The announcement in 1998 of Dalzell-Viking's demise ended a century of glassmaking tradition... but started collectors' appreciation for Viking's colorful molded glass.
Successor to the venerable New Martinsville Glass Co. (which went bankrupt in 1937), the firm was renamed Viking by new owner G.R. Cummings in 1944. He anticipated that Scandinavian modern design would sweep the art glass industry, leading him to abandon New Martinsville's conservative crystal wares in favor of brightly colored glass.
Asymmetrical pulls, gracefully long swooping curves and new techniques like crackling typified the radically changed lines. Cumming's astute read of home fashion trends propelled Viking and it Rainbow Glass subsidiary (1954-1972) to great success in the post-war era, and both firms' work was featured in Corning Glass Museum's prestigious Glass 1959 exhibition.
Elmer Miller, a holdover who jointed the firm in 1923, took the new styles and became the firm's leading modern era designer. Viking's lines emphasized the process of shaping molten glass. Long 'pulls' that tapered into elegant spouts and twisted handles gave the illusion that the finished product was still in fluid form.
By the '60s, the firm's Epic line was made in a distinctive range of designs, from their distinctive long tailed birds to lotus-shaped dishes and flame-sided vases that rivaled the popular Fostoria Heirloom line. Rainbow (which largely produced free-blown work, as opposed to Viking) features such diverse offerings as cranberry ivy balls, crackled mini-pitchers, and vases in both solid and mottled colors.
Epic continued through firm's "75th Anniversary" in 1975, with colors evolving from purple and teal to amberina, ruby, and smoke. Other '70s lines included glass mushrooms and fruit, animal paperweights with controlled bubbles and a spherical ashtray design evocative of art deco.
Foreign competition, changing tastes, high wage rates along the Ohio River and recession forced the firm's closure sometime in the early 180s. Former Fostoria president Kenneth Dalzell tried to revive the firm in 1987 as Dalzell-Viking, with traditional pressed patterns (such as pinwheel and star) in popular 1990s colors like magenta, deep red, cobalt and yellow. Several Fostoria molds were reintroduced as well. BUt the new lines couldn't compete with cheap imports and more luxurious handblown glass.
Viking and Rainbow are relative bargains for today's art glass collectors. Pieces bore sticker labels which are often gone, so knowledgeable buyers can often find undiscovered Viking pieces fairly easily. Pina's Popular 50s and 60s Glass offers photos and catalogue reprints can help. Dalzell pieces also bore paper labels; wise collectors are amassing pieces now, while their origins can still be identified.
Best of all, the sheer variety of colors and designs makes Viking
fun for glass collectors- whether pressed patterns, animal figures, or
fab '50s style piques your interest. -George A. Higby