Eva Zeisel 'Prestige' Barware, Federal Glass Company February 18 2016, 4 Comments
Who knew behind the innocence of a fiery Old Fashioned glass there is a slightly sketchy past? Well, maybe not sketchy but questionable for sure!
This curvaceous little glass seems pretty friendly at first glance, ready to welcome a Don Draper pour. But don't be fooled by its vibrant cheer, for there's perhaps some underhanded history lurking here.
This glass originates from the 'Prestige' barware line, a sleek, simple line designed in 1954 by industrial designer, Eva Zeisel for Federal Glass Company. The line consisted of four different glass styles: juice (small tumbler), iced tea (highball), cocktail (small stemless) and the Old Fashioned (whiskey) glass.
Without going too far into the details of these specific glasses, suffice to know that they were intended, per Eva's stipulation, to be produced only in the colour 'Crystal' - a brilliant clear glass with sheer rims - in other words, colourless.
As you can see...
...there was a stray from that stipulation!
In or around 1959 Federal Glass introduced four colours to the 'Prestige' line: Ice Blue, Pink, Smoke, and Amber. They also added a 'swirl' variation to the glass - diagonal lines with a wavy optic effect that wrapped the body of the glass. It's hard to capture in a photograph, but this bird's eye shot will give you the idea.
Both the expansion to the Prestige line for coloured glass and the added swirl detail was, from all appearances, a decision made single-handedly by Federal Glass. As so often happens in the world of design, the designer gets lost in the process.
But not all was lost. One of the distinct design features that remained in place was the exquisite solid, bulbous base. This dramatic bottom commonly referred to as the 'doorknob' style, was a signature of the Prestige line.
It does look like a doorknob, doesn't it?
It's this attention to detail that separates the designer from the assembly line! However, Prestige was intended to be an economical line of barware and as a result was mass produced for worldwide distribution.
The glasses could be purchased in sets of 12 or as prepackaged 'tumbler sets' which included four of each glass style. This barware line and distribution approach proved to be an astonishing success. Prestige became one of the best-selling lines in the United States!
With gorgeous reflections and sparkle like this, it's no wonder why!
But this was not all the change in store for the classic barware line. No, with its blanket popularity, the Prestige line also became available for special-orders of custom monogramming, logos and ornamentation!
One can only ponder, how far did this popular line stray from the designer's vision?
It's a question we will never have the full answer to, for sure, but what we do know is Eva Zeisel designed a bar glass style that knocked it out of the park! To this day glasses from the Prestige barware line are always a treat to find!
Looking for something else? Visit Audrey Would! Vintage Home online.
Photographs © Audrey Would! Vintage Home
Historical information: Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, p.151