A History of Tiffin Glass
In July 1888, it was announced that the A. J. Beatty & Sons glass factory of Steubenville, Ohio, would be relocating to Tiffin, Ohio. A. J. Beatty had been negotiating with various communities for more than a year to establish a site for the new factory. The city of Tiffin offered five years of natural gas, $35,000 in cash, and land valued at $15,000. Construction of a three-furnace glass factory at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Vine Street began in September 1888, and operations commenced on August 15, 1889. Early production capacity was reported to be 500,000 pressed tumblers per week.
A. J. Beatty & Sons merged with the United States Glass Company on January 1, 1892, and became one of nineteen factories of the large corporation. The Tiffin factory was designated Factory R. On May 23, 1893, less than two years later, Factory R was destroyed by fire. The factory was rebuilt in Tiffin in return for two additional years of free natural gas.
During the early years of the 1900s, there was a gradual shift from pressed to blown tableware, in response to customers’ demands. A paper label identified the glass items with the letters USG intertwined within a gold-colored shield. Commercial ware continued to be marketed under the United States Glass Company name until September 1927. After that time, household goods were identified by a gold paper label with TIFFIN superimposed on a large “T” within a shield.
While other factories within the United States Glass Company were forced to close during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Factory R managed to survive. In June 1938, the offices of the United States Glass Company were transferred from Pittsburgh to Tiffin with C. W. Carlson as President. By 1940, all glassware was marked with a Tiffin label; however, the official name of the company remained the United States Glass Company through 1962.
In the 1940s, three major changes took place in the use of tableware by the American public, resulting in these transitons: Crystal stemware regained its popularity over colored stemware; fewer items were produced in each stemline; and to a large degree, china replaced the use of glass tableware for table settings.
Although the focus of Tiffin’s production continued to be stemware, a new line of modern designs contributed to the prosperity of the Tiffin factory. In 1940, Mr. Carlson introduced the Swedish Modern line, consisting of heavy off-hand shapes. The Swedish Modern name was changed to Tiffin Modern in May 1946, to clarify that the glassware was American made. Interest in Tiffin Modern free-form designs continued into the 1960s.
The purchase of numerous Duncan and Miller Glass Company molds and equipment occurred in 1955. Several popular Duncan patterns were produced by the Tiffin and Glassport factories from 1956 until the closing of the Tiffin facility in 1980.
In 1958, serious financial difficulties arose within the corporation, resulting in the sale of the assets to a New York investment firm. Business conditions did not improve and a second sale took place in March 1961 to Brilhart Plastics Corporation of Mineola, New York. In 1962, bankruptcy occurred; however, the Tiffin factory remained open until early 1963. In that year, four former employees – Paul Williams, C. W. Carlson Jr., Ellsworth Beebe, and Bea Platt – bought the plant and renamed it the Tiffin Art Glass Company. Incorporation took place on May 1, 1963. The start-up date for the new Tiffin venture was September 16, 1963. This transaction marked the end of the United States Glass Company. A great loss was incurred on August 3, 1963, when the Glassport factory was destroyed by a tornado. Nevertheless, business improved with $2,000,000 in annual sales.
On June 4, 1966, the company was sold again, this time to a major corporation, the Continental Can Company, in exchange for 6,462 shares of Continental common stock. The company was renamed the Tiffin Glass Company, Inc. During these years, stemware remained the major focus of production, with blown and pressed ware also manufactured.
The factory changed hands again when it was purchased in December 1968 by another large corporation, Interpace, the parent company of Franciscan, Shenango, and Mayer China companies. It continued to be known as the Tiffin Glass Company; but, in addition to using the gold Tiffin shield sticker, Interpace began to use a paper label, “Franciscan Crystal,” which they placed on selected stemware lines in May 1969. This practice continued for two years. Interpace introduced several new stemware lines to coordinate with their china dinnerware patterns: Jubilation, Canterbury II, Flambeau, Revelation, Madeira, and Cabaret.
The Tiffin factory furnished a variety of stemware patterns to numerous companies for private distribution. As early as 1930, Tiffin was providing tableware to the Sears and Roebuck, and Montgomery-Ward companies, and they continued to provide stemware to various retail outlets through the 1970s. Among these companies were Tiffany’s, Macy’s, Colony House, Royal Medallion, Nancy Prentiss, American Manor, and Reynolds Crystal. American Manor and Reynolds Crystal were subsidiaries of Interpace Corp., parent company of Tiffin Glass, 1969-1979. During this ten-year period, stemware in several new colors was introduced to coordinate with Interpace’s Shenango China.
On May 19, 1979, the factory was sold for the last time to Towle Silversmiths and operated as Tiffin Crystal, a division of Towle Silversmiths. The furnaces were shut down on May 1, 1980, the date considered by collectors to be the end of the Tiffin Glass Company. The Outlet Store and a decorating shop remained open until October 1984, when the facility permanently closed. Towle later donated the factory and land to the city of Tiffin in exchange for a $1.1 million tax write-off. The city offered the property free to any company that would bring 100 jobs into the city. Unable to find a tenant, the city demolished part of the factory in late December 1985, and January 1986. Towle continued to sell Tiffin Glass stemware via mail order, including the popular pattern Palais Versailles, through at least 1990.
After production had ceased in 1980, the molds were dispersed and Russell Voglesong of Summit Art Glass Company of Ravenna, Ohio, acquired the Tiffin shield trademark mold. The Tiffin Glass Collectors Club subsequently purchased this mold in 1991. To date, the logo has been reproduced in five colors: pink, cobalt blue, red, plum, green and yellow (vaseline), some with satin or iridized finishes.
Over the years, Tiffin Glass products were identified by means of various paper labels; this mark was used intermittently through the 1970s. Also during the 1970s, some products were marked by the application of an acid stamp of the Tiffin shield trademark.
-History courtesy of the book ’40s, ’50s & ’60s Stemware by Tiffin by Ed Goshe, Ruth Hemminger, and Leslie Pina