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]

Carnival-glass.net

Carnival-glass.net

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 Trout & Fly Antique Carnival Art Glass Ruffled Bowl~radium Purple!Northwood Hearts & Flowers Antique Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl~scarce Ice Green! Antique Three Fruit Northwood Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl, Lime, 8 1/2" WideMillersburg Carnival Glass Diamond Shape Trout And Fly BowlRare Red Hoot Owl! Fenton Carnival Glass Art Great Horned Iridescent Animal BirdMillersburg Grape Wreath Antique Carnival Ics Berry Bowl~purple~radium & Hot!!!Northwood Hearts & Flowers Antique Carnival Art Glass Compote~electric Purple!Fenton Ten Mums Antique Carnival Art Glass 3/1 Edge Bowl~blue~scarce & Gorgeous!Northwood Singing Birds Antique Carnival Art Glass Water Pitcher~marigold~beautyCarnival Fantastic Grape And Cable Perfume Bottle "fantastic Color"Electric!! Northwood Carnival Glass Hatpin Holder Grape Cable Antique VaseAwesome!! Dugan Wishbone Spades Amethyst Carnival Glass Plate Antique IridescentVintage Dugan Carnival Iridescent Glass Vase,pulled Loop,10" Swung, AmethystRare Antique Millersburg Electric Rosalind Variant Carnival Glass CompoteImperial Gothic Arches Antique Carnival Art Glass 17 1/4" Mid-size Vase~marigoldMillersburg Hanging Cherries Carnival Glass 10.5" Iridescent GreenCarnival Killer Purple Grape And Cable Cracker Jar By NorthwoodMillersburg Carnival Glass Ics Zig Zag Bowl Stunning PurpleDugan Lined Lattice Antique Carnival Art Glass Vase~electric Purple~stunning!Millersburg Holly Antique Carnival Art Glass Tri-corner Bowl~radium Purple~superNorthwood Sunflower Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Ruffled Bowl~rare Emerald Green!Antique Northwood Carnival Glass Aqua Opal Three Fruits Bonbon Circa 1910 Northwood Peacocks On The Fence Carnival Glass Plate...outrageous Color!Northwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass Whiskey Decanter~scarce Purple! Northwood Custard Glass Grape And Cable BowlFenton Orange Tree Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~white~phenomenal Pastels!!!Stunning Northwood Green Carnival 3 Three Fruits Pie Crust 8 3/4" Bowl - Blue Heart & Vine Carnival Glass Plate By Fenton, Nr Signed Northwood Carnival Acorn Burr Punch Bowl Base In GreenCarnival Beautiful Dugan Wishbone And Spades Plate In "electric Purple"Carnival Glass Purple Star Of David Bowl Dark Vintage Serving Northwood Wishbone Antique Carnival Glass Collar Based Pce Bowl~scarce Lavender!Millersburg Carnival Glass Morning Glory Tumbler Fantastic!Large! Wow! Fenton Little Fishes Fish Carnival Glass Bowl Iridescent Art AntiqueCarnival Fantastic Purple Grape And Cable Dresser Tray By NorthwoodCarnival Excellent Purple Grape And Cable Water Set By NorthwoodCarnival Rare Dugan Wishbone And Spades Ice Cream Bowl In "electric Purple"Imperial Star And File Water Set / Multi - Colored MarigoldRare Green Carnival Glass Grape & Cable Candle Lamp Made By Northwood, NrFenton Lions Ics BowlBeautiful Antique Northwood Ice Green Tree Trunk Carnival Glass Vase~awesome!Fenton Stag & Holly Antique Carnival Glass Ball Ftd Large Ics Bowl~electric BlueAntique Fenton Green Dragon & Lotus Collar Based Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl Dugan Persian Garden Antique Carnival Glass Large Ruffled Bowl~peach Opal~superbNorthwood Amethystgrape And Cable Powder JarCarnival Excellent Purple Grape And Cable Sweetmeat Compote By NorthwoodRare Millersburg Amethyst Leaf & Little Flowers Compote~ Great Radium Finish~Beautiful Ice Blue Fine Cut And Roses Rosebowl By NorthwoodShowstopper! Northwood Peacock Fence Carnival Glass Pce Bowl Antique IridescentRare Northwood Carnival Glass Three Fruits Stippled Ice White Iridescent Bowl Bright Purple Lined Lattice Carnival Glass Vase, Purple Grape & Cable Carnival Glass Cologne Bottle By Northwood, NrNorthwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass Pce Bowl~electric Purple~super!White Hearts & Flowers Pie Crust Edge Carnival Glass Bowl, NrNorthwood Grape Arbor TumblerNorthwood Three Fruits Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~electric Purple~super!Spectacular! Northwood Carnival Glass Raspberry Amethyst Tumbler Iridescent ArtMillersburg Green Carnival Glass Diamonds Water Pitcher Aqua TintAntique Carnival Glass "peacock And Urn" Northwood Ice Cream Bowl 9 3/4 InchDugan Purple Fishnet Carnival Glass Epergne, Nr

Recent News: Carnival Glass

Source: Google News

Pastels Rule the Day
Maine Antique Digest, August 3rd

Pastel glass dominated the Heart of America Carnival Glass Association's annual auction, held April 25 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. More than a third of pieces in the sale came in the ice-like hues of pastels, the lighter...Read more

What's happening Sunday in the north valley
Chico Enterprise-Record, August 1st

Chico Theater Company: 7:30 p.m. “Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical.” $20 adult, $15 children 15 and under. 166 E Eaton Road, 894-3282. Thursday-Sunday. Runs through Aug. 9. Sunday matinee starts 2 p.m. ...Read more

What's happening Saturday in the north valley
Chico Enterprise-Record, July 31st

Farmers Market, Chico: 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Rain or shine, year-round. Second and Wall streets. EBT cards accepted to use with redeemable market script for eligible food items. 893-3276. Weekly. Celebration of 50th anniversary of Medicare, Chico: 7:30 ...Read more

Clark County Fair results
Springfield News Sun, July 29th

Civil War item, political item, Ohio item, granite ware, watches, metals-aluminum, best of division, miscellaneous and overall Best of Show, Lynda Setty; Oil lamp, Shonda Eberhard; Carnival glass, Helen Sowers; Holiday item, Susan Brown; Metals...Read more

PUBLIC SALES: Set of peanut butter glasses brings $490
LancasterOnline, July 26th

Several items and prices included: a vintage tumbling block quilt, $240; two solider photos, $160; a Havana cigar stand, $675; an early cylinder record player, $525; a sterling silver tea set, $650; an early sword, $200; a horseshoe carnival glass bowl...Read more

Family chuckle: The last yard sale was the last, although...
Yakima Herald-Republic, July 25th

Or my carnival glass? Or all the fancy cookware I no longer use because I no longer cook fancy? If I were a truly loving, selfless person I'd get rid of a whole bunch of stuff now, and not leave it for the kids to take care of when they cart me off the...Read more

Nancy Williams: Potluck rules? There shouldn't be any
Asheville Citizen-Times, July 25th

Unless you bring it on a gorgeous carnival glass plate, which you announce now belongs to the host. Then no one even sees your bad judgment regarding beets. This is the opinion of Nancy Williams, the coordinator of professional education at UNC ...Read more

Antiques Considered - July 15, 2015
Journal Press - King George, July 14th

Carnival glass remains quite popular in the antiques market, although it too has experienced a decline in value over the past decade. This dish belongs to a lady in the lower Northern Neck, and her family has owned it since it was new. The dish is in...Read more