The Lotus Cut Glass Company was incorporated in Barnesville, Ohio in 1912 by some local businessmen. The company began as a small cutting operation, but by the 1920's had expanded into other decorating arenas. The firm name was changed to The Lotus Glass Company in the mid-20's. The company is still in business, presided over by Donald Hanse.
Lotus Glass and the Hanse family have been closely associated throughout most of the company's history. Donald Hanse is the grandson of one of the first employees of the firm, glass cutter Matthew Hanse, who joined Lotus in 1913 as plant superintendent. He later became plant manager and a stockholder and acquired control of the Lotus Company after World War II. When he died in 1968, his son, Francis, who joined the firm as a salesman in 1938, became president.
No glassware has ever been made at Lotus. Over the years, the company bought undecorated stemware and accessory pieces from other manufacturers and then applied their own hand decorated designs to these items. Lotus never made any glass partly because of its close proximity to many major glass manufacturers.
"Lotus was located near at least a dozen large glass companies at one time. It was easier and cheaper to purchase ready-made items," says Donald Hanse. In the 20's and 30's, some of the firms Lotus purchased blanks from included Fostoria, Heisey, Cambridge, Duncan and Miller, Paden City Glass and Bryce Brothers.
Many older Lotus designs were based on, or made to match, Syracuse China patterns. The Syracuse China Company, based in Syracuse, New York, was a major manufacturer of fine dinnerware for many years. The company now only makes restaurant china. "Historically, crystal patterns have been based on china patterns," says Hanse.
The talented craftsmen at Lotus applied a wide array of lovely finishings to their products. Some items were hand painted. Many other pieces were encrusted with gold, silver or platinum. The rich metal banding was a trademark of Lotus.
For many years, the Lotus company concocted its own 22 Karat and 24 Karat gold for decorating. "It had a distinguishable, rich color characteristic. Other companies couldn't duplicate our coloring," says Hanse: Lotus stopped making the gold in 1980 when the long-time employee who mixed the gold died.
"Also, around that time, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) came out with new rules and regulations pertaining to usage of gold for decorating, so we just felt it would be better to get out of that aspect of the business altogether," added Hanse.
In the past, Lotus artisans applied both light and heavy-cuttings to glass. The light-cuttings often consisted of a single flower or simple border design. Heavy-cuttings included more involved patterns, acid-etchings and often cuttings on the stems. The Lotus company is one of the last companies in the country that still applies delicate acid-etched decorations to glassware. The firm also makes its own steel plates for etchings.
Lotus Glass enjoyed its heyday in the 1940's and 1950's when it employed well over 100 workers. Outlets for the exquisite Lotus glassware included the finest of retail stores across the country, such as Macy's, Marshall-Field, Gimbel's, Jordan-Marsh, Foley's, Lazarus and Peacock Jewelers. Lotus' ware was also sent to Canada, Alaska and Puerto Rico.
In the 70's, when imports began to take over, Lotus shifted its focus to filling special orders for organizations such as the Mason's and hotels including the Hilton, Waldorf-Astoria and Ritz Carlton. The single largest order Lotus ever produced was for the opening of the Ritz Carlton in Chicago many years ago. For the occasion, thousands of stems, tumblers and barware were decorated with the hotel's lion-crest logo.
Over the years, hundreds of Lotus patterns have been made. Two of the company's most popular patterns have been the Rambler Rose#110 series and Minton#118. At one time, Lotus also imported bone china from Bavaria and decorated it with these patterns. A 100-piece china set of each pattern sold for $155.25; a 52-piece set went for $83.50. The china was sold at various department and jewelry stores. Many years ago, the Lotus company was also the sole distributor in this country of Royal Blue Delft pottery out of Holland.
More recently, a top seller for Lotus was its "Black Gold" barware, which was especially popular in the state of Texas during the oil boom of the 1980's. The pattern rose to prominence when it was featured on the CBS television series, "Dallas." Donald Hanse says he used to watch that show every week. "I got tickled when I saw J.R. drinking from Black Gold glasses."
About 1960, Lotus purchased The Glastonbury Company, a glass decorating firm out of Chicago, Illinois. Lotus bought Glastonbury's cutting machines and warehouse, and combined crystal lines and weeded out duplicate patterns. According to Donald Hanse, "Glastonbury was predominantly a cutting operation. They threw in a few etched patterns to add some spice." Unfortunately, very little is known about this firm because a 1976 warehouse fire at Lotus destroyed nearly all the records and written accounts of the Glastonbury company.
Today, Lotus Glass Company does about 25% of the cuttings that it used to do and employs a dozen people. A majority of the employees have been with the firm 20 to 50 years. Some Lotus patterns can still be found in fine jewelry stores across the country.
Source: Page, B.; Frederiksen, D.; A Collection of American Crystal A stemware Identification Guide for Glastonbury/Lotus, Libbey/Rock Sharpe & Hawkes; Greensboro, NC: Page/Frederiksen Publications; 1995