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.
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Source: Google News
Pastels Rule the DayMaine 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 valleyChico 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 valleyChico 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 resultsSpringfield 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 $490LancasterOnline, 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 anyAsheville 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, 2015Journal 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