Consolidated Glass – The Deco Years (1925-1931)
During the first decade of the 20th century, Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company continued to enjoy the sweet success of an established business with quality products. But in the 1920s, with electricity now in most homes, the need for oil and gas lighting lessened and profits began to slow. In order to increase sales they had to diversify.
A lead designer, Reuben Haley, convinced management to launch an affordable giftware line. It was his innovative designs that led Consolidated to regain profits and reestablish itself as a premier glass house. From 1926 to 1929, Consolidated introduced over seven giftware lines that were sold in department stores all over the country. I have chosen to focus on three very different lines: “Martele,” “Catalonian,” and “Ruba Rombic.”
The “Martele” Line
Ruben Haley’s designs were influenced greatly by an exposition in Paris in 1925. The exposition had the top designers from all over the world competing and showcasing their “moderne” wares. One glass designer emerged overwhelmingly as the best at this exposition – Rene Lalique. Reuben brought back Lalique’s ideas and actually copied some of his patterns. In 1926, Consolidated introduced their “Martele” sculptured artware line. This line had raised molded designs of birds, flowers, insects, fruit and people. Their Love Birds vase was an exact copy of the Lalique Perruches design. Other pieces, such as the Bird of Paradise, Le Fleur, and Katydid vases had close connections to Lalique originals.
They not only made Martele vases, but also expanded to tableware and smoking sets. This line was popular and the original molds were passed to other glass companies (Phoenix and Fenton) when Consolidated closed its doors.
The “Catalonian” Line
“Catalonian” was introduced in 1927 as a “reproduction of old Spanish glass.” The design, also by Haley, consisted of swirls and bubbles that gave it a crude, rustic feel. Haley was granted several patents for his design and manufacturing processes of the “Catalonian” line. This glass was blown and generally has rough pontil marks. They produced a full line of dinnerware, serving pieces, and gift items. It was available in green and crystal glass as well as a variety of finishes from common light color washes (yellow, purple and green), to less common darker washes (cobalt and ruby), to rare rainbow highlighting (a combination of three colors). “Catalonian” was Consolidated’s most popular and profitable line.
The “Ruba Rombic” Line
In 1928, Consolidated launched a spectacular and unique line that created a quite a stir when it was launched at a glass show in Pittsburgh. “Ruba Rombic” was so innovative that the company touted it (actually adding the phrase to its label) as “an epic in modern art.” The name comes from “rubiay,” which means epic, and “rhomboid,” which means irregular in shape with no parallel lines. This original design by Reuben Haley was granted three separate patents.
The line was very extensive, consisting of tablewares (plates, tumblers, pitchers, serving pieces), powder jars, perfumes, cigarette boxes, and even fishbowls. The color names that the company chose were just as captivating as the glass: Jungle Green, Smokey Topaz, Jade, Lilac, Sunshine, Silver, and Silver Cloud. (Rare pieces have been found in red, black, vaseline and opal.) “Ruba Rombic” epitomizes the Art Deco era with its irregular angles and strong forms.
Even though the glass had fascinating appeal, it was not a success. It was expensive and time consuming to produce. In the manufacturing, the pieces often broke when coming off of the molds because of the acute angles of the fragile glass. The nation was beginning to enter the Depression, and Consolidated stopped producing “Ruba Rombic” three years after it was introduced.
Consolidated Ceases Production
With the Great Depression in full swing, Consolidated Glass Company closed its doors in 1932. “Ruba Rombic” and “Catalonian” would not be produced ever again, but many of the “Martele” molds went to Phoenix Glass Company in Monaca, PA. Phoenix produced the glassware until Consolidated was reopened in 1937 and they returned the molds.
Consolidated Glass made from 1926 to 1931 is highly sought after by collectors. Many museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Greentown Glass Museum, and the Corning Museum of Glass) have Consolidated’s art glass in their permanent collections. Even though the company has closed its doors, it lives on through its timeless works.
National Depression Glass Association
Article on Ruba Rombic by Barbara Norman
Phoenix and Consolidated Art Glass By Jack Wilson
Kirkland Museum Collection – Denver, CO
Phoenix and Consolidated Glass Collectors Club
Museum of Fine Arts Houston – Houston TX