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The Iowa Quester Glass Collection

Posted on June 29, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Allison Sheridan


The Iowa Quester Glass Collection now numbers over 1,500 objects ranging from monumental Brilliant Period cut glass to colorful art glass and a diverse array of Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG). This unique collection, housed in and cared for by University Museums, showcases American glass from 1840 to 1950.

The Brunnier Art Museum, a division of University Museums, houses Iowa’s largest and most comprehensive collection of glass. The permanent collection includes objects representing many countries, cultures and historical periods in which glassmaking has been practiced. The earliest objects in the collection were made by people in the ancient eastern Mediterranean region 30 centuries ago; the most recent objects were made by artists within the last year such as Oil on Feather, 2019, by Preston Singletary.

In 1996, a partnership was formed between the Iowa Questers led by Kay Beckett of the Neta Snook Chapter in Ames, then Iowa Questers’ State President, Shirley Foster, and University Museums. At that time, the University Museums was known nationally for having an encyclopedic glass collection recognized by scholars and the pre-eminent American glass museum, the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. After a vote from the Iowa Quester State Council the Iowa Quester Glass Collection was formalized with the following mission: “To establish an Iowa Questers Glass Collection, of historic glass from around the world, at Iowa State University Museums. This would provide a State of Iowa resource for preserving, viewing, and interpreting historic glass objects. The focus will be on American-made glass from 1840-1945.”

A glass committee was formed, with the committee adopting procedures for accessioning glass into the collection. That first year, seven works of glass were accepted into the Museums’ permanent collection including: a Verre de Soie vase, 1905-1930 designed by Frederick Carder and manufactured by Steuben Glass Works; a pressed glass spooner in the Westward Ho pattern; and a Currier and Ives tray in Bulking Mule pattern.

About those first years, according to Kay Beckett, “In 1997, a fund was established whereby donations could be made for the purchase of glass objects for the collection. Since that time, thanks to the generosity of the Iowa Chapters, individual Questers and a $3,000 grant given at the International Convention in Denver, over $10,000 was raised. With the goal met, the Questers Acquisition Committee began their search for their first signature object for the Iowa Quester Glass Collection. They attended auctions, wrote to dealers specializing in cut glass, and with seven objects to consider, met and chose a beautiful, 36-inch, three-part vase made by the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia.” This vase, made during the Brilliant Period of cut glass from 1880 to 1915, stands as a monumental testament to the Questers drive to expand the collection with exceptional examples of American glasswork.

Now, the bulk of the collection is American pressed glass pre-Depression Era, most of which would fall under the Early American Pressed Glass category. Iconic works of glass include a Jumbo pattern table set, many Iowa-made objects by Iowa City Flint Glass Co. and Keota/Eagle Glassworks, a Rebecca at the Well tall standard compote, Terrestrial Globe pattern butter dish, examples from historical glass, the state’s series, and many novelties. Thoughtful gifting of three major pressed glass collections in just the past six years included over 130 toothpick holders, dozens of whale oil and kerosene lamps, and an estate gift by a knowledgeable collector. With the help of many chapters, individuals, partners and collaborators, the now restricted collection grew for over 20 years by leaps and bounds!

The Iowa Quester Glass Committee exhibited curated portions of the glass collection in the former entrance to the Brunnier Art Museum and created several large-scale exhibitions spanning the entire 10,000 sq. ft. Brunnier Art Museum. The next exhibition of Quester glass will be January to October 2021 in the Farm House Museum. This exhibition, “Flicker and Flame,” will highlight the over 40 whale oil and kerosene lamps in the Quester Glass Collection from several donors, and several acquisitions made this past week by the Quester Glass Committee! In addition, the Iowa Quester Glass Collection as part of the larger permanent collections, is searchable online.


TOP IMAGE: Table Set, Jumbo pattern (AKA Elephant), c. 1881-1885, unknown manufacturer, possibly Brilliant Glass Works, (Brilliant OH, c. 1881) or Central Glass Co. (Wheeling, WV, c. 1885). Non-flint clear and frosted pressed glass. Spooner, Butter Dish and Sugar Bowl: Gift of John and Nancy Nath. UM2005.325ab, UM2005.326ab, UM2005.327 Creamer: Gift of the Iowa Questers. UM2008.590 In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

INSET GLOBE: Butter Dish, World pattern (AKA Terrestrial Globe), 1887, manufactured by O'Hara Glass Company (Pittsburgh, PA, 1875 – 1891). Clear, non-flint glass. Gift of Iowa State Questers. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2007.194ab

The “World” butter dish is in the shape of a world's globe, with significant detailing of the continents on earth, including named land masses and oceans and marked longitude and latitude lines. The finial is in the shape of Columbia's head. The goddess Columbia is often identified as a symbol of new world exploration and freedom of our nation. Only nine of these were known to exist in 1990, and it is one of the most highly sought after examples of Early American Pattern Glass.


INSET PLATTER: Platter, Clear Stork pattern (AKA Crane, Stork), 1890-1891 manufactured by Iowa City Flint Glass Co. (Iowa City, IA, 1880 – 1882). Clear pressed and frosted glass. Gift of Keith and Joanne Hemingway, Iowa City, Iowa. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM99.32

The Iowa City Flint Glass works originally used sand from along the Iowa River a few miles south of the plant, it only needed to be shipped the short distance and it was an extremely efficient source. However proximity and location were not to be the money saver the glassmakers though as early glass from this sand, the principle ingredient in glass, had a tendency to “explode” as room temperatures changed caused gas bubbles to seek release from within the finished product. Thus, better glass making sand was shipped in from Indiana at substantial cost, which would prove financially disastrous for the glassworks in Iowa City. Stork is one of the characteristic Iowa City patterns depicting long legged fowl (also called Herons or Cranes). The storks can be found on clear glass plates, platters, butter dishes, creamer, goblets, sauce dishes, sugar bowls and pitchers.



ABOVE LEFT: Compote, Frosted Ribbon pattern (AKA Rebecca at Well), 1870-1882, manufactured by Bakewell, Pears & Company (Pittsburgh, PA, 1808 – 1882). Non-flint pressed and frosted glass. Gift of Lu Dodemont & Jack Senander. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2005.74

Rebecca appears in the Hebrew Bible as the wife of Isaac. The story of Rebecca at the well, a test for the future wife of Isaac, appears in Genesis 24.

ABOVE CENTER: Verre de Soie Vase, 1905-1930 designed by Frederick Carder (English, 1863-1963) and manufactured by Steuben Glass Works (Corning, NY, 1903 – 2011). Blown glass. Gift of Jeanne Hughes of the Des Moines Belle Questers #40. In the Iowa the Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM97.120

Verre de Soie glass is an iridescent glass ranging from soft white to pale green and yellow. The name means “glass of silk”. Verre de Soie is considered Art Glass and is not related to the pressed carnival glass by the same name.

ABOVE RIGHT: Monumental Vase, Empress pattern, 1904-1905, manufactured by Quaker City Cut Glass Company (Philadelphia, PA, 1901 – 1924). Cut glass. Gift of the Questers of Iowa. In the Iowa Quester Glass Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2000.74abc

During the late 1800's, wealthy Americans hosted lavish dinner parties with twelve-course meals and costly wines and champagnes. At these dinner parties, thousands of dollars were spent on flowers, and only unique and rare vases such as this one were acceptable to hold such expensive flowers. This three-part revolving vase qualifies as one of these rare monumental vases. The term revolving is applied to the vase because it must be assembled by turning the two solid silver mountings together. The cut pattern of the vase is "Empress" and is one of the many patterns that was patented during the Brilliant Cut Glass Period. The vase was manufactured by the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia, which produced three versions of this type. In a catalog, circa 1904-1905, a vase like this one was sold for $125 wholesale and listed with two smaller vases of the same design at $61 for a 24 in. vase and $90 for a 30 in. vase. These vases were also listed with three-part punch bowls which were designed in the same style.

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