Victor Durand Jr. and his father founded the Vineland Flint Glass Works in 1897 in Vineland, New Jersey, in order to manufacture chemical and scientific glassware. By 1920 the company had expanded into four separate divisions producing thermos liners, towel bars, tubing, light bulbs, and x-ray bulbs. At the time, it was considered one of the most successful privately owned glass companies in the country.
Born in Baccarat, France, Victor Durand as a youth worked in the town’s famous glass factory, a fact which certainly influenced his later decision to produce decorative art glass. Once he had achieved financial success with his Vineland Flint Glass Works, he was able to pursue his dream of producing such glass. His cherished plan now a possibility, in October of 1924 Mr. Durand began corresponding with Martin Bach Jr., offering him employment if he would come to Vineland and help establish the art glass division.
Martin Bach Jr. was the son of a former worker in the glass formula department of Tiffany Furnaces. After leaving Tiffany’s employ, the elder Bach had organized his own company with Thomas Johnson in 1901. The two men called this new company the Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company. When the senior Bach died in 1924, his son took over the firm, then experiencing serious financial difficulties. After several attempts at reorganization failed to save the company, its workers dispersed to work for other factories.
In December of 1924, Martin Bach arrived in Vineland to establish the Durand Art Glass shop. Within a month he had contacted several of his former Quezal workers, convincing them to come to southern New Jersey. The key group – known as the “fancy shop” and composed entirely of former Quezal employees – consisted of Percy and Harry Britton, William Weidebine, and Emil Larson.
At first, the most popular designs produced at Quezal were copied and sold as Durand products. The shapes and patterns of these early pieces can readily be compared to those found in items in the original Quezal catalogs. Martin Bach had brought with him his own office copy of the Quezal catalog. An examination of this copy reveals Bach’s markings next to many of the designs that were reissued by Durand.
The period of purely imitative work was brief. Soon the company’s products showed a blending of distinctive Durand characteristics with the earlier Quezal designs. Two patterns which illustrate this blend are the Peacock Feather and the coiled King Tut. These designs, which evolved as Durand hallmarks, continued to be produced even after Durand Art Glass had assumed its own distinctive style.
The Peacock Feather had its origins in ancient times. Feathered, or combed, decoration in glass can be traced to ancient Egyptian vessels. Centuries later, Tiffany, influenced by such decoration, produced many opaque feather pieces. The pattern was formed by wrapping a fine thread of contrasting color around a bubble, or gob, of glass. The threads were then tooled, while still hot, into a feather-like motif. The piece was subsequently fashioned into the desired shape. After leaving Tiffany, Martin Bach Sr. and his workers continued to produce this pattern at Quezal.
After the demise of Quezal, Peacock Feather pieces, in both transparent and opaque colors were produced in great quantity by Durand. “Flashed” was the company name for the transparent color on Peacock Feather-decorated pieces. The transparent colors created were, in company parlance, “flashed blue, green and ruby” and, in rare examples, yellow. Although this transparent yellow was rarely used for the bowl of the goblet, it was used in the stems and feet of most of the popular Peacock Feather stemware. This yellow color on stemware became a distinguishing feature of Durand Art Glass. Called “oil glass” by the workers and “ambergris” by the company, it was used in many shaded variations on nearly every Durand piece produced. This color, used for the main body of the glass, was considered necessary to achieve the desired iridescent surface effects. Almost without exception, Durand’s multi-layered pieces have “ambergris” interiors. Durand catalog color names, code letters, and combinations are well documented in Albert Christian Revi’s book American Art Nouveau Glass.
For instance, the name Lady Gay Rose was applied to an opaque pink that could vary in shade from light pink to deep raspberry. Gold Lustre was a soft ambergris hue with brilliant iridescence. Golden Yellow was an opaque gold color; and Spanish Yellow, a pale ambergris. Iridescence was referred to as “lustre,” a sheen achieved by spraying a still-hot finished piece with a metallic solution. Victor Durand’s formula book contains instructions for producing an iridescent spray, called “Tiffany iridescent,” by mixing four ounces of chloride of tin with four ounces of ferrum chloride in two gallons of water.
The origins of the coiled King Tut design can also be traced to Quezal and Tiffany. Coiled design, produced by wrapping threads of different colors of glass around a bubble of glass, could be crisscrossed or evenly wrapped and then tooled into hooked whorls. Although both variations were called coil in the catalogs, the King Tut name became associated with the more evenly wrapped pieces.
King Tut ware came in a wide variety of contrasting color combinations Apple Green with gold coils, Lady Gay Rose with gold, Gold Lustre with opal, and Golden Yellow with blue were some of the many variations. All were coated with the lustre finish.
As early as August 1925, the firm sold cut glass wares. The December 28, 1925, issue of China, Glass and Lamps advertised new designs in “yellow lustrous glass having a silver-like finish both decorated and hand cut.” The preeminent workman in the new cutting department was Charles Link, who had previously operated his own cutting shop in Bridgeton, New Jersey, the Acme/Aetna Cut Glass Company. At the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, a grouping of Durand Art Glass won a Medal of Honor. Today, the only piece known to have been in that assemblage is a large vase with cut decoration on ruby cased over crystal.
Cutting appeared on one-color transparent pieces and on transparent color over crystal. Durand catalogs referred to this ware as “consisting of casing or layers of various colors” and called the product “Cased Glass.” Geometric and naturalistic themes were cut through the color to reveal the crystal beneath. On close inspection the “crystal,” in most pieces, proves to be a very pale ambergris rather than a true crystal.
“Cased Glass” was also the catalog name for similar ware which contained a layer of opaque color on the exterior. This opaque layer was also cut away to reveal the interior shades. Only a small number of vases were produced in this style, but cased lamps were produced in quantity. These vases and lamps are not often recognized as Durand ware. The lamps were produced in a variety of colors and were advertised under the name “Colonial Lamps.”
Cutting was also available on flashed Peacock Feather pieces. Flowers, leaves, diamonds, cross-hatching, and feather motifs were incised into the colored areas. Many displayed the cut “Bridgeton Rose” pattern, which was developed by Link in his Bridgeton shop. At Durand he continued to cut this pattern.
Crackle glass was probably the most dramatic and innovative product marketed by Durand. This ware was created by dipping into cold water a bubble of hot glass coated with two or more layers of decorative glass of different colors. The shock of the water fractured the exterior layer; then the crackled bubble, or gob, of glass was reheated, expanded, and fashioned into the desired shape.
Several different varieties of Crackle glass were offered for sale. Mutual, Moorish, Egyptian, and Crystal were company names used to describe the different color combinations and textured surfaces. Crystal Crackle was made with transparent threaded color over a clear base. Double-layered transparent pieces were crackled and then usually blown into a vertical ribbed mold. Next, these pieces were finished and sprayed to produce a brilliant lustre. Opal was also combined with colored loopings over an interior ambergris layer, which could be seen in the expanded cracks. Lamp bodies and shades were also produced in Crackle glass. They were sold with bases and fittings made of brass or of heavy, often awkward, twisted wrought iron. The brass fittings, made exclusively for Durand, were sometimes given a green “antiqued” finish.
Lamps became an important part of the Durand inventory. Before 1928 Martin Bach and Ernest Dorrell had formed their own lamp company in Dorrell’s home in Alloway, New Jersey. The men took shades painted by Dorrell and mounted them on seconds of Durand vases. This venture was such a success that by 1928 Victor Durand convinced Dorrell to dissolve the partnership and instead paint shades for the art glass division at Durand. Shades were painted to match the glass body; for example, a golden yellow lamp decorated with a blue coil design came with a gold lamp shade of similar blue coil pattern. Mr. and Mrs. C. Reed of Atlantic City also supplied painted shades for Durand. The company catalog listed “lamps complete with shades of Linen, Viscoloid or Parchment.” Because of deterioration in the stitching of the shades, complete lamps with original matching shades are rare today.
A very small number of cameo and acid-cut-back pieces were made at Durand. Acids were used in combination with stencils to produce designs and borders. Cameo pieces were made with two layers of different colored glass. The outer layer was etched away by the acid to reveal the design and color below. Single-color pieces of brilliant lustre cut away by the acid to expose the matte background are called acid-cut-back. Two deep ambergris vases bearing daffodil and thistle designs in acid cut back have remained in the Durand family collection.
Molds were used in the shop, not only for shape but for decoration as well. Vertical optic rib molds were most frequently employed. Ribs defined shape and created striking variations in color. Large numbers of ribbed stemware pieces were produced in single or multiple-color combinations. Another popular mold shape was the beehive. Examples of beehive ware were available in many different sizes and colors.
Optic bubble molds were also employed. Using the bubble mold and the rib mold in sequence, the workers could combine bubbles with ribs in the fashioning of vases. Bubble molds were used to produce other items as well. Solid Bubble Balls and hollow Bubble Balls are collected today as paperweights, but they were originally produced as lamps. Offered in amber, green, rose, and crystal, each lamp came with its own metal base.
Probably the most unlikely pieces produced at Durand were the Venetian Lace objects. Made of a pale ambergris body, they contained crisscrossing opal threads in a latticmo-like design encircled by a rim of blue. Several examples also bore cut designs in their plain centers. Ralph Barber and Emil Larson are credited with making these pieces. Barber, acknowledged as the first maker of Millville Rose paperweights, was superintendent of the Durand Vineland Flint Glass Works. Although he was not part of the fancy art glass shop, the attribution of these pieces to him is credible. Barber’s skill as a glassblower is well known, and he produced many other latticino-design pieces that today reside in private and museum collections.
Although much of the Durand production was not signed, three types of engraved marks can be found. The first is “Durand” in capital letters at the top of the opening of a large V. Numbers appear with this signature. Catalog shape numbers are found on the bottom left of the V and the height is engraved on the bottom right. The second mark is the word “Durand” in capital letters with the two sets of numbers below. The third is “Durand” in capital letters alone. All three marks were traced with an aluminum pencil which produced a silver finish.
The last four pieces included in the exhibition are one-of-a-kind items made by the workers as gifts for Victor Durand and his wife. Durand was well liked by his employees. He was a good union man, having worked to organize unions at other companies and continuing to carry his union card long after he became a company owner.
In 1931 Victor Durand died in an automobile accident. At the time, the Vineland Flint Glass Works was in the process of merging with the Kimble Glass Company, also of Vineland. The two companies had merged before, but had separated in 1918. The new merger was settled within a year, and the joint company became the Kimble Glass Company which is still operating today as a division of Owens Illinois.
For one year the Kimble firm sold off Durand Art Glass inventory and produced a bubbly cluthra glass similar to the product of the same name manufactured at Steuben. By the end of 1932, the fancy shop was disbanded and the remaining stock broken and discarded.
Although Victor Durand had not taken an active role in the actual making of ware for his art glass division, he had been willing to support its financial losses. In a 1977 interview, his daughter, Lorraine Durand Cunningham, said, “The art glass had not been a money-maker up until that time (his death) and my father let the other departments carry the art glass. It was his pleasure, and he was really fascinated with the glass.” Without Victor Durand’s support and interest, the production of Durand Art Glass ended soon after his death in 1931.