Treasure hunting!

Antique glass!

When I first explored the area near the Chatham-Summit railroad bridge, I thought it was weird that I kept stepping over a million clam and oyster shells. I hadn’t thought the woods of north Jersey were a natural habitat for shellfish.

Clams in the woods?

And of course there was broken glass littered around, as there always is.

But as I continued exploring and looked a little closer, I realized that some (not all) of the broken glass was antique! (Long story short, as my family can attest, I went through an antique bottle/glass collecting phase, and I can recognize it.) And there was a lot!

So THAT’S why there were a bunch of clam and oyster shells, and broken pottery, and glass shards: this place must have been a trash area in the early-to-mid-1900s. In theory, this stuff might have been sitting at the bottom of the Passaic River until it washed ashore during Hurricane Irene’s flooding, but the glass doesn’t show any signs of water erosion (“sea glass”).

There was a well-worn trail leading to this area, and if people have been coming through here for the past 100 years, they’ve taken or broken all of the good stuff. There are some fragments hanging from the trees (signs of recent human activity) and no intact pieces left.

…Well. To be totally accurate, there are no intact pieces left now that I’VE been through there. 🙂

Here are the treasures I found after an hour of very careful hunting:

Rectangular glass dish? Lid? It's a rectangle and it's made of glass and I can probably put things in it. Tiny bottle!

Vial, which may or may not be modern. Eh, who cares? I found it! Dressing jar!!!

A rectangular glass dish thing, a teeny tiny bottle, a little vial (which may or may not be modern), and (my prize find!) a jar that seems to have been used for dressing.

The bottom of the jar is stamped (on the outside, in reverse, so you can read it when you peer into the jar):
Glass mark: No. 65. / / Dec.22.1903 / July.17.1908

It reads:

No. 65.

I’m pretty excited!

(P.S. Thinking of checking it out for yourself? If you, my dear local archaeologist, are looking for old glass shards, or you’re dedicated enough to do a really thorough excavation, it might be worth your while, but if you’re just a casual enthusiast like me, don’t bother.)


After I wrote the stuff above, I found ANOTHER spot by the Passaic River with MORE discarded old glass!

Unlabeled milk glass jar! So pretty. Broken brown Vaseline jar! Clear soda or water bottle, probably from the 1920s-1930s Broken/ melted Colgate Perfumers sample bottle, probably pre-1940 Pond's cold cream jar! Really nice condition.

As far as I can tell, the clear bottle is probably from the mid-1920s; the Pond’s jar is pretty common (I’ve actually already got one from a college glass-hunting excursion), but this one is in really nice condition. Again, all of this stuff is pretty worthless. But nifty!


7 Comments to “Treasure hunting!”

  1. Well, I am intrigued ….. I am an avid glass shard hunter ….. would you be willing to give the exact location of the place where you find the “beach glass” ?

    • Right by the Chatham-Summit railroad bridge, like I said. 🙂

      It’s a stone railroad bridge over the Passaic River that connects Chatham and Summit. (You can check a map, find the railroad, and figure out where it crosses the Passaic River.) There’s a hiking path on the Summit side of the river, from Vernon Avenue (might want to double-check the name), through a picnic area, that leads right there.

      If you’re an avid hunter, you’ll have your eyes peeled, and I probably don’t need to get much more explicit than that, but some of the better shards (when I was there) were found a bit off-path.

    • If you’re not from this area, I don’t know there’s enough glass to be worth a whole road trip.

      • Josy, thank you so much for the information. There is a beach glass seller on eBay who finds tons of really great beach glass on the Passaic River, all sorts of colors and shapes and I was googling it and wondering if that is the place. He sells his so of course he cannot give me details. I make jewelry and am getting a bit desperate to find new and exciting colors. Oh, and yes, I am a 4 hour drive away, but as he described it, there is so much good stuff that it would be worth the trip.

        • The stuff I saw at this location wasn’t beach glass. Old, yes, but only weathered by rain and erosion. Still lots of sharp edges, like the first photo. If you’re making jewelry, you’d probably need to tumble/polish it… in which case, you might be just as well off with modern glass (tho’ I don’t know if “antique glass” is your selling point).

          Most of the colors were clear and brown, maybe occasional hints of aqua and purple.

          The Passaic River is pretty long, and this section is more of a stream than a full-on river. This other guy is probably getting his glass from a different portion.

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