Carnival glass, or inexpensively made glassware treated to have an iridescent sheen, has captivated collectors for years. Its eye-catching multicolor shimmer, often resembling oil on water, seems to change colors when viewed at different angles. Over the years, it's been dubbed "Taffeta," "Cinderella," and "Poor Man's Tiffany," as it gave the average housewife the ability to adorn her home with fancy vases and decorative bowls.

In 1907, Fenton Glass Company of Williamston, West Virginia, produced the first carnival glass, a style it referred to as "iridescent ware." Fenton called its first line Iridill and labeled it "Venetian Art." The idea was to mass-produce a beautiful product that could compete with the expensive, iridescent art glass made by Tiffany and Steuben.

This new kind of glass did not catch on in the way brothers Frank and John Fenton had hoped, but other manufacturers followed in Fenton's footsteps, employing the same iridization techniques, also called doping. The process involved spraying a pressed glass piece with metallic salts when it was hot from the mold and then re-firing it. Even though carnival glass was made in molds, it was often hand-finished by artisans—those piece are more sought-after today.

In 1908, Harry Northwood's glass company introduced its own iridescent ware called "Golden Iris," which was known for its marigold color. Dugan and Imperial glass companies soon jumped on the bandwagon. Millersburg only produced carnival glass for two years, but today its version is considered some of the finest.

Since iridescent ware was so cheaply made, most consumers didn't see it as quality glass and refused to pay top dollar for it. As its value plummeted, iridescent ware was soon being given away as prizes a carnivals, where midway winners could go home with shimmering vases, pitchers, goblets, tureens, or candy bowls.

This new market for carnival glass was a boon for Fenton, which produced iridescent ware in 150 patterns up until the late 1920s. Carnival glass was sold for mere pennies at five-and-dimes, and it could be bought in lots at minimal cost. For this reason, it was also given away as promotions at movie theaters and in grocery stories. For example, Imperial struck lucrative deals with companies like Woolsworth's and Quaker Oats.

In total, there are around 2,000 different patterns of carnival glass. Fenton's earliest patterns included Waterlily and Cattails, Vintage, Butterfly and Berries, Peacock Tail, R...

Dugan started out making carnival glass with molds they already had—vase patterns like Target and Wide Rib, Quill, Honeycomb, Jeweled Heart, Vineyard, and Pulled Loop—but soon they made patterns specifically for iridescent ware, like Farmyard, Christmas Compote, Heavy Iris, and Roundup.

With so much competition, glass companies distinguished themselves by developing their own unique carnival treatments. In most pieces of carnival glass, the main color of the piece was usually named for the base color before the glass was treated. Northwood’s marigold, which featured an orangish treatment on a clear base, was an exception to this rule. Northwood also developed distinctive carnival colors in amethyst, cobalt blue, and green, as well as in pastels, ice blue and ice green, and white.

Dugan, meanwhile, figured out how to create yet another brand of orange. The company began with a basic marigold spray, but it applied the color to glass made with bone ash, creating a peach opalescent color. Millersberg excelled in a particularly bright and shiny form of iridescent glass it called radium. Imperial made its mark with its purple and helios colors—the latter being a silvery treatment on greenish glass—as well as smoke, which was a gray treatment applied to clear glass. And Fenton was known for its vivid red, especially in the early '20s.

One early version of carnival glass known as Vaseline or uranium glass was produced by spraying uranium salts on a piece. These pieces can be identified today by their green luminescence in UV light.

Cambridge, U.S. Glass, Westmoreland, Fostoria, Jenkins, McKee, and Higbee also produced their own versions of carnival glass, and it was manufactured all over the globe, in places like England, Scandinavia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Australia, Argentina, and Mexico.

By 1925, carnival glass started to fall out of favor with Americans, and many U.S. glass companies quit producing it during the Great Depression. European glass makers continued to produce it until the 1940s. Sometime after World War II, this once-dismissed iridescent ware was dubbed carnival glass, and it became collectible.

Later in the 20th century, glass companies began to produce iridescent glass again, although these second-generation pieces do not interest collectors. The most sought-after carnival glass pieces are from the heyday of carnival glass, which was 1907-1930. Thus, collectors should be wary of these reproductions, which mimic the original carnival glass patterns and colors.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

David Doty's Carnival Glass Website

David Doty's Carnival Glass Website

David Doty's incredible, comprehensive and colorful Carnival Glass reference site, with over 1,600 pages and 4,000 … [read review or visit site]

This extensive reference on 'carnival glass,' which became popular in the early 1900s, is divided into three sectio… [read review or visit site]

Pattern Glass School

Pattern Glass School

If you need schooling on Victorian-era pressed glass tableware aka EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) aka Pattern … [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Millersburg Many Stars Antique Carnival Collar Based Ics Bowl~radium Green!Millersburg Bullseye And Loop Antique Carnival Glass Squatty 6.5" Vase~green!Rare Millersburg Carnival Glass Hanging Cherry Compote PurpleRare Northwood Peacock Purple Chop Plate Great ColorMillersburg Tulip Scroll Antique Carnival Glass Vase~radium Purple~rare & Sharp!Northwood Fern Brand Chocolates Antique Carnival Glass Flat Advertising Plate!Aqua Opal!!!! Northwood Carnival Glass Drapery Antique Rose Bowl Opalescent VaseMillersburg Seacoast Antique Carnival Art Glass Pin Tray~purple~gorgeous Colors!Northwood Peacocks Antique Carnival Art Glass Pce Bowl~blue~stunning IridescenceFour Flowers Variant Electric Carnival Glass Bowl Circa 1910Dugan Four Flowers Carnival Glass Bowl-- Stunning Electric BlueNorthwood Hearts & Flowers Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~purple~beautiful!Fenton Stag And Holly Carnival Glass Bowl 10” Ics Master Circa 1910Northwood Electric Blue Peacocks On The Fence Plate Northwood Aqua Opalescent Carnival Glass ~ Four 4 Pillars ~ VaseNorthwood Blue Carnival Glass Peacock At The Urn Master Ice Cream BowlAntique C1880 Northwood Cranberry Christmas Snowflake Opalescent Glass TumblerFenton Orange Tree Antique Carnival Art Glass Loving Cup~blue~gorgeous Piece! Northwood Carnival Glass Marigold Acorn Burr Pitcher & 4 TumblersNorthwood Three Fruit Medallion Antique Carnival Ftd Ruffled Bowl~aqua Opal!Northwood Peacock At The Urn Antique Carnival Glass Large Ruffled Bowl~marigold Super Ice Blue!! Northwood Hearts Flowers Carnival Glass Bowl Antique IridescentFenton Red Dragon And Lotus Fluted Carnival Glass BowlMillersburg Fleur De Lis Antique Carnival Glass Ics Bowl~radium Purple~gorgeous!Northwood Antique Carnival Art Glass Corn Vase~stalk Base~ice/lime Green~beauty!Adorable! Fenton Kittens Cat Carnival Glass Cup Saucer Childrens Toy Set AntiqueNorthwood Royal Ivy Cased Rainbow Spatter Sugar ShakerNorthwood Sapphire Blue Thin Rib Vase Gold TrimFenton Holly Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~blue~exceptionally Rich & GorgeousRed Fenton Carnival Glass “acorn” Bowl "antique" Unmarked Circa 1910Superior Millersburg Feather And Heart Water Pitcher / AmethystImperial Pansy Antique Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl~electric Purple~smokin' Hot!Millersburg Carnival Glass Hobnail Spitoon MarigoldNorthwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass~stippled~variant Plate~purple!Rare Millersburg Carnival Glass Ics Vintage Hobnail Marigold BowlStunning Fenton Blue Orange Tree MugDrama!!! Imperial Electric Amethyst Scroll Embossed Carnival Glass Bowl AntiqueImperial Diamond Lace Antique Carnival Glass Water Pitcher~electric Purple~hot!Marigold Northwood Grape & Cable Cologne BottleNorthwood Carnival Glass Blue Embroidered Mums BowlNorthwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Art Glass Ftd Banana Boat~purple~sharp!Rare Wow So Tall! Fenton Green Rustic Carnival Glass Midsize Iridescent Art VaseRare Sapphire Blue Northwood Swirl VaseNorthwood Blue Peacock At The Fountain Carnival Glass Pitcher Northwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Art Glass Whiskey Shot Glass~marigoldImperial Glass Beaded Bullseye Marigold Carnival Glass Tulip Vase Millersburg Amethyst "isaac Benesch" Carnival Glass Bowl- Great Color- *nr*Northwood Wishbone Antique Carnival Ftd Plate~marigold~spectacular Pastels!Northwood Three Fruits Antique Carnival Art Glass Ruffled Bowl~green~superb!!!Northwood Blue Embroidered Mums Carnival Glass Bowl Antique Northwood Carnival Art Glass~diamond Points Vase ~amethyst~nrFenton Stag & Holly Antique Carnival Large Ruffled, Ball Footed Bowl~purple!Antique Blue Northwood Carnival Glass Hearts And Flowers Pce Bowl.Carnival Super Dark Marigold Grape & Cabe Water Set "killer Color"Wow Cre! Fenton Amethyst Carnival Glass Bowl Autumn Acorns Iridescent AntiqueNorthwood Aqua Opalescent Carnival Glass ~ Beaded Cable ~ Footed Rose BowlNorthwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Art Glass Pin Try~marigold~beautiful!Northwood Fine Cut N Roses Antique Carnival Art Glass Ftd Rose Bowl~green~sharp!Northwood Electric Blue Peacocks At The Fountain Lg Fruit Bowl ~beautiful ColorBlue Northwood Peacock At The Fountain 3 Pc Water Set

Recent News: Carnival Glass

Source: Google News

Truly valuable toys exist in small numbers
Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 25th

n Carnival glass, water pitcher, inverted strawberry pattern, tankard shape, amethyst, $575. n Sterling-silver bowl, reticulated, grapevine rim, four-footed, Bailey, Banks, & Biddle, 3 1/4 x 10 inches, $600. n Basket, Ikebana, woven bamboo, Japan, c...Read more

What's happening Sunday in the north valley
Chico Enterprise-Record, May 23rd

Silver Dollar Fair: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Carnival. (no entry after 10 p.m.). 6 p.m. California sprint Car, Civil War Series at grandstand. 2357 Fair St. 13th annual Community Library Benefit Yard and Book Sale, Elk Creek: Downtown Elk...Read more

Kovels: Don't toss old toys before checking value
Winston-Salem Journal, May 21st

Wardrobe, ash, Eastlake, Murphy bed convertible, salesman sample, 30 x 12 inches, $375. Carnival glass, water pitcher, inverted strawberry pattern, tankard shape, amethyst, $575. Sterling-silver bowl, reticulated, grapevine rim, four-footed, Bailey...Read more

Depression glass on display
Warren Tribune Chronicle, May 17th

SPECIAL EVENT AT SUTLIFF: The Sutliff Museum located on the second floor of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library will be showing a collection of depression and carnival glass through June. The collection features miniatures in the Jennifer pattern ...Read more

DOUG'S Q-C COLLECTIBLES Expert excites heiress over iridescent glassware
Quad City Times, May 17th

It and its variations, such as “Orange Tree and Scrolls,” and “Orange Tree Orchard,” are the most popular and prolific carnival glass patterns Fenton ever made. Production began in 1911 and continued through the early '20s. The center of the bowl has a...Read more

A Former Country Girl Catches Fire In 'The Love Object'
WDIY, May 4th

But most beautiful were the little dessert dishes of carnival glass, with their orange tints and their scalloped edges." When O'Brien ranges farther into the lives of women and men, married and single, beyond the borders of Ireland, she describes...Read more

Fair weather for Eastover Heritage, Cameron Antiques and India festivals
Fayetteville Observer, May 2nd

The Clevelands were shopping for colorful carnival glass items. Tom Cleveland said he had found eight pieces already. The antiques fair has been a twice-yearly tradition for the Clevelands for nearly 20 years, they said. "As long as it's not pouring...Read more

Milan senior center presents workshop on Carnival Glass
Heritage Newspapers, April 11th

Milan-area residents are invited to learn about Carnival Glass during a workshop set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at the Milan Senior and Community Activity Center, 45 Neckel Ct. Join Dr. Steven Gregg for Carnival Glass 101. He will discuss the...Read more