Verlys Of America

by Orva Heissenbuttel
Glass Review - February 1979

The Holophane Lighting Company was founded in 1398 by Otis A. Mygatt, to manufacture heat-resistant glass for use in reflectors, lenses and illuminating light fixtures. A site for their plant was chosen across the street from the Heisey glass factory in Newark, Ohio. There is considerable evidence to indicate that Heisey produced their early light shades before their own plant went into production, thus assuring their early success.

Verlys examples In 1935, they began production of a type of art glass called "Verlys Decorative Glass". Its major feature was a design in high relief, accentuated by acid etching {frosting). The first sculptured glass of this type was introduced by Rene Lalique of France in 1906, and was copied by other French companies. The original Verlys, made by Verlys France, dates from 1931. Verlys of America was established in 1935 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Holophane Lighting Company, Inc. About two-thirds of their molds were purchased from Holophane Francaise in France, while the remainder were designed and made in America.

Renowned American artist Carl Schmitz designed six pieces, and some are signed and dated by him. At first the pieces were made of high quality lead glass, but later they were made of good quality soda-lime glass. The technique was basically one of molding the glass, then acid-treating the relief portions to emphasize the design, while the plain surfaces were polished for contrast (in the late 1940s, production costs necessitated etching the entire piece).

More than 60 items were produced, mainly bowls and vases. All of these are shown in Carole and Wayne McPeek’s Verlys of America Decorative Glass. All of the items were produced in crystal etched, about half in color -— amber {rarest), Directoire Blue, Dusty Rose, Opalescent and topaz — for a five year period from 1935 to 1940. Verlys was marked in two ways - a diamond tipped pen was used to sign the piece, or the same style signature was permanently impressed in the glass at the time it was molded. All first quality Verlys will be marked, with very few exceptions {the French Verlys has a molded signature which includes the word "France").

Very little Verlys was produced by Holophane during World War II, and production ceased entirely in 1951. Then, some of the Verlys molds were loaned to Heisey in 1955. More than a dozen items were made there - without either the Verlys or Heisey trademark - until the molds were returned in July, 1957. These pieces, known as "Heisey-Verlys" were made in crystal etched, and one color only — Limelight {turquoise}.

Holophane made no further use of the Verlys molds, and they were sold to the Fenton Art Glass Company, Williamstown, WV in 1956. Fenton has used a few of the molds - with the Verlys mark removed - to make items in color not originally made by Verlys in Newark, so there should be no confusion with the old. Fenton will most likely use their own trademark on future items made in the Verlys molds, thus creating still another collectible — Fenton-Verlys. Holophane is still making glass in Newark, and the company is now considered the largest producer of glass lighting fixtures in the U.S.