What’s in the Attic?
by Linda Hamer Kennett
(reprinted with permission)
In the early 1900’s the art glass market was ruled by the Tiffany family. Beautiful and elegant, it was indeed “fit for a king”. The problem for the majority of the American public was, that you had to be a king to afford it!
In 1905 the general public was introduced to a beautiful iridescent glass that they could afford. By coating press glass with a sodium solution before firing, mass-production factories were able to produce a glass that mimicked the beauty of high luster Tiffany, and they called it “Carnival Glass”. Women from average income household’s could now purchase a wonderful piece of art glass at their local department store, and purchase it they did. For the next two decades, carnival glass would be the most popular glass in America.
Fenton, Northwood, Dugan, Imperial and Millersburg were the five major manufacturers of carnival glass, but several other factories produced small quantities. Among the plants with limited production were Cambridge Glass, Westmoreland, McKee Glass, and the Jenkins’s Glass Company of Kokomo, Indiana.
Jenkins made only a few patterns. Their main color was marigold and most all of their patterns were a combination of flowers and near-cut designs. These pieces, while not of the higher price range on a national level, are often sought after by regional collectors.
One of the most successful of the major producers, was Fenton Glass. Their success, in art glass production, is largely credited to the talents of Frank Fenton. Each piece he designed demonstrated his astute awareness of what the public admired in glass ornamentation. Then, as now, Fenton’s works are considered by many to be the finest examples of early carnival glass.
In all over 1,000 patterns of carnival glass were produced from 1905-1925. The availability and selection of the glass has long made it a favorite among collector. Colors most commonly found include purple, dark blue, marigold, and green. In lesser number you will find pieces in clear, white, aqua, red, peach, ice blue, ice green, amber, lavender and smoke.
In the early 1970’s the market was flooded with a reissue of several patterns in both the dark blue and marigold colors. Common examples include a pitcher and glasses and a covered compote. These”new”carnival pieces were offer in discount stores and lower end gift shops and are of no interest to collectors.
The differences in new and old carnival are considerable. If you are uncertain as to the visible differences between the two, stop by your local antique shop and ask to be shown examples of each. Once you have seen the two issues set side by side, you will have no problem telling them apart
To own a piece of carnival, is to own a small piece of American art glass history. It stands as a tribute to the ingenuity and skill of the American glass makers skills, and was the last form of hand-shaped glass to ever be produced in the United States.
Linda Hamer Kennett is an associate member of the International Society of Appraisers specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-356-8967.