Libbey Glass History

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Libbey glass is known to homeowners, those in the hospitality industry, and collectors all over the world. Whether you need a durable and attractive set of tumblers for your kitchen, a style that will grace a restaurant that seats four hundred, or a Tom Collins glass decorated with carousel horses to fill out a vintage set inherited from your grandmother, you may be about to buy something made by this well-known name, now the world's second largest manufacturer.

William L. Libbey bought a Cambridge, Massachusetts, glass works in 1878 and ten years later the family moved its operation to Toledo, where the sand was first quality and there were ample supplies of natural gas to fire its furnaces. The new location also had both railroads and steamships for transportation of raw materials and finished products such as water pitchers.

American products were competing with European imports, but with ingenuity and the high-quality sand of the New World, it gradually made a name for itself. In 1888 the Libbey family moved its glass works to Toledo, Ohio, to be close to the best sand and ample reserves of natural gas, which had replaced coal as the fuel to fire the furnaces.

The earliest products were cut and polished by hand, using iron or steel wheels to grind and expert craftsman to guide the process. Hand-blown blanks were replaced by molded and later shaped blanks. Subsequent innovations introduced machinery and acid baths to replace the hands-on processes. Mass production of more affordable products became the focus of the twentieth century. Many items were hand-painted, but this was discontinued after World War II.

Today the company is represented in all the major markets of the world, selling kitchenware, tableware for both private and public establishments, and decorative items. It distributes its products through mass merchandisers, specialty shops, and wholesale supply houses on several continents. It is a public company, traded on the stock market, and is still growing.

If you are interested in either learning more about historic brands of glassware or about the business side of this international company, go online to the manufacturer's own website. You will find its business profile, its mission statement and guarantees of quality, and career opportunities for those seeking employment with a dynamic world player. For information on this brand as a collectible, look for antique dealers' postings and the pages of collector's clubs and associations.

If you want vintage items - dating from the 1940s to the '70s - or the truly antique examples from the days of hand crafting, the internet is a great resource. There are informational sites as well as commercial ones, and this brand name is well-represented on auction sites. There are photo galleries and videos of exhibits and shows that will let you see items that range from glorious to whimsical. Prices run the gamut from affordable to 'Wow!'

 

Libbey glass can be a frosted tumbler, a tall glass decorated with a carousel horse, an exquisite punch bowl too heavy to carry, a water pitchers, or a set of utilitarian drinking glasses for your kitchen. Knowing the history of what you own or see in a shop, as well as the company's pride in its products, will make any item more appreciated, whether it is in your dishwasher or on a display shelf.

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