Fabulous Fenton: A Brief Examination of Fenton Glassware
History of Fenton
One of the top items in the antique collecting world is glass, and one of the top names is Fenton. The year was 1905, and the place was Martins Ferry, Ohio when the brothers John W. Fenton and Frank L. Fenton opened up their decorating shop, Fenton Art Glass Company. Here the brothers didn't produce glass, but merely focused on cutting their own designs on “blanks” from other companies.
By 1906, the brothers decided to build a glass factory in Williamstown, West Virginia where they could produce and decorate their own works rather than relying on other companies to sell them “blanks.”
By the mid-1900s, Fenton glass hadn't just become a staple in American homes, but a collectible and well-known product that had found success post 1895-1910 “golden age,” and continued to thrive in spite of the “Glass Works Graveyard” that had swallowed other glass manufacturers.
The Great (Depression) Hobnail
Fenton's good luck or ingenuity didn't stop there though. In the face of the Great Depression, Fenton, unlike many competitors, continued to produce new product lines and experiment with their colors and patterns. This eventually led to the introduction of the Hobnail pattern, arguably Fenton's most famous and recognizable glass pattern.
Hobnail glass is characterized by a pattern of raised knobs, with Fenton's Heavy Hobnail specifically being smaller, pointier, and more plentiful than other competitors of the time. Dating Hobnail pieces is especially difficult due to longevity of the pieces and all pieces before 1953 having the same lot number. Hobnail also has appeared on many items ranging from vases to bowls to lamps to candleholders.
Fenton's Famous Glass
Fenton is also well-known for its Art Glass and Carnvial Glass. Art Glass found in the 1910s was often opaque with swirls of accent colors creating a mesmerizing effect that reflected a more daring Art Nouveau style of the time. This type of glass wasn't popular in larger markets, though, and was quickly discontinued. However, Carnival glass, a shimmering iridescent glass, quickly took hold of the middle-class markets after its introduction in 1908. Carnival Glass still remains a favorite of collectors since its resurgence in the 1970s, and has even found a foothold in Millennial and Gen Z collectors in the modern day.
Additionally, Fenton has other glass types and lines that have found their way into collectors' homes. These glasses include Burmese, noted by its beautiful ombré colors
milk glass, a solid opaque glass usually in white
and satin glass with its beautiful matte finish.
Fenton glass pieces are not only beautifully crafted, but also offer historical significance as its easy to see what appealed to the American masses with each new style or trend. It's also a way to appreciate the craftsmanship and ingenuity of previous artisans.
Here at Standpipe Antiques, we offer a wide range of Fenton glass pieces for anyone looking to expand their collection. We're constantly on the look out for new pieces to offer to our customers, and are proud to serve collectors and enthusiasts.
Thank you for joining us in this mini deep-dive into one of the most popular collectibles at our store. If you're interested in collecting some new pieces, check out some featured pieces below or head to our search bar and just search “Fenton glass.” If you're interested in further reading, head to the end of the article for a list of our sources.
Sources & Further Reading:
Heacock, William. Fenton Glass, The First Twenty-Five Years. (Richardson Printing Corp, 1978)
Heacock, William. Fenton Glass, The Second Twenty-Five Years. (Richardson Printing Corp, 1980)
Heacock, William. Fenton Glass, The Third Twenty-Five Years. (Richardson Printing Corp, 1989)
Komar, Marlen. A Brief History of Carnival Glass, the Early 20th Century Collectible Making a Comeback. Apartment Therapy. Apartment Therapy. Published January 28, 2022. https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/a-brief-history-of-carnival-glass-37031194