Speaking of Antiquing – July 2015

In 2015, PYREX turned 100 years-old.

Like many innovations and excellent ideas, it’s invention was a fluke.

Chemists at Corning Glass Works, in Corning New York, were working to develop heat-resistant glass that could stand-up to extreme temperature changes for railroad lanterns and battery jars. A new borosilicate glass, branded Pyrex, held-up to these standards. Corning scientist Jesse Littleton brought a sawed-off battery jar to his wife, Bessie, who baked a sponge cake in it. She found the baking even, efficient, and liked that it allowed for a clear view of what she was cooking. This began a revolution in cookware.

Corning’s first line of Pyrex Ovenware debuted in 1915, featuring casseroles, custard cups, a bread pan, pie plates, and egg dishes. This cookware was an instant success with homemakers who were cooking in graniteware, cast iron or earthenware. They loved that they could bake, serve, and store their food in the same dish.

The clear glass Pyrex measuring cup, a standard in many homes, including mine, was introduced in 1925. The red markings were added in the 1940’s. It is considered one of Pyrex’s most iconic pieces. You can see one displayed in the Smithsonian Institute as part of Julia Child’s Kitchen. The measuring cup handle was a closed-loop handle, redesigned in the 1980’s to an open handle to allow stacking varying size measuring cups.

Nesting mixing bowls are among the most identifiable and beloved vintage Pyrex kitchenware ever introduced. The first, and most popular set, is the solid multicolored primary-colored mixing bowls. The set includes a 10 inch 4-quart yellow bowl; an 8 1/2 inch 2.5-quart green bowl; a 7 inch, 1.25 quart red bowl; and a 5 ½ inch half-quart blue bowl. Collectors love finding complete sets of these bowls which are getting harder to find in excellent condition, as they are loved and well-used. I have a set that I use daily for mixing and storing and my favorite popcorn bowl is, of course, the yellow one.

Many styles and shapes of nesting bowls, mixing bowls, casserole dishes and cookware have been developed over the last 100 years. It has become a standard in the industry that is most-likely never going out-of-style.

Colors and patterns have gone out-of-style of course, such as the earth tones of the 1970’s and the bluish, clear cooking pan with removable glass handles from the 1940’s. In the 1960’s, polka dots were introduced and these have remained an all-time favorite and rare find for collectors.

The Corning Museum of Glass is marking the centennial with an exhibition devoted to the kitchen staple that started the country cooking in glass. Opening June 6, the display will pull from the museum’s 2,000-piece collection of Pyrex, from the first pie dish to the iconic measuring cup, rounded-out with decades of advertisements, design drawings, cookbooks and catalogs.

Another item of note is that a town in Pennsylvania, where Pyrex has been manufactured for many years, has changed its name from Charleroi to Pyrex for 100 days beginning May 16. Now that’s a birthday party!

Here at Pickety Place, we have a whole section dedicated to Pyrex, so come and find a wonderful addition to your collection or start a new one!