emailed several dealer friends and the responses I got back ranged from foreign to Pairpoint. One of them told me they had been fooled by the lovely green color years back, so I felt a little better. All of the people I asked agreed that it was not Duncan and that many of them were being sold as Duncan. So I wanted to set up some rules of identification to make this swan trap easier to spot, and thereby, prevent others from having this swan trap sprung on them. Here is what I found in my comparison:

On the Duncan Miller Sylvan swan, you will find a nice ground and polished bottom. The bottom looks like a nice shield on the bottom of the Duncan swan. But on the NOT Duncan swan, the bottom is different. First, it has a ground and polished bottom as the Duncan swan did, but also has a ground and polished pontil. It also has rippled sides rather than straight sides like the Duncan swan. This identification feature will be the first and best way to tell if it is Duncan or NOT Duncan. If the bottom has a straight-edged bottom that is ground and polished forming a shield, then it is Duncan. If the bottom has a rippled edge and a polished pontil, then it is NOT Duncan. Just knowing that may save you a very big mistake. From the side, they are a little harder to tell one from another. The difference here is that the Duncan wing lines are more horizontal and the bottom is a smooth straight curve. Whereas, on the NOT Duncan side view, the wing lines are more vertical and the bottom edge is rippled as it curves toward the back. The wings of the NOT Duncan are much more pointed than the Duncan wings. These three points should help you identify the Duncan form from the NOT Duncan.

But now for the big question: Who did this NOT Duncan swan? Is it American or foreign? I had seen one of the blue opalescent swans with a small round sticker that said Pairpoint. But when I checked the Swan marking Pairpoint book, the shape was not even close. I checked all my books but nothing looked like this swan. So far I had seen this swan in only opalescent colors of green, yellow, pink, and blue. I have yet to see one in crystal. Research had hit a road block. I was not able to find anything to say who did this swan.

As luck would have it, while checking eBay for swans, I found one up for bid that had a makers sticker on the bottom. I won the bid and waited for the swan to arrive. This one was Pink Opalescent. On the bottom was a worn sticker that said the swan had been made by a man at an arts end crafts shop in Springfield, Massachusetts in the same state Swans compared as Pairpoint, but in the New Bedford at Pairpoint. The man I bought it from said his aunt, bought it in the 30's from this shop, and that the maker's name was on the sticker. Sure enough it was on the bottom of the swan. Now if we can believe the sticker ...

Here is the swan that arrived with the sticker. Now let's turn her over an check out her bottom (photo above right). We can see that the maker's name is J. Conrad and that it was made in an arts and crafts shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. Well, if it can't be Duncan, at least it is American. I do not know if Mr. Conrad was a former Pairpoint worker, or a self-taught glass artisan. Either way, he did superior work. Here are the two swans together (at left). Both very nice swans, but its nice to know which one is the Duncan and which one is the NOT Duncan. If anyone has information on this small arts and crafts shop or the maker, please get in touch with me at bluedart99@hotmail.com.