Three unusual uses for glass

Glass is used to make all sorts of things, some more expected than others. Eyeglasses, drinking vessels, windows, light bulbs … currency, musical instruments, dresses, automobiles. There are all sorts of oddities to be found in the Museum and Library‘s collections — the following examples are no exception!

Umbrella made from glass

A contemporary version of a glass umbrella, made
by Robert Mickelsen (via)

“This is the age of glass. Glass-covered tables are all the vogue, and glass houses are being built with glass bricks, but the very latest is the glass umbrella, which is covered with ‘silk’ spun from glass, says ‘T.A.T.’ These umbrellas, of course, will afford no protection from the rays of the sun, but they possess one obvious advantage, namely, that they can be held in front of the face when meeting the wind and rain, and at the same time the user will be able to see that he does not run into unoffending individuals or lamp posts.”

From: “Glass Umbrellas,” China, Glass & Lamps, November 18, 1905.

Glass casket on stand

Another way glass was used to preserve and memorialize
the dead – a glass coffin. Casket with Stand, DeCamp
Consolidated Glass Casket Co., 1920-1929. 2001.4.234,
gift of Fred Hunter.

“A company of glassworkers have recently discovered that ordinary plate glass will make a more durable monument than the hardest marble or granite known to stone masons. Glass is practically indestructible. Wind, rain, heat, and cold have their effect on the hardest rock; solid granite eventually crumbles away, and one can seldom read the inscription on a stone gravestone 50 years old. A glass stone will look as fresh a couple of centuries after its manufacture as on the day it was erected, and the inscription can be made ineffaceable. The thick plate glass used to glaze the portholes of steamers can resist the stormiest sea, and is practically unbreakable.”

From: “Gravestones of Glass,” China, Glass & Lamps, August 25, 1897.

Sample of Fiberglass Strands/Hair

This fiberglass hair was made right here in Corning, N.Y.
Sample of Fiberglass Strands/Hair, Corning Glass Works,
about 1936. 2002.4.20, gift of Pat and Tom James.

“The enormous feminine demand for artificial coils and toupée is leading to a famine in human hair. Formerly Swiss, German, and Hungarian girls supplied the world of fashionable women with luxuriant tresses of all tints. But the Governments of many countries are now making it illegal for a girl to sell her hair or for an agent to buy it. The supply, in consequence, is running short and the prices of real hair are trebling.

A series of successful experiments point to spun glass as the most effective substitute for human hair. Wigs made from spun glass are wonderfully light and fine and the texture soft and beautiful. It is easy to produce any shade desired, while curls and waves can be manufactured at will to suit the fashion of the moment. The imitation is so realistic and true to life that it is impossible to detect the difference between it and real hair grown on the head.”

From: “Wigs Now Made of Glass,” June 1, 1908.

The three articles quoted in this blog are all from the Rakow Research Library‘s vertical files collection. This collection is made up of around 15,000 folders, each covering a specific glass topic or artist. You can find these articles in the “Glass Types – Novelties” group of folders, which also includes such curiosities as glass bathtubs, mousetraps, globes, pens, and shoes. What’s the most unusual item you’ve seen made of glass?

The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9 am to 5 pm 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.

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