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GCarnival Glass: Fenton Glass Company

by Lars E. Liljeblad

The name Fenton is ubiquitous with carnival glass. The company was one of the first to produce such glass in the early 1900's by using pressed glass with a variety of decorations to reflect the iridescent luster made by the application of metallic salts before re-firing. Founded in Williamstown, West Virginia in 1904 by Frank Leslie Fenton, the first glass manufactured there was tableware. Fenton eventually moved into the making of art glass that became popular in the early twentieth century, inspired by the brilliant luster of Tiffany glass that appeared to give off a rainbow appearance on the surface of the glass.

In 1907, Fenton made their first pieces of carnival glass and called it Iridill, after the method of iridescent glass made by Tiffany. Fenton made iridescent glass in every color available at the time: amethyst, blue, marigold, green, and white. Variations of each color were made in several patterns but not in complete sets. Of all the glass companies during the early twentieth century, Fenton produced the most red carnival glass, a color of carnival glass which can be difficult to find but is prized by lovers of antique red glass.

Fenton Heart and Vine pattern plate, c. 1911.
Photo courtesy of Art Glass and Collectibles Shop.

Carnival glass was made into tea and luncheon sets, berry bowl sets, and numerous other everyday items intended for practical use. Fenton made some fruit bowls with two different patterns, one on the inside, and a different one on the outside. The more elaborate carnival glass pieces were sold at gift shops throughout the country. Stores like Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck catalogs sold Fenton Glass to shoppers. By the time carnival glass lost popularity with the American public, it was given away as free prizes at carnivals across the nation.

In the late 1920's Fenton stopped producing carnival glass although later on they made reproductions using the same molds and signed the pieces. The earliest pieces of Fenton carnival glass remain unsigned but are easily identified through the company's glassware guide, Fenton Glass: The First 25 Years, 1907 to 1932. Fenton finally closed its factory doors in 2007 but it remained in business for over a hundred years.

Fenton carnival glass is not difficult to find; online auction sites and antique shops most likely will carry a few pieces of their glassware. Some of the most common patterns and the pieces they were made in are:

Blackberry. This pattern has a design of a narrow vine of blackberries and leaves near the edge of the compote bowl. Both compote bowls and plates with a pedestal bottom were made with this pattern. The plate came in blue, while the compote bowls came in blue, amethyst, green, marigold and white.

Butterfly and Berry. This pattern has a butterfly in the center of the bowls or plates, surrounded by a narrow vine of berries and leaves. Footed berry bowls, fruit bowls, hatpin holders, vases, water pitcher and tumbler sets, sugar and creamer sets, butter dishes were made in green, blue, amethyst, and marigold glass. This pattern was made in 1911.

Dragon and Lotus. This pattern has a lotus flower in one circle and a dragon in another circle, alternating each other around the edge of a plate or bowl. The center of the design has a four-petaled flower surrounded by folded ribbon. Different styles of bowls and plates were made with this pattern in the following colors: blue, marigold, white, amethyst, red, peach opal, lavender, and lime green. Date the pattern was made: 1920

Fluffy Peacock. This pattern has a small peacock flanked by a tall plant with large leaves. Water pitchers and tumblers came in this pattern in the colors amethyst, blue, marigold, and green.

Grape and Cable. Sometimes called Grape and Vine, this pattern has four bunches of grapes alternating with four grape leaves attached to a vine or cable. Bowls with ruffled edges, bowls and plates with four feet, and fruit bowls were made with this pattern in the following colors: red, amethyst, aqua, green, blue, marigold, lime green and teal.

Honeycomb and Clover. This pattern has an all over honeycomb design with a clover flower on the side. This pattern was made in plates, bonbon dishes, bowls, sugar and creamer sets, and butter dishes. Colors this pattern came in were: amethyst, green, and marigold.

Iris. This pattern is of an iris flower laying in a circle around the center and edge of the compote or goblet the design came in. The compotes came in the colors blue, green, amethyst, and marigold; the goblets came in amethyst, marigold, and green.

Orange Tree. This pattern is of four orange trees bordering the plates or bowls. This was one of Fenton's more popular patterns, made in bowls, plates, berry bowl sets, water pitcher and tumbler sets, punch bowl and cup sets, two-handled loving cups, mugs, hatpin holders, powder jars, sugar and creamer sets, wine glasses, and sherbet dishes. Colors this pattern was made in are: blue, marigold, green, red, amethyst, white, with some pieces in ice green, lavender, and champagne. This design was made in 1911.

Paneled Dandelion. This pattern has one dandelion per panel the glass was formed in. Water pitchers with tumblers, lamps, and vases were made with this pattern in blue, amethyst, green and marigold.

Persian Medallion. This pattern is composed of elaborate arabesques around the edge with one in the center on plates and bowls. Plates, bon bon dishes, fruit bowls, berry sets, rose vases, and berry compotes were made in marigold, red, green, blue, and amethyst.

Waterlily and Cattails. This pattern is of a waterlily surrounded by cattails. Water pitcher and glass sets, berry bowls, plates, banana boat shape, sugar and creamer sets, vases, butter dishes were made in primarily marigold. One two-handled candy dish comes in pale blue.

Some of the carnival pieces that had two different patterns are the following:

A fruit bowl has the Grape and Cable design on the outside with the Persian Medallion design on the inside. This combination came in amethyst, blue, green, and marigold colors.

A punch bowl with matching cups has the Wreath of Roses on the outside and the Persian Medallion on the inside. This combination came in amethyst, blue, green, and marigold.

Some price values for Fenton carnival glass are:

Blackberry compote, amethyst glass, $50.00.
Fluffy Peacock 7-piece set of a water pitcher and tumblers, green glass, $650.00.
Lily of the Valley 7-piece set of a water pitcher and tumblers, blue glass, $6,000.00.
Orange Tree long stemmed berry bowl, blue glass, $60.00.
Rose tree bowl with a ruffled edge, marigold glass, $800.00.

About the Author

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

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