Our museum feature this month is a gorgeous red Candlewick pastry tray produced by the Imperial Glass Company. Widely popular at the time (and highly collectible today), Candlewick was produced for nearly half a century, from 1936 to 1982, and was one of the patterns that enabled the Imperial Glass Company to pull through the Great Depression. An extraordinary variety of Candlewick piece types was produced during the course of its run, in colors as diverse as Doeskin, Metallic Taupe, Lime, Carmel Slag, and many others.
The history of the Imperial Glass Company, spanning eight decades, begins in 1901, when Edward Muhleman, a riverboat captain and financier, ended his relationship with the National Glass Company of Pittsburgh, PA. National Glass Company, a conglomerate, had purchased Muhleman’s Crystal Glass Company of Bellaire, OH, in 1899, along with eighteen other glass-making plants. An able businessman, relatively young at age 55, wealthy, and evidently still fascinated with the glassware industry, Muhleman contacted the Bellaire Board of Trade, a group of businessmen seeking to attract industry to their city on the banks of the Ohio River. Muhleman struck a deal with Bellaire investors to construct what would be billed at the time as "the largest factory in this part of the Ohio Valley."
For a variety of reasons construction lagged. It was not until 1904 that the huge Imperial Glass Company plant began production. According to the "Imperial Glass Encyclopedia, Volume I," the company’s first catalog was more than sixty pages long – "In addition to all manner of bottles, tumblers, and electric and gas shades, the catalog listed no fewer than fifteen lines of tableware, an impressive beginning indeed." Over the years, the company would go on to produce a fantastic array of clear, colored, acid-etched, deep-etched, iridescent, gold, silver, or burnished tumblers, vases, pitchers, figurines, platters, relish dishes, ash trays, cake stands, candlesticks, goblets, perfume bottles, bells, hurricane lamps, punch bowls, salt and pepper shakers, candy boxes, and more, in an amazing variety of shapes and designs, many of them sold in the leading department stores of the day.
In 1973 the Imperial Glass Company was purchased by Lenox, and over time, the company’s emphasis on glassware changed to giftware. Competition was keen in this product area, and the company’s market share dwindled. Ultimately, the Imperial Glass Company was forced into bankruptcy. Its last full catalog was released to the trade in January 1982.
The Imperial Glass Candlewick pastry tray in our museum is not for sale, but we do have many Candlewick pieces available, along with pieces in other iconic Imperial Glass patterns like Cape Cod, Old Williamsburg, and Provincial. We also have a number of patterns from American manufacturers like Fostoria, Tiffin, Heisey, Cambridge, and Duncan & Miller, that may be purchased, along with patterns from a wide array of other glassware producers. Be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you’ll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles. Our retail store and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The retail store and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you.