Sandwich History

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 frosty stars.

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 shortly thereafter.

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.

Sandwich Cape Cod Contact Information

279 Orleans Road
North Chatham, MA 02650

Phone: (508) 945-6443
Fax: (508) 945-7837

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