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 Rose Show Antique Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl ~scarce Aqua Opalescent!Spectacular Northwood Amethyst Peacocks On The Fence Carnival Glass PlateBeautiful Antique Northwood Peacocks On The Fence Green Carnival Glass Plate-nrNorthwood Ice Blue Leaf Columns Vase Beautiful Antique Westmoreland Blue Opalescent Corinth Carnival Glass Jip VaseGorgeous...antique Fenton Electric Blue Stag And Holly Large Ice Cream Bowl..wowFenton Orange Tree Antique Carnival Art Glass~variant~ics Bowl~electric Blue!Awesome Antique Northwood Electric Amethyst Peacocks On The Fence Plate--nrAntique Fenton Carnival Glass Plate Dish Cobalt Blue Holly Vine Pattern Rare!Super Rare!! Fostoria Brocaded Palms Whipped Cream Pail Carnival Glass Art DecoFenton Horse Medallion Antique Carnival Art Deco Glass Plate~marigold~beautiful!Westmoreland Corinth Antique Carnival Art Glass Jip Vase~very Scarce Blue Opal!Northwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Banana Boat~purple~fabulous! Northwood Grape & Cable Antique Carnival Glass Hatpin Holder~scarce Green~sharp!Northwood Hearts & Flowers Aqua Opal Carnival Glass Ruffled Compote~super ColorImperial Iridescent Free Hand Tall Vase Shape # Fh 160Gorgeous...antique Fenton Blue Horse Medallion Carnival Glass Bowl..nrOutrageous Antique Millersburg Little Stars Carnival Glass Bowl...super Pretty!Brilliant Set!! Indiana Harvest Grape Blue Canister Set Vintage Carnival Glass!!Awesome Antique...northwood's Emerald Green Good Luck Carnival Glass Pce BowlDugan Cherries Antique Carnival Glass Ftd 10 Ruffled Bowl~hot Electric Purple!Millersburg Diamonds Water Pitcher/ Tumbler AmethystNorthwood Drapery Variant Vase/ Awesome BlueNorthwood Carnival Glass Purple Ruffled Rose Show Bowl~stunning Piece!Northwood Peacocks Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~electric Purple~ultra Sharp!Northwood Antique Carnival Art Glass Corn Vase~extremely Scarce Marigold~sharp!Millersburg Hanging Cerries Purple Butter DishMillersburg Carnival Glass Advertising Amethyst Bowl - Benesch & Sons - 6 1/4" Wowee!!!! Dugan Wishbone Spades Amethyst Carnival Glass Plate Antique IridescentOmg!!! Spectacular Electric Imperial Scroll Embossed Carnival Glass BowlHoly Wow!! Dugan White Dahlia Carnival Glass Iridescent Sugar Bowl Antique 1906!Fabulous!!! Fenton Amethyst Carnival Glass Antique Iridescent Holly 3n1 Bowl ArtImperial Scroll Embossed Carnival Art Glass Berry Bowl~electric Purple~gorgeous!Northwood Peacocks On The Fence Lime Green Carnival Glass Plate Plain Back Wow!Fenton Thistle Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Banana Boat~blue~striking Iridescence Northwood Thin Rib Antique Carnival Glass 14" Mid-sized Vase~very Scarce Blue!Fenton Lattice And Grape Tankard/ BlueVintage Northwood Memphis Carnival Glass Punch Bowl MarigoldNorthwood Ice Blue Embroidered Mums Carnival Glass BowlFenton Stag & Holly Antique Carnival Art Glass Ftd Ruffled Bowl~scarce Green~hotRare Whimsey!!! Antique Palm Beach Carnival Us Glass Tricorner Bowl SmokeMajestic Northwood Green Greek Key Carnival Glass Ruffled BowlAmazing Cre!! Fenton Green Carnival Glass Bowl Heart & Vine Iridescent AntiqueWow Green!! Northwood Carnival Glass Bowl Good Luck Horse Shoe Whip AntiqueUnmarked Fenton 9" Holly Carnival Glass Plate Circa 1910Fenton Vintage Antique Carnival Art Glass Fernery~electric Blue~awesome Example Darling Antique! Fenton's Persian Medallion Carnival Glass Rose Bowl...dark PumpBrilliant...antique Northwood Blue Thin Collar Based Good Luck Ruffled BowlGrape & Cable Northwood Carnival Glass Decanter With StopperCarnival Glass Covered Frog Candy Container Flint Glass Company RareScrumptious.. Northwood Stippled Strawberry Carnival Glass Pie Crust Edge BowlNorthwood Carnival Glass Stippled "good Luck" Marigold Pce 9" Bowl~super Color!!Northwood Strawberry Antique Carnival Art Deco Glass Pce Bowl~purple~gorgeous!Fenton Thistle Antique Carnival Art Glass Ics Bowl~scarce Blue~beautiful Piece!Antique Fenton Carnival Glass~butterfly And Berry Master Bowl~ics~blueVery Scarce, Fenton, Vintage Pattern, 7 1/2" Marigold PlateFenton Holly Antique Carnival Art Glass Cre Bowl~green~sharp Visual Splendor!Superb Antique! Fenton's Holly Carnival Glass Ruffled Bowl On Vaseline GlassCarnival Glass Antique Imperial Homestead Unmarked Purple Chop PlateNorthwood Beaded Cable Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Rosebowl~blue~gorgeous Piece!

Recent News: Carnival Glass

Source: Google News

Where there's smoke there's fire damage
Central Kentucky News, March 1st

There is some R.S. Prussia and carnival glass pieces that I'd love to try and save. How do I clean them ... or can I? I think that a couple of victorian velvet chairs were in this fire as they smell smokey but they look clean. We'll do alright as the...Read more

Glass and Antique Show returns to Rosenberg
Fort Bend Herald, February 19th

The show features American made glassware and antiques from 1880-1970, including pattern glass, carnival glass, American brilliant cut glass, depression glass, and American art pottery. Guests will find a variety of companies at the show, including...Read more

Ira “Ike” Adamson
Albany Democrat Herald, February 11th

Their collections included rocks, carnival glass, baseball cards, miniature tea sets, vinyl records, and many other things that caught their eye. Ike had a story for almost every piece he collected, and would often recollect not only the person he...Read more

The Houston Glass Show & Sale and The Best Little Antique Show in Texas set ..., February 11th

We have two buildings filled with top quality merchandise. The show features American made glassware and antiques from 1880-1970. This includes Pattern Glass, Carnival Glass, American Brilliant Cut Glass, Depression Glass, and American Art Pottery...Read more

Antique specialty dishes fetch decadent prices
HeraldNet, February 5th

Some serving pieces used in the 19th century are no longer needed or made. Victorian table settings were very elaborate — lace or other fancy cloths, at least six or seven special dishes for every course, like a service plate, then fish, soup, dinner...Read more

Altrusa Antique Show and Sale set to start Friday
Gadsden Times, February 2nd

and porcelains, linens and other items. Among the most collected items include old Avon bottles; Hull pottery; coins, currency and stamps; milk glass; Roseville glass; carnival glass; McCoy pottery; Depression glass; Nippon china; dolls; and...Read more

Signal Corps Toolbox has decorative value
Ocala, January 31st

I assume you paid $100 for it because you liked it enough to pay the price. The bowl was likely made in America after World War II. It is a Carnival glass type, but not from the original era. Several American glass companies re-issued Carnival glass in...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