Our Featured Items for Sale on Etsy

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brief History of Dugan Glass, Its Relationship to Northwood Glass And Its Contributions to the American Carnival Glass Era

Dugan Glass, operating under that name only from 1904 to 1909 was in many ways a version of the related company, Northwood Glass. At one time or another, company principals and members of both the Northwood and Dugan families were involved in some combination of cooperation in the formation and operations of both companies. The Northwood and Dugan Glass companies could trace their common heritage back to the Hobbs-Bruckunier plant for which both Harry Northwood and Thomas Dugan worked as glass etchers.1

5 Hearts Footed Bowl in Marigold

Late 19th Century America was actively engaged in establishing its own glass industry, and this was mostly accomplished by importing European and English glass artisans to work in American factories. The principals of what would become the Northwood Glass Co. and Dugan Glass, Harry Northwood and Thomas Dugan were cousins who lived, trained and became glass-making masters in the same region of England. At the urging of friends already living in the U.S., and motivated by the potential for becoming wealthy, they emigrated to America within a year of each other and right away found lucrative work in the glass industry. Northwood briefly worked for the National Glass Co., and Dugan for Hobbs Bruckmier of Wheeling W. Va.

In 1896, Harry Northwood and Samuel Dugan (Thomas' father) formed Northwood Glass Co., the first of four factories that would bear the Northwood name (the last plant closed in 1925, seven years after Harry's death). Thomas Dugan and his sons all worked for Northwood at one time or another before setting out on other pursuits.

Dugan Opalescent Honeycomb Bowl
From 1900 to 1903, the Northwood Glass Company founded by Harry was taken over by Thomas who changed the name to National Glass Co. This venture was operated jointly by Harry Barstow and Thomas A. Dugan. In 1904, under Thomas' sole management, the name changed again to Dugan Glass Co., and a 'Diamond D' glass mark was introduced which appeared on just a few of the pieces being produced (mostly on the company's carnival glass). In 1913, due to another significant management change, Dugan Glass became The Diamond Glass Co., a name it would carry until its demise by fire in 1931.

Northwood Glass and Dugan Glass were well known for their popular iridized carnival glass, a process Harry had learned in England. Although 1908 is the year most frequently considered as the beginning of carnival glass production, and though Northwood Glass produced its own line of carnival from 1908 into the 1920's, journals from the time give a strong indication that Thomas Dugan was experimenting with the process as early as 1902 and his company, Dugan Glass began marketing their own carnival glass in 1905, making it the actual first company to mass produce it.

In a somewhat specious approach to marketing, Dugan Glass purported to make glass of such quality as to compete with Webb and Loetz. However, even though it was clearly nothing like the quality of the glass it sought to emulate, truth in advertising was not a principle to which companies strongly adhered in the late 19th Century. For example, surviving Dugan company brochures for vases advertised their glass as '...exact reproductions of expensive imported vases....'. Further, items listed in their catalogs were often described as 'Japanese', 'Pompeian', or 'Venetian' in order to give their glass the cachet of fine European crystal. Interestingly, catalogs from one year to the next revealed the inconsistency of these claims, as items previously shown as 'Japanese' for example in the 1905 catalog, were called 'Pompeian' in the 1906 catalog. Clearly, the terms were relative and used only for their perceptive value for implying European or Asian origins.

Because of the various permutations in the relationships between family members, managers and owners, the Northwood Glass, Dugan Glass and later the Diamond Glass companies are tightly woven together in the tapestry of late 19th and early 20th Century American glass-making history. Each man had worked for one or been a venture partner in one or the other of the companies. This is particularly true for cousins Northwood and Dugan as they shared processes and worked so closely together that even molds between their factories were often the same. For that reason, it can be easy for collectors today to mistake a piece of Dugan for Northwood and the other way around. One clue when viewing a piece from that time is to look for a Northwood Glass mark. Almost all Northwood had a mark, but early Dugan, almost never. Only after 1913, when Dugan Glass became the Diamond Glass Company, did most pieces bear the 'Diamond D' mark. Further, because there was a major change in the company's management right in the middle of the carnival glass production era, Thomas Dugan's influence in respect to design and quality control was evident for just a portion of the company's output. The glass produced under his management from 1909 to 1913 was substantially different in pattern design, color and iridescent quality from that made during the 1913 to 1931 period, making Diamond Glass pieces much easier to discern from Dugan Glass items. However, the Dugan era glass is considered to be of better iridescence and design quality.

Dugan Glass, Fenton Glass, and Northwood Glass were among the big players in late 19th Century glass production. But it was Harry Northwood and Thomas Dugan and Dugan's sons that brought true artistry and stable processing methods to the American Glass Industry. Thomas Dugan's story is particularly compelling and his early 1902 contributions alone can arguably be considered the true beginning of the carnival glass period in America.

1Dugan & Diamond Carnival Glass, Carl O. Burns, copyright 1999, Collector Books

© David Simons, January 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment