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]

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    

Dugan Carnival Glass Grape Delight Rose Bowl + Imperial Corn BottleRare Imperial Carnival Electric Purple Loganberry VaseShort Old Imperial Carnival Ameth Beaded Bullesye Vase 7 3/4" TallHeisey By Imperial Amber Large Clydesdale Horse IgurineImperial Grape Antique Carnival Art Glass Water Carafe~electric Purple~super!Antique Imperial Lustre Rose Line~blue Carnival Heart Bowl~open Rose~paneled Old Imperial Carnival Ameth Grape Bowl With Electric Center Wow!Carnival Glass Imperial Grape Purple Decanter SetAwesome Imperial Purple Squatty 8 1/16 Ripple Carnival Glass Vase Stunner !!Imperial Morning Glory Antique Carnival Glass Mini Vase~smoke~absolutely Superb!Imperial Glass-candlewick-crystal-vintage Display Sign-pliwood-kirby-cogeshall-Scarce Heisey By Imperial Ultra Blue Large Clysdale Horse Alig MarkImperial Glass-candlewick-set Of 6 Small Handled Serving BowlsAntique Imperial Carnival Glass Amethyst Chop Plate Electric Blue IridescentImperial Free Hand Fh 302 Leaf & Vine VaseImperial Art Glass Carnival Glass, Stretch Glass Bowl In Amethyst, No Reserve!Gorgeous Vintage Imperial Glass-candlewick 3 Ball Pedestal Cake StandVintage Imperial Marigold Luster Rose Carnival Glass Domed Butter Dish Set Of 32 Imperial Glass Candlewick Pedestal Cake Plate & Cheese StandImperial Glass Opalescent Topaz Dew Drop / Hobnail Round Covered Dish Vintage Rare "hobstar Band" Carnival Glass Pitcher And Tumblers Set, Imperial Imperial Glass-candlewick-crystal-14 Dinner Plates -- 8" Across-beautiful!Imperial Carnival Glass Bowls Scroll Amethyst 2 Piece LotImperial Glass-candlewick-heart Shaped Candy Dish With HandleImperial Candlewick 2-tiered Tid Bit Set 400/2701 Clear Excellent Condition Carnival Gorgeous Radium Marigold Beaded Bullseye Vase By ImperialSet Of 7 Imperial Glass Candlewick Cups Drinking GlassesImperial Glass Candle Holder Yellow Satin Double Scroll Scarce! Nr!Vintage Amb Orang Carnival Glass 2 Pc Punch Bowl Set 10 Cups Exquisite Marigold Imperial Poinsettia Smoke Antique Milk Pitcher-tough Color Candlewick 7 Inch Vintage Vase By Imperial Glass Co.Vintage Eapg Imperial Open Rose Marigold Luster Carnival Glass Bowl Lot Of 4Imperial Glass Candlewick Sugar With SpoonVintage Green Vaseline Imperial Glass Donkey - Heisey Mold - Marked Aig - GlowsImperial Glass Carnival White Frost Covered Butter Dish Rose Design FloralCandlewick Footed Wine Glasses - Set Of 12 - Hard To FindImperial Purple Slag Butterfly Or Heart Shaped Box With LidCandlewick 6" Viennese Blue Star Cut E Plate Imperial Windmill Dresser/pin Tray - Amst - VintageCarnival Incredible Super Dark Marigold Acanthus 8" Exaggerated Ruffled BowlSet Of 8 Imperial Glass Candlewick Plates 8"Imperial Glass-candlewick-crystal Etched Star Under Plate--8" Across Imperial Glass Dark Amber Woodcuck2 Pcs - Imperial Glass Candlewick 12" Oval Platter & Handled BowlCarnival Super Dark Marigold Acanthus Round Bowl By Imperial Circa 1910Vintage Imperial/fenton Iridescent Pink Carnival Glass Toothpick HolderVintage Large 9 Inch High Imperial Glass Pressed Glass VaseVintage Depression Glass Serving Platter - Candlewick By Mperial Glass CompanyPink Depression Glass Bread Dessert Plate - Sharon / Cabbage Rose Federal GlassPink Depression Glass Salad Dessert Plate - Sharon / Cabbage Rose Federal GlassPink Depression Glass Dinner Plate - Sharon / Cabbage Rose - Federal GlassImperial Carnival Glass - White, Footed Roses PatternViking Glass Imperial Balking Colt 1979 Blue4 Imperial Glass Bellaire Aka:octagon #505 Champagne Sherbet 1912 3 1/2"h Bar2 Vintage Imperial Red And White Glossy Slag Glass Toothpick HolderLibbey Metropolis/imperial Candlewick 2 Ball Water Goblet With Pale Green Stem Imperial Grape Wine Stem *** Purple, Great Color ***Vintage Depression Glass - Tea Cup & Saucer- Candlewick By Mperial Glass CompanyVintage Depression Glass - Pair Candlewick Boopie Juice Glasses Cups - HockingPink Depression Glass Cup & Saucer Set - Sharon / Cabbage Rose Federal Glass