Sandwich is the oldest of the Cape's fifteen towns It was
settled in 1637 by a group of families from Saugus, Plymouth,
and Duxbury. After Myles Standish and John Alden established
the boundaries, Sandwich was incorporated as a town in 1639.
Sandwich was given over mainly to agriculture during the 17th
and 18th centuries. The Dexter Grist Mill was built in the
1654. In the 19th Century, while several other towns on the
Cape were prospering from whaling, Sandwich was not. It lacked
a deep-water port to handle the whaling ships…but it did all
right for itself anyway. Sandwich's fortunes were tied to
industry. The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company provided the
tables of New England, and the world, with glassware and
tableware - at the rate of one hundred thousand pounds a week,
turned out by some 500 craftsmen. The guiding spirit behind
the glass company, Deming Jarves, was enamored of beautiful
glass creations…and spared no expense in bringing some of the
finest glassblowers of the world to Sandwich. The town became
world-famous for its artglass: some opalescent, other pieces
laced with strands of brilliant color, still others so
delicate as to rival the finest Venetian examples. Jarves'
insistence on quality and beauty even influenced the making of
the company's main product, pressed glass. The so-called lace
glass has a sheen like silver, and appears to be covered with
Nor was the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company the only game in
town. In 1858, Jarves left the company he had helped to found,
and struck out on his own with the Cape Cod Glass Works. It
began producing glass in 1864, but it was short-lived. Jarves'
son died, as did Deming himself in 1869. The factory closed
The Boston and Sandwich was to have another 20 years of life.
But by the 1880's the railroads enabled glass companies in the
midwest to ship their goods east. These companies were able to
produce glass more cheaply, having all their raw materials at
hand. B & G not only had to import fuel, it also, incredibly,
had to import sand. The local stuff just wasn't good for
making glass. The factory closed in 1888.
Four years earlier, the villages of Buzzards Bay, Bourne,
Sagamore, Pocassett, Cataumet, and Monument Beach had
successfully petitioned the state for incorporation as the
town of Bourne. Nobody in Sandwich made much of the event at
the time, but Sandwich's only other big industry, the Kieth
Car Company of Sagamore, (and its taxes) went with the deal.
Sandwich returned to an agricultural economy…but already the
seeds of tourism had been sown. Daniel Webster loved the
Fessenden Tavern as a recreational spot; the tavern in later
years even changed its name to honor the old patriot (and some
say to cash in on his notoriety). And there were summer hotels
with long porches for the city folk, who mostly came by train.
But with the coming of age of the private automobile, a new
day dawned. And Cape Codders in general…and Sandwich folks
with them…have rarely had a moment to catch their breaths
since. At least in the summertime.