Is that a Duncan & Miller swan?

by Bert Kennedy

 

This article is about Duncan & Miller Sylvan swan their look-alike cousin and how to tell the difference. Duncan & Miller makes some of the finest examples of swans produced in the field of elegant glass. One of the swan lines they made is called Sylvan. It was produced in opalescent blue, opalescent pink, and opalescent yellow as well as crystal. Knowing the colors can help in determining if it is Duncan or not. So if you see a swan that looks like sylvan but it is Opalescent Green you should be very skeptical. I was in a very nice antique shop in Little Rock when I found just such a swan. It was a lovely opalescent green. My heart raced as I thought I found a real rare Duncan swan. Thinking this must be a very rare color I was only too happy to pay the full asking price. That is part of the advanced glass sickness thinking you know more than you really do. When I got back to the house I checked in with my Duncan book to find this rare shape and color. Well as lots of you know, it was not in the book. From some angles it looked right but from others it was not even close to the Sylvan swan. My heart was broken, not to mention my wallet and ego. Well ok, it is not Duncan. Then who did it? I e-mailed several dealer friends and they told me it was foreign or Pairpoint. One of them told me that he had been fooled by this lovely green swan a few years back and that made me feel a little better. All of the dealers and friends I asked agreed with me that it was NOT Duncan and that many of them were being sold as Duncan. So I wanted to find some rules of identification so that others would be able to spot this NOT Duncan swan trap and prevent them from having this swan trap sprung on them. Here is what I found in my comparison I hope it will help other swan collectors. 

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 (top). But on the NOT Duncan swan the bottom is different (bottom). First it has a ground and polished bottom as the Duncan swan did but it also has a ground and polished pontil. It also has rippled sides rather than straight sides like the Duncan swan.

The Duncan is on the top and NOT Duncan is on the bottom.


This identification feature will be the best test to tell the difference in the two swans. If the swan has a straight edged bottom that is ground and polished forming a shield, it is most likely Duncan. If the bottom has a rippled edged and a polished pontil, it is NOT Duncan. Just knowing that may save you from a costly mistake.

Now from the side view they are a little harder to tell one from another.

The difference here is the Duncan wing lines are more horizontal and the bottom is a smooth straight curve. Whereas, on the NOT Duncan side view the wings are more vertical and the bottom edge is rippled as it curves toward the back.


The wings on the NOT Duncan are much more pointed than the Duncan Wings.

 

These three points should help you with your identification of the Duncan from the Not Duncan.

But now for the big question. Who did this NOT Duncan swan? Is it foreign or American made? I had seen one of the Blue opalescent swans with a small round Pairpoint sticker. But when I checked my Pairpoint book the swans were very different. I went through all my reference books and I was unable to find a swan like this one. So far I had seen this NOT Duncan swan in opalescent blue, opalescent yellow, opalescent green, and opalescent pink. I have yet to see it in crystal. At this point research hit a road block. I could find no other information.

As luck would have it, while checking some eBay swan auctions, I found one of the NOT Duncan swans for sale. It mentioned there was a sticker on the swan indicating who made it. I placed my bid and began to pray it would hold up. I won the auction and waited for the arrival of this swan. 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 and Crafts shoppe in Springfield, Mass. The seller told me that his Aunt had purchased the swan from this shoppe in the 30's and that the makers name was on the sticker. Sure enough it was on the bottom of the swan. Now if we can believe this sticker...............Here is the swan that arrived with the sticker.

Now lets turn the swan over and get a look at that sticker.

We can see that the makers name is J. Conrad and that it was made in an Arts and Crafts shoppe in Springfield, Mass. Well if it can't be Duncan at least it is American. I do not know if Mr. Conrad was a former Pairpoint worker causing the rumor that the swan was made by Pairpoint or if Mr. Conrad was a self taught glass artisan. Either way he did super work.

 

Here are the two swans together. Both very nice swans but it is nice to know which one is Duncan and which one is not Duncan.

If anyone has any more information on this small Arts and Crafts shoppe or the maker, please get in touch with me at bluedart99@hotmail.com

Thanks, Bert