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Carnival Glass - The Northwood Glass Company

by Mary Haberstroh

Carnival glass originated in the early twentieth century when already established glass companies sought to imitate iridescent glass in the style of Tiffany. Also known as taffeta glass or Cinderella glass, carnival glass earned its name due to the fact that it used to be handed out as prizes at local carnivals in the 1920's. This beautiful glassware with patterns ranging from flowers to animals and fruits has become highly collectible for those who appreciate the brilliant colors that form a rainbow of colors from the iridescent sheen on the glass.

The method for creating the iridescent finish on the pressed glass was by the application of a tin chloride to the exterior of the glass while it was still hot after being fired in the kiln. After the application was sprayed on to the glass, the glass would then be re-fired. Once the piece of glass was cooled, the glass would show a shiny iridescent finish. Sometimes other metallic oxides were used to achieve the same effect. This process was very easy and quick to do, making it possible to produce a large quality of carnival glass at once. So much glass was made that it became impossible for every carnival glass manufacturer to sell it from their companies and through stores so that much of the leftover glass found its way to carnivals in the form of prizes during the 1920's.

As a rule, carnival glass was thicker and heavier than other glassware made during the same period. The majority of carnival glass pieces had designs on the outside of the glass, with some pieces having two different designs, one on the inside of the glass piece, and a different one on the outside. These designs were for the most part created specially for being coated with the metallic salts. Raised designs and intaglio effects would make the iridescent finish appear even brighter. The main colors of pressed glass used for carnival glass were: blue, opaque white, red, purple, yellow and green. By 1915 carnival glass was the most popular type of glassware being sold across the United States, available in general stores and mail order catalogs. Owning a small set of carnival glassware became essential for parties and afternoon teas, and carnival glass was not confined to tableware. Vases, candy jars, knick knacks and candle holders were also made with an iridescent finish.

One of the first carnival glass manufacturers was the Northwood Glass Company. This company was started by Harry Northwood, an English glassmaker who came to America in 1881. It was in 1887 when he started his own factory, Northwood Glass, in Martin's Ferry, Ohio. After a few location moves and business mergers the company made its final home in Wheeling, West Virginia. Northwood started producing carnival glass in 1908 with one of their first patterns being one of grapes. Only pieces produced from 1910 on though bore the Northwood hallmark of an N enclosed in a circle. The company also gave names to their different colors of iridescent glass: Golden Iris for the purple glass, Emerald for the green glass, and Azure for the blue glass. Patterns manufactured by Northwood include: Luster Flute, Luster Flowers, Peacock, Peach, Cherry, Grape, Raspberry Luster, Singing Birds, Diamond Point, Rosette, Water Lily and Cattails, Maple Leaf, Acorn Burrs, and Sunflower. Harry Northwood died in 1919 and the company soon ceased manufacturing glassware in 1925.

Some price values for Northwood glass:

Bowl with the Good Luck design, horseshoe in the center. Bowl has ruffled edges, measures 8 3/4" in diameter. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: 1911. Price value: $150.00.

Water glass set with pitcher, Grape and Cable design. Marigold iridescent glass. Date made: 1908. Price value: $200.00.

Plate with the Strawberry design. Plate has a serrated edge. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: 1908. Price value: $150.00.

Bowl with the Stippled Ray design. Bowl has ruffled edge. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: 1909. Price value: $70.00.

Set of six berry bowls, Flute design. Each bowl has a scalloped edge. Marigold iridescent glass. Date made: 1910's. Price value: $125.00.

Sugar bowl and creamer set, Singing Birds design. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: c. 1911. Price value: $150.00.

Vase with Corn design. Green iridescent glass. Date made: c. 1909. Price value: $200.00.

Vase with Rose design. Vase has three feet and a ruffled edge. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: c. 1909. Price value: $50.00.

Fruit dish with Peacock design inside and ribbed design on the outside. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: c. 1910. Price value: $500.00.

Fruit dish with Peacock and Urn design. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: c. 1910. Price value: $300.00.

Fruit dish, Rosette design. Purple iridescent glass. Date made: 1909. Price value: $200.00.

Nut bowl, Rosette design. Marigold iridescent glass. Date made: 1909. Price value: $90.00.

About the Author

Mary Haberstroh lives in Tucson, Arizona and she is a collector of antique and vintage glass. She can be reached at: daryavaush@yahoo.com

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