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Museum Feature

Candlewick Gold Punch Set by Imperial Glass

One of the most striking pieces in our Museum collection is the Candlewick Gold-on-Glass Punch Set by the Imperial Glass Company of Bellaire, OH – our Museum Feature for this newsletter. The “Imperial Glass Encyclopedia, Volume I,” published in association with the National Imperial Glass Collectors’ Society and edited by James Measell, states that these punch sets were originally sold as 15-piece collections, comprising the punch bowl, base, crystal ladle, and 12 cups. (Our Museum set is complete except for the crystal ladle.) Covered with all-over gold, the punch bowl, base, and cups were etched with the beautiful Rose of Sharon motif, a design purchased by Imperial Glass Company from the Central Glass Company of Wheeling, WV, around 1940. The gold in the set was “burnished” by Imperial to reduce the gloss. According to company records, these sets were produced between 1943 and 1946. The Imperial Glass Company set a recommended retail price of $138.90, although New York City department store Hammacher Schlemmer advertised the “hand-burnished, inlaid gold on glass” set for “$125.00, plus tax,” in an October 1943 issue of Gourmet magazine.

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 18 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 60 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.

Among the designs were Cape Cod and Candlewick, the design of our Museum punch set. Widely popular, 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. 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.

While the Imperial Glass Candlewick Gold-on-Glass Punch Set in our Museum is not for sale, Replacements, Ltd. carries many Imperial Glass patterns, including Cape Cod, Old Williamsburg, Provincial-Green, and of course, Candlewick. We also have a number of patterns from American manufacturers like Tiffin/Franciscan, Heisey, Duncan & Miller, and Viking, 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 will see an absolutely stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our warehouse facilities (the size of 7 football fields) hold more than 13,000,000 individual pieces in more than 297,000 patterns! 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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