Pyrex 100th anniversary — thank you, Bessie Littleton!

vintage pyrex adHappy 100th birthday, Pyrex! This clear glass cookware — classic Americana — has a very colorful history. Its genesis came in 1913 from Bessie Littleton, whose husband Jesse worked at Corning Glass Works. Bessie was frustrated when her stoneware casserole broke apart in the oven, so she asked her husband if the Glass Works had a suitable substitute. vintage pyrex advertisementUp until then, it seems, there was no such thing as glass bakeware. The next day, Bessie’s husband brought home the sawed-off bottom of a battery jar used by railroads that was made of a special shatter-resistant glass. Bessie put it to the test and liked the results… the company decided to use this opportunity to make a move into the consumer market… and in 1915 the Pyrex we know of today was born. Let’s take a look at this classic Americana company’s history … and at the products they have introduced to mark their centennial.

vintage pyrex advertisement

History of Pyrex

This book on the history of home economics had a wonderful short history of the development of Pyrex, including how home economists helped the company with its product development.

On its website, Pyrex explains more about the special glass:

The heat-tempered glass that is the foundation of the Pyrex brand was created years earlier by Corning Glass scientists charged with developing lantern glass for railroads. They needed to tackle a particular problem—the heat of the lantern flame conspired with the cold air of winter to shatter traditional glass. They needed a glass that could handle changes in temperature. By 1913, the glass was used in a number of industrial applications.

vintage pyrex advertisementThe Pyrex Wikipedia page also discusses borosilicate glass and notes that it continues to be used today in laboratory glassware because of its clarity and low thermal expansion.

However, today, Pyrex is made using tempered soda-lime glass. Here at Retro Renovation, we tend to be suspicious purists and might lean toward “buy vintage” — golly, I see it at every estate sale I go to, that’s for sure. That said, I don’t really know if there is any functional difference or other reason to buy new vs. vintage.

UPDATE: Jennifer pointed us to this 2011 report by Consumer Reports in which Consumer Reports researched reports by users of the new formula that the glassware shattered. Take a look, check with your own experts, do your own research, make your own decisions, be sure to follow directions/labels/etc.

vintage pyrex advertisement

(This one is from Pam’s collection.)

How did Pyrex get its name?

The Wikipedia page also lists this interesting blurb from a Corning executive on the etymology of the name “Pyrex”:

The word PYREX is probably a purely arbitrary word which was devised in 1915 as a trade-mark for products manufactured and sold by Corning Glass Works. While some people have thought that it was made up from the Greek pyr and the Latin rex we have always taken the position that no graduate of Harvard would be guilty of such a classical hybrid. Actually, we had a number of prior trade-marks ending in the letters ex. One of the first commercial products to be sold under the new mark was a pie plate and in the interests of euphonism the letter r was inserted between pie and ex and the whole thing condensed to PYREX.

vintage pyrex advertisement

Pyrex advertising

Of course, we also love doing these anniversary stories because it enables us to get our hands on adorable vintage advertising. Like many other consumer products firms during the early- through mid-20th Century, Pyrex depended on idyllic American Dream style illustrations to market its products. Many of them played on the “it’s clear as glass” theme — to great effect.

vintage pyrex advertisementvintage pyrex advertisementvintage pyrex advertisement
vintage pyrex advertisement

Pyrex 100th anniversary collection: Hail to the Dots!

pyrex 100 anniversaryTo celebrate Pyrex’s big birthday, the company has issued a special Pyrex 100 line — including a 100th anniversary engraved pie plate, five new measuring cups, five ‘Dots’ storage pieces in vibrant colors, as well as two new portable bags for the Pyrex 3-quart oblong baking dish. The Pyrex 100 anniversary line will be available to purchase until the end of 2015.

pyrex 100th anniversaryThe centennial “Dot” design was inspired by Pyrex “New Dots” opal glass pattern, introduced in 1967.

pyrex new dot bowls vintageAbove: Complete set of vintage Pyrex “New Dot” bowls,
photo courtesy of etsy seller Sassbox Classics. The pictured set is sold.

I found a little more information and a vintage catalog image showing the “New Dot” Pyrex pattern over on Corelle Corner. It seems the “New Dot” bowls were available in four sizes, and sold as open stock — not in a set of four. After doing a quick search of ebay and etsy, it seems like full sets including all four color/sizes are hard to come by.

Dots are hots! Psshaww to chevrons: We LOVE dots — and especially polka dots!

pyrex 100th anniversary

Pyrex 100 Easy Grab pie plate: This limited pie plate carries the official 100th anniversary insignia. Etched into the bottom of the pie plate are the words “Made in Charleroi, PA USA” to honor the generations of hardworking families in Pyrex’s hometown. MSRP: $5.99

pyrex 100th anniversary

Pyrex 100 portable bags — Designed to safely transport the 3-Qt Pyrex baking dish. MSRP: $15.99 (bag only) & $34.99 (bag with baking dish)

pyrex 100th anniverary

Pyrex 100 measuring cups — Available in 5 colors and are stamped by the Pyrex 100th Anniversary logo. MSRP: $3.99 – $6.99

pyrex 100th anniversary

Pyrex 100 4-cup decorated Storage —  MSRP: $5.99

Thanks to Michael Scheffki, Brand Lead for Pyrex, for supplying information for this story, along with the new product photography and vintage Pyrex advertisements.

Who has Pyrex memories?
Do we have Pyrex collectors among us?

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Comments

  1. Sabrina says

    Love love love Pyrex too!!! It was one of the first vintage kitchenware I got into collecting. I have the 4 primary color + green nesting bowl set, and vintage nesting fridge storage bowls, along with new-made bakeware, measuring cups and storage bowls. Guess you could say I’m a fan…and I try to get it cheap, too.

    In comparing new and old, the vintage is clear while the new has a greenish cast. No probs with either on durability but I have had a few vintage pieces break on me from kitchen klutz moments. For care I never microwave the vintage or put vintage color ware in the dishwasher, it fades the finish. Have a turquoise snowflake pttn Cinderella bowl set that’s my Mom’s but never use it so maybe it’s time to pass it on.

    I also heard that older vintage Pyrex nesting bowls are made from thicker glass than the newer vintage.

    The dots are cool. Sold elsewhere than Target?

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Sabrina, Yes, in my area, I can find vintage so inexpensively at estate sales. On the tint issue of old vs new I’m not an expert, so readers, do your own research….

  2. Nancy says

    If you like the dotted bowls, keep an eye out for the holiday bowls they bring out for Halloween and Christmas. Same size, and sometimes the patterns are retro too. (Now to find space for an aqua and a lime dot…)

  3. Pat says

    Thank you for this fun Pyrex post! I use my vintage Pyrex bowls every day. I initially started collecting just one style/color but since I see different ones all the time at estate/yard sales, I can’t resist and now have transitioned to mostly turquoise of any pattern with a dots bowl set thrown in for good measure. I’m now at the “one in, one out” phase. I think the blues and the pinks are hot right now for collectors. Check out this recently ended sale of an obviously crazily desired Pyrex item:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Holy-Grail-of-all-Pyrex-475-Turquoise-Hex-/161633365888?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_2&hash=item25a2196f80

  4. mike says

    Say…….Whatever happened to the pyrex cookie sheets? We had some back in the 1980s but they don’t seem to make them anymore…

  5. Marta says

    I have a vintage Pyrex addiction. Fortunately for my available storage and bank account, I made myself some firm rules. It must be near perfect in color, in a pattern I or someone I know collects, and can’t be more than a few dollars. In particular, I love the primary color mixing bowls. I switched to them when my hands started getting weak, and I found the heavy glass easier to use and wash than plastic.

    As Pam says, it is important to do your own research. With that caveat in mind, here are some of my own observations:

    Never put a hot vessel of any kind on a cold surface. Always use some kind of hot pad. Putting a casserole straight from the oven onto a granite, ceramic, or glass surface is NEVER safe, no matter what manufacturers may say. These surfaces are innately colder than the laminate counters of years gone by, and that sharp contrast in temperature is dangerous. I think previous generations were much more cautious and careful to protect their counters and their dishes.

    Never add cold liquids to hot glass for the same reasons as above.

    Dishwasher detergent is corrosive. It can and will destroy the painted designs and surfaces of vintage Pyrex. Be kind to your colored Pyrex and hand wash. A damp cloth and some baking soda will take care of any baked on stains.

    If your Pyrex is rated for microwave use, it will say so on the bottom. If it doesn’t, I don’t chance it.

    Never cut on the surface of your Pyrex. Those small nicks can become the weak point that causes a fracture in the future.

  6. Susie Q. says

    I have one of the glass percolators like the one in your ad. I don’t have the mechanism to perk coffee, but I use to for tea, iced coffee, etc. I love it! My fave pattern is spring blossom 1. I don’t have room for a lot of it, but I enjoy what I have.

  7. Debbie says

    How are my fellow Retro Renovators doing at locating the Pyrex? I’ve been to two Targets: both had plenty of measuring cups but I was only able to find two of the bowls, no pie plates, no carriers.

    • Kate says

      I was at my local Target about a week and a half ago. They had the measuring cups, dot bowls and pie plates. I didn’t see any carriers, but I might have missed them as I was in a hurry…

  8. says

    I just checked my Target and found the measuring cups and covered containers on sale! (I suppose only through today) I didn’t see the pie plate or the carriers/a space they would be. We have a Correlle outlet store which I haven’t gotten over to yet. Has anyone found any there?

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      I did see the measuring cups and covered containers at the Corning/Revere Outlet in Tanger Outlets in Westbrook, Connecticut.

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        And I saw the measuring cups at ShopRite Supermarket.

        The dotted containers were on line at Target, but only the 4 cup size.

  9. Jen says

    I am also addicted to pyrex! I just saw the display in Meijer’s and about flipped when I saw the dots!!
    My addiction started with growing up and using my mom’s Americana Fall Colors mixing bowl set (which I proudly own now- thanks mom!). I like to find my vintage pyrex in “the wild”. This means garage sales, estate sales, and visits to the local Goodwill store. I weep inside when I find a piece washed out from the dishwasher! Who would do that???
    My goal is to happen upon a real “find”.
    Yes, I have a hutch in the kitchen top to bottom full of vintage pyrex.

  10. Rosemary says

    These guys were on sale at my local Target yesterday – not sure how long the sale last. Also, check out Target’s website too to see if the sale is online.

  11. says

    My brother married a lovely woman from Charleroi, PA, whose mother is a Pyrex hoarder. She had enough stuff for a museum–like, literally, she wanted to open a museum. I’ve filled my drawers with rock-bottom-priced leftover refrigerator sets, storage containers, brownie pans, the whole nine.

    While you have to make an appointment to see and buy from the collection (and wear old clothes, because this is no-joke picking), she’s usually offered a great price and they’re looking to offload. So if you’re in southwestern PA, drop me a line and I’ll see if the family’s around for a pick! (jody@rocketcitydigs.com)

  12. Karen says

    I am reading with interest all the comments about shattering. My mom had a breakage incident in the mid-70’s that I witnessed, when she had used one of her Pyrex rectangular baking pans in the broiler. Pretty sure it was one of the older pans. It cracked down the middle and in a few other places. Was very glad that it did not explode in her face! The only time that I have seen such a thing occur. I have had no issues myself with my vintage Pyrex, nor with my newer pieces.

  13. Adamson says

    Last Christmas, I gifted pyrex storage dishes which I got from worldkitchen.com. She love them a lot and still now she is using them.

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