Fenton Glass Company started in 1905, when brothers Frank and John Fenton set up shop in an old glass factory in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Their initial business model was to paint glass blanks supplied by other manufacturers, but when the brothers ran into supply snags, they decided to make their own, setting up a glassblowing facility in Williamstown, West Virginia.

Of the myriad manufacturers of carnival glass, a type of colorful molded glassware that was popular in the first half of the 20th century, Fenton Glass Company is arguably the most influential and important. Fenton basically introduced the category in 1907, when company co-founder Frank Fenton and factory manager Jacob Rosenthal created an iridescent, "poor-man’s Tiffany" called Iridill.

To make the Iridill vases and bowls—some footed, some flat-bottomed—molten glass was pressed into a mold. In some cases the resulting relief sits on the exterior of the vessel, but there are many more examples in which the relief projects from within the object. The line was an immediate hit thanks to the eye-catching surface treatments, as well as the patterns and designs that jumped from the pieces to create rich reliefs. Most of Fenton’s early patterns came from nature. These included Waterlily and Cattails, Butterfly and Berries, Peacock Tail, Wreath of Roses, and Thistle.

When looking at Fenton's antique or vintage carnival glass, it helps to be able to identify the various characteristics and traits. For example, patterns could be stamped onto the outside of a piece (also called the back), the inside (front), or both. The bases of pieces were also varied—some had flat collars while others sported ball or spatula feet.

The edges of carnival glass are another differentiator. Some are smooth with gentle undulations, others are divided into alternating sections of unbroken curves and sharp points to create what is known as a bracket edge. Other pieces feature edges that appear crimped, ruffled, pulled, or resemble the teeth of a saw.

While carnival glass was made for everyday use, many pieces seemed suited to special occasions or the serving of treats. Thus, Fenton made a great number of ruffled candy dishes, high-sided nut bowls, and low nappies.

In the 1920s, Fenton introduced a red carnival color that would prove to be a hit with customers of the day and contemporary Fenton collectors alike. But as the 1930s arrived and the Depression deepened, Fenton dropped its carnival lines in favor of household items such as plates and mixing bowls. Other designs produced during the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s include the ruffled-edge Crest pieces and the twisting Spiral Optics...

It was tough going, and the company almost didn’t make it. What rescued Fenton was a Victorian style of glass called Hobnail, whose uniformly bumpy surface resembled the bottoms of hobnail boots. It had been out of fashion for decades, but Fenton found a new audience for this "retro" glassware. A pattern called Diamond Lace combined the bumpy surface of the Hobnails with the optical qualities of the Spiral Optics. And then Fenton produced a milk glass Hobnail. Sales eclipsed even those tallied during the heyday of Iridill, and the company’s future was once again secure.

By the 1950s, many Fenton bowls were adorned with handles to turn them into baskets. Up until that decade, no Fenton piece had carried its maker’s mark, but now Fenton decided that the work of the handler (the gaffer who takes a band of molten glass and with a few deft moves fashions it into a handle) should be recognized. This helps collectors of vintage Fenton to identify the date and pedigree of pieces from 1953 to the present.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Fairy Lamp Club

Fairy Lamp Club

This incredible site is a stunning showcase for Victorian and contemporary fairy lamps, a style of lamp with a glas… [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]

Loetz.com

Loetz.com

This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Peter Rabbit Bowl Green"mint!!" Museum Collection Fenton Hobnail Flower Epergne VaseEstate- Vintage Fenton Opaque White Milk Glass Cake Stand 12.5" Hobnail PatternLot Of 3 Vintage Fenton Ruffled Vases - Dots, Cranberry, Hobnail OpalescentFenton Cranberry Daisy & Fern Opalescent 8 3/4" Star Crimped Pitcher~no ReserveFenton Happy Hippie Cat Tie Dye Glass Figurine - Marked Fagca - NibVintage Fenton Opalescent Yellow Topaz Vaseline Hobnail Salt & Pepper ShakersFenton Tye Dye Alley Cat. 100th Anniversary Seal Designed By CchardmanFenton Limited Edition “robert Barber Collection” Blue Feather Vase Fenton September Morn Nymph Flower Frog & Bowl Amethyst Iridescent(read Details)Antique Fenton Cranberry Opalescent Coin Dot Oil Lamp Globe Shade Gwtw Fits 3 7/Fantastic Fenton 75th Celebration Blue Hand Painted VaseLovely Vintage Fenton Vasa Murrhina Blue Mist Ruffled Handled Basket ~ 7 1/4"Fenton Glass Yellow Jadeite September Morn Nymph Flower Frog & BowlFenton 3 Piece Fairy Lamp Fenton Art Glass Burmese Snowman Fairy Light - Hand Painted & Signed - NibFenton Pink Cased Charleston Pink Roses Silver Crest Melon Vase Hand PaintedFenton September Morn Nymph Flower Frog Amethyst Iridescent (read Details)Fenton Burmese Turkey On Nest Covered Box - Hand Painted & Signed - NibRare Vibrant Cherry Red Dragon And Lotus Bowl FentonAntique Vintage Plum Purple Fenton Hobnail Glass Footed BowlFenton Glass Black Field Mouse With Balloon & Clouds Adorable Ooak By Cc HardmanVintage Gorgeous Fenton Dark Irridescent VaseFenton Cranberry Opalescent Hobnail 3 Piece Fairy LampFenton April Showers Antique Carnival Art Glass Squatty Vase~blue~gorgeous! Fenton 1970-71 Satin Burmese One Piece Fairy Light "maple Leaf" Decal Deco Fenton Cranberry Opalescent Hat Vase, Crimped Edge, Coin Dot, American Art GlassFenton Orange Tree Antique Carnival Glass Plate~blue~super Shimmering Qualities!Magnificent Antique Fenton Green Dragon And Lotus Carnival Glass 3n1 Edge BowlFenton Antique Carnival Glass Open Edge Ruffled Hat - Highly Prized Cherry Red!Fenton Vase, Limited Edition, Giverny Carved Garden Bridge & Foliage, Cameo Fenton1999 "new Century Collection" Cobalt Blue Opalescent Diamond Optic BasketVintage Fenton Milk Glass Hobnail Pedestal Cake Stand Plate 12 1/2" X 5 1/2"Fenton Heart & Vine Antique Carnival Art Glass Ruffled Bowl~amethyst~super!!!Vintage Fenton Pink Melon Perfume Bottle & Powder Jar Set Dresser VanityFenton Alley Cat Blue Cobalt/white Head.Fenton Pink Satin Diamond Optic Hand Painted Perfume Bottle Roses SignedFenton Flame Crest Candlestick Holders (2) **awesome** Fenton Art Glass Aubergine Humming Bird Figurine - Hand Painted & Signed - NibFenton Lotus Mist Burmese Limited Edition ButterflyFenton Cranberry Opalescent Coin Dot Jack In The Pulpit VaseFenton Cobalt Blue, 3 Inch Pig, 5220 Kn Fenton Cat Plum Opalescent Carnival Rare Kitten GroomingFenton Glass Black Green Raccoon Natural Adorable Detailed Ooak By Cc HardmanFenton Peacock & Urn Antique Carnival Art Glass Plate~marigold~very Beautiful!Gorgeous Fenton Dark Purple Amethyst Opalescent Hobnail Rose BowlFenton Egg Hand Painted Signed (read Details)Vintage Fenton Art Glass Cranberry Opalescent Hobnail Ruffled VaseStunning Rare Carnival Fenton Blue Orange Tree Hat Pin Holder!!Vintage Northwood / Fenton Carnival Glass Plate / Platter / Tray Grape And CableFenton Burmese Vase Purple Lilac/pink Hand Painted Flower Ruffled D. FredrickWhite Orange Tree 9 1/2" Plate -- Nice!Fenton Burmese Limited Edition Joyce Collela Circle Of Love Signed Cat, + MoreAntique Fenton Daisy & Fern Yellow Opalescent Barber's Bottle Glass VaseGorgeous Antique Vintage Fenton Purple Carnival Butterfly & Berry Footed BowlLovely Fenton Blue Hand Painted New Century Xxi Collection PitcherFenton Art Glass Milk Glass Trumpet Basket - Hand Painted & Signed - NibBeautiful Fenton Cranberry Coin Dot VaseFenton Art Glass Cat Figurine-seafoam Green Iridized Carnival Mini Cat/kittenFenton Halloween Cat Hand Painted