For much of the 20th century, Steuben glass was the gift of choice for weddings, retirements, and life’s special occasions. Kelly Conway, curator of American Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, traces how technology, design, marketing, and shifting cultural aspirations came together to make Steuben Glass a name synonymous with modern elegance, superior quality, and glamour.
Steuben’s evolution as a luxury brand began in 1903 when the company was founded in Corning, New York. For the first 30 years, Englishman Frederick Carder directed the artistic and technical innovations produced at Steuben. Carder introduced thousands of shapes in hundreds of colors and decorations, and following the popular stylistic trends of art nouveau and art deco, he designed functional tableware, dresser sets, and lighting devices in a variety of richly hued formulas.
Steuben Glass was acquired by Corning Glass Works in 1918, and underwent a dramatic reorganization in 1933. Production shifted entirely to a highly refractive optical glass produced by Corning. Over the next 75 years, hundreds of talented designers and artists created dazzling sculptural forms, tableware, decorative household items, corporate gifts, and holiday ornaments displayed at the company’s New York City flagship store and at various international exhibitions. Limited artists’ series, commemorative presentation items, and gifts of state created allure for the aspirational consumer. Steuben pioneered innovative marketing strategies that still define our understanding of luxury branding today.
Drawing on the rich resources of the Corning Museum of Glass and its Rakow Research Library, Conway features collection objects, design drawings, oral histories, and period photography and advertisements as she tells the dazzling Steuben story.
Steuben’s image as a luxury brand was closely tied to the sophistication of Manhattan. Take a look as some splendid examples from the company’s mid-century heyday (including a piece designed by Salvador Dali) in the 2003 the exhibition Glass and Glamour: Steuben’s Modern Moment at the Museum of the City of New York.
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