Mt. Washington and Pairpoint: American Glass from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties
This exhibition showcased the amazing works of Mt. Washington and its successor, the Pairpoint Corporation, one of America’s longest-running luxury glass companies (1837-1957). Constantly reinventing and re-invigorating its business through creativity in texture, decoration, pattern, and color, the companies developed a variety of styles and decorating techniques which were so technically complex that few are even practiced today.
The exhibition told the story of the companies as purveyors of innovative luxury items during the “%%Gilded%% Age,” a period of exuberant growth and prosperity in the United States. The exhibition featured more than 150 novel and creative glass styles from the 1880s to the 1930s including art glass, cut glass, kerosene and electric lamps, and highly decorative tableware.
Mt. Washington and Pairpoint glass rivaled Tiffany and Steuben in its heyday during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Characterized by innovation in style and technique, Mt. Washington’s art glass was highly successful commercially and helped cement the company as a leader in American %%art glass%%.
Mt. Washington’s lighting business, including gas chandeliers and decorated %%art glass%% and %%cut%% glass kerosene lamps, was central to their success in the late 19th century. With the invention of the light bulb and the rise of electricity, Pairpoint’s new and visually %%striking%% Electroliers became popular showcases for electric lighting and remained so for nearly thirty years. In the decade prior to the Great Depression, Pairpoint expanded its market offerings with highly-decorative tableware and lighting made of both colored and colorless transparent glass.
Mt. Washington and Pairpoint Style Guide
Sicilian Glass (also known as Lava Glass)
Manufactured 1878 – 1880
Volcanic lava, supposedly from Mt. Etna in Sicily, was only a minor ingredient of this glass, but gave it its name. The objects have abstract colored and gilt decoration that was very unusual for the time.
Manufactured 1885 – 1895
Burmese is translucent glass that gradually shades from canary yellow at the bottom of the piece to salmon near the top. Some are plain and others have applied decoration. Shown here is the “Lace Embroidery, Queens Pattern.”
Peach Blow glass shifts from slightly bluish white at the bottom to bluish pink at the top. The surface was sometimes left in its natural glossy state, but most pieces received an acid treatment to produce a plush finish. Many include decoration, like the “Lace Embroidery, Queens Pattern” shown here.
Cameo glass, inspired by ancient examples found in archaeological excavations, was popular in the late 19th century. Like other manufacturers of the time, Mt. Washington used acid to cut back the outer color to leave the design in relief.
The designs of Coraline glass resemble branches of natural coral. Mt. Washington was not the only company to make glass with this pattern; much Coraline glass was exported to the United States from Bohemia and England.