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Corning Glass Cookware
by Debbie and Randy Coe

With more and more people becoming concerned about the type of containers and cookware that is being used in the kitchen, the popularity of Corning cookware is rising. With the problems of toxins leaching from plastics and even the questionable use of Teflon and aluminum, this cookware has now taken on extra importance of being safe to use. In today’s world, the labeling of Green on products, has meant that the Corning Ware was already there long before the term was being used!

It seems hard to believe but 50 years ago, the Corning cookware was introduced to the public as being made out of Pyroceram, a space age material. This was an extraordinary effect that would have an impact on consumers for decades to come. The vision of one man would make it all happen.

Donald Stookey went to work for Corning Glass Works in 1940. He began his work on researching opal glass. One of his first products was FotoForm in 1948. This was glass that was able to be chemically etched. While working with this glass, a temperature gauge malfunctioned and allowed the glass to accidentally reach 900 degrees Celsius. This was the first glass-ceramic product and it was called Fotoceram. It was exciting to discover that glass could take on ceramic properties. Stookey continued his work on researching a substance that met these requirements. The new glass-ceramic product that Stookey developed, was given the name of Pyroceram® in 1956. Pyroceram® is a crystalline ceramic that is made from glass. The resulting substance was very resistant to extreme changes in temperatures.

During World War II, Corning Glass Works collaborated with the United States. The military needed a product for use on the nosecones of antiaircraft missiles that was resistant to heat, cold and corrosion. Pyroceram was exact substance needed for the missile nosecones.

With Pyroceram® now being part of the space age, attention was turned to using this product in the kitchen. A whole line of cookware was developed that could be taken from the freezer and go straight to the oven. In addition, it was attractive enough to be used as a serving dish to use on the table. The name of Corning Ware® was given to the cookware in 1957.

Fire to Ice was the advertising theme for the new Corning cookware and a huge promotion campaign was launched to present this extra special cookware to consumers. It was emphasized that this cookware was made from Pyroceram®, the special ceramic-glass product developed for nosecones of missiles. The attraction of taking the dishes directly from the freezer to the oven and then the table was a big hit among consumers. The pieces could also be used on the range too since they resisted crazing, cracking and even scratching. Since the dishes were non-porous, they wouldn’t absorb any flavors from what you used in cooking your favorite dish. Another advantage was that they were easy to clean. Special easy lock on handles could also easily be used for moving the pieces during the cooking process. Sales staff was specifically trained to demonstrate taking the cookware directly from the freezer to range or oven. Showing off the ease of cooking was another plus.

As the company was sampling ideas for designs, a shaft of wheat was first suggested. Other companies of the time had a wheat design and several pieces of wheat were made. Unfortunately, Wheat wasn’t well received by the public and another design needed to be developed. The first major pattern by Corning was the simple Blue Cornflower that was placed on the white material. The timeless beauty of blue and white had always been popular and so the decision was made to go with the Blue Cornflower. A few pieces of Starburst, Trefoil were also made in those early years.

As time went on other cookware patterns were introduced. The Blue Cornflower was by far the most popular and lasted the longest until 1988. The next major pattern was Spice O’ Life based on a French vegetable theme. It was introduced in 1972 and lasted until 1988. Country Festival had a Pennsylvania Dutch flair to it. This pattern debuted in 1975 but only lasted two years. Wildflower was another major pattern that entered the collection in 1977. This pattern remained popular until 1985. In 1988 the Cornflower pattern was revived by giving it a fresh look with pastel colors. It was called Country Cornflower and lasted until 1993. Through the 1980s and 1990s many patterns were introduced but were only offered for a few short years. There are over 60 different cookware patterns available for your kitchen.

Every piece of Corning is marked. The early pieces were marked on the bottom. Some of the pieces had an embossed style of marking. Cornflower pieces had a blue color of mark that matched the color of the Cornflower. Other pieces had a gray or black color of mark to them. At times these are very faint and hard to see. Sometimes you have to hold the piece up at an angle to see it. When the style of handle was changed, the markings were on the underside of it. When the liquid measure was switched from pints and quarts to liters, the markings were once again embossed. The mark could be under the handle, on top of the handle or on the bottom of the piece. The mark generally includes Corning Ware®, a stock number, size, how it could be used and Corning, NY, USA.

Besides their consumer line, work also continued with industrial technology and that soon became a major portion of Corning. In 1998, a decision was made to sell their consumer division to World Kitchen. The rights to the name of Corning Ware®, Corelle®, Visions® and Pyrex® all went to World Kitchen. Currently the only cookware offered is in the French White. Sadly it is now made out of stoneware and is being made in China.

The days of the special versatile Pyroceram cookware are now gone from the marketplace. But as all of us collectors know, the best place to find things is on the secondary market. This cookware is now showing up at shows, shops and on ebay. Replacements is also now carrying some patterns of this cookware. Enjoy the hunt of finding this cookware to use in your kitchen.


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Copyright 2004 © Debbie and Randy Coe