Dugan

An American original
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Written by Alfredo Villanueva-Collado, Ph.D.

Photos © Abersio Núñez

To view more pictures in Alfredo Villanueva's Dugan collection
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My interest on Dugan’s "Japanese/Pompeian/Venetian" glass stems from its appearance on two art glass sources as "Unidentified Bohemian production." Collectible Bohemian Glass I, 141: 2, shows an amethyst rose bowl from an unidentified private collection. Das Böhmishe Glas 1750-1950, Band IV, shows three pieces on 227: IV 400,401,402, belonging to the Höltl collection at the Passau Museum (hereby referred to as PMC).
My curiosity was exacerbated when a piece appeared on e-Bay as "rare Loetz," at the startling opening bid of $1,200 (it remained unsold).I recalled seeing and examining similar pieces at New York’s 26th St. Flea Market. I was sure they were not Loetz, not even Bohemian, but did not know where they had been made. I even suspected they might be Eastern European or even Chinese imported glass! Then, at a Pier Show in New York, Donna and Andy Schilero identified for me a Dugan piece they had on display. I bought two reference books they suggested, which I have used as sources for this article and, coincidentally, started on a new collection.

Carl Burns, in his book on Dugan Carnival glass, points out that Thomas Dugan was producing mold-blown, iridescent art glass as early as 1904. He explains the process: "The molten glass was collected on the gathering rod and then rolled in "frit", very finely crushed glass. The frit became embedded in the molten glass. When the piece was hand shaped and "warmed in", this frit would oxidize, resulting in the silver/gold iridescence" (13).
He illustrates the "Venetian" line with the picture of an aqua-blue vase ( photo 1 ).



I found more precise information in the book on the history of Dugan/Diamond glass started by William Heacock, and completed by James Measell and Berry Wiggins and after Heacock’s death ( All information from here on comes from it, hereby referred to as HMW ). 
Dugan glass begins its history as the Indiana Glass Company, operating from Indiana, Pennsylvania, from 1892 to 1896 ( HMW 7 ). 
In 1896 Harry Northwood - accompanied by Samuel Dugan Sr. and his three sons: Thomas E. A., Alfred and Samuel Jr. ( HMW 14 ) - takes over the company, which changes its name to Northwood.  From 1900 to1903 it is known as the National Glass company, under the direction of Harry Bastow and Thomas e. A. Dugan (HMW 29).  From 1904 to 1909, it is called the Dugan Glass Company, creating the "Diamond-D" mark for some of its pressed ware, most notably, Carnival glass ( HMW 45 ).  Finally, from 1913 to its demise in 1931, due to a plant fire, it is known as the Diamond Glass Company ( HMW 169 ).

Venetian vase                      01

Several facts were readily established. According to the HMW, "there is ample evidence from Thomas E A. Dugan’s notebooks as well as other sources to indicate he was experimenting with iridized techniques as early as 1902" (121), though Dugan’s iridescent lines are produced from 1905 to 1907. Thus, they precede Imperial’s "Art glass," appearing about 1910, by five years, becoming probably the first mass-produced, mass marketed "poor man’s Tiffany" in America. In a 1906 Sommers catalogue, vases from the "Pompeian" line are described as "art vases, of exquisite Tiffany glass" made "to appeal to the most educated tastes" ( HMW 51 ).

Second, Dugan iridescent was produced in a deliberate effort to compete with foreign, imported glass, particularly Webb and Loetz ( HMW 52 ).  In a 1906 Butler Brothers catalogue, pieces denominated "Venetian" were described as "exact reproductions of the expensive imported vases" ( HMV 50 ) and in a Sommers catalogue from the same year as "perfect imitations of relics found in the buried cities of Italy" ( HMW 51 ).

Third, to judge from the advertising in trade catalogues for 1905 and 1906 (HMW 50-51), and later 1907 and 1908 catalogues (HMW 68), it was impossible to distinguish between "Japanese," "Pompeian" and Venetian," since the drawings did not allow for careful differentiation between lines.  At that point, I only had two pieces of identifiable Dugan iridescent glass, which did not resemble each other except in color - both were amethyst. They had (a) no pontils and (b) quite visible mold marks, both facts enough to dismiss any Loetz attribution.

Among the first pieces I acquired in order to continue my research were a light green celery vase and a dark green honeycomb rose bowl. Neither can be classified strictly as belonging to Dugan’s iridescent lines. Nevertheless, they both point to their eventual development. The celery bowl ( photo 2 ) - see also HMW 82: 172B - was made from a mold used for Venetian and Opaline Brocade, 1898-1900.  It appears as part of an "Oriental Assortment" in a March, 1901 G. Sommers and Co. catalogue, item 9, listed as a "Celery Stand - 6 inches tall, fluted top; assorted green, blue and rose coraline glass."


A variant appears in a Butler Brother's catalogue from 1902, item 4, listed as a "6 in. Large Crackle Vase" (HMW 34).  Mine has two distinguishing features: (1) an optic pattern of "polka dots" or, as the dealer from whom I bought it called them, "thumb-prints"; and an outside decoration of white glass in the manner of Northwood’s"Granite Ware", first introduced in 1893, and characterized by "Opal" (white) frit (HMW 35).
The "crackle" effect really refers to an optic pattern: "After the glass is gathered on the blowpipe and made smooth on a marver, it is rolled in frit ( the term frit refers to powdered glass ) and expanded by blowing into a spot mould which imparts narrow vertical ribs. Still on the blowpipe, the glass is then blown to its final shape in another mould. The ribs imparted earlier by the spot mould become an internal ‘optic’ pattern, and the frit is now part of the surface of the glass, often appearing thinner where the final shape is its greater diameter" ( HMW 34-35 ).
Dugan02.jpg (17536 bytes)
1902 celery vase, 1898 design     02
Dugan03.jpg (19287 bytes)
The optic vertical ribbing and the "opal frit" (white glass specks) appear in the Dugan iridescent lines, but so does the "polka dot" optic pattern, covered by amber/gold frit, and called "stars" by dealers. The honeycomb rose bowl ( Photo 3 - see also HMW 94:389 ) may be the ‘iridescent antique green’ mentioned in Dugan’s notebook and dated January 4, 1903" ( 94 ).  Mine has surface golden frit bands ( looking like applied glitter) over the honeycomb pattern, creating, in effect, "vertical ribs."

Thus, in two pieces preceding Dugan’s iridescent lines, one can already find some of their most distinguishing features.  I have identified five separate variants of Dugan’s iridescent glass which, for the purposes of this article, I shall label V.1, V.2, etc.

1902 green iridescent bowl           03

V.1a consists of clear or colored glass first rolled in finely crushed glass and then mold blown into pinched and twisted shapes, giving a grainy texture to the vessel’s surface ( Photo 4; see also photo 1 and HMW 50, " ‘Our Venetian’ Vase Asst." ).  There is no vertical ribbing and no glittery frit. The yellow piece in the middle has probably been cut down; notice its flat rim as opposed to the blue piece’s rough and irregular rim. It ought to measure 6 ¾ inches; instead, it only measures 6 ¼ inches. But measurements can be approximate.
The vase on photo 5 is the largest among Dugan’s iridescent lines. It appears listed as being 9.5 inches/24.2 cm ( HMW 50 ) but mine measures a full 10 inches (25.5 cm).  I think it shows the extent to which Dugan successfully appropriated the gracefulness of the best Bohemian art glass production by means of dimples, twists and asymmetry of shape.

Three vases variant 1a                                                                                          04

 

The same grainy texture appears in vases with particular types of decoration such as "hexagon buttons" (V.1b, photo 6- see also HMW 50, bottom advertisement from a 1905 Butler Brothers catalogue).
The "Stippled Estate" decoration (V.1c) is characterized by a pattern of irregular crisscrossed lines and seems to appear in only one shape and size (photo 7-see also HMW 51). Colors include blue-green, commonly called "aqua,"and created by rolling light blue glass on amber frit; green, yellow and amethyst. I have not run across any rose bowls in this variant, but have seen a cobalt blue piece recently for sale on E-Bay.
Largest Dugan iridescent: 10"            05 Variant 1b: buttons decoration          06 Variant 1c: stippled estate                07

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