Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Washington National Cathedral Stained Glass Formulae Collection


Collection ID:
Saint, Lawrence B., 1885-1961
Washington Cathedral
Physical Description:
9.3 Cubic feet
29 boxes
This collection consists of chemical formulae developed by Lawrence Saint for use in his stained glass work at the Washington National Cathedral. There are supporting samples, records, and notes.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
This collection consists of 976 formulae developed by Lawrence Saint for making stained glass. A shoe box contains 3" x 5" index cards of the formulae. Included are duplicate formulae and some miscellaneous notes. There are also over eight hundred samples of glass for various formulae. Some of the formulae were missing when the collection was donated to the National Museum of American History. These are noted in the container list.


This collection is divided into three series.
Series 1, Formulae, 1927-1933
Series 2, Notes and Records, 1926-1936
Series 3, Glass Samples, 1927-1933

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Lawrence B. Saint was born in Pittsburgh in 1885. The work he did with stained glass, especially filming (the process of making a work of stained glass, old or new, look as if it is from the Middle Ages), influenced glassmakers everywhere. At thirteen, Saint was employed in Goeddel's wallpaper store. While at Goeddel's, Saint made sketches which impressed J. Horace Ruby, a former Goeddel's employee. Saint then began working under Ruby at Ruby Brothers Stained Glass Company. Saint's chores in the studio were to grind paint, trace patterns, sweep the floors, and build fires in the pot-bellied stove. Saint worked in this studio for four years. He saved enough money to put himself through the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
After art school, Saint was employed by the H. F. Petgen Company of Pittsburgh to design a large rose window for the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in East Liberty, Pennsylvania. It was a mosaic of color with symbols of the four evangelists of Christ. During his last year in art school, Saint met his future wife, Katherine Wright. Their honeymoon in Europe provided Saint time to study and copy medieval stained glass. Saint made at least three visits to Europe and collected sample glass from Chartres and other cathedrals. When Saint returned to the United States he designed and painted windows for eleven years under the direction of Raymond Pitcairn, promoter of medieval arts at Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Pennsylvania. During this period, Saint started to portray figures from life to record the faces of his generation. Between visits to Europe, Saint completed six windows in eleven years. Three were figure windows, three were two small roses, and one was a grisaille window. Grisaille is a style of monochromatic painting in shades of gray, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture, or to simulate one. After his work at Bryn Athyn, Saint worked out of his own stained glass studio.
He then went to work for the Washington National Cathedral as head of its stained glass studio. He designed and executed fourteen windows for the Cathedral: the North Rose Window, nine choir aisle windows, and four others in the north transept aisles. Saint experimented with recapturing the reds, blues, and other vibrant colors achieved by medieval glass makers using formulae based on spectroscopic analyses of scraps of 13th century glass. While working for the Cathedral, a fire broke out in Saint's studio. Many windows and materials were destroyed including a window depicting Moses. Saint's most famous work for the Cathedral was the North Rose Window entitled, "The Last Judgment." This window cost $22,687 and took twelve men to create. Saint made his own glass and applied his own process for filming it. Upon completion, Saint's work was displayed at the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1957 and in other cities. Saint said, 'I trust that my material, made public, will lead others to improve on my work...".


Robert S. Harding, Valerie Herman and Calli Ward
Custodial History
The collection was transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Ceramics and Glass (now the Divsion of Home and Community Life) in 1984.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) by the Washington National Cathedral, through Richard T. Feller in 1977.
Processing Information
Processed by Robert S. Harding, archivist, Valerie Herman and Calli Ward, 1984; revised by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., archives technician, December 2008.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: reproduction fees may apply.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Washington National Cathedral Stained Glass Formulae Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Formulae, chemical Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glass, Colored Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glass painting and staining -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stained glass artists Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Washington (D.C.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glass manufacture Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glass samples Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
Business Number: Phone: 202-633-3270
Fax Number: Fax: 202-786-2453