By Karen Parr-Moody
Heisey glass, famed for its lavish range of colors, might be confused with Depression glass due to that fact. However it is not the same; it is a high-quality product that just happened to be produced during the Depression era.
The A.H. Heisey Glass Co. operated from 1896 to 1957 in Newark, Ohio. Because of its quality, Heisey was known as the “better” glassware one might purchase in an upscale department store. Many a bride registered for Heisey tableware. Popular patterns include Crystolite, Empress, Greek Key, Plantation, Stanhope, and Yeoman, among many others.
In the photo, right, is a bowl in the Empress #1401 pattern, with a dolphin-footed design and in the color Sahara ($150; Showcase S-129). Produced from1930 to 1938, Empress #1401 was a major tableware line identified by its embossed fan and series of beads. It came in many of the colors for which Heisey was known – Crystal, Moongleam, Flamingo, Sahara, Alexandrite, Tangerine, and Cobalt.
The lion head bowl in the photo at left is another charming example of the Empress #1401 pattern ($250; Showcase S-129). Also in the color Sahara, it includes lion claw feet, along with detailed lion heads.
Heisey did not confine its animals to functional pieces. It also made a wide range of animal figurines, including horses, figures, geese, pigeons, giraffes, elephants, and others.
Heisey was founded by Augustus H. Heisey, a German immigrant born in 1842. In 1861 he began his lifelong career in the glass industry, with a break during the Civil War, for which he enlisted with the Union infantry and eventually became a captain.
During Augustus Heisey’s tenure, Heisey was know for making glass that was generally heavier than the competition, and created in hundreds of patterns with artistic cuttings, etchings and engravings. The company made both pressed and blown glassware. In the photo, right, is pictured a creamer and sugar bowl in Quator, an Art Deco type pattern of pressed glass ($115; Showcase S-534).
Shortly after the death of Major Heisey in 1922, the company began experimenting with exotic colors. As the new president, his son, E. Wilson Heisey, was responsible for this trend, which began with pastel colors, such as Flamingo’s pale pink, and later went into deeper tones such as Tangerine, a bright orange-red, and a cobalt color called Stiegel Blue.
By the time E. Wilson Heisey died, in 1942, colored glass had all but disappeared from the market. Today, colored pieces are some of Heisey’s most collectible items. In the photo, left, the center vase is in the color Flamingo (small perfume bottle, $70; bud vase, $60; perfume bottle, $90; Showcase S-129).
T. Clarence Heisey became president of A. H. Heisey & Co. in 1942. After World War II, the glass industry was hard hit by the decline of formal entertaining, labor and material costs, and foreign competition. Until the company closed in 1957, the well-known Heisey figurines made their debut, and colored glass was slightly resurrected. In the photo at right is an example of a pattern of this era; this is a punch bowl set, with 12 cups, in Heisey’s Lariat #1540 pattern, which was produced from 1942 to 1957 (available at Booth B-2007; there is also a glass server that is not a part of the set). Lariat was identified by looping coils of “rope” around the edges.
Quality glass, like that of Heisey, has been coined “elegant” glass, and is still highly sought after. When looking for the glass, collectors find that some is marked with either a raised “Diamond H” directly in the glass, or with a paper sticker. However, many pieces are unmarked because the stickers have been removed. There is still a Heisey Museum in Newark, Ohio, where collectors can get correct identification of their items for $5 by emailing a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.