Transformative Impact of Pyrex on American Households

 

[Photo credit: Corning Museum of Glass www.cmog.org]

 

The Corning Museum of Glass presents America’s Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex, the first exhibition devoted to the iconic cookware. Organized in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 1915 invention of Pyrex, the exhibition featured a wide range of objects and materials — from the first pie dish to the famed stackable measuring cup redesigned in 1983, as well as advertisements and ephemera, like product cookbooks and catalogs. The exhibition shows how this common household product, born out of scientific discoveries in glass, was shaped not only by designers and engineers but also by women consumers around the country.

 

Pyrex brand ovenware.

[Photo credit: Corning Museum of Glass www.cmog.org]

 

The origins of Pyrex can be traced to the production of temperature-resistant borosilicate glass for railroad lantern globes by Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated). This new glass was used for several products that required temperature-resistant glass. Only a few years later, Corning began to explore using this glass for housewares, marketing their new brand of glass housewares as Pyrex.

 

At the same time Corning introduced Pyrex, home economics was emerging as a profession. From its introduction, Corning Glass Works embraced the idea of using these new domestic professionals to test and promote Pyrex. The company hired Sarah Tyson Rorer, an editor at Ladies’ Home Journal, and Mildred Maddocks of the Good Housekeeping Institute, to promote the brand through cooking demonstrations at department stores around the country. In 1929, Corning hired full-time home economist and scientist, Lucy Maltby, to manage the company's new consumer services office. By 1931, Maltby had established a Test Kitchen at Corning Glass Works, designed to evaluate new products before they were put on the market.

 

[Photo credit: Corning Museum of Glass www.cmog.org]

 

Representative objects and advertisements from each decade will be on view to trace the evolution of the Pyrex brand. Particular highlights include:

  • The first 12 Pyrex products introduced to the consumer market in 1915, including: covered casserole dishes, pie plates, shirred egg dishes, custard cups, loaf pans, au gratin dishes, and oval baking dishes.
  • Durable military mess ware developed by Corning Glass Works in 1940s, which evolved into Pyrex opalware after World War II.
  • Representative pieces of nearly 150 Pyrex opalware patterns including the Terra and Verde patterns from the 1960s.
  • Pyrex measuring cups, including the 1980s redesign which introduced a new handle that allowed measuring cups of various sizes to be stacked inside one another.
  • A large archive of Pyrex advertisements, from its origins through the 1980s, incorporating themes such as weddings, wartime (specifically WWII), Christmas, intergenerational, and historical events. One ad depicts how the moon landing inspired the Horizon Blue pattern.
  • Original design drawings, correspondence, and other ephemera related to Pyrex design and marketing.

 

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive, dedicated website, Pyrex Potluck pyrex.cmog.org, which will feature the Museum’s Pyrex holdings of more than 2,000 objects, sortable by pattern and/or date. The website will host a database for Pyrex research and provide a place for enthusiasts to share their own stories, images, and recipes with others. Features will include digitized advertisements, articles and clips of oral histories conducted by the staff of the Museum’s Rakow Research Library, who have gathered personal perspectives from designers, engineers, and marketing staff who worked with Pyrex products.

 

 

The Corning Museum of Glass is home to the world’s most important collection of glass, including the finest examples of glassmaking spanning 3,500 years. Live glassblowing demonstrations (offered at the Museum, on the road, and at sea on Celebrity Cruises) bring the material to life. Daily Make Your Own Glass experiences at the Museum enable visitors to create work in a state-of-the-art glassmaking studio. The campus in Corning includes a year-round glassmaking school, The Studio, and the Rakow Research Library, the world’s preeminent collection of materials on the art and history of glass. Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, the Museum is open daily, year-round. Kids and teens, 17 and under, receive free admission. www.cmog.org.