A catalog from the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company, Greentown’s former glass factory that burned down in 1903, was something like an urban legend. People talked about how one likely existed, but up until this spring, no one had ever seen one.
Now, the National Greentown Glass Association holds an original 1902 catalog in its possession after a board member was informed in April that it was up for sale on eBay. The board agreed that price couldn’t be an object in acquiring the relic and paid $2,501 for it.
“It was one of the most important finds ever in the history of the organization, so its historical significance was just amazing. To be able to find that and to be able to get it was a huge thing, but it really was one of those things that when it came out there were several of us that said, ‘We have to have it.’ There’s no more important document out there that would be more important to our organization,” said Jason Kendall, president of the National Greentown Glass Association.
The piece is now the first-known catalog exclusively illustrating products only from the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company, and Kendall estimated it was the last catalog produced before the factory burned down in June 1903.
“Just by some of the items in there and knowing the approximate dates those items came out, we believe this was probably the catalog that would have been issued in early 1903 for the year ahead, and it was probably the last they ever created,” he said.
The 117-page book features a complete listing of the factory’s entire production line, and while it provided some answers to what was once just speculation, Kendall said it created even more questions.
As for the answers, there’s a particular pattern line that created some dispute about whether it was produced in Greentown. While Kendall said there had been some evidence that it was, it wasn’t conclusive. Now, the catalog confirmed that at least a few of those pieces with the pattern line were produced in Greentown, as they’re listed in the catalog.
Still, Kendall said that didn’t mean all of the pieces with that pattern line were created at the Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company since it wasn’t unusual for companies to share glass molds.
“We know that it was also produced in another factory in Ohio, but how much was here versus how much was there, we don’t know. But now we know at least some of it was here, but that still leaves more questions,” Kendall said.
The Greentown Glass Association president said if he and the board could find an earlier catalog, it might offer more answers because, when the pattern line first was introduced, the factory might have had more pieces that, by 1903, weren’t being produced as much.
Still, another answer board members gleaned from the book was the mystery of the original manufacturer number (OMN) for a Dewey pattern line that was created to honor Admiral George Dewey, a major naval commander in the Spanish-American War.
Its number is 425.
“We never knew that. We never had that information, but we did find it in the catalog,” he said.
The catalog also revealed the actual name for a color that the National Greentown Glass Association referred to as Nile green. Its standard name was lettuce green opal, and it was a common color among items produced in 1903.
And, through the catalog, the true purpose of a once-questionable item was uncovered. A tumbler known as a Holly Beaded Tumbler always had caused eyebrows to raise because it looked like a drinking cup but had little round beads around the brim.
“If you think about drinking out of it, that doesn’t make a lot of sense because there would have been a lot of gaps for liquid to flow through. So everyone questions why they would have put beads on the top of a drinking cup,” said Kendall.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a drinking cup at all. It was a toothbrush holder.
“It’s interesting. I don’t know what the dentistry was back then, but apparently people brushed their teeth,” he said.
In addition, Kendall always had people question where a glass measuring cup came from. He said he was pretty sure it came from Greentown’s factory, but now he can say it with certainty, as the measuring cup was pictured in the 1903 catalog.
Acquiring the book
The catalog was being sold by a seller in Eastern Ohio whose husband was a “paper collector.” Instead of risking having the catalog mailed, glass collectors Johnny and Judy Horner made the drive east to pick it up. They learned that the seller had told her husband he needed to clear out some of his collection of paper items and began listing some of the collectibles on eBay while trashing others.
According to the Horners, the seller almost sacrificed the catalog to fire before thinking twice about it. The catalog was among other glass-related paper items, but there didn’t appear to be any other Greentown material.
On Monday, April 15, a symbolic day to the board members, as it was the day the Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire and potentially lost historically-significant information of its own, the Horners drove the catalog back to Greentown where board members anxiously awaited their first opportunity to go through it.
The group carefully went through the brittle, aged pages of the book once before handing it over to a professional book restorer. Now, the catalog has been restored, and copies were made that became available for purchase last week.
Kendall said he and the board were lucky to have acquired the catalog.
“Ever since I’ve been collecting, which has been about 10 years, it’s always been, ‘Oh, there has to be one out there somewhere.’ But it’s never been known to exist until now, so this is really exciting,” said Kendall.
Copies of the catalog are available online at www.greentownglass.org for $25 plus shipping.