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    

Northwood Wishbone Antique Carnival Complete 7 Pc Water Set~very Rare Purple~hotCarnival Glass Northwood Green Stippled Grape & Cable 9 " Plate * Fantastic !! Northwood Peacock At The Urn Antique Carnival Glass Master Bowl~electric Purple Fenton Orange Tree Antique Carnival Ftd Fruit Bowl~blue~super Gorgeous Example!Northwood Poppy Show Antique Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl~scarce Blue~rich ColorsNorthwood Three Fruits Medallion Vtg Carnival Glass BowlNorthwood Custard Glass Hearts & Flowers Pie Crust Edge Bowl Rare In CustardHtf Dugan Roundup Amethyst Carnival Glass Plate Or Shallow BowlNorthwood 4 Pillars Antique Carnival Glass Advertising Vase~green~very Scarce!Rare Amethyst Orange Tree Powder JarNorthwood Lime Green Carnival Glass Peacock At The Urn Master Ice Cream BowlVtg 3" Tall Carnival Glass Mini Vase Iridescent Quezal Purple Red Green Gold Carnival Glass Northwood Green Stippled Grape & Cable Bon-bon * Fantastic !! Vtg 13" Ripple Vase Fenton Carnival Glass Iridescent Purple Amethyst Blue YellowCarnival Glass Northwood Ice Blue Rose Bowl Beaded Cable * RareAntique Northwood Poppy Show Ice Blue Carnival Glass BowlNorthwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Hatpin Holder~purple~colorful Piece!Amazing Northwood Carnival Glass Tree Trunk Cobalt Blue Vase3 - Vintage ~ Northwood Amethyst Nestor ~ Cruet 2 Shakers & Toothpick Holder~antique~ Fenton "purp"carnival Glass & Agate Horse Medallion""nut BowlNorthwood Custard Glass Good Luck Ruffled Edge Bowl Very RareVintage Northwood Carnival Grape And Cable Dresser Tray In Purple / Amethyst Millersburg Blackberry Wreath Antique Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl~purple~sharp!Fenton Carnival Glass Bowl Plaid Pattern Blue Vg ~ So Bright Beautiful!Antique 1800s Fenton Orange Tree Carnival Glass Hat Pin Holder Vase Vintage OldCarnival Fenton "horse Heads Medallion" Glass Antique Dish Or Plate Vintage 11b Vintage Fenton Pink Large 10'' Sun Burst Carnival Glass Bowl 1950s "mint" Peacock On The Fence -supper Aaa+ Stunning Blue/purple Imperial Amber Loganberry Vase Good Oldie Starred BaseOutstanding Red Stretch Floral & Optic Footed Bowl - Super!Imperial Open Rose Antique Carnival Glass Covered Butter Dish~electric Purple!Northwood Purple Peacocks Plate "electric Highlights"Fenton Butterfly & Berry Antique Carnival Ftd Master Berry Bowl~scarce Amethyst!Vtg 7 1/2" Fenton Carnival Glass Peacock Urn Bowl Iridescent Flower Amethyst RedCarnival Old Imperial Nuart Smooth Panel Shades In Satin MarigoldNorthwood Carnival Glass Dark Marigold Tree Trunk Squatty VaseNorthwood Peacock At The Fountain Antique Carnival Water Pitcher~electric PurpleNorthwood Strawberry Antique Carnival~stippled~ruffld Bowl~pastel Marigold~hot!Mintyc1911~antique"fenton"xsrc"saphire Blue"carnival Glass"fine Rib"12"vasePurple Imperial Windmill Pickle DishVintage 12 1/2" Tall Carnival Glass Vase - Imperial - Northwood - Fenton ?Carnival Glass Pair Ice Green Florentine Candlesticks - Fenton Signed Northwood Superb Amethyst Grape & Cable Pce Carnival Glass Bowl Wow!Ant Northwood Grape & Cable Sweetmeat Compote Purple Amethyst Carnival Glass 12b Vintage Fenton Red 8'' Grape Harvest Carnival Glass Bowl 1950s "mint" Vintage Northwood Carnival Grape And Cable Dresser Tray In Purple / Amethyst Northwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass Water Pitcher~scarce Green~sharp!Carnival Glass Bowl Purple Amethyst Carnival Glass Pitcher 1988 Acga Camp Hill Pa Fenton ?Vintage Imperial Glass Tumbler Tiger Lily Electric Purple No Ig Mark Ec Nr!Stunning European Aurora Pearls Iridized Cranberry On Green Brides BowlNorthwood Hearts And Flowers 9" Blue Ruffled BowlCarnival Lovely Millersburg Green Primrose Ruffled BowlFenton Carnival Glass Paid Marigold Ice Cream BowlImperial Luster Rose Amethyst Carnival Glass Three Footed BowlImperial Grape Electric Purple Carnival Glass Water Pitcher W/ Blue Iridescence Northwood Good Luck Carnival Glass Bowl In Gorgeous Marigold Super Pretty!Indiana Blue Carnival Harvest Grape Princess Pattern Glass Punch Bowl SetMillersburg 1912 Advertising Bonbon - Isaac Benesch & Sons 54th Anniversary30b Vintage Fenton Iridescent Carnival Glass Spoon Holder "acorn"

Recent News: Carnival Glass

Source: Google News

Indoor flea market filled with a 'bit of everything' [Tyler Morning Telegraph ...
Businessweek, July 21st

Now, he runs the business in Whitehouse that his mother started more than three years ago. Mrs. Parker said she loves looking for old linens, furniture and dishes, including blue and white porcelain China, carnival glass and Depression and Vaseline ware...Read more Top 20 Antiques and Collectibles Searches for June 2014
Motor E magazine, July 15th

They are well-known for their carnival glass, an inexpensive, iridescent pressed glass that they made from about 1907 to about 1925. The Fenton vase shown here is from the Silver Crest line, opaque glass such as custard or milk glass decorated with a...Read more

Stylish storage ideas for shelves and cabinets
Chicago Daily Herald, July 12th

You may also have an assortment of cobalt blue dishes or vintage carnival glass items that would be set off by an accent color. Floor-standing storage pieces range from consoles to hutches to china cabinets. Often there is an open top part to a...Read more

John Sewell's This Old Thing
Windsor Star (blog), July 11th

Q: I picked up this lovely carnival glass bowl at a thrift store in Mitchell, Ont., for $5. There is a 3-D effect on the interior of the bowl and under the outer edge. The picture inside the bowl has two windmills, a fisherman in a boat, trees, and a...Read more

Patriotic folk art
Washington Observer Reporter, July 3rd

The company is known for its carnival glass made between 1907 and 1920. Most Fenton glass is marked “Fenton,” but some other marks also were used. Pieces marked with an “F” in an oval were made from molds bought from other glass companies. Pieces ...Read more

July Fourth bric-a-brac comes in all shapes
HeraldNet, July 3rd

The company is known for its carnival glass made between 1907 and 1920. Most Fenton glass is marked “Fenton,” but some other marks also were used. Pieces marked with an “F” in an oval were made from molds bought from other glass companies. Pieces ...Read more

Patriotic symbols popular with collectors
Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 2nd

I have seen a few different markings on items on eBay. A: Fenton was founded in 1905 in Martins Ferry, Ohio. The company is known for its carnival glass made from 1907 to 1920. Most Fenton glass is marked “Fenton,” but some other marks also were used...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Imperial glass wine set is classic carnival
Press of Atlantic City, June 27th

Question: I own an orange Carnival glass wine set consisting of a decanter with stopper and six stemmed glasses. My grandparents received it as a wedding gift in 1927 and it was never used. The overall pressed glass pattern is clusters of grapes and it...Read more