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The Imperial Glass Company was established in 1901 by an ex-riverboat captain and experienced glassmaker Edward Muhleman, although they didn't begin producing the iridescent Carnival glass for which they became best known until 1909. In the early days of its formation it made pressed glass as was the fashion of the day, glasses, compotes, bowls, and other household tableware and accessories. In 1904, Imperial moved into a new facility on the river in Bellaire, Ohio, already a center of American glassmaking. When they began making Carnival glass, it immediately became their most popular production line and it was produced in huge quantities for middle America and beyond. Imperial was closely identified with more sculptural and geometric forms than contemporaries like Fenton and Northwood, who became better known for evoking nature through grapes, leaves, and other natural shapes. Imperial produced a much wider variety of glass than simply Carnival glass however, although they always made more utilitarian pieces than their contemporaries and as such bring in general slightly lower prices in today's market. They produced new colors such as "smoke", a light blueish-grey color, and "clambroth", much the color of ginger ale, and they produced marigold glass in huge quantities. In their Carnival glass lines, they were particularly well known for the rich iridescence of their pieces and especially their purple glass which was much less commonly found from other manufacturers. 

Many of the staffers at Imperial were German and Bohemian craftsmen who had been influenced and skilled in the work of Austrian and Bohemian producers of the period such as Loetz, and they sought to bring ever more highly skilled techniques to Imperial production. They produced almost the total spectrum of American glass styles of the era including slag glass, stretch glass, opalescent glass, milk glass, black glass, and novelty glass animals. Imperial was more successful than most other American manufacturer's of Carnival glass in exporting to Europe, and they continued to operate through the depression years of the 1930s in producing a cheaper range of green, pink, and blue Depression glass from earlier Imperial Glass molds. Candlewick glass was a pattern of elegant depression era glass produced in the 1930's by the Imperial Glass Company, still popular for entertaining because of the sheer variety of service pieces available. Candlewick glassware is recognized by the bead work, usually found at the edges of a plate or on the stem of a cake plate. What sets it apart from other, similar glassware of the era is the quality and clarity of the glass.

Imperial stayed in business through the hears of World War II and even began producing reproduction Carnival glass in the 1960s as collector interest began to be revived. They also acquired other struggling but formerly well known glass companies including A. H. Heisey in 1958 and Cambridge Glass Works in 1960. Using the old molds, Imperial continued to produce Heisey and Cambridge designs marketed as Heisey or Cambridge "by Imperial." Lenox bought the company in 1973, beginning a period of decline until finally ceasing operations in 1983.

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Imperial Carnival Glass The Art of Carnival Glass (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
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