The Imperial Glass Story

While the Imperial Glass Company of Bellaire, Ohio, was first organized in 1901 by a group of area investors, it wasn’t until January 13, 1904, that the first glass was made; and not until nearly five years later the beautiful iridized glass we’ve come to call carnival glass was produced.

In the years between these dates, the mass market was sought with a steady production of pressed glass water sets, single tumblers, jelly jars, lamp shades, chimneys, and a full assortment of table items such as salt dips, pickle trays, condiment bottles, and oil cruets.

All of this was a prelude, of course, to the art glass field which swept the country, and in 1909, Imperial introduced their iridescent line of blown lead lustre articles as well as the Nuruby, Sapphire, and Peacock colors of carnival glass.

Quite evident then, as now, this proved to be the hallmark of their production. Huge quantities of the iridized glass were designed, manufactured, and sold to the mass marketplace across America and Europe for the next decade in strong competition with the other art glass factories. Especially sought was the market in England early in 1911.

In quality Imperial must be ranked second only to the fine glass produced by the Millersburg Company and certainly in design, is on an equal with the great Northwood Company. Only the Fenton Company produced more recognized patterns and has outlasted them in longevity (the Imperial Glass Company became a subsidiary of the Lenox Company in 1973).

Along the way came the fabulous art glass line in 1916. This was an iridescent product often in freehand worked with a stretch effect. This is so popular today, many glass collectors have large collections of this alone.

In 1929 Imperial entered the machine glass era and produced its share of what has come to be called Depression glass and in the early 1960s, the company revived their old moulds and reproduced many of the old iridized patterns as well as creating a few new ones for the market that was once again invaded by “carnival glass fever.” While many collectors purchased these items, purists in carnival glass collecting have remained loyal to the original and without question, the early years of carnival glass production at the Imperial Company will always be their golden years.

Standard Encyclopedia of Carnival Glass

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