- Fenton was a glass decorating company first, and then began producing its own glassware lines in 1905.
- Mimicking the iridescent wares of Tiffany and Stuben in the early 1900s, Fenton made the first pieces we now know as “carnival” glass.
- Fenton’s milk glass lines were very popular during the 1950s, making them collectible but not extremely valuable today. Some of the company’s “crest” lines, especially Ebony Crest pieces, can bring higher prices as do some of Fenton’s earlier wares.
- Fenton has produced some of their lines for many years. While the newer pieces aren’t technically reproductions, they aren’t “antiques” either. Items made after 1973 will bear a raised Fenton mark in the glass.
This Williamstown, W. Va. firm got its start as a glass decorating company in 1905 painting decorations on blanks made by other manufacturers. As demand for the company's wares increased, they began to produce their own glassware lines in 1907.
During their early years, Fenton found inspiration through the designs of glass masters Tiffany and Steuben. As a result, they introduced iridescent glass collectors now know as "carnival" glass. Fenton went on to produce over 130 patterns of this popular glassware, according to Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide.
Over the years they also manufactured custard, chocolate, opalescent, and stretch glass among others. And, to keep the factory running during the lean depression and World War II years, they made utilitarian items such as mixing bowls and juice reamers.
In the late '40s when many glass companies were going out of business, Fenton remained at the top through the dedication of family members running the business. By 1986, a third generation of Fentons took charge of the company and continue to make glassware collected around the world.
Hobnail, Ruffles and Crests
The popularity of milk glass in the early '50s led the company to develop a line of white hobnail glass. It was so well-liked during this time, they could count on it as a sure seller for many years to come. Now, while these pieces remain collectible, they are usually reasonably priced on the secondary market.
The unique ruffles edges found on many Fenton wares lent themselves perfectly to the creation of their "Crest" lines. Opaque glass was used to form the base of these items while a clear or colored border around the ruffled edge added a touch of interest. Pieces with a clear ruffle were named "Silver Crest," while those with a bright green border were called "Emerald Crest." Other colors applied in the same fashion are popular with collectors including the "Snow Crest" and “Ebony Crest” pieces with reversed effect along the edges in opaque white or black.
Fenton’s Marks and Lack Thereof
Many of their newer creations made since 1973 are already very collectible. These pieces are marked with an oval shaped raised logo Fenton molded directly into the glass. The pieces produced before 1973 were marked with various stick-on paper labels which usually wore away with cleaning and handling.
The Fenton Art Glass Company website suggests researching these older items using their Fenton history books available through Fenton dealers or by mail order on their site. These references include a variety of pieces so users can match up the items they currently own with pictures shown in the books. Once a piece is identified, then research can be done to obtain value and assess the popularity of that particular item in terms of color, design and decoration. A number of other books on Fenton are also available through online booksellers, including several excellent reference guides authored by Margaret and Kenn Whitmyer.