Vintage Glassware: Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass

I had to share my latest find. I've yet to be able to date the piece or prove that it's Fenton, but I enjoy it all the same.

I have a deep love of the glasswork and pottery that came out of the Midwest in the 1930's, 40's and 50's. Names like Hall, Fenton, McCoy are an example of beautiful craftsmanship and the ability to adapt to changing markets in order to keep their markets alive.

But to me, these glassware and pottery also symbolize what was changing at that time in America. Frank Fenton and his brother John started the Fenton company in Martin's Ferry, Ohio in 1905. In the early years they were focused on painting the glass that was being produced by local glassmakers in their area. This was the direct influence of makers such as Tiffany who were producing beautiful upscale pieces for more upscale markets. The Fenton brothers decided early on that they wanted to produce their own glass and by 1907 they had moved to a factory in Williamstown, WV and were producing the wonderfully vibrant Carnival Glass. The iridescent tones to these are breathtaking. They also produced chocolate and golden agate glass, also highly prized.

By WWII things had changed considerably for the market. There was a need for more utilitarian pieces. Most of the glassmakers and potters had turned their factories to producing household items for a wider market. Fenton made mixing bowls, glasses and in 1935 they began producing Hobnail, or Milk glass. Milk glass was not a new item. It had been around long before that, but for Fenton it helped set them as one of the most respected glassmakers of this era. That classic "bumpy" glass with a basket edge is very classic and high collectible today. By the 1950's, Hobnail Milk glass had become one of biggest sellers for the company.

In the 1970's Fenton began adding their logo to the glass. Trying to date anything before that can be difficult. The Fenton website has a great amount of information available for those that are looking to date their pieces. It's an incredible resource. There are also a host of groups for anyone interested in collecting.

As of 2011, Fenton no longer makes tradition glassware, instead focusing on glass beads. They initially thought to close production in around 2011, but their plans to scale back caused a buying frenzy that kept the company producing for several more years.
Hobnail continues to be a glass that can be collected by a new collector. There are pieces still available out there. The above vase that I bought? A thrift store find. But I'm very happy with my acquisition. In fact, it inspired me to pull out the rest of my glassware. 
Looking for me? I'll be digging through cupboards for awhile. Enjoy!

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