Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company: The Early Years (1893 to 1910)
This is the first of a series of articles on the Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company. Over the next few weeks I will cover the Art Deco period and art glass giftware line.
Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company was established in 1893 when two firms, Wallace and McAfee Company of Pittsburgh and Fostoria Shade &Lamp Company of Ohio, merged. They began production at the old plant in Ohio, but after a devastating fire in 1895, relocated to Coraopolis, Pa. where a large, new factory was built.
The main wares produced by Consolidated were lamps, globes, and shades. They made both decorative and utilitarian globes for commercial and residential lighting. In addition, they made pattern glass tableware including sugar shakers, butter dishes and pitcher sets. By 1910, Consolidated Glass and Lamp Company was the largest lighting glass company in the United States and employed over 400 workers.
The intricate patterns that were produced at the factory showcased the designs that were in fashion during the Victorian period. They hired some of the most skilled mold designers of the time to develop patterns exclusive to Consolidated. Their “Gone with the Wind” style lamps were decorated with lions, ornate masks, and foliage designs on the molded glass. Their tableware patterns were less-fussy designs such as cones, feather, and loop patterns.
Consolidated offered a variety of colors, including crystal, canary yellow, and ruby red were favorites. Also popular were apple green, mandarin orange and sky blue. Much of their production was milk glass, also referred to as “opal.”. They also made cased-glass pieces, which were simply layering two colors of glass.
Consolidated decorated and applied finishes to much of its glass “in-house.” Items were acid-etched and hand-painted in decorating rooms. They took pride in their craftsmanship and fire polished all edges by hand. They also carefully hand-applied scenic transfers and gold gilding. One particularly popular pattern at the turn of the century was Cosmos, produced in both milk glass and crystal. The decorators hand-painted the petals on the flowers in soft pastel colors.
In the early years, Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company produced large quantities of good quality decorative lamps, lighting fixtures, and table wares. Because their production was extensive, pieces are readily available in the antiques marketplace today.
Collecting Consolidated glass
The most important thing to do when collecting early Consolidated glass is to educate youself. Learn how to recognize the sizes, finishes, and colors produced by the company. Study collections held in at museums, such as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the Corning Museum in New York.
The Phoenix and Consolidated Collectors Club is a group that helps further the knowledge and understanding of Consolidated and Phoenix glass (a related company to be discussed in an upcoming article). They publish a quarterly newsletter with in-depth articles and host an annual convention which has glass displays and lectures. Past lecturers have been authors, collector, and even past factory employees. By joining a group of fellow collectors, you establish a network of people with the same interests that can help you in identifying and evaluating your pieces.
It is also important that you buy from a reputable dealer or auction house. A dealer should be willing to discuss the history and background of the pieces they sell. Ask questions before you buy and examine pieces thoroughly, as a slight chip or crack can devalue pieces greatly. Beware: several pieces of Consolidated have been reproduced and vary only slightly from the originals.
There are some great resources available both online and in print. Some websites include:
Phoenix and Consolidated Collector’s club (http://home.earthlink.net/~jdwilson1/pcgcc.htm),
Fostoria Glass Museum
Corning Museum of Glass
Reference books include:
Opalescent Pattern Glass by Marion Hartung
19th Century Patterned Art Glass Chamber Lamps by Ron Gibson
Antique Kerosene & Oil Lamps Guide Vol. 1 by Catherine Thuro
Antique Kerosene & Oil Lamps Guide Vol. 2 by Catherine Thuro