Updated: Mar 30
Consider the glass doorknob. It has a clear surface that catches and reflects light. It adorns interior and exterior doors. It is both decorative and functional, and among the first original hardware designs recorded in the United States. Two design patents co-filed by Enoch and George Washington Robinson in 1837, inspired the product referred to colloquially as “Boston Glass Knobs.”
Enoch Robinson was a Bostonian who worked at The New England Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the early 19th century. He invented a bench press; a stupendous innovation that created a bridge between the ancient Roman technique of glass blowing individual pieces, to the mass production of glass doorknobs. This and a second invention, a new means of attaching a glass doorknob to a metallic socket, were patented in 1837.The attachment process greatly increased the durability of doorknobs.
What came to be known as “builder’s hardware” was first manufactured in the United States in the 1820s. Early inventions in the U.S.A. are poorly documented. One tragic event destroyed much historic knowledge; a 1836 fire in the Patent office, in which patents on file from 1790 through 1836 were incinerated.
There is documentation that Enoch Robinson began Enoch Robinson’s Lock and Knob business, and that his design was used by the W.C. Vaughan Company, incorporated in 1902, which in turn was owned by E.R. Butler Company of New York City.
Over time glass of a lighter weight, threaded spindles, and simplified sockets have gained popularity, and replaced the very simple glass knobs of yore. At Charleston Hardware Company, fluted, round, and octagonal glass knobs are fitted with metal ferrules in a variety of finishes. These doorknobs enhance historic homes throughout the country.