The intent of this column, and those to follow, is to educate the reader about old and new Fenton Art Glass. Fenton has been in business since 1905, and started producing their own glassware in 1907. While many hand made glassware companies (Patten City, Heisey, Imperial, Westmoreland, etc.) have closed their doors forever, Fenton is still producing high quality glassware in 1996-97 with the outlook being very good for years to come.
You may ask why it is important to learn about Fenton, since their glassware is marked with an embossed logo which is shaped like this:
Fenton started marking their glassware with an embossed logo in 1970 with the reintroduction of carnival (iridescent) glass. That leaves 63 years of handmade glass production that wasn't marked except for some stick-on paper labels. The only way to recognize the older Fenton is by mold shape, color, plus research books and materials.
Some newer Fenton Glassware production doesn't have the Fenton embossed logo either, since it was produced for other companies and those companies, such as L.G. Wright owned their own molds but didn't produce glassware. They had different companies such as Fenton make glassware for them to their specifications which included no embossed logo. Even with newer glassware, it is important to know mold shapes, colors, plus other research data. Or you could say: "learn - learn - learn!"
Small Collections from the 1950's.
A small collection can be formed from just about any decade when it comes to Fenton Art Glass. It has been made in an amazing spectrum of colors through the years, and the company is still adding to that color spectrum today.
Not only does Fenton decorate their own glasware today with a superb decorating department (Handpainted by Fenton), but since mid-1968 has been doing the same. For a period of time (late 1930's thru mid-68), Fenton didn't have a decorating department, but other companies bought Fenton "blanks" to add their own decorations. Since Fenton's return to "decorating", the department has worked continously with a steady stream of new ideas/techniques.
In the past, the company sold blanks to such companies as Abels, Wasserburg & Company of NY, who then added their own decorations. In the case of Abels, a decorating line was established which is known today as the Charleton Line.
Note that decorated Fenton items from other companies, but not Abels, which are similar to the Charleton Line are what this author calls Charleton Line Type Decoration.
But at this point, we should back up a little because we don't want to get into Fenton's future, but into their past, specifically the 1950's.
Around 1950 Fenton bought molds from Paden City Glass when they went out of business. These molds were some of the first molds that Fenton purchased from another company. Not only does Fenton have their own mold department producing their own creations, but they also repair and alter molds.
Now that we are back in the correct time frame, we'll start with one small collection from the 1950's, and in my next column, will present two more possible small collections from the 1950's that are quite desirable.
The Jamestown Family
There are four colors that make up the Jamestown Family. The common bond between them is they share the same basic color formula.
There is Jamestown Blue (cased glass - two layers of glass) which has an inner layer of white, and an outer layer of blue. It is called JB (color code).
Next you have the "loner" of the family called Jamestown Blue w/Milk Glass. There is only one item that was made in this color and that is the Footed Ivy Ball which has a milk glass base w/a transparent Jamestown Blue Ivy Ball at the top. The item number for this piece is #1021 with a color code of JM.
Next is Jamestown Blue Transparent which is minus any inner or outer layer of white glass. We call it JT (color code). Most of the JT items made for Fenton's regular line were made using a spot mold before being finished in the final mold (2nd mold used) shape. The pattern that the spot mold made on the finished item is called "Polka Dot Optic".
Finally you come to the mixed up part of the family that is called Silver Jamestown, code name SJ. You may well ask why are they "mixed up?"
To put it simply, five members wear an outer coat (layer of glass) of white, but two nonconformists wear an outer coat of blue. (Outer White/Inner Blue for five items -- Outer Blue/Inner White for two items).
SJ is a cased glass and all seven Silver Jamestown items wear their silver wraps (spun edge of clear glass).
What follows is a detailed breakdown of each branch of the family except for the loner (JM) who we will leave to its own isolation. Any one of these three small groups would make a great small collection, and of course, you could collect the entire Jamestown Family.
If you counted, you will note there are 27 members in the Jamestown Family (items in Fenton's regular line), but there are also "cousins" (samples made for other companies, etc.) If you find an example of all 27 items in the regular Jamestown line, you would have a wonderful small collection. If you add all the samples, you could end up with a large collection of very desirable pieces of Fenton Art Glass.
In my next column, I'll cover Fenton's Swirl Pattern and more. In the meantime, Happy Hunting!
Bruce L. Tetrault is the Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary for the Fenton Finders of New England, a chartered chapter of Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America. He and his wife Eva (President of the Fenton Finders) are recognized as major Fenton collectors and have been buying actively on the secondary market around New England for years. They have over a thousand Fenton items in their personal collection and stock over 500 additional Fenton items for resale. He can be contacted by writing RFD #3, Box 174-H, Ellsworth ME 04605.