Red Glass - Beautiful Collecting

by Joyce Nichols
Volume 20 No. 7 - March 1994

Recently, one of the members of the City of Five Flags Depression Glass Club gave a most interesting program on RED GLASS. She loves any red glass - her display of Anchor Hocking Royal Ruby was spectacular. This was Georgeanne McDonald, who is a fifth grade teacher in the Pensacola Public Schools. Her research was so thorough and her delivery so exciting that she inspired me to write and share this program with you, the NDGA. So thanks to Georgeanne, here it is ...

There is a lot of fiction that surrounds the original making of ruby glass. One old time folk tale is that a glass maker threw or dropped gold coins into a batch of crystal glass. As if by magic the glass turned into a beautiful ruby color. The glass maker later lined his pockets with gold as the public clamored for more and more of the secretive ruby glass. Another folk tale from Cambridge says that a glass maker's gold ring fueled the miracle.

In the 1970 Journal of Glass Studies, R. B Newton set out to prove or disprove these accounts of ruby glass making. Mr. Newton studied glass makers' "batch books" and interviewed glass technologists. He concluded that gold was present in ruby glass batches but must he dissolved in a mixture of two powerful acids called "aqua-regia." This mixture is hazardous to handle, and it holds the gold in what is called colloidal suspension.

When Mr. Newton actually prepared several batches of molten glass and added gold to die mixture, the results were small deposits or residue of gold at the bottom of the pot, but no ruby glass.

According to Mr. Frank Fenton, ruby glass in the 1800s and early l900s was produced by "blowing." Ruby glass is said to "strike" its color upon reheating at the "Glory Hole."' Much of the time ruby glass was covered with clear glass. In the 1890s, American Flint Glass Workers Union was required to produce 10 percent fewer pieces than shops working with crystal or other colors because time was needed to reheat articles at the "Glory Hole" to strike the desired ruby color. Ruby is a heat sensitive glass and the line between ruby and orange is a thin one. More recently, glass plants have developed ruby glass batches that depend upon the chemical element selenium for their color. These batches can be molded or pressed.

Royal Ruby, - patented name for red glass of the Anchor Hocking Glass Company, is one of the most collected of the red glass today.

In 1939, the passion for red glass was blooming and the just formed Anchor Hocking Company introduced as its first color its own Royal Ruby. This red, one of the most popular of the glass market, was made on into the 40s, 50s and 60s. Royal Ruby was the largest production of machine-made tableware in ruby by any company.

The Hocking Company began in Lancaster, Ohio in 1905 making small wares by hand. In the twenties, Hocking advertised tableware plain and decorated tumblers, jellies, lamp chimneys and lantern globes. By the mid thirties this company was advertising baby food jars and no deposit-no return beer bottles. They perfected the mechanics for making low-priced tableware. By 1928 the first automated pressed machine made glassware was made in green.

Hocking assumed many glass companies: Lancaster Glass Company, Standard Glass Company and Monongah Glass Company. As the operation grew, other colors were added to their production.

On December 31,1937, the Anchor Hocking Glass Company was formed by the merger of Hocking Glass Company with Anchor Cap Corporation of Long Island, NY, and several other firms already controlled by these two. This new company attained the capability to make red glass in large quantities by automatic machines. In Anchor Hocking glass, unlike most handmade ruby, the formula's principal ingredient is copper! This resulted in an evenly colored dark red glass named Royal Ruby. There is more of this Royal Ruby in existence today than the amount of red glass from any other manufacturer. When Royal Ruby was introduced in 1939, it was made at a fraction of the cost of other handmade red glass, enabling Anchor Hocking to dominate the market for many years.

During WW II obtaining copper was very difficult. This stopped the production of Royal Ruby in 1943. Exactly when manufacturing resumed is unclear, but tableware, vases and bottles were being made by 1950.

In 1971, Royal Ruby was again being made in about nine of the earlier shapes and in items not previously made in this color.

Anchor Hocking advised collectors that all of the new pieces were marked with the company's anchor trademark, an anchor though an H. This mark is not found on earlier red pieces except bottles. On 1977 items this mark is embossed very small and is easily overlooked. There have been reports of some items - plates, punch cups, a deep four inch bowl, found unmarked in stores.

Red glass from many different companies grace tables of collectors today. As you dress your holiday tables for Valentine's Day, Fourth of July and Christmas Holidays, why not claim the early folklore and imagine that you are using the beautiful red dishes that contain the expensive gold! You can even imagine you're visiting the "RICH AND FAMOUS!"