19 June 2006

Social Relationships

We can find meaning in George Berg’s glassmaking and chemistry project by looking to eighteenth-century concerns that combined social or public interest in the idea of “improvement” with concepts of personal enlightenment. Employing an interpretation such as this, we can add Berg to a long list of others known through their inventions and improvements, through letters to journals or newspapers, and through submissions for awards of patents or other gratuities. Attributing Berg’s endeavor to his desire to advance social and personal fortunes creates a precise position for Berg as a curious and dedicated amateur heeding the call to advance public life through a combination of intellectual and practical activities. Clubs and coffeehouse societies dedicated to investigation and recognition of useful information are well known as a feature of eighteenth-century social life, especially in London. Of these groups, the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (the Society of Arts) was a leader in the dissemination of the paired concepts that the arts and sciences could be improved by anyone, and that the improved results should be available for all. Berg was a member of the Society of Arts, so it is reasonable to consider his connections to this organization as a way to understand some of the broader contexts of his project. It is all the more important because there is no evidence Berg submitted his formulas for recognition. Therefore, a closer examination of this relationship offers insight into the more subtle ways that the Society of Arts encouraged useful invention and the concept of improvement.

7 Comments:

At 27 June, 2006, Anonymous Susan Bennett said...

Sarah

Have noticed that Samuel More proposed a Colebron Hancock in May 1769. He is identified as a glass manufacturer in Cockspur Street. Maybe part of Berg's circle through this connection.

Susan

 
At 27 June, 2006, Blogger Sarah Lowengard said...

Interesting possibility. Hancock's name first appears in the Experiment Book on some undated papers tucked into the 2nd notebook (ca. 1762-1766). The notes, and some later ones, concern gilding on glass, how to stain glass a yellow color using silver leaf (not unusual), and the different results of sand and lead in the fritt. However, Berg transcribes comments from More on several of the same papers: Perhaps the three men met to discuss glassmaking?

If Berg, More and Hancock met to discuss glassmaking, it is possible, given the date of Notebook 2, that this began before either Berg or Hancock had joined the SoA. But . . . it's after More had won his prizes.

 
At 07 July, 2006, Blogger David Williams-Thomas said...

Here is an extract from Josiah Wedgwoods history from the BBC website. Is there any evidence from Wedgwoods papers that he might have had contact with Berg? They were both involved in the RSA at around the same time and in a similar area of technology. Is this an area for investigation?

"Wedgwood experimented with barium sulphate (caulk), and from it produced jasper, in 1773. Jasper ware, which is used for a whole host of ornaments, blends metallic oxides, often blue, with separately moulded reliefs, generally white. Some such reliefs were designed for Wedgwood by John Flaxman. Other wares included black basaltes, frequently enhanced by 'encaustic' colours like red, to imitate Greek vases.

Wedgwood was elected a Royal Society Fellow in 1783, primarily for inventing the pyrometer to measure oven temperatures. He took a keen interest, too, in efficient factory organisation, and in improving the transport of raw materials and finished wares by canals, such as the Grand Trunk Canal, and by road.

When Wedgwood died he left a £500,000 fortune, a thriving business, and a daughter, Susannah, mother of Charles Darwin."
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At 09 July, 2006, Blogger Sarah Lowengard said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 09 July, 2006, Blogger Sarah Lowengard said...

Wedgwood and Berg
I don't recall seeing anything about Wedgwood in Berg's notebooks, or about Berg in Wedgwood's. I am much much less familiar with the latter, however.

Can anyone else contribute information--or other references--to this suggestion that Wedgwood might have shared Berg's interests, and about the possibility that these two men knew each other?

 
At 31 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have checked that Berg was not a member of any Livery Company, or Guild. I know he was not a Glasseller, but the records at the Guildhall would tell us whether he was a member of any other one.

David Williams-Thomas

 
At 31 July, 2006, Blogger Sarah Lowengard said...

George Berg in Livery Companies
Hi David

All indications point to Berg's status as an amateur of chemistry, glassmaking, and enameling.

I looked through the Goldsmith's Company records when I was trying to find more information about Richard Dovey and Edmund/Edward Carter.

The only relevant mention I've found of a Berg who might have been affiliated with Goldsmith's comes from Ambrose Heal's Signboards of Old London Shops (1947). Heal mentions Charles Berg & Samuel Grant, jewellers at the Ring & Pearl, against Cecil St., in the Strand. George Berg did have a brother named Charles but I haven't been able to locate further information about this Charles Berg and Charles's name does not appear in the manuscript.

 

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