Duncan Glass: "The Loveliest  Glass in America"
Duncan Canterbury BasketDuncan Miller Hobnail Salad PlateDuncan Heron FigurineDuncan Chanticleer Tumblers (Mold Borrowed from Lalique)




Duncan Glass was advertised as "the loveliest glass in America" and to this day it is till unequaled in brilliance.

At the close of the Civil War, George Duncan, an iron manufacturer, with his sons Harry and James established a glass factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the object of designing and producing fine glassware for table use.

Many of their original craftsmen were men whose families had been glassmakers in Europe. One of these, A.H. Heisey, married Duncan's daughter Susan, after a 30 year career with Duncan went on to form the Heisey company in 1895.

The company operated under the name of George Duncan and Sons from 1865 to 1877; George Duncan and Sons Company from 1877 to 1901; and finally the Duncan and Miller Glass Company from 1901 until the factory closed in 1955.

John Ernest Miller who later became Duncan's partner, started working in glass factories when he was only 10 years old. His career spanned 53 years, during which time he designed the Three Face pattern which brought him worldwide recognition in 1876 when it was awarded the Grand Prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. His wife, Elizabeth, was the model for the pattern.

In addition to the glassware created for table use, many whimseys in the shapes of hats, umbrellas, shoes, canes, hatchets, and other small pieces. The Hobnail pattern was especially popular for these novelties, marketed during the Duncan early era.

Ruby glass (called Ruby Flash by today's collectors) became popular line during this same period. The deep ruby red color was created by dissolving a 20 dollar gold piece in muriatic and nitric acid.

The government soon outlawed the practice of melting down gold coins and the glass companies soon turned to other methods of producing the red colors.

Engraved pieces were special ordered by the dozens for hotels, restaurants, and clubs as well as by individuals during Duncan's early era. By 1900 however, tastes were changing; very few engraved articles were produced after that date.

During W.W.II, Duncan and Miller turned out nearly a million adapter boosters which were attached to bomber tails. The company also made clay targets for the army and rockets for the navy, while at the same time their craftsmen continued to turn out fine glassware for the civilian population.

Duncan and Miller issued their last catalogue in 1953, featuring Early American Sandwich Glass, pattern #41 (which collectors have now simplified to Duncan Sandwich), Canterbury, Teardrop, and several other patterns. In 1955, they ceased operations altogether, and sold the plant which was destroyed by fire before being occupied by the new owner.

After its demise, Duncan molds and equipment were sold to US Glass in Tiffin, Ohio, and they produced a few pieces under the guidance of former Duncan employees.

Other companies also have produced a few items but they lack the brilliance of Duncan glass. Tiara manufactured Sandwich glass using a few of the Duncan molds, but the colors of these wares are entirely different than the Duncan originals.

We have been collecting Duncan glass for several years now and probably have over 500 pieces. It is a challenge to collect this lovely glass since Duncan rarely marked its products and collectors must rely on knowledge of shapes and colors.

We are fortunate to have two signed pieces in our collection; both ar Duncans No. 128 Sculptured Glass in Chrysanthemum design, one a 14 in flower bowl and the other a 16 inch plate. Both are signed DUNCAN GLASS in block letters in satin finish.

Most of Duncan's glass items were ground on the bottom. Duncan and Miller first introduced its colors in the following years:
1924 Green
1925 Amber
1926 Rose Pink
1931 Ebony Ruby and Royal Blue (dark)
1940s Opalescents: Pink, Cape Cod Blue, Jasmine, Yellow. Cranberry and Shell Pink were also mentioned.
1948 Opalescents: Chartreuse, Teakwood, Avocado, and Biscayne Green

Duncan and Miller swans are probably the most recognized creations in their line and are very popular and collectable today. They also produced many other exquisite figures of animals and birds.

Although Duncan glass is seldom marked, comparing it with other kinds (after you know the shapes and colors) will help you to identify the real thing. I still pick up Heisey and Pairpoint to examine, thinking I may have the Duncan piece. Usually, just holding the piece and contrasting it with the smoothness of Duncan glass tells me the difference.

Anyone interested in learning more about this glass might consider joining the Duncan Glass Club of Washington Pennsylvania, which publishes a quarterly paper containing interesting facts about Duncan glass. The club also maintains a museum with many fine pieces of glassware on exhibit.

There are a few good books that are a must for the serious collector; three are authored by Gail Krause: The Encyclopedia of Duncan Glass; Catalog No. 93, Hand-Made Duncan, a copy of the original 1953 catalogue with price updated; and The Years of Duncan 1865-1955.

Hazel Marie Weatherman has written a book called Colored Glassware of the Depression Era 2 which contains many pages of fine pictures with good detail in the Duncan section. This book covers a lot of companies but leaves the major companies to be covered by a second book.

Duncan glass is not only fun to collect but lovely to display. Many collectors feel it is indeed "the loveliest glass in America." -Jo Ann Wright
 
 

Duncan Miller Sandwich BasketDuncan Ruby SwanDuncan Miller Hobnail Opalescent Vase

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