Collector's Corner: The Cubic Triad, or, 'Do I really have a piece of Fostoria American?'
By Toby Aulman
Fostoria Glass Co. produced high-quality elegant glass tableware for nearly 100 years. Founded in 1887 in Fostoria, Ohio, they moved to Moundsville, West Virginia, in 1892. Today many of their pattern lines are highly sought after by collectors.
Line number 2056, American, was Fostoria Glass Co.'s most successful pattern, produced continuously from its introduction in 1915 until the Moundsville, West Virginia, plant closed in 1986. It is also one of the most misidentified patterns by both buyers and sellers.
Like anything that is extremely successful, American has spawned lookalikes and wannabes. The two pattern lines that cause the greatest confusion are Cube, a.k.a. Cubist, by Jeannette Glass Co. and Whitehall by Indiana Glass Co. While remarkably similar at first glance, there are differences to look for that will help you tell the patterns apart.
Jeannette vs. American: Let Color Be Your Guide Since Fostoria made relatively little American in colors, it is best to assume a colored item is either Whitehall or Cube until proven otherwise. Jeannette's Cube is a Depression Era pattern, produced from 1929 to 1933, and was made primarily in pink and green. Jeannette made a few Cube items in crystal and other colors. Most of these are relatively scarce with the exception of the individual creamer & sugar set that was later produced in crystal for a much longer period and are quite abundant. You can identify these by the much sharper turn of the handles that almost come to a point. http://www.auctionbytes.com/images/cubeset.jpg A round two-handled tray goes with this set.
This same creamer and sugar is also common in milk glass, but these were not made by Jeannette. Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. either borrowed or purchased some of the moulds and produced these. Some even bear the familiar H straddling A mark on the bottom.
Jeannette's pink tends to have a bit of an orange hue, and the "depression green" color is not found in American or Whitehall. For that reason, color is your best clue that you have a piece of Jeannette Cube. Cube is a relatively small line of just over 20 items and is well documented. Once you suspect you have a piece of Cube, a quick check in most any Depression Glass reference will confirm or deny your diagnosis.
Whitehall vs. American: 7 Tips
Indiana's Whitehall was introduced in the mid-1950s. It has been made in a wide variety of colors, and some pieces are still in production today. In addition to the Indiana Glass label, Whitehall was also sold under the Colony Glass(a) trade name. Unlike Jeannette's Cube, Whitehall is poorly documented, is a rather extensive line, and is abundant in crystal, so other methods must be employed to tell Whitehall apart from American.
1) The most reliable method is the black light test. Fostoria's crystal American(b) will glow a very pale yellow when exposed to black light in a darkened room. Whitehall will not.
2) Examine the clarity of the glass: it should be clear with a smooth surface. Fostoria fire-polished each piece. Indiana Glass doesn't, so a wavy or rough surface or cloudy glass is a good indication you have Whitehall.
3) Look at the bottom of horizontal pieces, plates, bowls, etc. If the base ring, where the item rests on the table, has been ground flat, you have American.
4) Handles on most Fostoria pitchers and jugs (all those with C shape handles) will attach at the very top edge of the pitcher. Corresponding Whitehall pitchers will have handles that attach an inch or so down the side. ( http://www.auctionbytes.com/images/whitehallpitcher.jpg)
5) For footed pieces, such as 3-toed tidbits, bon-bons, or fruit bowls, check the shape of the feet (toes). Feet on American pieces will have flat vertical sides with a front and back that is slightly s-shaped. Whitehall feet have an octagonal tapered peg shape. http://www.auctionbytes.com/images/americanbowl.jpg
6) Vertical pieces of American, goblets, tumblers, vases, etc. tend to have more curve to their profile and flare at the top. Corresponding Whitehall pieces are more straight sided with little or no flare.
7) Most American pieces will have 3 or more mould seams. Whitehall, due to the simpler, straighter overall shapes, will usually have only two seams.
Only the black-light test can be applied to all crystal items, and that isn't always possible or practical. The best solution, if you plan on buying or selling much Fostoria American, is to educate yourself. Get a good reference book and study the shapes. I highly recommend the works by the mother/daughter team of Milbra Long & Emily Seate(c). It is also helpful to visit antique shops and handle pieces that you know are Fostoria's American. I'll bet you'll also find a few pieces of Whitehall mis-labeled as American.
I'll conclude with one absolute fact that you can take to the bank. All avocado pieces are Indiana's Whitehall.
a) Lancaster Lens Co. purchased Indiana Glass Co. in 1957 and at that time changed their name to Lancaster Glass Co. In 1962, Lancaster Glass Co. merged with several other companies and became Lancaster Colony Corp., the "Colony" part of the name coming from the Colony Glass trade name.
b) Lancaster Colony Corp. purchased Fostoria Glass Co. in 1983. Several years after the 1986 closure of the Fostoria factory, Lancaster contracted with Dalzell-Viking Glass Co. to produce selected American items from Fostoria's moulds. This production continued until Dalzell-Viking closed in 1998. All ruby pieces of American are from this later production. These Dalzell-Viking pieces of American are of better quality than Indiana's Whitehall, but are not up to Fostoria's standards. These later crystal pieces by Dalzell-Viking do not glow under black light.
c) Reviews of Long & Seate's books as well as other glass references can be found at http://www.abzoid.com/glassbooks/
About the author:
Toby Aulman is a "student of glass", who enjoys researching glass as much as he does hunting for and finding glass treasures. He collects late Victorian Era blue opalescent glass. His primary area of study is American pressed patterns from the last 100 years, with an emphasis on poorly documented patterns from the 1940's to 1970's http://www.PixClix.com/glassproject/. When not buying, selling, or studying glass he works from home as a Web Developer http://www.abzoid.com. Toby also moderates the AuctionBytes Glass Forum.
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