Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California

Purple Glass

The purple glass accessory used in the Weed Show is to remember the pioneers who found that some clear glass, if exposed to the desert sun, turned different shades of purple. Today, glass manufacture is standardized and consistent, but between 1850 and 1916 the chemistry differed with each company. In order to make the glass sparkling clear, manganese oxide was added, so it depended on the skill of the individual glass master as to the amount of manganese that was added to the mix. This could vary with each manufacturer and from batch to batch. The ultra-violet rays of the sun changed the color of the erstwhile clear glass to hues from the palest lilac to the deepest amethyst. Some pioneers of our area laid out glass gardens in the hope that their ordinary household items, whether elegant tableware or liquor bottles, would morph into a thing of beauty. Manganese was required during World War I for use in munitions and no longer used in glass manufacture. Purple glass is highly prized in the West. The museum quality purple glass category is the only class that uses fresh plant material exclusively, and not necessarily native plants, to remind us and honor those homesteaders who struggled to grow a garden in the desert. Due to its fragility, a collection can easily be lost due to fire or earthquake, therefore the Weed Show always has a class with broken purple glass as an accessory.

Purple Glass Garden

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