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Museum Feature

Tiffin Selections Golden Banana Ivy Bowls by Tiffin Glass Company

Going through our Museum collection looking for this month’s feature, we discovered what appeared to be two wine glasses by Tiffin Glass Company that were both rare and interesting enough to catch the eye of the most discerning oenologist.  (An oenologist is an expert in the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking.)

Standing 10 3/4 inches tall, the enormous “wine glasses” are in fact Ivy Bowls, decorative pieces produced by Tiffin Glass Company for a limited time.  Ruth Hemminger, Ed Goshe, and Leslie Piña write in their excellent book, “Tiffin Glass 1940-1980,” that the company released in 1961 a line of products called Tiffin Selections. These decorative items first appeared in two colors, Golden Banana, the color of the pieces in our Museum collection, and Empire Green. The Empire Green color was dropped after only one year.  New colors, along with new shapes, were introduced in 1962.  Each of the items in the Tiffin Selections line is hand-blown, featuring a beautiful “diamond optic” pattern.  The types of accessory pieces released were quite varied. Included were ivy bowls, compotes, bud vases, candlesticks, candlesticks with hurricane shades, candy boxes, rose bowls, vases, and bridal cups.  Collectors today find these pieces to be extremely attractive and desirable.

For anyone interested in researching information about the Tiffin Glass Company, the timeline is remarkably convoluted.  In 1888 the A.J. Beatty & Sons Glass Factory in Steubenville, Ohio, near Pittsburgh, announced that it would be moving its facilities across state to Tiffin.  At the time, Beatty & Sons was the largest manufacturer of pressed glass in the world.  The move was prompted by the availability of abundant fuel for firing, an offer of free land, and the payment of an undisclosed amount of cash by the leading citizens of Tiffin.  The new plant began production in 1889.  Just three years later, A.J. Beatty & Sons merged into the United States Glass Company.

USGC was the combination of as many as 18 independent glass companies operating in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  From its company headquarters in Pittsburgh, USGC sought to strengthen its operations in the face of serious labor unrest, competition from manufacturers abroad, and an increasing dependence upon natural gas rather than coal as the chief fuel for manufacturing.  As time passed, some of the original USGC operating plants passed out of existence, and others were added. In the 1920s and ‘30s, USGC added decorating shops and sales offices throughout the United States, and overseas sales offices in Mexico, Cuba, Australia, and England. In spite of these developments, USGC continued to suffer operating losses.  By 1938, in an effort to consolidate, USGC moved its general offices from Pittsburgh back to Tiffin.

Under the USGC umbrella, the Tiffin operation was designated “Factory R.”  But Factory R was destroyed by fire only two years after the USGC merger.  With renewed incentives from the good citizens of Tiffin, the plant was rebuilt.  Further complicating research matters, according to Tiffin glass expert Frank Bickenheuser, is the fact that in the ‘20s and ‘30s Factory “R” was also referred to as factory “G.E.S.,” “G,” “N,” “B.G.K.,” “K,” “D,” “G. & K.,” and “G.C.S.” For collectors of Tiffin Glass Company ware, patience is truly a virtue!  In 1937, responding to ongoing financial difficulties, USGC management discontinued manufacturing its less expensive glassware and concentrated on the production of high-quality stemware and designer pieces like cornucopias, vases, and bowls.  Here the Tiffin plant excelled, having always been known for quality production.  Tiffin glass was hailed as “America’s Prestige Crystal.”

C. W. Carlson, Sr. became president of USGC in 1938.  Under his charismatic leadership, and that of his son, C. W. Carlson, Jr., the company introduced a variety of new shapes and new colors — among them, the Golden Banana color of our Museum ivy bowls.  The company also introduced an exquisite Swedish Line of hand-blown glassware.

In spite of these initiatives, the Tiffin plant was the only USGC operation remaining in 1951.  By 1963 the company had gone into bankruptcy.  A year later, Tiffin Art Glass was born, reviving the company's tradition of quality stemware. Two years later, Tiffin Art Glass was acquired by the Continental Can Company and was officially renamed the “Tiffin Glass Company.” When Tiffin became a division of the Interpace Corporation in January 1976, the Franciscan Ware line was introduced to its manufacture of pressed glass, sandwich glass, white milk glass, and stemware. In 1979 Leonard Silver Manufacturing Company, a division of Towle Silver, purchased the glassworks. Tiffin Glass Company remained in that company's hands until closing its doors in 1983.

While the Tiffin Selections Golden Banana Ivy Bowls by Tiffin Glass Company in our Museum collection are not for sale, there are thousands of glass patterns, including thousands by Tiffin, that you may peruse and purchase when you visit.  Come empty-handed, leave with an armload of gorgeous Tiffin glass, and with a great history to share.  Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). Free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week.  The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!


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