Glass Discussion & Research. NO IDENTIFICATION REQUESTS here please. > New Zealand & Australia Glass

What constitutes proof, with specific reference to Australia

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There’s an awful lot to respond to here, so I’ll divide my message into two basic topics:

1. The broad question that Cathy posed - “what sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?”

2. Cathy’s main area of concern - did Crown Crystal sell other manufacturer’s glass?

(Warning - my ramblings do go on - readers may feel the need of a strong coffee before embarking on it all).

What sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?

That’s the sort of question that is so fundamental, yet so impossibly hard to answer, that it stops you in your tracks. I can only give you my personal opinion on this, and frankly I guess there are probably more shades of opinion on the issue than there are varieties of Starbucks’ beverages!

So I’ll stick my head above the parapet and start waffling. Please note this is my opinion only.

I don’t think there is a perfect answer to the question. There isn’t a set of rules that governs glass research. For each individual, the answer might be different. One person may be easily satisfied and convinced while another may need reams of proof. Some Doubting Thomases may need more proof than is ever possible to achieve.

For my own purposes however, I would say that a range of things need to be in place before one can state that a piece of glass is definitely made by a company (please note that I have deliberately left out the words “for certain”).

For a start, a catalog entry is a good thing to have. There’s nothing quite so comforting as seeing the piece you are searching for in black and white inside a manufacturer’s catalog. Surely that clinches the entire matter? If you have a catalog illustration of your piece inside the pages of a catalog then that’s it. What more do you need? Whoah! Stop. It means no such thing. It doesn’t clinch it at all. Glass manufacturers plagiarised designs like crazy. If something sold well, then hey, it got copied. It’s happened all over the world. It’s still happening today.

Not only did designs get copied, but moulds also got sold from one factory to another. And then just to confuse the situation further, some big mould shops made moulds for more than one factory. You want more confusion? Some manufacturers made moulds for other companies in virtually identical patterns to ones that they produced themselves. You want more confusion? Some companies sold glass made by other companies too.

So let’s get back to that original question - “what sort of proof is acceptable before one can state, for certain, that a piece of glass is definitely made by a particular company?” Well, I guess I’d say you’d need more than just a catalog entry, based on what I’ve just been saying. What I would also be looking for would be a range of circumstantial evidence. For example:

Signature Characteristics of the glass itself
Most makers have tell-tale characteristics evident in the glass they make. Colors, for example. Some factories used colors that are typical of them. Or the finish - Josef Inwald, for example, had polished bases that are as good as a fingerprint for me. Trademarks are useful too.

Location of “finds”
Not concrete evidence, but another little bit to add to the big picture. Some makers are known to have exported significantly to certain areas and hardly at all to other zones.

Other Stuff
Such as archive letters and order forms, blue-prints, patents, wholesale catalogs, contemporary ads and trade articles etc. Logic, argument and rationale can help too.

These are just a few of the things that would help to back up other evidence. But as for proof - full, final and absolute proof - that’s a bit trickier to attain when you’re talking about old glass. Here’s a scenario that might illustrate what I’m trying to say:

In Carnival Glass, the Grape & Cable pattern was made by two manufacturers, Northwood and Fenton. There are records: in particular we have archive ads in the form of Butler Brother’s catalogs, that confirm the pattern was made by these two manufacturers. Circumstantial evidence supports it all fully, even down to the signature colors, shapes and characteristic finishing done by these two makers. Now let’s say our mystery piece is a pie crust edge, Grape & Cable marigold bowl with a moulded N mark, found in the USA. All the evidence supports Northwood as the maker. The pattern, the signature pie crust edging, the N trademark, the location of the “find”. It all adds up. It’s got to be Northwood. Right? Well, not necessarily. It could quite easily be a fake - a modern far eastern repro. The fly in the ointment that has been the undoing of many a collector’s wallet. All the supposed “proof” is there, yet only experience will tell you if you have a fake or a repro.

So, even when you think you’ve sealed it up with as much “proof” as you can muster, there is still room for doubt, which is why I (personally) feel that it’s never going to be absolutely, 100% possible, to establish a set of accepted rules on which to base full and final proof, in every case. Sometimes we have to go with “maybe” and “probably”. Show the evidence, stack it up and present it, make your case and stick your neck out. Time may prove the evidence to be flawed in some way - but so what? That’s what research is all about. Every step is a step forward in some way. Don’t be afraid to be wrong.

Now for question 2.

Did Crown Crystal sell other manufacturer’s glass?

Now there’s a conundrum. In my opinion, yes they did. But let me qualify this please. I’m no expert on Crown Crystal. I haven’t had the opportunity that Cathy has to study on the spot (so to speak). My interests and first hand experience of their glass is primarily their fabulous Carnival (and it is amazing, glorious and totally unique stuff - magical - I adore it). I have studied their catalogs from the early 1930s and my comments are based on that - and my knowledge of other glass producers around that time.

And stop a moment, when I say that I think they sold other manufacturer’s glass, I am not suggesting that they didn’t make gigantic quantities of their own glass too. But what it seems to me is that they had, in their items on offer, a few examples of other makers’ glass too.

And stop again, please. I reckon that Cathy is right on when she says that she believes Crown Crystal plagiarised other designs and produced look-alikes themselves. Absolutely. It makes total and complete sense to me. They spotted a good seller in a simple and easy-to-copy pattern, so they made a look-alike mould and churned out the stuff themselves. It happened all the time in other factories in other countries. Frankly, a study of some of the European catalogs in the 1930s will leave you dizzy with “I’ve seen that pattern before” fever.

So I guess that now I need to clarify exactly what I mean when I say that I think Crown Crystal did sell some other manufacturers’ glass. Well, I reckon that there are a few items in their catalogs that they tucked in - here and there - that were not made by them. These would be items that they got in bulk, very cheaply. One example is the Rising Sun covered sugar. I can’t imagine for a moment why Crown Crystal would go to the vast expense of making a highly complex, multi-part mould, with three handles and a lid, in an intricate, multi-faceted, geometric design - when they could buy the actual glass goods at rock bottom price. Not only do the economics not stack up, the look and style of the glass doesn’t either.

The identical item was made in a full pattern suite by the United States Glass conglomerate in the USA. It was exported around the world. It was made in huge quantities and sold to hotels. In the 1930s, Australia was importing sufficient amounts of American made glass to be able to give the stuff away as freebies with tea. So why on earth would Crown Crystal want to make their own mould for a Rising Sun three handled sugar when they could buy the glass for next to nothing?

There are other items (not many, just a few, here and there) that I believe were also bought in and sold on. Surely, if they could make an extra bit of profit easily, they would do just that? But to set the record straight, I can see Cathy’s point of view fully, when she says that she believes that Crown Crystal also did their own version of several popular patterns. It seems to me that they did a bit of everything. They made their own fabulous originals (in the case of the Carnival examples, these are often marked with a press-moulded RD number), they copied some best-sellers (as did mostly every other company in one way or another) and they also tucked a few bits of other makers’ glass in there too. They were like pretty much every other company - they needed to make money.

So that’s my point of view. Sticking my neck out again.  :lol: Reckon I need that double tall latte now.


Thanks to Glen for her reply!

I think perhaps I should explain why I am so caught in this subject. Within Australia, there has been an orthodox belief within the collecting community that Crown Crystal never plaigerised patterns. Ever. So any pattern that is found within the catalogues which bears a faint resemblance to anything found in overseas catalogues has been deemed to be foreign, not collected and therefore of no interest.

It can be terribly frustrating battering against such a collective closed mind! Iris and Herringbone is apparently Jeanette, full Jeanette and nothing but Jeanette. Anything which appears not in a suite of patterns is "probably Czech". Even shown as-close-as-possible to absolute proof otherwise (and proof that the moulds were made is fairly good!) I have been told "No, that's English."

I had infact mis-read Glen's original comments to mean she was of the same mindset, and hope she excuses the libel!

I don't think I can add to Glen's criteria for "proof". It would be interesting to see whether anyone else had any feelings. Perhaps examples of pitfalls or mistakes?

For me, this is criteria to cover your tail, so that you are not shot down for an embarrassing oversight after your name is in print.  If you are going to make an error, at least let it be a defensible one!

As for the rising sun pattern, I agree entirely. I've never seen anything in the pattern look remotely like Australian glass, unlike the Wyoming pattern. Half the time it's stained, and as far as I'm aware Crown never stained their glass (apart from their ceramic coating). It's also clear, heavy, and frankly much nicer glass than Crown's normal, run of the mill stuff.


Cathy B:
That last post was genuinely me. I was logged in, I swear it!  
...notice board bugs...mutter, grumble... :evil:


--- Quote from: "Anonymous" ---
"... there has been an orthodox belief within the collecting community that Crown Crystal never plagiarised patterns. Ever....."
--- End quote ---

Whoaaaaah!  THAT would be a first!

Thanks for your reply, Cathy.

You mentioned the way in which some patterns that are shown in the Crown Crystal catalogs are often vaguely attributed as “probably Czech” or “English”. Oh how well I know that scenario with regard to Carnival Glass.  :roll: For many years, anything that wasn’t easily identified, was dismissed with a wave of the hand as being “foreign” or (and I loved this one) “English”.

Steve (my husband) and I once gave an illustrated lecture to a Carnival audience that was called “It must be English”. In the talk we showed many pieces that had been listed (in books) as “English”. They included a whole host of items from the German maker, Brockwitz, as well as glass from Eda in Sweden, Riihimaki in Finland, Inwald and Rindskopf in Czechoslovakia plus a bunch of stuff from India.

The audience loved it! :lol:

And now I’m going to go against previous advice given in this thread, and urge you to neither calm down nor to have patience. Some of us are born to take things in their stride and handle things with quiet calm. Others, like me, on the other hand, get fired up, emotional and passionate!  :twisted: And from what I can glean of your character, you’re rather a lot like me.

I was once accused of being obsessed with glass (not all glass, you understand - just Carnival Glass) and I actually took it as a compliment, though it wasn’t meant that way (the “lady” who spat the comment at me isn’t a glass collector). For me, the endless hours spent staring at documents, comparing glass and travelling around the world to source examples and information, are the very stuff of obsession! And ain’t it great?

So go for it Cathy. Get fired up, allow a little obsession into your life and enjoy it.


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