The Macdonalds

Flora MacDonald
Flora MacDonald, Boston Globe, November 1915

A small number of shades have appeared carrying a brass tag, MACDONALD. So far, they are immediately familiar as those produced by Bigelow, Kennard & Company of Boston. Andy Pruit, who owned one of these examples early on pointed to additional information on Wikipedia about a stained glass designer, Donald MacDonald (1841-1916).

Donald MacDonald of Boston was a well known and important designer and maker of stained glass and collaborated on projects with various studios. One such engagement included projects at McPherson from 1872 through 1876. Through his reputation, commissions with John LaFarge were also forthcoming. In the Wikipedia article, there is mention of Macdonald's son, Donald Newton MacDonald (1877-1924). It stated that he was the head of the stained glass lamp department at Bigelow, Kennard and Company. In our very limited knowledge of this company's inner workings, it had been widely thought that Homer Bigelow held this position, which also may still hold true depending on dates. While this link to Bigelow is very useful and certainly helpful as another name to chase down, the designer of these MacDonald tagged shades would turn out to be one of Donald MacDonald's children.

During 1877, MacDonald Sr. upon ending is relationship with McPherson, started a studio of his own named MacDonald Stained Glass Works. Included in this company was his son Donald Newton MacDonald and daughters Flora and Ruby. Flora was an accomplished stained glass crafts person in her own right. Research has recently turned up a 1906 article in a magazine, Indoors & Out, giving design credit of a well known Bigelow Studios lamp to Flora MacDonald. Flora's shade is supported by a Grueby pottery base.

Additional proof of Flora's lamp designing and building exists in a February 1907 exhibition catalog. Titled Exhibition of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Copley Hall, this Boston exhibition clearly shows not only her father still active in Stained glass, but Flora's entry of 3 leaded glass lamps, designed and built by her, with assistance from other employees. Sadly, no illustrations of these 3 lamps has surfaced yet.

Speculation suggests that these rare examples may have served as prototypes by Flora, perhaps in response to her brother Donald Newton being engaged as Bigelow's lamp shop manager. Until we know more about Bigelow Studios, the names and tenure of staff in the production side of the lamp department there, this possibility remains unproven.

Significant research on Donald MacDonald (Sr.) has been done by Lance Kasparian. For his preliminary study of MacDonald's career and significant contributions in the field of Stained Glass, see Volume 28 of the 2004 Journal of Stained Glass (American Issue). This was published by the Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters.

MacDonald Shade Examples

These 3 examples of MacDonald tagged leaded shades illustrate the Macdonald's early involvement with the Bigelow Studios.