While most people think of Tiffany glass as decorative bronze lamps with intricate multicolored, stained-glass shades, the company actually made a host of other glass products, including solid color windows, painted art glass shades and lamps, and flat and pressed glass used by other designers, including noted architects. Tiffany designers worked with architects including Frank Lloyd Wright to create special art glass pieces that were incorporated into homes, most notably in lamp and window construction. The glass work was used in the homes of the wealthy, but also in public buildings. The Preston Bradley Hall dome put in place in Chicago's first public library in 1897 features more than 1,000 square feet of Tiffany glass. (Preston Bradley Hall is now home to the Chicago Cultural Center.)
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Tiffany & Company founder Charles Lewis Tiffany. The Tiffany family was involved in marketing jewels and precious metal since 1837. Louis Comfort studied to be a painter with noted artists Samuel Colman and George Inness. In 1880, Tiffany gained admission to the National Academy of Design.
Louis Comfort began making glass and designing interiors at the age of 24. His work became known when magazines and newspapers featured the designs he created for industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt and author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Tiffany’s most popular work was made with Comfort’s patented design for making opalescent glass. He also developed new glass processes for creating several thousand new colors, expanding the range of his designs beyond his competitors.
Tiffany Glass Companies
The first company opened in 1885 under the name Tiffany Glass Company. The design emphasis was stressed in the company name change to Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in 1892. The product line expanded to other decorative arts, and in 1902 the name became Tiffany Furnaces, in reference to the process of melting the glass before the shaping process. The last company name change, in 1920, added the designer’s name, Louis C. Tiffany Furnaces, Inc.
Fine art glass was highly valued by the wealthy classes of both the United States and Europe, and Tiffany had several art glass competitors. Frederick Carden, of the Corning, N.Y.-based Steuben Glass, was Tiffany's main competitor in domestic glassware. The Austrian firm Loetz was a competitor in imported art glass production.
Tiffany began in basic glass designs and expanded to architectural glass and home decorations that featured colored, etched and hand-painted glass, including leaded glass lampshades for table and floor lamps as well as hanging chandeliers. Tiffany stained glass windows have been commissioned for numerous churches and public buildings, and were hand-cut for mansions built from the turn of the 20th century until the 1930s. The company also created furniture, metalwork and ceramics.