Q: My beautiful 93-year-old auntie gave me this bowl that was her mother’s. It is marked on the bottom with either an “N” or a “Z” in a circle. Can you provide some information on this piece? It is in perfect condition and has one pattern on the inside and another on the outside.
B.F.J., Naples, Fla.
A: We hate looking up carnival glass patterns because it can be a long and tedious task.
After spending about an hour looking through books on the subject, a friend walked up, saw the photo and said, “Oh, that pattern is wishbone with a basketweave exterior.”
We could have clobbered him for being such a smarty pants — but since wishbone is almost the last pattern in the books, we were happy for the heads-up.
Starting about 1905, carnival glass was made by a number of companies, and it continues to be produced right up to the present day. Carnival glass is an iridescent pressed glass — i.e. not hand-blown — that comes in a variety of colors such as marigold, blue, amethyst, green, white, red, smoke and many others.
Carnival glass started out being cheap — so cheap that it was given away as prizes and premiums at such venues as movie theaters and yes, carnivals. We believe there is so much of this type of glass out there that it must have been sold in outlets such as the ubiquitous Five and Dime as well.
Today, carnival glass is not quite as collectible as it once was, but rare pieces can still bring prices at auction in the low thousands. Value generally depends on three factors — rarity of the pattern, rarity of the form (plates and whimsy pieces tend to be desired) and rarity of the color of the base glass.
The ruffled bowl in today’s question appears to be made from amethyst glass, which is nice, but in this pattern, colors such as pastel smoke, ice blue and ice green tend to be a little better. Wishbone was first made around 1911 by the Northwood Co. of Wheeling, West Virginia, and continued in production for some years thereafter.
Northwood –—yes, that is an “N” mark, not a “Z” — was started by Harry Northwood, son of the famous English glassmaker John Northwood, in 1896 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The company merged with National Glass in 1899, but Northwood was unhappy with the conglomerate’s financial turmoil and broke away in 1901.
In 1902, Northwood bought the J.H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Co. in Wheeling and operated both plants until 1904 when the Pennsylvania location was leased to Thomas Dugan and W. G. Minnemeyer, where it became the Dugan Glass Co. and later the Diamond Glass Co.
Northwood started making carnival glass in 1908 and became one of this type of glassware’s most famous makers. Production continued for about 10 years, but by Northwood’s death in 1919, carnival glass production had been reduced to a trickle. Current insurance replacement value of this amethyst wishbone bowl is probably in the $175 to $225 range.
Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.