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    

Elec Smoke!! Imperial Poinsettia Carnival Glass Milk Pitcher Antique IridescentImperial Hobstar Antique Carnival Glass Covered Butter Dish~electric Purple~wow!Imperial Iron Cross 5 1/2" White Smooth Panels Carnival Glass Sweet Pea VaseAntique Imperial Morning Glory Purple Carnival Glass Funeral VaseBeautiful Purple Carnival Glass Imperial Grape Large 9" Plate Imperial Grape Antique Carnival Art Glass Water Carafe~purple~gorgeous Piece!Imperial Poinsettia Antique Carnival Glass Milk Pitcher~pumpkin Marigold~wow!!!Vintage Imperial Carnival Glass Ripple Amethyst Vase2 Vintage Mma Sandwich Vaseline Glass Imperial Japanese Dolphin Candle HoldersImperial Grape Antique Carnival Glass Low, Low Ruffled Bowl~electric Purple!A Fantastic Antique Imperial Heavy Grape Pattern Carnival Glass Plate PurpleNeat One! Imperial Helios Scroll Embossed Carnival Glass Plate Antique Vintage!Imperial Acanthus Antique Carnival Art Glass Ics Bowl~marigold~super Colorful!Vintage Purple Carnival Glass Fluted 10" Bowl Geometric PatternImperial Carnival Glass Open Rose Bowl (vaseline)Imperial Carnival Glass Smoke 12", Grape Wine Decanter With Stopper RareGroup Of 6 Imperial Glass Insulators 1911-1971 Anniversary Telephone PioneersImperial Carnival Glass Lustre Rose Ftd Bowl (vaseline)Carnival Beautiful Electric Purple Scroll Embossed Sauce Bowl File ExteriorAntique Marigold Carnival Glass Vase Or Spooner By Imperial Cir Early 1900s-1910Carnival Five Nice Green Lustre Rose Tumblers "old Imperial No Ig"Vintage Imperial Ruby Red Carnival Glass Bowl Hobstar Rose Bowl Fenton And Imperial Carnival Glass CompotesImperial Candlewick - 4 Pc. - Divided Mayo Bowl, Underplate & 2 Ladles - EtchedCarnival Outstanding Radium Iridescence Marigold Headress 10" BowlVintage Candlewick 5 Piece Condiment Set By Imperial GlassVintage Imperial Blue Carnival Glass Covered Butter Dish "orchard Grape"3 Imperial Carnival Glass VasesEarly Imperial Star Of David Carnival Glass Bowl AmethystImperial Purple Slag Owl Covered JarVintage Imperial Candlewick Perfume Scent Glass Bottle 3 Bead Top #1Imperial Candlewick Crescent Salad PlateCarnival Glass Imperial Grape Marigold Salt And Pepper Shaker SetHeisey/imperial Milk Glass ScottyCarnival Glass - Modern Imperial Four Seventy Four (474) Smoke Ruffled Compote4 Imperial Glass Candlewick 8 Oz. Water 4 Bead Stem Flared Goblets 7 1/2" HighAntique 15 1/2" Imperial Wide Panel #656 Marigold Stretch Carnival Glass PlateImperial Glass Carnival Diamond Lace Electric Tumbler ~ Smokin ColorImperial Ripple Vase Iridescent Marigold 9 7/6" Carnival Glass 3" BaseOutstanding & Rare Old Imperial #474 Vivid Marigold Carnival Glass Compote Htf! Candlewick Double Handled Plate - Imperial Glass - ElegantPeachblow By Imperial Red Yellow Amberina Satin Art Glass Bud Flower Vase Nr AlbImperial Glass Art Deco Slag Glass Vase Nude Dancing Ladies- Colorful Imperial Green Slag Pitcher WindmillImperial Ice Blue Lenox Lustre Rose 3 Legged BowlVintage Candlewick Beaded Clear Glass Fan Vase 8 1/2"Imperial Candlewick Jelly Marmalade 3 Pc (spoon, Bowl, Lid)Early Imperial Carnival Glass Hobstar Spooner ~ Marigold #2826" Squatty Imperial Morning Glory Carnival Glass VaseVirginia B Evans Frosted Glass Jar With LidVintage Imperial Glass Marigold Carnival Dome Covered Butter Dish Open RoseVery Attractive Imperial Carnival Glass Star Of David Purple Made For MasonicBoyd Imperial Glass Bee Hive Honey Pot Carnival Amethyst Made In 2004 Fund Vintage Flash Carnival Glass Pitcher & 9 Glasses Marigold Imperial Glass Caramel Slag OwlImperial Lenox Carnival Glass Mini Creamer & Sugar Dish Mint Condition Imperial Diamond Ring Carnival Glass Sauce 5" Set Of 4Imperial Candlewick Floral Cut 12" PlatterVintage Imperial Clear Glass Candlewick Mayo Bowl, Underplate And 3-bead SpoonIridescent Purple Carnival Imperial Glass Pedestal Candy Dish Sawtooth Rim