Mark of the Week: Fenton Art Glass Company

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This purple carnival glass Fenton dealer logo, measuring approximately 2 ½ inches tall by 5 inches across, sold for $54 on eBay.

The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded in 1905 Williamstown, W.V., by the brothers Frank L. and John W. Fenton. In the beginning, they painted glass blanks provided by other glassmakers, but soon started producing their own pieces. In 1908 John left the business to found an independent company in Millersburg, Ohio.

The first designs, created by Frank Fenton himself, were influenced by Tiffany and Steuben. The colors used to decorate the glasswares were fresh and innovative. Frank secured the services of Jacob Rosenthal, a renowned glass chemist, who created many new colors for the company.

The Fenton Art Glass Company is best known for two very popular lines that evolved from the fruitful cooperation between Frank Fenton and Jacob Rosenthal: Carnival Glass and Hobnail Milk Glass.

Carnival Glass was introduced in 1907 when Frank and Jacob created a metallic and opalescent glass that was initially called “Iridill.” The current name “Carnival” was adopted later by collectors, and originated from the fact that this kind of glass was often given as prizes at carnival. This line was an immediate success. Indeed, its fascinating surface treatment, plus its appealing designs and patterns, were highly admired by buyers and collectors.

This vintage ruby red three-piece flower pedal with nymph from the 1920s sold for $1,750 in 2016.

What To Look For

The earliest patterns are easy to identify, as they were often inspired from nature. They included colorful and winding flowers, such as water lilies, poinsettia, orange tree, bright fruits such as cherries, and motley animals, such as butterflies and peacock tails. These early patterns were stamped onto the back of the pieces, or onto the inside, or sometimes onto both of them. The edges also provide a detail that can help the collectors to distinguish the earliest pieces from the later ones, since the earliest tend to be polished and undulated, creating an extremely sinuous shape.

Typical of the 1920s is a red carnival color that is unique to Fenton. Since it was produced for a very brief period of time, red carnival items are among the most desired pieces by collectors, and prices can be high.

Due to the Great Depression, beginning with the stock market crash in October of 1929, the company stopped the production of carnival glass in favor of household lines, which had wider public demand. Therefore, collectors should be aware that Fenton carnival glass can be dated between 1907 and 1929.

This 14-piece milk glass hobnail octagonal punch bowl with 12 octagonal cups and original punch ladle, made between 1953 and 1957, brought $450 in an eBay auction in 2015.

In the 1930’s Fenton Art Glass Company started producing Hobnail items as orders from other companies. Hobnail is a Victorian style of glass. It was named after the regular pattern that covers its surface, which consists of raised knobs that resemble the hobnail studs used sometimes on boot soles.

From 1939-1940 Fenton introduced their own Hobnail items that were made in milk glass. Milk glass was invented in Venice in the 16th century, and consists of an opaque or translucent, milk-colored glass. This line was to become the company’s top-selling line and is still highly collectible.

In that period, Hobnail glass was actually out of fashion, but Fenton was able to find a new audience for the line thanks to the pattern called Diamond Lace which soon became very popular. It consists of a combination of the raised knobs of the hobnails and the optical effects of a spiral.

In the 1950s Fenton introduced a new line by adding handles to its bowls, thus turning them into baskets.

From about 1920 to 1978, Fenton items were marked with the text “Fenton” handwritten inside an oval molded into glass.

Marks

Luckily for collectors, Fenton labels and marks are easily recognizable. In addition, because the marks changed over time, they can be dated quite precisely.

• From c. 1920 to 1978 a mark with the text “Fenton” handwritten inside an oval was molded in glass.
• In 1921 Fenton adopted a label with the text “Fenton Art Glass” in capital letters inside a circle.
• From 1939-1947 Fenton used a new label that consists of a blue or yellow bubble with the text “Hand Made in America by Fenton” written inside.
• From 1947-1953 a blue or brown label with silver print, or a yellow label with gold or silver print, with the text “Authentic Fenton Handmade, Fenton” inside a double-lined oval was used.
• From 1949-1950 to 1957 Fenton adopted a red label with silver print and the text “Authentic Milk Glass Handmade by Fenton.”• From 1953-1957 Fenton used a yellow label with gold or silver print, or silver foil label with blue print, with the text “Authentic Fenton Handmade” inside an irregular rectangular design.
• From 1957 to 1985 Fenton adopted a mark that is now known as “the worker label.” It shows a man at work in the upper part, while in the lower there is an oval design with the text “Authentic Fenton Handmade.”
• From 1957 to 1970 they used magenta or blue foil with silver print, while a black label with gold print was used from 1970 to 1985.
• After 1971 a handwritten “F” inside an oval was used on glass made from old McKee molds.
• From 1974 onwards, the Fenton logo -handwritten “Fenton” inside an oval was introduced on milk glass. Items made during the 1980’s present a small number “8” under the word “Fenton”, while a tiny “9” is used for pieces from the 1990s.
• In around 1980 a silver label with blue print was used. A capital “F” over the text “Fenton Handpainted in USA” is traced inside an oval.
• From 1990 to 1995 Fenton adopted a silver and black label with the text “Fenton Handmade in the USA” under an “F” inside an oval. This label was used on special order items.

Resources/Links

• H. William, Fenton glass: the third twenty-five years, 1956-1980, Marietta, 1989.
• S. Griffith, A pictorial review of Fenton’s white hobnail milk glass: A collector’s guide with price valuation, New York, 1994.
• M. and K. Whitmyer, Fenton Art Glass Hobnail Patterns: Identification & Value Guide, New York, 2005.
• M.F. Moran, Warman’s Fenton Glass: Identification and Price Guide, Iola, 2007 (available online)
• An invaluable resource is offered by the website fentonfan.com which provides databases, reference and research information. All the catalogues from 1950 to 2011 are also available on the website, as are the images of many marks used by the company in different periods.


 

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