Tea Time: The Making of the Pyrex Teapot

Pyrex Teapot, Corning Glass Works, designed by Frederick Carder, about 1922-1925, H: 14.6 cm W: 26 cm D: 17.7 cm, gift of June Franklin Wynne in memory of Anna Youngflesh (2003.4.75).

I’m a local girl. My great-grandfather blew the world’s largest light bulb at Corning Glass Works’ “A” factory, just across the river from where I sit at the Museum. The men and women behind the glass fascinate me. So, when I came across early Pyrex brand teapots, I couldn’t wait to share my findings.

The renowned designer Frederick Carder designed the first Pyrex teapots in 1922. He had begun his glassmaking career at Stevens & Williams in England and co-founded Steuben Glass Works with Thomas G. Hawkes in 1903. He would become the art director of Corning Glass Works in 1932.

“The New Vogue in the Making and Serving of Tea” [advertisement], Corning Glass Works, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1924, pp. 211.

“The New Vogue in the Making and Serving of Tea” [advertisement], Corning Glass Works, Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1924, pp. 211.

Carder’s teapots were elegant, with long graceful spouts. They came in tall, round, and squat varieties, each with a unique handle and lid. They were transparent. You could see when the tea was the right strength and always knew how much was in the pot. Because they were Pyrex products made from borosilicate glass, they could withstand the heat of boiling water and kept tea hot while their handles stayed cool. The Rakow Research Library preserves the original “tall” and “round” design patents signed by Carder on February 1, 1922. You can find the “squat” patent online.

Unlike most Pyrex products, these early teapots were not machine-made. According to a hand-written memo in the Corning Inc. archives, they were blown by a four-man team in Corning Glass Works’ “A” factory. Seth Warren was the gaffer in charge of blowing the teapots, Ernie Frankhauser was the finisher who added the spouts and handles, Dick Begell was the gatherer, and Seth’s son, Stanley, was the bit boy.

The first Pyrex teapots were sold in 1923. Consumers could buy two-cup pots for $2.50, four-cup pots for $3.00, and six-cup pots for $3.50. The “tall” design was discontinued in 1925, and a one-cup “round” design was added for $1.50. In 1929, Corning began offering “engraved” teapots for 50% more than the cost of plain ones. However, we believe these pots were cut rather than engraved. According to the former Steuben glass engraver Max Erlacher, stone wheels cut hard borosilicate glass easier than the copper wheels used by engravers. Simple designs could be added to the wheels to streamline the cutting process.

Pyrex Teapot, Corning Glass Works, designed by Frederick Carder, about 1922-1925, H: 14.6 cm W: 26 cm D: 17.7 cm, gift of June Franklin Wynne in memory of Anna Youngflesh (2003.4.75).

Pyrex Teapot, Corning Glass Works, designed by Frederick Carder, about 1922-1925, H: 14.6 cm W: 26 cm D: 17.7 cm, gift of June Franklin Wynne in memory of Anna Youngflesh (2003.4.75).

Although third parties were often hired to cut and engrave Pyrex blanks, Corning did much of the work on their own. In 1919, Peter A. Eick came to work in the Pyrex finishing department where he became known for his floral cutting and monograms on a wide range of Pyrex products, especially teapots. He had left his job at the local cutting firm T. G. Hawkes & Company where he was paid $17 a week.

By 1931, Corning began to phase out the original Pyrex teapots in favor of a new design. The new pots had no spout, which advertisements branded a “treacherous snare” for “careless fingers,” and a chromium handle deemed sturdier than “the fragile handle of old-style teapots.” In 1934, Ernie Frankhauser, the finisher who added the “old-style” spouts and handles to the original teapots, was seriously injured on the job. No one could replace his expertise, and the last Carder-designed Pyrex teapot was sold in 1935.

Pyrex Teapot, Corning Glass Works, 1931-1940, H: 14.6 cm W: 16.6 cm D: 13 cm (2010.4.219).

Pyrex Teapot, Corning Glass Works, 1931-1940, H: 14.6 cm W: 16.6 cm D: 13 cm (2010.4.219).

“Miracles Wrought by a Magic Bubble of Shining Glass” [advertisement], Corning Glass Works, Better Homes & Gardens, June 1931, pp. 68.

“Miracles Wrought by a Magic Bubble of Shining Glass” [advertisement], Corning Glass Works, Better Homes & Gardens, June 1931, pp. 68.


The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9am to 5pm every day. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, please use our Ask a Glass Question service.

8 comments » Write a comment

  1. I had one of the non-etched tea pots! It broke a few years ago. I loved the shape.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this very valuable information. So lucky to work at the Corning Museum. I envy you. I have around 18 of the handmade, mouth blown Pyrex teapots….it took me 20 years to the Tall Teapot in all three sizes but I finally have them. I have at least one in each of the other shapes in all sizes….some engraved, some plain, some with the metal lids with attached weighted tea balls and some with the plain glass lids. I have engraved and plain tea tiles in all sizes…so beautiful. I have been collecting the oldest (1915 to about 1950) since 1997. I have some very rare pieces that I understand are not included at the museum. It also took me 5 years to get at least one example of each of the original 15 pieces that were introduced in 1915 at the Jordan Marsh Dept.Store. I also have a very rare original Salesman’s introduction card. I have a set of original 1930’s (I believe) recipe cards with the box they came in and a 1935 Pyrex daily calendar with recipes and suggestions of which piece of Pyrex to use for each recipe. I have two 1 qt. casseroles that have are hand-painted with enamel paint…one with flowers and vines…gold stripes and the other has gold stripes with a fruit and greenery design…..I also have two of the beautiful red decorated casseroles AND one of the opalescent casseroles with the lid AND an irridescent casserole that has no lid. I also have two of the two piece citrus reamers that are so very hard to find. I also have one of the gorgeous lidded ice tea pitchers from 1926 and an aluminum oval roaster with a heavy Pyrex lid from 1926-27, also one of the 8 cup Pyrex glass Tricolators with the Tricolator drip top and silk filters. I love just looking at these gorgeous pieces of our kitchen history. I wish I own my own museum so I could display them so all of the people who have never seen these wonderful pieces could have a chance to see them for themselves. They truly are the most wonderful miracle in Grandmother’s kitchen. Thank you again…..anything “Pyrex”…..I love. Nancy Curtis, Price, Texas

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