In 1901, J. N. Vance founded the New Crystal Glass Company in Bellaire, Ohio, with the help of Edward Muhleman. By December of that year, the new company’s name had changed to Imperial Glass Company, and Imperial’s new furnace produced its first glass in January 1904. From 1904 to 1909, Imperial targeted mass consumers with glassware items like tumblers, as well as jelly jars and lamp shades. Many of these items were imitations of cut glass, known as near-cut.

The company grew quickly. In 1905, new Sales Manager Victor G. Wicke sealed a wholesale deal with F. W. Woolworth Co. By 1907, its two furnaces were producing nearly at capacity. Imperial took its next step toward success in 1909 when it introduced its first lines of carnival glass, prompted in part by similar moves by Fenton, a nearby glass firm. Its first color of carnival glass was Rubigold (known today as marigold), and the line became Imperial’s most popular thus far, selling well both in the U.S. and abroad, until it was discontinued in the late 1920s.

In 1911 and 1912, Imperial introduced its Nucut and Nuart lines, respectively. Nucut was a line of imitation cut glassware, which was popular at the time; the Nuart line imitated Tiffany glass and was produced at first as lamp shades and later as vases.

Always attempting to respond to market trends, Imperial took a leap of faith into the growing art glass market in the 1920s. In 1923, Imperial released its Free Hand line, which was designed by art glass experts from the Netherlands. These pieces came in multiple colors and were extremely expensive, which contributed to their poor sales. Imperial released its Lead Lustre and Satin Iridescent Colors art glass lines in 1924 to help drive its art-glass sales, but Imperial never found success in this market, and Free Hand was discontinued in 1928. Today, however, these pieces are extremely collectible.

With the coming of the Depression, Imperial took a huge economic blow, as did many of its competitors. In February 1931, the company filed for bankruptcy and was reorganized in August as the Imperial Glass Corporation, with Earl W. Newton as its first president.

Under the leadership of Newton—with the help of designer Carl W. Gustkey—Imperial rebounded. In 1936, responding to the increasing popularity of elegant glass, Imperial released what would become its most successful line: Candlewick. The name was inspired by a Colonial-style needlework technique called candlewicking, and the design featured colorless pieces with small decorative glass beads around the top of each piece. By the 1950s, Imperial was producing more than 200 items in the Candlewick line, which was competing with Fostoria’s American line and Cambridge’s Rosepoint.

Around the same time as the introduction of Candlewick, Imperial began producing a line that would become almost as successful—Cape Cod. Newton secured a deal with Quaker Oats to...

The 1950s brought increasing scarcity of resources and stiff competition from cheap foreign glassware. As it moved into the 1960s, Imperial hoped to maintain its footing by reissuing some of its old lines, including some of its carnival glass. These new lines included New Carnival and Collectors Crystal.

But a sour economy and continued competition ultimately got the best of Imperial. In 1973, it became a subsidiary of New Jersey’s Lenox, Inc. Eight years later, New York investor Arthur Lorch bought Imperial from Lenox, but his inexperience in glass did not help the company’s fortunes. In 1982, Imperial was sold again to investor Robert Stahl and finally went out of business in 1984.

In its long life, Imperial created a vast array of products—more than 700 decorative and table pieces, including vases, bowls, candlesticks, dishes, jars, and baskets, along with 15 full lines of tableware. Many of its vases featured its signature heart-and-vine motif. In addition to Cape Cod and Candlewick, Star Holly (introduced in 1951) and Imperial Jewels (introduced 1916) were also quite successful.

Imperial created a handful of trademarks for its pieces over the decades, but two are more common and distinctive than the rest. The first was the Imperial Iron Cross, which appeared in 1913 on the No. 582 Fancy Colonial pattern. This mark is the intersection of two arrows at 90-degree angles, with the word IMPERIAL divided into four parts—“IM,” “PE,” “RI,” and “AL”—spaced around the two arrows. The second mark was introduced in 1951: an “I” superimposed over a “G.” Still, not all pieces are marked, so collectors should take other factors into consideration when trying to identify Imperial.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Imperial Art Glass

Imperial Art Glass

Ernie Albanese's Imperial Art Glass site features more than 500 photographs of vases, baskets, candlesticks, and bo… [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]

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    

Bold!!! Imperial Electric Amethyst Scroll Embossed Carnival Glass Bowl Antique7 Imperial Glass Co Spanish Windows Hollywood Regency Double Old Fashion TumblerImperial Free Fold Antique Carnival Art Glass Vase~electric Purple~gorgeous!Imperial Open Rose Antique Carnival Glass Ftd Fernery~electric Purple! Superb! Retired Set 8 Imperial Glass Co Spanish Windows Hollywood Regency Flat TumblersImperial Beaded Bullseye Antique Carnival Glass Vase In Electric Purple! Super!Stunning! Imperial Carnival Glass *rare Blue* Ripple Vase 2 7/8 In. Base Imperial "optic Flute" Carnival Glass Bowl-electric Purple!-hard To Find Piece!Imperial Carnival Glass Electric Purple Heavy Grape Carafe Cg301Carnival Glass Corn Bottle 1900's Imperial Smoke Color Marigold And Green (140)Imperial Pearl Amethyst Stretch Glass VaseCarnival Super Radium Iridized Brooklyn Bridge Ruffled Bowl "killer Iridescence"Gorgeous Imperial Dark Marigold Morning Glory Funeral Vase!! Lots Of Pink!! NrU.s. Coin PlateVintage Catalog Of Imperial Candlewick GlassSet Of 4 Old Imperial Wide Panel Red Carnival Amberian 8" PlatesRare Vintage Imperial Candlewick Star Serving Dish W/lid & Serving Spoon Imperial Heisey Light Blue Balking, Kicking, Standing Colt Set Vintage Imperial Glass Iridescent Open Rose Smoke Carnival Footed Bowl 8" DVtg Imperial Green Swirl Slag Glass Rooster Planter Toothpick Candle Heisey By Imperial Duck Wings Down Light BlueCandlewick Aquamarine Desk ClockImperial Helios Green Old Loganberry VaseCarnival Glass Imperial Luster Rose Electric Amethyst Butter Dish Unsigned Old12 Vintage Imperial Glass Candlewick Salad Plates Beaded Edge Imperial Glass Fine Rib Amethyst Vase 12 Inch Pulled 3.5 Inch BaseColumbia Imperial VaseVintage Imperial Toril De Oro Highball Tumblers Gold Glasses 5 3/4" Mad MenImperial Cape Cod Hat Whimsey Vase Mint NorTorte Plate 14" In Crocheted Crystal By Imperial Glass-ohioCandlewick Oil And Vinegar Cruet Tray Bulbous Handles Imperial Glass Co StopperSet Of 6 Champagne Cocktail Vintage Imperial Candlewick Beaded Easter DessertsVintage Imperial Glass Co. Advertising Commemorative PaperweightImperial Candlewick Clear (stem #400 19) Old Fashioned Glasses Set Of 24 Vintage Imperial Glass Marigold Carnival Glass Rose W/ Internal Ribs TumblersImperial Red 2 1/2 Oz. 3" Tall Little ShotAntique Imperial Carnival Glass Dark Marigold Ripple Vase~great Color & PerfectVintage Beaded Glass Oval Vanity Dresser Tray W/ Mirror, ExcVintage Imperial Green Jade Slag Glass Bowl - Satin Rose Relief 8 1/4"Vintage Imperial Blue Carnival Glass Iridescent Rooster CupAntique Imperial Carnival Glass Dark Marigold Ripple Vase~great Color & PerfectLot 6 Candlewick 7" Salad Dessert Plate Beading Around The Edges Small Beaded Imperial Candlewick Candy Dish With Lid Clear Euc Large Bead HandleImperial Glass Basket C.1951Imperial Candlewick Vintage Set Of Condiment Lids And Glass LadleMarigold Propeller CompoteVintage Candlewick Glass Covered Candy Dish Imperial GlassMarigold Imperial Ripple Funeral Carnival Glass Vase 3 1/2" Base 12" Vtg Marigold Hobnail Opalescent Carnival Glass Dish Nautilus Seashell Unusual Elegant Imperial Cape Cod Clear Glass Torte Cake Plate Sandwich Tray Platter Nr Imperial Candlewick Vintage 2 Piece Butter Dish And CoverImperial Marigold Carnival Star & File BowlCarnival Lovely Little Marigold Imperial Grape 6" Plate "nice Color"Vintage Imperial Candlewick 1/4 Butter Dish & Lid, ClearBoyd Imperial Glass Business Card Toothpick Holder Frosted Satin Vaseline Fund Imperial Cobalt Man And Woman Shakers Unused4 Imperial "fashion" Hobstar Marigold Carnival 1910 Glass Punch CupsImperial Candlewick 6 SaucersAwesome Stamped Imperial Depression Glass Two Handled Relish Or Nut Bowl - Nice!Candlewick By Imperial Glass Three-piece Jam Dish