Imperial Glass is not a type of glass itself, but a company that produced glass in the 1900s. The glass produced at the Imperial Glass Company includes carnival glass, colored glass, and more.
The Imperial Glass Company was started in the early 1900s by Edward Muhleman. They created all sorts of glass products that were useful in the kitchen and as decorative pieces around the home. It went out of business in 1984, but there is a museum in Bellaire, Ohio, also known as Glass City.
Keep reading to learn more about the History of Imperial Glass, and where it is now.
The Imperial Glass Company
The Imperial Glass Company was started by Edward Muhleman in Bellaire, Ohio. Previously he was a riverboat caption on the Ohio River. When he was done being a captain, he decided to further dive into his interest in glass. He was also an investor and had some previous involvement in many glass companies.
He wanted to build a new glass company that had a new, modern twist to it. He started the company in 1901, and by 1904 it was fully developed and ready to start production. He set up the company right on the Ohio River, in Bellaire, also known as Glass City. Bellaire was known as Glass City due to the high number of glass companies that were located in the area. Bellaire was right on the river, giving these companies easy access to all of the materials they needed. (Source)
Since Edward Muhleman already had plenty of experience with other glass companies, he was able to create a very successful glass company in a short amount of time. Imperial Glass focused on the newest types of glass and was investing in the future.
The Imperial Glass company was not immune to the Great Depression. Around the same time, Victor Wike, their current president passed away. Without his new and innovative ideas, the company seemed to be doomed. The stock market was crashing, and they didn’t have anybody there to save it. They had to file for bankruptcy but found ways to get back up on their feet and survive.
After they survived the Great Depression, Imperial Glass reclaimed its title as a successful glass production company, coming out with several lines up until the 1970s. It was sold once in 1972 to Lenox, bought by Arthur Lorch in 1981, and sold once again in 1982. After this, it went into bankruptcy and that was the end of the Imperial Glass Company. (Source)
What Kinds of Glass Did they Make?
Imperial Glass Company produced a high variety of glass products, that had all kinds of uses. There were jelly bowls for the kitchen, tables for the sitting room, and vases for the flowers. They weren’t a company that specialized in one product, but many different products.
Usually, it is better to sell specialized glass products, but the variety of their products helped them go far. There was something for everybody. It seemed as if every year they were coming out with a new collection. They created many types of glass, but these are the most significant collections and types of glass that Imperial Glass produced.
They first started with clear glass. Once they succeeded with that they moved on to color and carnival glass in 1909. Carnival Glass was similar to Tiffanys Glass, but it wasn’t as high of quality. Due to it often being compared to Tiffanys Glass, buyers saw it as less than and didn’t care much for it.
In 1908 the creator of carnival glass had the brilliant idea to give away carnival glass at carnivals as a prize. He hoped that winners would then view it as a prize instead of the off-brand of Tiffanys Glass. His plan went smoothly and soon the Carnival Glass phenomenon was in full swing, with Imperial Glass ready to follow the trends.
Carnival Glass was a huge phenomenon in the 1910s, but production of it slowed in the 1920s. The Imperial Glass Company didn’t let this hold them back. They moved on and innovated a new line of glass called Nucut and Nuart lines, which was similar to the fancier, high-class Tiffany glass. This collection included more decorative pieces like vases, lampshades, dish bowls, and many fancier-looking items.
The most popular line they came out with was the Candlewick. It came out in 1936 and lasted all the way until the 1950s. This glass was clear, but what made it unique was the decorative beads placed on the edges of the glass. Candlewick was just clear glass, nothing special to it, but it was the beads that gave it a truly elegant look.
Many people wanted it because it added a lot to their homes and wasn’t too expensive, since it was just clear glass. It wasn’t made for the upper class, but the middle class of America. They were able to have fancy-looking glass pieces in their home without breaking the bank account. That is why it was the most popular line, as it appealed to the biggest group of Americans. (Source)
After Candlewick ended it was the Cape Cod Line, and in the 1970s Carnival Glass became popular once again. This was due to collectors seeing value in it and collecting enough pieces for production to start again. Imperial Glass was right on it and bought carnival glass molds from other companies that were shutting down their production. Sadly, this was the last line they created before going bankrupt for a second time and being bought out. (Source)
Where is It Now?
Eventually, the Imperial Glass Company was sold to a few different people in the 1970s and 1980s. Soon after that, they went bankrupt for a second time, signaling the end of the Imperial Glass Company.
Even though production stopped, pieces from the Imperial Glass company are still being sold and collected around the world. There is even a museum in Glass City. Its purpose is to remember what once was and educate the public about the Imperial Glass Company.