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Fostoria Glass Works

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American Glass History

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By Carole Bess White

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The Fostoria Glass Company was founded in 1887 in Fostoria, Ohio. They made clear pressed glass and oil-burning lamps from the simplest to the fanciest, including painted “Gone With the Wind” lamps. The fuel supply ran out in Fostoria, so the plant was moved to Moundsville, West Virginia in 1891. They gradually changed their focus to glassware for home use, and as their chemistry and techniques became more sophisticated, their products became more beautiful.

Before 1924, there were lots of Early American Pressed Glass (E.A.P.G.) tableware sets made by many glass companies that would have included any or all of these pieces:  a cream and sugar, salt and pepper and a spooner (a goblet-type vessel for storing extra spoons at the table). Other popular E.A.P.G. pieces made were celery vases, comports (sometimes called compotes, but to glass collectors a comport is what one served their compote in!), pitchers, tumblers, pickle dishes, vases, candy dishes and many other accessory pieces. The tableware pieces were meant to complement one’s china set.

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Fostoria decided to add colored glass to their line in 1924, and in 1925 they started a revolution in the glass industry when they introduced complete dinnerware sets in colored glass. Colors included canary (yellow), green, amber, blue, ebony (black) and rose (pink). These sets included a different vessel for every type of drink from the smallest cordial to the largest iced tea tumbler, usually 10 or a dozen sizes; several sizes of plates from a 5” or 6” bread plate up to a 10” dinner plate; cups and saucers; and serving pieces and accessories galore.  If one wished, a table could be set using nothing but glass up to and including a nice console (centerpiece) bowl and matching candlestick holders. A complete service for 6 including serving pieces quickly added up to more than 100 or even 150 pieces. Fostoria offered many different acid-etched patterns, and today Versailles and June etchings are probably the most popular with collectors.

Fostoria supported this new line by advertising heavily in consumer publications, mainly “ladies’ magazines” such as Good Housekeeping. Because they advertised the most, Fostoria was a bit jealously referred to as the “tony” company by other glass manufacturers. Fostoria’s ran more ads, they were colorful and showed wonderful table settings using Fostoria’s products, and they set the standard for the industry.

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As fashions changed, so did Fostoria. In the 1930s, their colors became darker and richer: cobalt blue, forest green, ruby red, etc. During World War II, the minerals needed to make colored glass were diverted to war materiel, so Fostoria continued to make clear glass. Ironically, for a colored glass company their most popular pattern was “American,” which was primarily produced in clear glass! American was introduced in 1915 and continued until the factory was sold to Lancaster Colony in 1983. Lancaster contracted with other glass factories to produce some of the American pieces, and new pieces are still available today.  Fostoria’s glass was marked with a paper label.

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