Friday, August 8, 2014

The History of Carnival Glass in 2 Minutes

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Carnival glass was even made as shades
for light fixtures. Image by Hannah Manning via
Materials Unlimited
Simply put, carnival glass is a Tiffany knockoff. In the 1890s Louis Comfort Tiffany's artists created a new type of iridized glass that caught the light with swirls of color like an oil slick on your driveway. The secret recipe for Tiffany's favrile glass was extremely expensive to make, and like every trend, everyone wanted it. But only the elite could afford the real thing. Like a great cookie recipe, others tried to steal the secrets and replicate it, and in 1907, Fenton Art Glass in Williamstown, West Virginia developed a line of "iridescent glass" that mimicked Tiffany's creation for a fraction of the price. Carnival glass as we know it is and iridescent glass that typically comes in a bright orange color.

Carnival glass was immensely popular when mechanization allowed for mass production of the product producing lines of dishware often referred to as "Depression Glass" in an array of iridescent colors. Like all things though, carnival glass' 15 minutes of fame came and went, and fell out of popularity in the post WWII world. With warehouses stockpiled with the product thousands of pieces were given for use as prizes at local fairs and carnivals for pennies on the dollar, giving it its name. What started as an attempt to mimic Tiffany, became a fashionable, and accessible good for even the common man. It was so common in fact, that you could win it playing darts.

The iridescent quality of a Tiffany window,
vase, or shade was the envy of other glass
manufacturers in the early 1900s. Image by
Hannah Manning via Materials Unlimited
This weekend, you can try your luck at carnival games at the Wayne County Fair continuing now through August 9th. You might not win some carnival glass, but you will sure have a great time! While you're in the area stop by our shop and compare our Tiffany and carnival glass for yourself.

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