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]

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]

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]

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    

Fenton Thistle Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Banana Boat~blue~striking Iridescence Fenton Cranberry Opalescent Coin Dot 10" Oil LampFenton Red Poppy Electric Gone With The Wind Vintage Lamp 24" HighFenton Burmese Atlantis Sealife Fish Hp 2-pc Fairy Light Lamp "cutshaw" ExBrilliant Set!! Indiana Harvest Grape Blue Canister Set Vintage Carnival Glass!!Fenton Cobalt Blue Alley Cat Flip Vase - Factory Painted - Only 21 Produced !Vintage Cranberry/plum Opalescent 8" Hobnail Basket Fenton Amethyst Opal Boggy Bayou VaseGorgeous Fenton Mint Condition Signed Cased Glass Hand Painted Dragonfly LampKelsey Murphy Cameo Carved Art Glass Ball Fenton Christmas Ornament Bee Vase OrbFenton Limited Edition Epergne #245 Of 1000Fenton Cake Plate Stand White Hobnail Ruffle Milk Glass Pedestal Fenton 1959-62 Plum Opalescent Hobnail Ware #3755 Square Swung 10 Inch Vase *nr*Super Rare!! Fostoria Brocaded Palms Whipped Cream Pail Carnival Glass Art DecoFenton Black Satin Bird Hp By Cc Hardman One Of A Kind8 1/2" Fenton Art Glass Epergne - Green Opalescent HobnailFenton Art Glass Topaz Amberina Butterfly Solstice Vase Le Connoisseur Coll 2004Fenton Vintage Antique Carnival Art Glass Fernery~electric Blue~awesome Example Victorian Spiral Optic Cranberry Opalescent Syrup Pitcher Patented 1-29-1884 Fenton Topaz Opalescent Lemonade Basket! Showcase Dealer Exclusive! 2004Vtg. Fenton Milk Glass Footed Pedestal Cake Stand Ruffled Crimped Rim Fenton Autumn Leaves On Burmese 1pc Fairy Light Lamp Excellent ConditionFenton Poppy Rose Satin Scarce #9101 Gone With The Wind LampFenton Periwinkle Blue Epergne With NymphFenton Acorn Antique Carnival Art Glass Ics Bowl~rare Red~a Beauty Inside & Out!$$-4-college Fenton Burmese Optic Ridged 7" Vase W/ Roses & Periwinkle Flowers Fenton Art Glass Burmese Mini Epergne!1980! Fenton Kelsey Murphy Cameo Carved Art Glass Vase Limited Ed Rosalene SlagFenton Art Glass Turquoise Overlay Hp Vase, Showcase Series, George Fenton, 2001Beautiful Blue Peacock At Urn Carnival Glass Bowl, Nr Fenton Symphony Favrene Stylized Cat Hp 2001 Honor CollectionOld Vintage Fenton Ruffled Ring Necked Cranberry Opalescent Optic Swirl VaseFenton Cake Stand In Milk GlassFenton Qvc 2004 Gold Treasures Rosalene Rosaline Pink Hp Ginger Jar Mint Dave Fetty Blown Egg Peacock Colors W/ Black King Tut SwirlsOld Fenton Carnival Blueberry Water Pitcher In BlueRare Fenton Hp Satin Custard Glass 16 1/4" Lamp, Colonial Hammered Brass BaseFenton Royal Blue Carnival Peacock And Urn Bowl, 9" D.$$-4-college Fenton Burmese Underwater Ocean Scene Vase #55 Of 99 Excellent Carnival Glass.fenton Blue Horses Head Medalion 3 Footed Bowl.stunning Colour !!Fenton Rare "sample" Louise Piper Goldfinch Fairy Lamp~~ Circa 3-31-82 Dave Fetty Purse Chameleon Green W/ Black Hanging Hearts !Fenton Lotus Mist Burmese Basket One Of A Kind Hp By Martha ReynoldsLynn Fenton Signed 2004 Ltd Signing Event Rosalene Pink Tulip Jack N Pulpit VaseFenton Dave Fetty Blown Bear White / Blue / Turquoise! Hand SignedFenton Black Rose Crest 7" Ruffled Art Glass Candy Dish Or BowlFenton Buttercup Yellow Satin Bunny Hand Painted Flowers One Of A Kind Red "flame" Slag BirdFenton Art Glass "ooak" Ruby With Milk Glass Vase With Spring FloralsRed "flame" Slag Bridesmaid Doll Fenton Cranberry Condot Large CruetFenton Pink Satin Bunny Hand Painted Flowers One Of A Kind Fenton Lotus Mist Burmese Hp Roses Gwtw Melon Lamp ShadeFenton Willow Green Satin Bunny Hand Painted Flowers One Of A Kind Fenton Green Bubble Optic VaseFenton Peacock At The Urn Antique Carnival Art Glass Ruffled Bowl~marigold~nice!Fenton Bunny Rabbit - Blue Lagoon Satin - 2009 Qvc Shelley's Only 250 EasterBlack Standing Owl Hand Painted Halloween Witch & Cauldron By Ann FentonFenton Bouquet Outstanding Neon Red-hot Pumpkin Mg Carnival Glass Tumbler Wow!!!Black Carnival Worker Elephant Sand Carved Halloween Design By Mark Fenton

Recent News: Fenton Glass

Source: Google News

Collecting by Larry Cox: Dickens Village pieces, finger bowls
Wilson County News, February 11th

A: It is worth just about what you paid for it, according to “Warman's Fenton Glass: Identification and Price Guide” by Mark. F. Moran and published by Krause Books. Your piece was made for the L.G. Wright Glass Company during the 1970s. Q: You...Read more

Fenton Glass battling for survival
Martins Ferry Times Leader, January 17th

Fenton Glass battling for survival. January 26, 2014. By Jackie Runion , Times Leader. Save | Post a comment |. After almost a decade of financial ups and downs that have severely altered the face of Fenton Art Glass, the outlook of the almost 109-year...Read more

Fenton Glass official: 'Very possible' company could close soon
Marietta Times, January 17th

After almost a decade of financial ups and downs that have severely altered the face of Fenton Art Glass, the outlook of the almost 109-year-old Williamstown company is fairly grim, with the possibility it could soon be out of business entirely. "I...Read more

Save the Dates: More than 1500 pieces of Fenton art glass to be sold in 2014
Antique Trader, November 14th

WILLIAMStOWN, W. Va. — The Fenton Art Glass Co. and the Fenton Gift Shop have scheduled three auctions during 2014 to sell more than 1,500 items of Fenton glass. Auctions are set for April 26, June 14 and July 26 at auctioneer Randy Clark's Dexter...Read more

Fenton glassworks at Williamstown soon to re-open
State Journal, March 13th

URCast is a content distribution application customized for K-12 students, according to the HEPC, and it provides caching services that allow students to view content on computers, tablets or smartphones even without an Internet connection. URCast is a ...Read more

Fenton owner still has plans
Marietta Times, November 21st

WILLIAMSTOWN -There's been some delay, but plans are still in the works for a Delaware-incorporated company to restart full manufacturing at the Fenton Art Glass plant in Williamstown. USGlass Inc., headed by New York-based chief executive Gene Bem, ...Read more

Fenton Glass draws a bead on its future
Charleston Gazette, November 5th

Fewer consumers are collectors like the ones who were longtime buyers of Fenton glass pieces. "Collectibles have decreased in sales. It's partly the economy and partly that people are buying things like electronics instead of collectibles," Fenton said...Read more

9/19 Fenton Glass goes out of business - The Final Chapter of an All-American ...
Cape May County Herald, September 25th

Dreaming of owning your own business and being your own boss is as American as, well, as American as Fenton Glass. Lots of folks have had shared Frank Fenton's dream, but few have been as successful as he was. He started up his business in April 1905 ...Read more