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    

Beautiful Peacocks On The Fence Carnival Glass Bowl--fenton?-northwood?Northwood Poppy Show Plate Carnival Glass Marigold Antique Iridescent Scarce!Carnival Incredible Sapphire Northwood Bushel BasketNorthwood Ice Green Carnival Glass Peacock At The Urn Master Ice Cream Bowl#3-carnival Beautiful Northwood Wishbone Epergne MarigoldFantastic Northwood Dandelion 7 Piece Carnival Glass Water Set In Purple Carnival Beautiful Scarce Town Pump In Purple By NorthwoodNorthwood Four Pillars Aqua Opalalescent Vase 10.5” -beautifulVintage Iridescent Emerald Green Carnival Art Glass Four Flowers Ruffled BowlOrange Tree Water Pitcher! Marigold! Carnival Glass!Carnival Superior Purple Ripple Vase With Pour Spout Color Color ColorNice Isaac Benesch & Sons Fenton Carnival Glass Advertising Ruffled BowlStunning Northwood Electric Blue Peacocks On A Fence Carnival Glass DishGrape And Cable Fruit Bowl In Green - Beautiful & Above AverageCarnival Impressive White Heart And Flower Ruffled Bowl By NorthwoodCirca 1910 Cobalt Blue 8-1/2" Fenton Carnival Glass Thistle Bowl Hard To FindFenton Farmyard Barnyard Red Amber Carnival Iridescent Glass Bowl Chicken Hens!!Marigold Pear / Cherry Footed Ruffled Bowl Spatula Footed Drop Dead Gorgeous Purple Inperial Ripple Vase 12 Inches TallImperials Pansy Ruffled Plate Or Bowl Early 1900s Antique Carnival GlassFenton Holly 3 In 1 Edge Cobalt Blue Carnival Glass 9" Bowl~no Reserve!Carnival Super Pastel Marigold Northwood Good Luck Bowl Fabulous ColorFenton Blue Panther Sauce Bowl (early 1900's)Elect Amethyst Northwood Carnival Glass Bowl Good Luck Horse Shoe Whip FlowersNorthwood Peacocks On The Fence 8 3/4" Bowl AquaCarnival Very Scarce "blue" Concord Bowl Beautiful Northwood Fruits And Flowers Carnival Glass Bowl In Purple Gorgeous! Dugan Cherries Carnival Glass Bowl In Black Amethyst Rare 8 Ruffles Fenton Lotus And Grape Plate "really Nice Example"Imperial Elect Amethyst Carnival Glass Beaded Bullseye Vase Iridescent AntiqueAntique Northwood White Carnival Glass Stalk Base Corn Vase Fantastic Northwood Strawberry Carnival Glass Bowl In Purple Carnival Very Nice Blue Northwood Bushel BasketScarce Northwood Wishbone Carnival Glass Tumbler In PurpleReally Nice Antique Cobalt Blue Fenton Paneled Diamond And Bows Vase 6 5/8"Carnival Incredible Northwood Wishbone Ruffled Bowl In MarigoldMillersburg Carnival Glass - Little Stars - Ruffled Bowl - GreenAntique Imperial Diamond And Lace Pitcher And 6 Tumblers Iridescent Amethyst Wow Fenton Ice Sapphire Blue Poppy Show Carnival Glass Vase Art Iridescent Mint!Large 16 Inch Cobalt Blue Tree Trunk Carnival Glass Northwood VaseVintage Northwood Electric Emerald Green Carnival Glass Tree Trunk Vase Rare Fenton Marigold Carnival Glass Wine And Roses Cider PitcherBeautiful Northwood Grape Cable Carnival Glass Lidded Sugar Bowl In Purple Carnival Very Nice Ice Blue Fine Cut Roses Rose Bowl Fancy InteriorRare White Carnival Glass Peacock & Urn Plate#3-carnival Incredible Blue Singing Birds Mug By Northwood "super IridescenceDugan God Bless Our Home - In God We Trust Carnival TumblerAntique Fenton Blue Footed Orange Tree Hatpin Holder Carnival GlassNorthwood Grape And Cable Breakfast Creamer In Amethyst Carnival GlassImperial Jewels Art Glass Flower Bowl - Pearl Ruby - Iron Cross Marked Antique Northwood Carnival Grape And Cable Purple Butter DishCarnival Excellent Blue Tree Trunk Standard Size Vase. Outstanding IridescenceOutstanding Green Fenton Captive Rose Carnival Glass Bowl 8" Nice EstateMillersburg Hobstar And Feather Tri-cornered Bowl In Crystal Frosted!Millersburg Country Kitchen Plate In CrystalAntique Fenton Diamond & Rib Green Carnival Glass Vase Northwood Greek Key Carnival Glass BowlScarce Authentic Westmoreland Louisa Nut Bowl W / Scroll Feet & Interior PatternCarnival Fantastic Old Imperial Purple Ripple Vase Killer ColorCarnival Fabulous Dugan Wishbone And Spades Plate In Purple

Recent News: Carnival Glass

Source: Google News

Carnival glass show is making a return
Harborough Mail, September 16th

Carnival glass is the name given to pressed glass that was made in the early 1900s, through the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods up to the present day. The event is being held at The Three Swans Hotel from Friday, September 19, until Sunday, September ...Read more

Brice Stump: With antiques, memories are what matter
Delmarva Daily Times, September 13th

It seems, when their parents or grandparents passed and their houses were cleaned out, one of the dearest things family members wanted to take home was the mantel clock, the mixing bowls, rolling pin, grandmother's dishes, carnival glass and those ...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Twentieth Century snack sets dish up new fare
Press of Atlantic City, September 12th

Answer: Your "Harvest" pattern carnival glass snack sets were made during the 1970s by the Indiana Glass division of Lancaster Colony Corp. Established in 1897 as Beatty-Brady Glass Co. by James Beatty and George Brady, the company's name was ...Read more

Bena Mae's Kitchen: Clutter Begone
The News Journal, September 12th

They knew my tastes, my passions for floe blue, carnival glass, depression glass, old ironstone, wooden bread bowls, stone crocks and things of that ilk. And they drew me in like a fisherman with a large mouth bass on his line. They hooked me every time...Read more

Volunteer Firefighters Watch As Home Goes Up In Flames
FOX 29, September 4th

She said their home was full of antiques, like her grandmother's sewing machine, old records, newspapers and books. "There's my antique color glass. I collected carnival glass. This is my china when I was a little girl that was in my hope chest," Tracy...Read more

Multi-vendor emporium moves to Prescott Valley Plaza
Prescott Valley Tribune, August 27th

Shabby chic also reigns with vintage styles, whitewashed antique trunks, depression, milk and carnival glass. Luebke also takes specialty orders, so if you are looking for that old birdcage or perhaps an Elvis bobble head, he may be able to find it...Read more

After nearly 40 years, Norfolk antique shop closing its doors
Norfolk Daily News, August 20th

The shop has carried a wide variety of antiques, including old military memorabilia, jewelry and carnival glass. Mrs. Naslund said she believes her husband's interest in antiques was sparked by his uncle. Naslund agreed before adding the idea of...Read more

Heart of America Carnival Glass Association Auction
Maine Antique Digest, August 14th

A glass bell made as a 1912 souvenir for the Portland, Oregon, convention of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE)was the key item at the Heart of America Carnival Glass Association convention sale on May 3, selling for $11,000 (no buyer's ...Read more