Heisey Glass – mid-century glassware

heisey-glass-1952SOMETIMES WITH ALL THE FOCUS on mid-century modern, it’s easy to forget that traditional designs remained extremely popular in the postwar period. Young women still wanted nice crystal to start their married life. I recently came across this ad for Heisey Glass, a name I’d heard before. It’s from 1952, and this Crystolite line certainly is very pretty. I went hunting further for information on the history of Heisey Glass and found a tremendous collector’s resource.

It turns out that there is actually a National Heisey Glass Museum. It is based in Newark, Ohio, where the company operated until closing in 1957. The history of the company seems to be a prototypical first-generation-American-boy-makes-good story.  Augustus Heisey came to America with his parents in 1843, when he was a year old. His father died young, and before he was 20 his mother returned to Germany. He served in the Civil War and after that, became a salesman for a glass company in Ohio. He married the owner’s daughter and over the years, the company transformed to become Heisey Glass. The glassware earned a reputation for being very well made. It was sold all over the world, and was highly sought after. Initial Heisey designs were pressed crystal, but they were so well done that it was difficult to tell their pressed glass from the cut glass. Later they also developed blown stemware – and innovated with this process by adding fancier pressed stems. Augustus also was a pioneer in promoting his glassware with magazine advertising.

Interestingly and in follow up to our story yesterday about the popular of Early American decor, the company revived colonial patterns including flutes, scallops and panels in the 1890s. These were very popular and at least one colonial pattern stayed in continuous production until the company’s end. I’m thinking the Crystolite above shows these colonial influences. Doesn’t it look so comfy to the hand? You just want to start pouring a glass of wine right now.

During WWII, the company shuttered their plant like so many others, during a period of materials scarcity. They came back online after the war, and as this 1952 ad suggests, continued to pursue and build upon their reputation for excellent quality. But, it was hard to compete with mass production, and the company closed down after Christmas 1957.

I suspect that lots of postwar Heisey Glass will continue to come to light via estate sales these days. If you see it – now you will know what it’s about.

Here’s the Heisey Glass Museum history page. This group has created a really delightful website. Kudos to them.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the info. I’ve known about Heisey glass from auctions, etc., but never knew how to spell it and it always sounded like an ‘n’ was in it. Now I know and will be better educated on the subject.

    Has anyone ever told you how awesome this site is? 😉

  2. Elizabeth Mary says

    I grew up hearing Heisey Glass spoken of in reverential tones by my grandmother. Even so, I was ignorant about it for years. But, when my mother broke up her home to move into smaller quarters I was the lucky recipient of her dining room furniture and the tall glass candlesticks she kept on the sideboard and table. They are pressed glass, but the glass itself is so very clear and wonderful. A couple of years ago I was cleaning them and saw the Heisey mark on them. How pleased was I to finally realize why my grandmother was so admiring of that glass. It is really extra special to see. The form/shape is nice, but it is the glass itself that I love.

  3. Annie B. says

    Great info on Heisey. Signed Heisey is still highly collectible and can be found occasionally at flea markets and even thrift stores in our area. It really is lovely pressed glass in traditional styles, rather like those of vintage Fostoria, etc. (Speaking of thrift store glass finds, my personal favorite was last year’s piece of signed Higgins glass I purchased for 50 cents.)

    As Pam says, even if your tastes run toward the thoroughly mid modern, it’s always nice to include a touch of the vintage traditional.

  4. MrsErinD says

    Very pretty! I love the different glasses too, that one (hadn’t heard of it!) and depression, and even just simple cut glass.

    I agree, this site is awesome! Thanks Pam! :O)

  5. Deb says

    After reading about the Heisey glass, I googled it and replacements.com came up. They appear to have pieces that can be purchased – haven’t looked all that closely, but it looks as if that’s a possibility…interesting!

  6. Annie B. says

    Deb,
    Replacements, Ltd. in Greensboro, NC does have a large inventory of Heisey Crystolite and other Heisey patterns. Replacements is an incredible resource for mid century china, flatware, and glassware. It’s a bit pricey, but you can almost be assured of their having the item you seek. Their inventory is is mind-boggling.

  7. Nina462 says

    I collect Pretzelware (depression glass). If anyone has the pitcher & tumblers…let me know. Those are the only pieces I’m missing!

  8. Annie B. says

    Nina, any photos? I am not familiar with Pretzelware (which means I’ll probably run into sixty pieces of it at tomorrow’s yard sales).
    Would be interested in taking a look at it, if possible. Thanks, much.

  9. Nina462 says

    Annie-thanks, but no I don’t have a handy photo of pretzelware. I kind of has a loopy design. You can always find the celery dishes (long, oblong dishes) and the creamer/sugar set.
    I’ve only been looking oh, since all my life. It’s a slow hobby 🙂
    (I do know that Hudsons/Daytons/Macys had a square cake plate a couple years ago..but that’s not original!).

  10. MinOhio says

    I was introduced to Heisey glass by my Mom. I can’t even remember NOT having Heisey in the house. Mom attended classes on antiques led by Jabe Tarter. For many years, Jabe wrote the antiques column for Knight-Ridder newspapers. This syndicated column appeared in Knight-Ridder papers across America. IMO Jabe paved the way for antique collecting by the “little” (versus “rich”) people. His columns demystified antiques and collecting. Jabe helped people appreciate and value antiques whether they were inherited, cosseted museum pieces or hidden treasures used day-to-day.

    Mr Tarter’s extensive collection of American glass and personal memorabilia, combined with the collection of Paul Miller, was gifted to the Kent State University Museum in Kent, Ohio. The exhibition “Great American Glass: The Roaring Twenties and Depression Era” is now on display in the Tarter/Miller Gallery at the museum.

    See http://dept.kent.edu/museum/exhibit/depression/main.htm

  11. MOLLY says

    For 35 years, I have collected the Crystolite pattern of Heisey. The whole pattern is shown in the Elegant Glassware book by Gene Florence> Crystolite is a crystal, both pressed and blown. When I was 18, I saw the H in the diamond and bought a 10″ bowl…. and hundreds of pieces have joined my home over the years. I have some of the rare pieces like the cake plate and the swan lip pitcher. I could see the lobe covered with dust at the bottom of a pile of dishes in an antique store… yes, the collection bug got me :)). Heisey is a wonderful, old company that made many patterns, colors, and styles. It is amazing and the museum is to be complimented for their hard work.

  12. MOLLY says

    SEE MY CRYSTOLITE CAKE PLATE. Yes, very proud :). Also, I have the old Heisey books that have this advertisement in it. I always enjoy looking at them still.
    Happy Valentine’s Day !!!

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