Quentin and Ruth Ford Collection

Click here to view a slideshow of Ruth's Carnival Glass collection!

Click here to view a video about Ruth's Carnival Glass collection!


Dr. Quentin and Ruth Ford


15 cu ft + 360 pieces of Carnival Glass


Papers: Materials relating to Carnival Glass; engineering technical reports; music; postcards ca 1900

Photos: Travel, American Southwest

Artifacts: Carnival Glass collection; Indian Tribal Series medallions; Chaco Canyon blanket


Dr. and Mrs. Ford, both New Mexico natives, have made major contributions to the State of New Mexico and the Southwest. Dr. Ford is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, New Mexico State University, the University of Missouri and received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University. He served as the Department Head of Mechanical Engineering at New Mexico State University from 1960 to 1970 and served as the Associate Dean of Engineering and Interim Dean of Engineering from 1974 to 1988. He continues to serve as Professor Emeritus at NMSU. Ruth Ford is an avid collector of carnival glass and has donated her vast collection to IHSF. Her description of this Carnival Glass Collection appears below.


Production and marketing of Carnival Glass began around 1900 as an effort to compete with and provide a cheap alternative to the expensive glass marketed by Tiffany and others. Primary characteristics of Carnival Glass, besides being cheaper, was that it was pressed, mass produced, had a high iridescence, utilized brilliant colors, was of durable quality, intended for everyday use and came in a wide variety of patterns, styles and sizes. Active production continued through 1925 and reproduction, in very limited quantity, has been carried on to present.

The major companies who started and maintained manufacture of Carnival Glass were Northwood, Fenton, Imperial and Millersburg. It was their intent to market the product extensively and make it in a wide variety of shapes and designs so that it would satisfy the needs of a large potential user audience. Iridescence comes from metallic salts that were sprayed onto the surface of the basic colored glass during the manufacturing process. The primary colorations were categorized as: purple, marigold, blue, green, peach, and white. As an example of the materials used to make the metallic salts: gold gave the red iridescence (and is the rarest) while cobalt gave blue; etc.
One of the most popular methods of distribution, which was conceived early on, was to use the glassware as prizes or gifts for contests and advertising promotions. Evidently, the world of carnivals caught on to the potential offered and the glass got its common name CARNIVAL GLASS. Some companies, such as Quaker Oats, included a small piece of the glass, perhaps a cup, in the round cardboard package of oats that were used to make hot cereal. Also, in the time when it was common for movie theaters to have “prize nights” a place setting of Carnival Glass was often the prize.

Active production of Carnival Glass ceased in the early part of the Depression era and interest in it waned; in fact, it got the reputation of being “cheap, gaudy” and most owners put away their pieces. However, in the late 1950’s there was a resurgence in interest and collectors began trying to put together sets or various combinations, but by then most of the old glass had been lost and the glass now took on a heightened prestige and value. Today it is almost impossible to find old Carnival Glass and it is rare for any person to have more than a few pieces, and those will likely be of the more common colors and patterns.

Ruth Ford was fortunate to have been one who developed an interest in Carnival glass early on and was able to assemble an outstanding collection that contained a wide variety of patterns, colors, shapes and designs, representing production from all of the original companies. She was aided and abetted in this by her mother-in-law, who had saved a piece from her father’s mercantile store, circa 1908, as he regularly gave the glass to his better customers. The two collections were eventually merged to form the gift to IHSF.

At the time of the donation to IHSF the collection consisted of approximately 360 individual patterns/colors, in which are represented the entire spectrum of colors, majority of patterns and all the known American manufacturers. All of the collection is in mint condition and is one of the largest complete collections available for study. Ruth has done extensive study and research on sources and identity of the items in the collection and has made many presentations to interested groups regarding the experience and pleasure of the hobby of collection Carnival Glass.


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