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COLLECTION Identifier: ecb00006

The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Scope and contents

The collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, photographic material, curatorial files, artwork, publications, and ephemera documenting the creation, growth, and administration of the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, popularly known as the Glass Flowers. The Glass Flowers were originally housed in the Harvard University Botanical Museum which was merged into the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The Glass Flowers are on permanent display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Major correspondents include the creators of the glass flowers, the Blaschkas; the donors, Elizabeth and Mary Lee Ware; and museum directors George Lincoln Goodale and Oakes Ames.

The artwork includes paintings, drawings, and prints. The artwork was created by the Blaschkas, some identified artists, and some unidentified artists. Ephemera and artifacts include newspapers, books, clothing, tool and workshop items, cullet and other glass, glass dyes and solvents, and original boxes and mailing material.

Many of the photographs feature the mounted glass flower models. Images include photographs, cyanotypes, negatives, lantern slides, glass plate negatives, transparencies, and a research collection of about 500 slides, dating from the 1950s when the models were used as a teaching collection at Harvard. The collection also contains portraits of the Blaschkas, Blaschka family, the Wares, and Museum staff.

Other material includes a diary, 1931, of Louis Bierweiler, documenting his trip to Hosterwitz, Germany as curator of the museum to visit Rudolf Blaschka; a folder of receipts and bills, 1892; information about the 1974 travelling exhibit of glass flowers to Japan and museum publications on the models; and biographical material for the Blaschkas, G.L. Goodale, Mary Lee Ware, and Louis Charles Bierweiler.

Dates

  • 1886-2020

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

Most of the collection is open for research by appointment. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification.

Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years from the date of record creation, so some parts of the collection, including financial records and some staff records, may be restricted.

Please contact botref@oeb.harvard.edu for additional information.

Extent

58 linear feet

Historical note

The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, commonly referred to as the Glass Flowers, is a collection of nearly 3,000 models made by Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolph (1857-1939). Heirs to a long tradition of glass-working in Bohemia, they established a studio outside of Dresden, Germany, where they fashioned glass replicas of marine invertebrates for museums worldwide.

The Harvard Botanical Museum was established in 1878 under the direction of George Lincoln Goodale. Their work drew the attention of Goodale, who was searching for a way to represent living plants to botany students. Frustrated by the shortcomings of traditional methods of preservation and wax and papier-maché models, Goodale believed glass was the answer. In 1886 he traveled to Germany and met with the Blaschkas to discuss his idea.

The first models arrived at Harvard in 1887. Despite having been broken in customs, Goodale recognized their excellence. With the financial backing of Elizabeth Cabot (Lee) Ware (1819-1898) and her daughter, Mary Lee Ware (1858-1937), Goodale negotiated a full-time contract with the Blaschkas in 1890. The collection was dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth's husband, Charles Eliot Ware (1814-1887), a naturalist and professor at Harvard Medical School. Mary Ware took an active role in the collection, personally unpacking each model and arranging for Rudolph Blaschka's fieldwork in the United States and Jamaica.

The Blaschkas worked at a remarkable pace. At the time of Leopold's death in 1895, over 2,000 models had been completed. Rudolph continued the project alone. He was nearly 80 when the final shipment was sent in 1936.

Biographical note: Leopold Blaschka

Leopold Blaschka created the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants (better known as the Glass Flowers) for Harvard University with his son, Rudolf. Leopold was born on May 27, 1822, in Böhmisch-Aicha, Bohemia (now Český Dub in the Czech Republic) to Josef Blaschka and Franciska Kočvarová. The Blaschkas’ glassworking lineage is believed to trace back to 15th century Venice. The youngest of three sons in a family of glass and metalworkers, Leopold showed artistic promise in his youth. He learned glassworking from his father and apprenticed as a goldsmith and gemcutter. Leopold married Carolina Zimmerman in 1846. In 1850, Carolina and their son Josef Augustine died from cholera, followed by his father Josef in 1852. In 1853, Leopold set sail to visit the United States. Studying and drawing the jellyfish he saw during that voyage inspired Leopold to later produce glass models of marine invertebrates.

After returning to Böhmisch-Aicha, Leopold married Carolina Riegel in 1854. He established his glass workshop in his father-in-law’s house and produced glass eyes, costume jewelry, and laboratory glassware. His son, Rudolf, was born on June 17, 1857. Around this time, Leopold created some glass plants for his own pleasure that attracted the attention of Prince Camille de Rohan. The Prince provided specimens from his greenhouses for Leopold to study. Using these materials for reference, Leopold made nearly one hundred tropical plants between 1860 and 1862. He gained exposure and made connections by having these works exhibited in Prague at the Prince’s castle and in Dresden, Germany. Leopold moved his family to Dresden in 1863 and he made his first models of marine invertebrates the same year. Rudolf started working with his father in 1870 and officially joined the business in 1876. Over time, the Blaschkas expanded their offerings to include hundreds of invertebrate animal species.

In 1886, Professor George Lincoln Goodale, the founding director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard, visited the Blaschkas to ask if they would make glass models of plants for a teaching collection that would be exhibited in the museum. Although reluctant at first, the Blaschkas agreed to the commission. The Blaschkas bought a house and established their workshop in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, in 1887. For three years, from 1887 to 1890, the Blaschkas divided their time between producing glass models of plants for Harvard and invertebrate animal models for other institutions. In 1890, the Blaschkas signed a ten-year contract with Harvard to work exclusively on the Glass Flowers and they stopped making zoological models. Leopold Blaschka died on July 3,1895.

Sources:

Rudolf Blaschka letter to George Lincoln Goodale, 1896 January 6. The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Harvard University Herbaria. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FMUS.WARE:22853820?n=59. Accessed 30 October 2020.

Dufek, V. and M. Gelnar. 2011. Sklarsky rod Blaschku - Nastin Genealogie. Heraldika a genealogie č. 1 - 2/2010. http://www.heraldica.cz/ghmags/2010/ghmag_2010_1-2_article-6.pdf

Peto, J. and A. Hudson. 2002. Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka. Design Museum, London, England.

Reiling, H. 1998. The Blaschkas’ Glass Animal Models: Origins of Design. Journal of Glass Studies/The Corning Museum of Glass; Corning Glass Center. 40, 105-126. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24190504

Biographical note: Rudolf Blaschka

Rudolf Blaschka was born in Böhmisch-Aicha, Bohemia on June 17, 1857, to father Leopold Blaschka and mother Carolina Riegel. The family moved to Dresden, Germany in 1863. Rudolf began studying glassworking with his father in 1870 and officially joined the business in 1876. Leopold and Rudolf worked together to produce thousands of invertebrate animal models for institutions around the world.

The Blaschkas were commissioned by Professor George Lincoln Goodale in 1886 to create glass models of plants for the Botanical Museum at Harvard University. They produced zoological and botanical models until 1890, when they accepted an exclusive contract to work full-time on the Glass Flowers for Harvard. Mary Lee Ware and her mother, Elizabeth, had provided funding for the collection since 1887 and the contract was made with their support.

In 1892, Rudolf traveled to the United States and Jamaica to obtain reference materials for new models. He studied plants in the field, drew them, and collected specimens. While staying with Goodale in Cambridge, Rudolf visited the Botanical Museum and saw the glass models of plants on exhibit for the first time. Leopold died in 1895 while Rudolf was away on his second trip to the United States. Following his father’s death, Rudolf created glass models of more than 200 plant species.

Rudolf married family friend Frieda Richter on May 16, 1911. Contracts with Harvard were renewed over time and they continued under the leadership of Oakes Ames, the second director of the Botanical Museum. Rudolf maintained correspondence with Mary Lee Ware, who remained the benefactor for the project. She visited Rudolf in 1928 and recorded her observations of his fine glassworking in a letter to Ames. Despite the physical limitations of his advancing age, Rudolfcontinued to develop new techniques and he created some of the most spectacular models in the collection. In 1936, the final shipment of models arrived at Harvard. Rudolf Blaschka died on May 1, 1939, survived by his wife and with several unfinished models in his studio. He had no children or apprentices. Over fifty years, from 1886 to 1936, the Blaschkas produced 4,300 glass models that represent 780 plant species.

Sources:

Jan. 17, 1911. Walter Deane (1848-1930) Papers; Correspondence: Rudolf Blaschka 1895-1922. Botany Libraries, Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Mass. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FMUS.GRA:11147054?n=104 . Accessed 14 January 2021.

Jun. 15, 1911. Walter Deane (1848-1930) Papers; Correspondence: Rudolf Blaschka 1895-1922. Botany Libraries, Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Mass. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FMUS.GRA:11147054?n=110. Accessed 14 January 2021.

Rudolf Blaschka letter to George Lincoln Goodale, 1896 January 6. The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Harvard University Herbaria. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FMUS.WARE:22853820?n=59. Accessed 30 October 2020.

Peto, J. and A. Hudson. 2002. Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka. Design Museum, London, England.

Reiling, H. 1998. The Blaschkas’ Glass Animal Models: Origins of Design. Journal of Glass Studies/The Corning Museum of Glass; Corning Glass Center. 40, 105-126. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24190504

Rossi-Wilcox, S. 2013. Blaschkas’ Glass Botanical Models (1886–1936). Corning Museum of Glass. Website (https://www.cmog.org/article/blaschkas-glass-botanical-models-1886-1936). Accessed 30 Jul 2020.

Unknown n.d. [biographical sketch of L&R Blaschka]. The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Harvard University Herbaria. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FMUS.WARE:22853820?n=53. Accessed 14 January 2021.

Biographical note: Elizabeth Cabot Lee Ware

Elizabeth Cabot Lee Ware was born on April 2, 1819, in Boston, Massachusetts, to mother Mary Jackson and father Henry Lee. A descendent of the wealthy Cabot family of Boston, Elizabeth inherited a large maritime fortune and spent much of it on anonymous philanthropy.

Elizabeth married Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, a graduate of the Harvard College class of 1834, on November 20, 1854. Their daughter Mary Lee Ware was born four years later. Elizabeth and Mary financed the Glass Flowers, a unique collection produced for Harvard University’s Botanical Museum. When Charles died in 1887, Elizabeth and Mary dedicated the collection to his memory.

Elizabeth Ware died on September 27, 1898, at the age of 79 and was interred two days later at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. Cabot family. Encyclopedia Britannica. Website ( https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cabot-family). Accessed 21 January 2021.

Brown, N.M. 1999. Flowers Out of Glass. Penn State News. Website (https://news.psu.edu/story/140881/1999/09/01/research/flowers-out-glass). Accessed 2 Jul 2020.

Reasner, M. 2015. Elizabeth Cabot Lee Ware. Find a Grave. Website ( https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148054012/elizabeth-cabot-ware). Accessed 2 Jul 2020.

Reasner, M. 2015. Dr Charles Elliott Ware. Find a Grave. Website ( https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148047539/charles-elliott-ware). Accessed 2 Jul 2020.

Rossi-Wilcox, S. 2013. Blaschkas’ Glass Botanical Models (1886–1936). Corning Museum of Glass. Website ( https://www.cmog.org/article/blaschkas-glass-botanical-models-1886-1936). Accessed 21 Jan 2021.

Ware, E.F. 1887. The Descendants of Robert Ware of Dedham, Massachusetts. Press of David Clapp & Son, Boston, MA.

Biographical note: Mary Lee Ware

Mary Lee Ware was born on January 7, 1858, to father Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, a Harvard-educated physician, and mother Elizabeth Cabot Lee Ware. Mary spent her childhood on the family farm in New Hampshire and traveling abroad, where she learned about art, agriculture, and botany.

Mary attended Radcliffe College and studied with Professor George Lincoln Goodale, who commissioned the Glass Flowers from glassworkers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in 1886. The first models were damaged during a customs inspection in New York but Goodale showed them to potential supporters, including Mary. After seeing the broken models and recognizing the Blaschkas’ talent, Mary and her mother, Elizabeth, provided funding to continue the project. With support from the Wares, the Blaschkas worked half-time on the collection for three years. In 1890, Mary and Elizabeth agreed to sponsor a ten-year, exclusive contract with the Blaschkas so they could devote their entire production to the Glass Flowers. The collection was presented to Harvard University as a gift in memory of Mary’s father, Dr. Charles Eliot Ware.

After Leopold and Elizabeth both passed away, Rudolf worked alone on the collection and Mary remained a devoted benefactor. Mary and Rudolf continued to communicate about the Glass Flowers and she supported his creative experimentation. Mary observed Rudolf’s unique artistic process when she visited him and his wife, Frieda, at their home in Hosterwitz, Germany. Mary and Rudolf maintained their correspondence until her death in 1937.

Mary was known in Boston and her hometown of Rindge, New Hampshire, for her charity, hospitality, and deep appreciation for the arts. Mary Lee Ware died on January 9, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts. She is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sources:

Brown, N.M. 1999. Flowers Out of Glass. Penn State News. Website ( https://news.psu.edu/story/140881/1999/09/01/research/flowers-out-glass). Accessed 30 Jul 2020.

Hale, E. 1937. Mary Lee Ware : January 7, 1858 - January 9, 1937. Boston, MA.

Reasner, M. 2015. Mary Lee Ware. Find a Grave. Website ( https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148109675/mary-lee-ware). Accessed 9 Jul 2020.

Rossi-Wilcox, S. 2013. Blaschkas’ Glass Botanical Models (1886–1936). Corning Museum of Glass. Website ( https://www.cmog.org/article/blaschkas-glass-botanical-models-1886-1936). Accessed 21 Jan 2021.

Custodial History - Mollusk collection

Series III. Subseries IV. Mollusk collection was transferred to the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Blaschka Glass Invertebrate Collection.

Provenance

The collection was previously housed with other material from the Harvard University Botanical Museum. The collection was transferred to the Archives of the Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames in 2006-2007 by Curatorial Associate and Administrator of the Glass Flowers, Susan Rossi-Wilcox.

Former Botanical Museum directors George Lincoln Goodale (1839-1923), Oakes Ames (1874-1950), and Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001) spent most of their professional careers at Harvard. Materials from those former directors were transferred to the collection informally over time. Additional material from the Blaschka Estate was purchased in 1993, most was shipped to Harvard in 1993, but there were additional shipments in 1997-1998.

Administrative series, including Series VII. Harvard University Botanical Museum, Series VIII. Publications, and Series IX. Loan and Use of Collections, are still active.

Related Materials

Related Materials at Harvard:

The Harvard University Herbaria houses the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants , commonly known as the “Glass Flowers." This unique collection of over 4,300 models, representing more than 780 plant species, was created by glass artisans Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team of Czech glass artists. The Harvard Museum of Natural History features a Glass Flowers gallery, where glass flower models are exhibited.

The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants also includes three oversize boxes of worked glass including botanical parts, apricot flowers, jewelry, and beads.

Box labeled: 1993-G-53 Botanical parts Box labeled: 1993-G-12 Apricot Flowers; 1993-G15 to 1993-G-47 Zoological Parts Box labeled: 1993-G-1 to 1993-G-14 Glass; 1998-G-5;1993-M-5/6; 1890-G-1; 2002-M-59; 1993-M-16 to 1993-M-21

The Harvard University Herbaria has a collection of more than 300 herbaria specimens that were collected by Rudolf Blaschka and various Harvard affiliated botanists in 1892 and 1895 when he visited Jamaica and the United States. The specimens remained in the Harvard Herbaria collection when Rudolf returned to Germany.

Blaschka Glass Invertebrates at The Museum of Comparative Zoology contains approximately 430 models of marine and terrestrial invertebrates, including sea anemones, jelly fish, octopus, sea cucumbers, marine worms and land snails. In May 2014, a new permanent exhibition of the MCZ’s Blaschka glass invertebrate models opened at the adjacent Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Related Materials at other institutions:

Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka Collection, MS-0013, The Rakow Research Library Manuscript Collection Repository, Corning Museum of Glass.

Digitization note

In 2015, portions of the archive were digitized with funding from Harvard Library. The digitization project was titled Art Meets Science : Archives of The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Most of the correspondence and photographic materials were digitized as part of the project.

Processing Information

In 2020, the collection was re-inventored in detail. Some series were expanded to include additional archival description, box information, folder numbers, and when applicable, accession numbers. Digitized content was linked to the corresponding description in the finding aid. Previously, Series IV. Genealogical and Biographical Information, was not described. Series IV is now described on the finding aid.

Title
The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, 1886-2020: A Guide.
Status
under_revision
Author
Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University.
Date
2020
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
und
Edition statement
This is the second edition of The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants finding aid.
EAD ID
ecb00006

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries.The Economic Botany Library specializes in materials related to economic botany or the commercial exploitation of plants. The Archives of the Economic Botany Herbarium of Oakes Ames houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Economic Botany Herbarium.

Contact:
Harvard University Herbaria
22 Divinity Ave
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2366