Carnival Glass Production History

Carnival Glass is a molded, iridized glass that was produced by spraying the hot glass with liquid metallic salts, giving the piece an iridescent, rainbow luster.  The glass would first be pressed into a two part mold, then reheated and shaped then sprayed with the iridescent spray.  The shaping was when pieces were given their ruffles, or pinched edges, or a vase might be swing.  All this was hand done by craftsman.  Because of the way carnival glass was produced, with variances in the iridescent spray, as well as variances in the shaping, no two pieces of carnival were exactly alike.

Carnival Glass was not an instantaneous development in the history of pressed glass. Certainly there were other, earlier types of iridized glass, such as art glass, that was hand blown, not molded.  In fact, one of the keys to Carnival glass’ appeal was that it looked superficially like the very much finer and very much more expensive blown iridescent glass by Tiffany, Loetz and others, and also that the cheerful bright finish caught the light even in dark corners of the home.  It has been called the "poor man's Tiffany". 

Commercial development of Carnival Glass was developed in the United States in the early 1900s by the Fenton Glass Company.  They called the product, Venetian Art or Iridill.  At the height of its popularity in the 1920s huge volumes were produced and prices were low enough for the ordinary home to afford.  In fact, some of the glass produced was so inexpensive that it found its way to carnivals and fairs where it was used as prizes – which is where the moniker “Carnival Glass” comes from. 

Carnival Glass was eventually produced on every continent except Africa and Antarctica but largely and initially in the U.S..

  • Fenton Glass was the first company to begin producing Carnival Glass in 1907 and ended production in the late 1920s.  (The company begin production of new carnival in 1970)
  •  Northwood Glass quickly followed suit and begin production in 1908.  In 1912, Northwood added the colors we call pastel, ice blue, ice green and white, as well as aqua opalescent.  Their best known pattern Grape & Cable was introduced in 1910.  The company ceased production in the early 1920s.
  •  Dugan produced very fine examples of carnival glass from 1910 – 1931, the year their plant burned down.
  •  Millersburg only produced carnival glass for two short years, 1910 – 1912. 
  •  Imperial Glass was the longest running American producer of carnival glass, producing their original carnival glass from 1910 until 1930, then reintroducing their second line in the 1960s under Imperial’s famous IG logo.

 While the above makers of Carnival are considered the big 5, Cambridge, U.S. Glass, Westmoreland, Fostoria, Jenkins, McKee, and Higbee all produced some Carnival. Carnival Glass was also manufactured in other parts of the world, although about 10 years later than in the U.S. It was made in England, Scandinavia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Australia, Argentina, and Mexico.  Foreign manufacturers of the glass included companies such as Eda (Sweden), Inwald (Czechoslovakia), and Riihimaki (Finland). Other distinctive makers of carnival glass were foreign glass companies such as Cristalerias Rigolleau and Cristalerias Piccardo of Argentina, Jain of India, Sowerby of England, and the Crown Crystal of Australia.

An example of an old two part mold.  The glass would be pressed into the mold, then when sufficiently cooled, would be removed from the mold and hand shaped - it might be given ruffles, or a pie crust edge, or perhaps the craftsman would do something completely unexpected and make a "whimsey", a one of a kind, spur of the moment creation.

An example of an old two part mold.  The glass would be pressed into the mold, then when sufficiently cooled, would be removed from the mold and hand shaped - it might be given ruffles, or a pie crust edge, or perhaps the craftsman would do something completely unexpected and make a "whimsey", a one of a kind, spur of the moment creation.