A Steubenville, Ohio glass firm, A. J. Beatty and Sons, built a large glassworks in Tiffin, Ohio in 1888. Beatty's sold blown and pressed glassware in the United States and abroad. In 1892, the firm merged with the U.S. Glass Company, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the largest table glass company in the country. U.S.G.C. had 19 plants in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Under U.S.G.C., the Tiffin plant became known as factory "R."
In the beginning, factory "R" made pressed tumblers and barware. By the early 1900s, there was a successful switch to lighter weight stemware and brilliant cut glass. The "Tiffin-cuttings were refreshingly different from anything that was being shown by the exclusive cut glass factories," writes Fred Bickenheuser.1
During the mid-teens, factory "R's" master craftsmen began producing delicately etched, cut and blown stemware and dinnerware patterns in clear and colored crystal. Early hand-made Tiffin patterns offered a variety of items: centerpieces, decanters, vases, candleholders, candy jars, jugs, cake plates, and cheese and cracker sets. 'Flanders,' for example, produced from 1914 to 1935, came in over 70 pieces. Production of these beautiful wares continued for decades.
In the '20s and '30s, Tiffin's 'Black Satin Finish Glassware' was also a popular seller. Offerings here included tableware and dresser sets. Additionally during this period, various hand-decorated lamps were widely produced, including table and boudoir styles, and novelty lamps in the shape of animals. The revered Tiffin 'Lady Stems' were made from 1939 to 1956.
Tiffin glass was billed as "America's Prestige Crystal." It was advertised as being "within reach of the limited budget." During the Depression, when hundreds of Tiffin patterns were made, Tiffin's output was double that of A. H. Heisey and Cambridge glass. Bickenheuser says during this time Tiffin often purchased blanks from the Heisey company in an effort to keep up with the demand for their own products.
The high-end Tiffin patterns were successful commercially despite the fact that, in the '20s and '30s, very few were advertised. Bickenheuser writes the lack of advertising explains why "there is more confusion and lack of information on Tiffin glass than there is of any other glassware of the Depression era."2
For many years, the Tiffin profits kept afloat other U.S. Glass plants that were struggling. Many of these, which often made cheaper grades of glassware, were closed or sold during the Depression. By the late '30s, very few U.S. Glass plants remained. In 1937, the main offices in Pittsburgh were closed and moved to Tiffin.
It is important to mention that during the 1920s and 1930s, factory "R" was also known as factory: "G.E.S.," "G," "N", "B.G.K.," "K," "D," "G. & K.," and "G.C.S." Bickenheuser says these additional designations were assigned in an effort to keep track of the molds and inventory acquired by the Tiffin plant as U.S.G.C. factories closed.
When C. W. Carlson, Sr. became president of the U.S. Glass Company in 1938, he, along with his son, C.W. Carlson, Jr., pioneered the Tiffin factory into a memorable new era with the addition of several new shapes and new colors Banana (Bright Yellow), Killarney (Emerald Green), Plum (Deep Purple), and Copen Blue (Ice Blue) and the superior hand-blown, hand-crafted 'Swedish Line' in 1940, which involved Swedish trained craftsmen. These new products translated into record profits for U.S. Glass in the mid '40s and mid '50s, writes Bickerheuser.3
The Tiffin plant was the only U.S. Glass plant remaining by 1951. In 1955, U.S.G.C. bought the molds of the old Duncan and Miller Company of Washington, Pennsylvania, and some former Duncan glass workers went to work at the Tiffin factory. Many patterns were produced in crystal and new colors by the "Duncan and Miller Division of The United States Glass Company, Tiffin, Ohio." New Duncan patterns by Tiffin included 'Countess' and 'Wisteria'. Duncan swans were made by Tiffin from 1955 to 1969.
Also in the '50s, Tiffin 'Modern' debuted. This line of free-flowing designs featured vases, ash trays, flower baskets and other accent pieces. According to the advertising literature, 'Modern' revealed "graceful shapes" and a "deep jewel-like radiance of unusual colors." Colors included twilight and smoke, twilight and green, ruby and crystal, and crystal and smoke.
When C. W. Carlson, Sr. retired in 1959, The U.S. Glass Company began to decline, and by 1962, bankruptcy forced its closing. Eventually, production would resume under "Tiffin Art Glass Corporation," which was created by some former Tiffin workers and C.W. Carlson, Jr.
Tiffin Art Glass produced high quality, elaborately etched stemware, art objects, barware, smoking accessories, and giftware. They also offered a "Matching Pattern Program," annually manufacturing retired patterns. The phrase "Tiffin Is Forever" was used to publicize this program.
In 1964, Tiffin purchased the molds and equipment of the T. G. Hawkes Cut Glass Company, in Corning, New York. Many Hawkes' patterns were produced by Tiffin including 'Delft Diamond' and 'Laurel.' These patterns are now popular collectors' items.
In 1966, the Tiffin factory was sold to Continental Can, a manufacturer of steel drink cans, and in 1968 again sold to the Interpace Corporation, the holding company of Franciscan china. Interpace continued with the production of many high-end Tiffin patterns, including 'Palais Versailles', which required more than 60 workers to complete each goblet, and 12 inspectors to check flaws.
In addition, they introduced casual lead crystal, including the pattern 'Madeira,' in seven colors (Olive, Smoke, Citron, Cornsilk, Ice, Plum and Blue) to coordinate with the Franciscan earthenware patterns. These casual, hand-molded crystal patterns were said to be a reflection of the evolving "California life style" in the late '60s and '70s. The crystal produced at the Tiffin factory by Interpace was called "Franciscan."
The company was sold again in 1980 to Towle Silversmiths. They purchased the huge glassware inventory and began importing blanks from Eastern Europe. In 1984, the factory closed, and Towle donated the land and the building to the city of Tiffin. At that time, Jim Maxwell, a former Tiffin Glass cutter, bought the Tiffin molds and equipment. In 1992, Maxwell began producing four old Hawkes' patterns and four Tiffin patterns under "Maxwell Crystal, Inc". The company is still in business, but has since discontinued these patterns.
In 1997 Maxwell Crystal, Inc. became Crystal Traditions of Tiffin, Inc. Crystal Traditions continues to hand cut crystal in many of the patterns created by Hawkes. Crystal Traditions owns the Tiffin Glass molds and the Hawkes trademark. Their glass cutter Aidan Scully apprenticed several years under one of the Waterford cutters to attain the skill levels required to continue the Hawkes patterns. They also do glass blowing, sandcarving and acid polishing of crystal.
1 William Heacock & Fred Bickenheuser, Encyclopedia of Victorian Colored Pattern Glass, Book Five, U.S. Glass from A-Z. (Marietta, Ohio: Antique Publications, 1978). p.185
2 Fred Bickenheuser, Tiffin Glassmasters, Book One. (Grove City, Ohio: Glassmaster Publications, 1979). p.4.
3 Fred Bickenheuser, Tiffin Glassmasters, Book Three. (Grove City, Ohio: Glassmaster Publications, 1985). p.4.
Source: Page, B.; Frederiksen, D.; Tiffin is Forever A Stemware Identification Guide; Greensboro, NC: Page/Frederiksen Publications; 1994