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”)

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    

Imperial Scroll Embossed Antique Carnival Mid-sized Ruffled Bowl~electric PurpleImperial Carnival Glass Punch Bowl Pedestal Purple Amethyst Broken Arches CupsVintage Ultra Rare Imperial Purple Fashion Pattern RosebowlRare Vintage Chocolate Caramel Slag Glass Covered Fish Candy Dish Imperial?Vtg Imperial Glass Frosted Crystal Lion Reticulated Covered Candy Nut Dish BowlImperial Carnival Glass Electric Purple 9" "imperial Grape" Wine Decanter~wow!!Aqua Imperial Smooth Panels 12" High Vase X 3 1/2" Base Carnival Stretch GlassImperial Glass Candlewick Footed Handle Cruet 3 Ball Stopper 7.25 Stopper BottleImperial Grape & Cable Amethyst Purple Carafe Vase - Amazing ColorImperial Ripple Very Scarce Squat Carnival Gass Vase~rare Amber! Hot!Imperial Candlewick Black Handled Bowl With Enamel & Gold Imperial Red Orange 8 1/2" Stretch Glass Bowl...1920'sFenton Art Glass. Chameleon Greene Slag, Scottie DogShoji By Imperial 24k Gold Overlay Mid Century Modern Mcm Highball Set Of 6Imperial Carnival Glass Super Electric Purple "diamond Lace" Tumbler~great ColorSet Of 4 Vintage Carnival Glass Punch Cups Imperial Hobstar & Arches ExcellentField Flowers Imperial Carnival Glass Tumbler Electric Blue On Purple Glass 6 Vintage Imperial Shotgun Glasses Big Xxx Shot & Little X Shot Imperial Glass Birthday Candle Cake Plate- Mint And Gorgeous-holds 72 CandlesLovely 1960s Imperial Green Irridescent Carnival Glass 12 1/2" Poppy Show VaseImperial Super Electric Radium Purple 12 1/2" Freefold Vase With Irregular TopImperial Carnival Glass Marigold Scroll & Flower Iridescent Tall 10" Tall VaseCandlewick Sugar Bowl Mayonnaise Mustard Condiment Jar Imperial Glass FootedImperial Candlewick 7" VaseVintage Imperial Glass Candlewick Floral Etched Nappy (3400 Series)Fenton Art Glass Carnival Scottie DogShoji By Imperial Ice Bucket 24k Gold Overlay Mid Century Modern McmImperial, Iron Cross Mark, #40, 4-crimp, Flower Bowl - Pearl Ruby 6 Stunning Vtg Clear Candlewick Bubble 10 1/2" Dinner PlatesStunning Imperial Carnival Glass Electric Amethyst Diamond Lace Candy DishCandlewick Imperial Jam Jar Condiment Set With Tray And SpoonsHtf Red Little Jewel Cream And Sugar Set Manufactured By The Imperial Glass Co.Lot Of 4 - Vintage Candlewick Imperial Glass Canape / Snack Plate Off-set Ring 2Imperial Carnival Glass Style Lion On Lacy Base Covered Animal3 Vintage Candlewick 10 Oz Water Tumblers Imperial Or Boopie Straight GlassesGorgeous Cape Cod Studio Art Glass Works Hand Blown Decorative Ornament 6Set Of (13) Imperial Candlewick Martini / Wine Glasses, Never Used, 5"Imperial Slag Milk Glass Windmill In Red And White PitcherStunning Imperial Carnival Glass Vase Electric Amethyst Diamond Lace Pattern Vintage Imperial Carnival Glass PitcherCollectible Vintage Rare Heisey Imperial Limited Cobalt Blue Wood Chuck FigureVintage Imperial Glass Automobile Bud Vase11 Vtg. Parfait/dessert/ice Cream Pedestal Glasses; Ribbed Poss? ImperialOutstanding Imperial "octigon" Carnival Glass Tumbler - ExcOutrageous!!! Spectacular Electric Imperial Shell & Sand Carnival Glass BowlImperial Tiger Lily Green Tumbler Carnival Glass Early 1900'sVintage Pair Imperial Glass Co. Candlewick Twin Candleholders Clear CrystalAnchor Hocking Boopie By Imperial Candlewick Footed Water Glasses 5 1/2" TallPair Of Hand Blown Candle Sticks Glass Beaded Stem Candlewick, Imperial**imperial Reeded Ruby Ball Vase**Beautiful Large Candlewick BowlGorgeous Cape Cod Studio Art Glass Works Hand Blown Decorative Ornament 7Carnival Glass Windmill PlateVintage Candlewick Depression Glass Divided 7" Handled Bowl Condiment Server Nr Vtg Imperial Blue Opalescent Lace Edge Glass Candy Dish Compote 6 1/2" BowlVintage Imperial Milk Glass Harvest Grapes & Leaves Footed Creamer & Sugar SetImperial Pink Satin Glass BasketAwesome Vintage Elegant Looking Large Owl Vase Perfect ConditionImperial Glass Owl Creamer And Sugar Milk Glass With Beaded EyesVintage Marigold Carnival Glass Northwood Grape And Cable Punch Bowl Base