Henry T. Hellmers’ Secret Batch Book of Glass Formulae

A unique and important book of glass- and marble-making history can now be yours in the recently published Henry T. Hellmers’ Secret Batch Book of Glass Formulae, by J.W. Courter. Marble collectors who study the history of their hobby will want to secure a copy of this book. I have to say there is nothing else like it in my library.

Just as the title describes, it is a facsimile of the 400-page, handwritten glass formulae book of glass chemist Henry T. Hellmers (1897 – 1978). Hellmer worked at many glass making companies during his 40+ year career, including Akro Agate Co. from 1921 – 1930, where he helped develop, as he put it, “hundreds of colors” for their new machine made marbles. He also worked at the Cambridge Glass Company from 1930-1932, where he developed several of their famously vivid colors.

Hellmers’ batch book illustrates the depth and breadth of his role in American glass making history. The book includes more than 2,300 formulae for coloring glass batches, each written in the same format in good handwriting. Hellmers not only invented many colors but also collected formulae from other companies, so dozens of glass making companies are referenced. There are formulae for lenses, crystal, even red reflectors for cars and bicycles. Of particular interest to marble collectors are the entries for the Akro Agate Co.

Of the 55 different “red opal” batch formulae in Mr. Hellmers’ batch book, 17 are from Akro Agate.  There is Flintie Red for Agates (1930), Regular Carnelian Red (1927), Tiger Eye Red (1929), Red for Striping Marbles (1929), and more. Each details a once-secret batch formula.

The formulae themselves, when you consider their ingredients, are like alchemy. Each batch contains hundreds of pounds of sand and soda, and then, depending upon the color, lesser amounts of “secret” ingredients that to a layman like me seem magical. Tiger Eye Red, for example, calls for 500 lbs. of sand but only 2 ½ oz. of copper oxide and but ½ oz. of bichromate. Bone ash seems to be a common ingredient.

And the forumlae just go on and on for 400 pages, sprinkled with fascinating tidbits from the history of glass making.  On page 120, I found an Akro Agate batch formula for Lavender Opal attributed to A. Fiedler and dated 1923. Just below it is another formula, from 1916, by H.C. Hill. Anyone familiar with Akro Agate’s history will recognize those two names.

Reading these, especially the formulae apparently created by Hellmers which are initialed H.T.H, I can almost picture him standing near the pot or tank with the furnace glow on his face, making sure his colors come out just right. This unique and very personal piece of history has given me a deeper appreciation for the chemistry and the people behind these gleaming little glass globes.

If you would like to get a hold of this rare and remarkable work, head over to Igneous Glassworks and pick up a copy.

One Response to “Henry T. Hellmers’ Secret Batch Book of Glass Formulae”

  1. Shon Lenzo Says:

    I have almost 100 glass batch formulas, from my uncles old glass factory in Cambridge, oh.
    They are very nice colors.
    He once worked at Camnridge Glass.
    Would you possibly be interested in buying them?

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