By Debbie and Randy Coe

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Art Moderne in America
by Debbie and Randy Coe

Can you imagine the excitement of two American men visiting the city of Paris in 1925? They had journeyed there to view the various new items being displayed at the Paris Exposition of Moderne Decorative and Industrial Arts. Their main interest was to view the Rene Lalique showcase of new sculptured glass designs. The glass displayed there became known as Art Moderne and set the standard for many other future designs.

The two men, Reuben and Kenneth Haley were also father and son. The Lalique exhibit intrigued both of them. The Haleys were both glass designers. Reuben was employed at Consolidated Glass while Kenneth was at Morgantown Glass. At this point in time Consolidated was a just lighting company. It should be assumed that Reuben was looking for ideas for lighting fixtures. The excitement of the exhibit obviously stayed with Reuben even after arriving back at home. He immediately began talking with Consolidated President, John Lewis about starting a new line of giftware. He must have done a lot of strong persuasive talking because he convinced Lewis to establish a whole new direction for his company. It would have been great fun to have eavesdropped on their conversations. Kenneth came to work for his father in 1926 before gaining employment at Phoenix Glass in 1928. While the Lalique glass was quite expensive Reuben felt a comparable line could be developed to sell to the average person. The idea was to bring the glass to main stream public in the United States.

Lalique’s designs had a strong influence on the future designs of the Haleys. Many of their designs can be traced back to this exhibit. It is very apparent that their designs along with specific glass finishes did imitate Lalique’s ideas. The Lalique Sauterelles vase was the basis for the Line 700. This design consisted of heavy curved lines intersecting with designs in between the lines. Unlike the Lalique version, the Consolidated pattern had no insects on it. Consolidated’s Bird of Paradise was a copy of Lalique’s Aras pattern. Nudes were also very popular in many of the Lalique creations. Suzanne, Thais, Bacchantes and Sirenes, all Lalique patterns, could have each had an influence on the Dancing Nymph design. The Love Birds was almost a duplicate copy of the Perruches. Another Lalique influence was the use of natural objects such as birds, bugs and fish in the Consolidated pieces. Consolidated also gave their glass a special finish that they called French Crystal. This was achieved by using crystal glass and giving it a frosted highlight. The idea was the same that was used to etch stemware. On those areas that you don’t want to etch, they are covered with a resist to protect it. The acid is then applied to the rest of the piece and it eats away at the glass to create a unique design.

Haley was soon hard at work developing his line of glassware in preparation for the January 1926 Pittsburgh Glass and Pottery Manufacturers Show. This was an elite show that Haley wanted to attend that would showcase his designs. He felt his products would yield a positive result that would set the tone of sales for the year. At this show major store buyers along with glass brokers would attend looking for new products. Consolidated’s new line was called Martele because of its strong French influence. The French word of Martele is defined as being hand made. The glass all featured creations from Mother Nature’s backyard. Haley succeeded in having his glass ready and it was introduced to the trade at the January show.     

Also that same year several pieces of the Lalique glass that had been featured at the international exposition were selected to be part of the traveling exhibit in America. If you hadn’t been able to travel to Paris the year before, now was your chance to see all the wonderful creations that had been exhibited there. Some of the stops for the exhibit were Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several other prominent cities. This traveling exhibit excited the public and made them want some of this high relief sculptured glass. The Pittsburgh trade show excited the buyers in the area. The combination of both generated a huge demand for this new glass. Consolidated was prepared for this enthusiasm. The average person could afford this reasonably priced glass as compared to only the wealthy could afford the Lalique design. All of these exquisite designs on high quality glass were well received by the public.

The pieces of the Martele line included: Bird of Paradise; Bittersweet; Chickadee, Chrysanthemum; Cockatoo; Dancing Nymph, Dogwood; Foxglove; Hummingbird; Jonquil; Lovebirds; Nuthatch; Poppy, Santa Maria and Tropical Fish.  While most of the pieces were influenced by nature, the Santa Maria pieces came from the design of one of Christopher Columbus’ ships, Santa Maria. The sailing ship was the main part of the design on most of the pieces except for the candlesticks which had a dolphin on them. Other pieces were a footed console bowl; two covered jars- one for cigarettes and the other for cigars; cigarette holder; covered cigarette box; ashtray and two sizes of trays.

In 1927 a line of glass called Catalonian was introduced. This was referred to as a reproduction of old Spanish glass. The glass was created with lots of miniature bubbles and takes on a blistered look. The blown pieces will have a rough pontil mark on the bottom of the piece.  Another line called Spanish Knobs had the same characteristics but also had knobs as part of the design. Another unique line introduced that same year was Florentine. This involved a design that was acid etched into the glass. All of these pieces are very rare today. A continuation of this line was called #2100 or Chintz. The same moulds were used but that was the only similarity. A pressed motif with a flower decoration was used. The flowers were given a contrasting color from the rest of the piece. All of these pieces are very hard to find.

Ruba Rombic was described as a glass poem when it was introduced in 1928. The design was so unique that it was an instant sensation. The geometric style consisted of irregular angles that flowed together. The first name, Ruba, came from the word rubaiy that refers to a poem. The second, Rombic, comes from the word of rhomboid, which means a geometric object that has no parallel lines. Consider yourself lucky if you own just one piece. The Modernistic movement continued to grow strong and propelled the Ruba Rombic sales into 1929. Consolidated responded by offering yet another new line called 700 which consisted of lines that showed a contrast of shadows and light.

While as this new designing was aimed at creating a solid giftware line, Haley never forgot about the lighting side of Consolidated. Many new lamps, shades and wall sconces were created with the new sculptured glass. Being a lamp company, Consolidated also utilized many of their vases to make lamps. An authentic lamp has a molded base that was made to fit the outline of the pattern. Another way is to take off the metal top which reveals a flanged metal ring on the top of the vase. The ring has inner threads on which the outer ring screws on. The metal ring also conforms to the shape of the top. Many of the lamps found today are after market creations and don’t command the price of an authentic factory made one. On the larger lamps, there is also a small light that also lights up the inside of the glass and really shows off the design of the glass. This could be used as an accent light in the room.

The spirit of Art Moderne was felt not only in sophisticated newspaper ads but also in large modernistic store displays at prominent fine department stores such as Macy’s in New York. They carried a great deal of influence on what the public purchased. The elaborate displays incorporated Consolidated glass on matching linens with coordinated silver and china. Some ads even listed this glass as copies of Lalique. It was definitely the glassware of distinction for the times.

Unique to Consolidated was the use of ormolu on the glass. We have yet to find any pieces used on Phoenix glass but it is possible. Ormolu is an ornamental metal decoration. Most of the metal used was brass but sterling can occasionally be found. Garret Thew, a noted artist of the time also designed modernistic figures of metal to be used with Consolidated’s glass. It is assumed different foundries purchased Consolidated glass on which to put their designs. These glass creations would have been sold under the particular company label.

During the early months of 1929, large sales orders were continuing to come in. With their eye on the future, Consolidated invested in a new continuous flow glass tank and electric lehrs. With anticipated booming sales continuing, this should keep six glass crews busy. Work on these new improvements was completed in the fall of 1929.  Who could have possibly foreseen Black Friday coming? The collapse of the stock market on October 29, 1929 was the start of the financial decline of Consolidated like so many other glass companies in America. Sales slowed with the shops only working part time. Reuben tried to help out by financing a number of the Consolidated moulds. Gradually things came to a halt with the closure of Consolidated on April 1932.

The closing of Consolidated was caused mainly by the collapse of the stock market. Unfortunately, overspending on factory improvements also led to the closure of Consolidated. Reuben Haley died in September 1933 and his son Kenneth gained financial control over the moulds.

Kenneth Haley was currently working at Phoenix Glass. Now with controlling interest over his father’s moulds, he moved about 40 moulds to Phoenix. He wanted to honor his father’s work and his favorites were selected to become a basis for a line he called Reuben. Included in the Reuben line were the patterns of: Tropical Fish; Line 700; Screech Owl; Olive; Fruits; Dancing Nymph; Katydid; Hummingbird; Dogwood; Bittersweet; Dragonfly; Pinecone and Philodendron. Phoenix Glass produced completely different finishes than Consolidated. The background was given the color while the high spots were left plain. The top edges of the Phoenix pieces were not beveled while the ones done at Consolidated were. The Reuben line only had moderate success at the time causing all of these pieces to be hard to find today. Kenneth started designing new moulds to compliment the Reuben line. Some of these include: Aster; Cosmos; Dancing Girl; Daisy; Fern; Figured; Freesia; Lily; Madonna; Pine Cone; Primrose; Star Flower; Wild Geese and Zodiac.

While the Phoenix Sculptured line did well, it never achieved the huge success that Consolidated had captured. Kenneth Haley left Phoenix in 1934 and eventually opened his own company, KR Haley.
With the American economy improving, the McCune family purchased Consolidated and reopened the factory in 1936. Ready to start glass production, they asked Phoenix to return the Reuben moulds, which the company did. After a six year absence from the Pittsburgh trade show, Consolidated returned in 1937 with a display of items. There were beverage sets, plates and vases. Colors included: blue, crystal, green, orchid and pink.

New advertising listed the Consolidated Glass as “Glassware of Distinction”. Listed in these new ads were Catalonian and Martele lines. All of the Martele items this time were now being made in a single color rather than multicolored as before. The revival of the line was positively received with many orders coming in. In 1938 a new color of Custard was introduced. Sales failed to materialize with this new color. Now whether it was the color or changing of tastes it is hard to tell. Sales were already starting to slow on the whole Martele line. World War II was being fought in Europe at this time. Once the United States entered the war in 1941, production of glass was diverted to other aspects such as glass for lighting. Chemicals also became hard to obtain and effectively caused the end of art glass production at Consolidated Glass.




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