"American Prestige" wine glass
Edwin W. Fuerst ( American, 1903 - 1988 )
Libbey Glass Company ( American, 1888 )
- designed c. 1938
In its catalogue Libbey claimed that through this glass, "The designer tells a story of craftsmanship-a bubble of glass becomes the bowl, a block of crystal the stem, while two small terraced rings in the foot indicate the rolling motion of a footsetter's tool." This florid description of hand-crafted fine glass deliberately counters the more practical reputation Libbey Glass had established by the time the American Prestige line of Edwin W. Fuerst's Modern American series was designed in 1938.
In 1936, Libbey Glass became a subsidiary of Owens-Illinois Glass Company, a container company spun off of Libbey years earlier during their era of glass processing inventions. Because of the progressive new management, Libbey survived and even profited during the depression years. Bolstered by the high volume of promotional tumbler sales, Libbey set out to regain its top position as the maker of America's finest glass despite the fact that the market for prestige glassware was relatively small. The effort to revive Libbey's reputation as a maker of fine glass involved hiring Edwin W. Fuerst to design a line called Modern American, for which catalogues were issued in 1940 and 1942. A strong movement away from the colorful and ornate style of the 1920s and early 1930s, Modern American mimicked the style of the Scandinavian imports: sleek monumental foms that emphasized the quality of the lead crystal, as seen here.
Although a 'pre-introductory' Modern American Glassware catalog was printed in 1939, the new series was formally introduced the following year in the Crystal Room of New York's Gotham Hotel. In a few months, some 300 leading stores were featuring the line with great success. The initial triumph was short-lived, however, for slightly more than a year later World War II restrictions ended the series. Libbey advertisements announced that its craftsmen had turned their skills to making glass essential to the war effort. Like several other glass companies, Libbey survived WWII by halting tableware production and instead manufacturing light bulbs. After the war, management was faced with the necessity of building an entirely new factory to replace its original 1888 plant, and ultimately decided against reinstating the line of fine crystal. This decision meant that the Modern American series was the last handmade glass ever made by Libbey, America's oldest glassmaker.
- Charles L. Venable, Ellen P. Denker, Katherine C. Grier, Stephen G. Harrison, China and Glass in America, 1880-1980: From Tabletop to TV Tray (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000), 171, 436-37, cat. 73.
- Libbey Glass...Since 1818, Chapter IV, Depression Year Failures Bring Reunion of Libbey and Owens Companies, 1918-1943, 96-99, http://www.libbeyhistory.com/files/Part_1.4.pdf, accessed March 30, 2017.