Monday, February 15, 2010

Some Thoughts from Bill Jessop

In the 12/13/09 post titled: On The Trail of the Whale & Lighthouse Floats, a collector and float researcher-Bill Jessop, was introduced. The promise to share some of Bill's emails was written, and I would like to keep that promise by posting Bill's second email to you. This email is a visit back to the discussion of the SN floats written January 5th., and 16th., 'o9. The SN floats have been offered a few times on Nova Scotian, and Eastern Canadian Ebay sellers' auctions. Bill's email also gives us some excellent historical insight into the Canadian glass industry that operated during the float use years.

Written on one of the glass bottle information websites, there is information concerning a 1926 catalogue from the Dominion Glass Company. According to the writer, the catalogue lists glass fishing floats as a product. An exchange of emails between myself and the writer, produced no difinitve proof, as well as emails sent to Dominion Glass, libraries, and a lot of further research trying to find a copy of the catalogue, and proof of Dominion glassfloat production. It was of great interest that I read and absorbed Bill's email concerning his thoughts on the SN floats, and the Canadian glass industry.

Hi, Tom.
I now have had an opportunity to properly read through the treasure trove of material that you have gathered and analyzed for your Seahermit blog. It helped me put together some of the following thoughts & perspectives on the “NS” glass float aspect which I hope that you might find interesting.


There is both solid and anecdotal evidence that at least some of the old unmarked blown-in- mould dark green glass floats (typically 5” in diameter) found on the East coast of Canada and the U.S. could be ones manufactured in Canada prior to 1914. Perhaps this may also shed light on the “NS” float mystery discussed in your January 2009 blog? That blog contained thoughtful comments and interesting observations by yourself, Bob Buffington, Stu Farnsworth and museum curators from the Lunenburg and Halifax museums. I think the first issue to consider is how the “NS” and other old glass floats would have been introduced into the fishery and where they were likely to migrate to afterwards.

As noted, some percentage of the old glass fishing floats originated from fisherman gear piles and EBay vendors in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are undoubtedly from loss of gear by the European fishing fleets (and recovered for re-use by local fishermen) plus direct purchases from European manufacturers of glass floats by these inshore fisherman for use on their nets and on their trawl lines. Since the British, Portuguese and Spanish fleets were the main fishers on the Grand Banks in the historic heyday of glass float usage, one would expect to encounter (in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island & Newfoundland) proportionately more blown-in-mould glass floats bearing logos from these nations. Furthermore the close commercial/personal connections between Britain and Newfoundland (a British colony until 1949) and with the residents of Nova Scotia should have fostered an increased proportion of purchases from British sources for use in the inshore fishery.

This seems to be the case except perhaps for the apparent disproportionate presence of old Norwegian and German floats originating from East coast sources. I am not aware that Scandinavian country fleets were ever significantly engaged in the Grand Bank cod fishery. Although Norwegian sealing fleets operated extensively off Newfoundland and Labrador, they obviously had no use for glass floats. However, I think that your January 2009 blog may very well explain this anomaly. It is apparent from your extensive documentation that Norwegian fishing methods employing the use of glass floats had a very significant impact on East coast U.S. fishing methods.

This influence could have induced significant purchases by New England fishermen of glass floats from Norwegian manufacturers. Per’s illustration of the significant glass float production from just one Norwegian manufacturer may provide additional (circumstantial) evidence of the general availability of floats from Norway at this time and subsequently. There is no apparent explanation for the disproportionate presence of German (e.g. “PCF” and Heye “Clover”) floats in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland except that German glass float manufacturers (e.g. your Heye blog) seem to have been major glass float exporters and perhaps the heavy German population operating significant Grand Bank cod fleets out of Lunenburg N.S. would have favoured German floats due to historic and commercial relationships.

In any case, glass floats (of whatever origin) that came loose from U.S. East coast gear could have drifted northward on the Gulf Stream to be beached and recovered in the Canadian Maritime provinces. Others, joined by losses from the Canadian and European fleets on the Grand banks, would ride the Gulf Stream to the Shetlands and Orkneys and even enter the North Sea through the North of Scotland, to be further joined by losses from fisherman there. (Please see my earlier October 10 note quoting the specific experience of an Orkney resident with the Gulf Stream and his recollections of the “wheelbarrow loads” of glass floats).

From the above perspective only, “NS” floats could have originated anywhere because they have been found here and in Europe.


Stu refers in his note to his collecting experience with “Made In England” and (Norwegian) “F1’s” and “F2’s” in Nova Scotia. I have been fortunate to directly find an “LT”, an “LB” in triangle, an “Extra RG Portugual” and a “FALES” in baskets of NorthWestern, DuraGlas and unmarked glass floats during past trips to the Canadian Maritimes. I have also bought British “FGC”, “PCF, & Heyes “Clover” floats from N.S. and Newfoundland dealers on EBay. I’m sure that your readers can add extensively to the trademark’s sourced from there and hopefully this should correlate with the “proportional” expectations outlined above.

My (tarred) “NS” float came via EBay, apparently from a fishing shanty on the bay of the York River in Maine which is reasonably close to Nova Scotia. I was most intrigued by your observation that most “NS” floats had been found in the U.S. Northeast and in the Canadian Maritimes. You can thus add my float to that statistic. (P.S. it was apparently found with a tarred “Made in Czechoslovakia” float which should, from your blog, make you very happy concerning their applied use.)


I found it particularly insightful to put together the information in your Jan & Feb 2009 blogs with some limited research that I had done previously. There were Canadian glass float manufacturers who supplied Canadian fisherman with glass floats prior to 1914 and, given the close commercial ties between the New England states and Nova Scotia, perhaps even U.S. East coast fishermen purchased them prior to 1914.

Specifically, Gerald Stevens on page 53 of his book “Canadian Glass 1825 -1925” states the following regarding the Dominion Glass Company:

“During this period (World War I) the Point St. Charles factory (Canada Glass Manufacturing) manufactured large quantities of glass balls for use as floats for fishermen’s nets. These glass balls were approximately five inches in diameter and were mould-blown from glass coloured a dark green.”

Also, a couple of EBay Maritime vendors that I have dealt with have heard of glass float manufacturers actually located in Nova Scotia. I bought a green unmarked float purportedly of Nova Scotia manufacture from one of these vendors and she provided the following background:

“There were three or four glass plants in that general area (the New Glasgow, Trenton areas of Nova Scotia) and they are all long gone. There was Trenton Glass Works, Canada Glass, a French glass company and one in Truro called Bigelos (excuse the spelling). They primarily made bottles, but made other items also. They were around until the 1920/1930’s making bottles mostly”.

In my last note, I described a conversation that I had a few years ago with a couple of local gentlemen in a Nova Scotian antique store who recalled the dumping, many years prior, of truckloads of glass floats (primarily green by their recollection) in their local dumpsite. I am now thinking that these may possibly come from a manufacturer dumping obsolete inventory rather than a fishing company switching over to plastic.


Pulling all this together, perhaps many of the unmarked blown-in-mould dark green glass floats fairly common amongst the much later machine-produced Duraglas and NorthWestern floats (when you can find any pile of these floats at all any more) are Canadian or Nova Scotia manufactured and not “Euros”. By extension (but with no direct evidence ) maybe some of the unmarked clear blown-in-mould glass floats have similar parentage?

An aside: During the first few years of following Ebay auctions, there were three or four auctions originating in Canada. The auction photos showed colorless glass floats, larger than the normal 5-inchers, which had a different type of seal button-small and slightly raised-unlike the normal round and flattened seal. At the time I thought they might be Canadian made. I still have a feeling that those were made in Canada. Two of them arrived today from a seller in Maryland. They are 6.5" diameter, and unmarked. These were the first that I have seen in the last 7 or 8 years of watching the auctions.

Perhaps, then the “NS” on the dark green “NS” float really does stand for Nova Scotia after all, perhaps as an brand identifier for one of these companies or a local customer. Food for thought (and comment) rather than any real conclusion.

Regards, Bill Jessop
(Waterloo, Ontario)

I have truly enjoyed reading Bill's thoughts and findings again, and hope that you have too.

The post photos below the pair of colorless floats, show floats that were found in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Interestingly, the "Souvenir float" is embossed LV.

Also, if you watch the auctions from Australia, often a curious unmarked colorless float will appear which originates from an Australian seller. I have been told by a few sellers there, that those floats were used to mark Crayfish (Spiny Lobster)traps. Like the colorless examples thought to be from Canada, could it be that the Australian colorless are a true Australian float?

The Portugese fished those Australian waters, and often, "RG Made In Portugal" floats appear on the auctions. Maybe the Portugese made those clear floats, but they are unlike any Portugese or Spanish floats that I know of. The seal buttons on these Australian auction colorless are the normal flattened gather of glass, have no embossings and they are always larger than the normal 5" Euro. Most are 7-8" diameter floats.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Czech Out This New Float Seller

It started with the recent Ebay auction for a Korean 3-piece molded float. The auction featured an embossing called "Yama." According to Walt Pich in his latest book, GLASSBALL MARKS A Field Guide to Identify Characters on Oriental Glass Fishing Floats, it is an uncommon mark.

The embossing appears to be a type of "T." Walt writes that the mark is meant to be looked at upside down. The three upward facing points then denote three peaks of a mountain range.

The seal button on the float was unlike the flattened belly button type of seal most often seen on the Koreans. That "umbilical-like sealing button," according to Walt, is one of the signs of a 2nd. generation 3-piecer. The Ebay auction I was looking at, showed a more normal looking seal that protruded above the float-a sign of a 1st. generation 3-piecer. I found myself excited by the float, and after enlarging it, immediately went to the seller's auction to find out more.

The seller calls himself, "barrysellsall." In the description, it read:

"I am just learning about these balls, so as of now I am a novice.
I have about 1,000 of these balls that are in various shapes, sizes and colors that will be listed here on Ebay!"

That voice in my head began shouting...

"1000 floats!"
"Wonder what he has?"
"He calls himself a novice."
"How did he get 1000 floats, yet is a novice?"
"Wonder if he could use some help?"

Quickly, a question was emailed through the seller's site, together with a brief explanation to tell him that the float was commonly referred to as a "Korean 3-piecer." Just a short time later, when I checked my email account, an email from Barry was waiting for me.

He thanked me for my input, and appreciated the help. That first auction and exchange of emails was a great start to a very exciting last two weeks of "barrysellsall," float auctions.

Barry is going to give it his best to put all 1000 floats up for sale on Ebay auctions. Already, he has posted a number of auctions containing excellent Asian floats including two Giant Rolling Pins, a Binary constructed of two handblown floats-not the mold-blown floats that make up the average Chinese binaries and other fine floats including a pink or light violet ball-in-a-ball. There have been authentic Asian floats, Contemporaries, curios, Americans and a few Euros.

Today, I recieved a box containing that first Yama 3-piece Korean, a Corning in a terrific original net, a wonderful 7inch dia. yellow/olive Taiwanese with the pie seal, and a great 6.5inch diameter Czech. What makes the Czech float so special to me is the color. I've never seen one this color before.

The photos above show the coloration pretty accurately. It's the hue of the Carribean Sea. I remember standing shoulder-deep in those island waters with one side of my face laying on the surface. I wanted to know what color the water really was. As I looked across the water's surface, a small and gentle Carribean swell passed by, and I saw that tint backlit by the sky.

In the days and weeks to come, there is excitement within me. What other floats will Barry will put up for auction? I've written to ask if it would be possible to do an in-depth post about him and the 1000 floats on this blog, and am awaiting his answer.

Most likely, he is much too busy posting auctions, answering emails, and packing floats for shipment to their new owners, to find the time to do a complete story right away.

Since Barry's first float auctions, he has posted about 50 more-with the promise of many more to come. Will Barry have the pluck to handle the task of 1000 Ebay float auctions? Certainly hope so! Have you caught some of my fever? It's great to finally be out of the auction doldrums. The pickings were lean, but not now.