Virtual Journeys into our Collection: Thoughts from a Librarian

This recurring blog series will feature virtual gallery walks with staff members from The Corning Museum of Glass. Everyone at our Museum interacts with the collection in different ways depending on the job they do and the perspective they bring. Hear from fascinating people and learn about their favorite objects as they provide a virtual peek at some of the treasures in our collection—and make plans to come see them in person when we reopen! This next comes from Regan Brumagen, associate librarian, public services, at The Rakow Research Library.

Regan Brumagen

When I first came to The Corning Museum of Glass over a decade ago, I was familiar with just one glass artist—bingo, it was Dale Chihuly. It wasn’t long after I arrived, however, that I began to learn about a “local” glass luminary named Frederick Carder.

I first encountered his name when I was looking for a house. The realtor told me the house I was considering was in the Carder school district. Then on my introductory tour of the Museum, my guide took me into the Carder Gallery, filled with Carder’s colorful, elegantly shaped glass. As a reference librarian at The Rakow Research Library, over the years I have been able to research and learn more about the fascinating person behind this glass and his connections with the Corning community. 

Exploring Carder’s story has led me to discover some of my favorite library objects as well.

Frederick Carder in his studio. About 1930. CMGL 136365
Stevens & Williams. Design for intaglio flower vases to be mounted in silver: glass to be in pale green. About 1880-1903. Frederick Carder Papers. CMGL 136865.

Carder came to the United States in 1903 to help found Steuben Glass, bringing with him stunning design drawings he created while working at the English glass firm, Stevens & Williams.

Along with these drawings, the Rakow holds Carder’s notebooks and batch books with formulas for producing that gleaming, luminous colored glassware on display in the Carder Gallery. Like other glassmakers, Carder tended to protect his recipes for glass, and some notebooks in our collection require Carder’s numeric code to decipher the ingredients. Fortunately, we have the code!


We also have the sketches he executed as a young man practicing his skills as an artist. His precision was an important part of his style as a designer. According to legend, Carder allowed no deviations to his designs and was very particular about which gaffers created which pieces.

He could be quite crabby as a boss, according to those who worked for him. His gruff manner was well-known, but Carder was also known for being curious, generous with his time, and for having a dry sense of humor. These traits are apparent when you read through his correspondence, which are also available in the Library’s collection.

Correspondence from Carder to R.E Barclay. April 13, 1934. Frederick Carder Papers. CMGL 100113.

Incredibly, I’ve listened to Carder himself describe his life and work, through audio recordings of speeches he made before the Corning Rotary Club and interviews with various colleagues. Hearing him talk about visiting the 1900 Exposition in Paris where he stopped by Emile Gallé’s booth, riding a train with Mark Twain on his first trip to America, and meeting Lalique and Fabergé at the 1925 Paris Exposition is surreal. It somehow brings to life those old photographs of the 1900 Exposition. I can imagine Frederick Carder walking around the displays, talking to prominent glassmakers, and buying art glass to bring home with him.

Carder recalls his meeting with Galle in 1900.
Carder recalls his meeting with Lalique.

Carder wasn’t only a designer for tableware. He designed architectural glass, most notably for the Rockefeller Center and Empire State Building.

Steuben Architectural Cast Glass. Corning Glass Works, 1925. CMGL 139214.

Our trade catalogs and advertisements with his tableware and architectural glass designs are among my favorites.

Happily, many of our Steuben catalogs have been digitized and can be accessed through our online catalog.

I’m drawn to Frederick Carder, not just for these spectacular collection materials but also because of the rich and interesting life he led. And then there’s his crusty personality and, um, colorful language. While I wouldn’t have wanted to work for him, I would have loved to have had dinner with him! Carder died at age 100, after a very long and successful career. We are lucky to have such a varied collection of his work in our Museum and Library. And even though you can’t have dinner with him, trust me, you should sit and listen to his tales of glassmaking, travel, and life in another era. They are well worth the time!

For more information on Frederick Carder, explore the Rakow’s collections, and discover some treasures of your own.

Click here to read the previous post in this series by The Studio’s senior program manager, Richard Whiteley.

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As manager of the Rakow Library’s public services team, Regan Brumagen coordinates reference, instruction, and outreach for the library and provides leadership in the assessment of user needs and services. Before joining the Museum staff in 2004, Brumagen worked as a reference librarian and instruction coordinator at several academic libraries. She received an M.A. in English and an M.L.S Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Currently, Regan is a member of several American Library Association divisions and has served on numerous committees for these divisions during her career.

3 comments » Write a comment

  1. What an interesting artist! Loved hearing the recordings
    and envisioning him strolling through the Paris Exhibition.

  2. Very interesting “journey” Regan. Thank you. I gravitate to modern glass artists, but now have a new name to add to my list when touring glass exhibits. I can’t wait to return to the Corning Museum someday.

  3. I tried to listen to the audio of his meeting with Lalique but wasn’t able to understand what he was saying. Probably a problem both of a scratchy recording and my hearing. It would be nice if someone would transcribe those recordings and post them here in comments.

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