Libbey's "Waterford" Pattern

by Virginia Scott
Rainbow Review Glass Journal - December 1974

In 1936, Libbey Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio, hired Edwin W. Fuerst, a famous industrial designer, to design a new line of glass to be called "Modern American." The glass was introduced to a few special customers in 1939 and to the general public in 1940. Libbey Ad"Waterford," one pattern of the line, was named by Libbey as their most popular pattern for Elizabeth Gordon's survey, "The 15 Most Popular Patterns" (House Beautiful - Dec. 1942).

Waterford" is a heavy, hand-blown, brilliant crystal with a circular foot and bucket bowls on a turned stem. The ad reproduced here, showing the table setting of a famous hostess is typical of many of the Libby ads of the World War Two years. It is stated in the text that the craftsmen who create "Modern American," crystal are now engaged in wartime production, but patterns may be selected at leading stores. "You may even purchase a few pieces," the ad states, "knowing that, after the war, you can ad to them." Goblets in "Waterford" pattern sold for $24 per dozen according to the survey.

Glassware of the "Modem American" line was advertised as "the most superb crystal in Libbey's years of glassmaking." It was claimed that the line "recreates America's supremacy in glassmaking." One ad disclosed that the series was "inspired by Scandinavian designs at their best, but with a peculiarly American flavor". It was stated that the glassware was designed in "no particular tradition" but "is modern in effect and yet possesses sturdy grace."

Other ads stress "gracious form" and "vibrant color". The simple but heavy pieces had a great brilliance and clarity. This luminous quality was made possible by a perfected mechanical means of combining the ingredients of the mix. "Individuality is given each piece by skilled hands," one ad declared. Some pieces were ornamented with copper wheel engraving or fluted cutting reminiscent of the simple styles of the old New England Glass Co., the predecessor of Libbey. A 1942 ad shows "Waterford" with "Dutch Diamond" cutting - two rows of elongated circles. Other ads of the period show the "Modern American" patterns, "American Prestige," "Mount Vernon," "Plymouth," "Monticello" and "Embassy". Many elegant decorative pieces and fabulous vases are also shown.

It is interesting to note that although Libbey had intended to produce "Modern American" after the war, this was not done. The series, circa 1939-1945, was the last line of completely handcrafted glass to be made by Libbey Glass Company.