The Corning Museum of Glass will present 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 will feature 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.
“The history of Pyrex reflects the history of the United States in the 20th century,” said Kelley Elliott, co-curator of the exhibition and assistant curator of modern and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass. “As the country changed, so did Pyrex. New glass formulas were developed for evolving home technologies, marketing and sales strategies adapted to women’s changing roles in the home and workplace, and Pyrex patterns and advertisements changed to reflect fashions, décor, and world events from the past century.”
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.
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.
“Because our comprehensive collection of glass tells the story of the development of this material from ancient to contemporary times, the Museum is uniquely qualified to tell and contextualize the story of Pyrex and its origins in Corning,” said Karol Wight, executive director of The Corning Museum of Glass. “Like many of the objects in our collection, Pyrex was made using the experimental and cutting-edge technology of its era. It also reflected the decorative taste of its time. We look forward to exploring the dual impact of Pyrex products as both revolutionary home tools and as today’s objects of nostalgia.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive, dedicated website, 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 website is sponsored by leading global housewares manufacturer, World Kitchen, which has been a proud steward of the Pyrex® brand for 16 years. For more information, visit www.worldkitchen.com.
The exhibition will be on view in the Museum’s Rakow Library from June 6, 2015 – March 17, 2016. It is co-curated by Kelley Elliott, assistant curator of modern and contemporary glass; Aprille Nace, associate librarian for public services; Regan Brumagen, public services librarian; and Emily Davis, Collections Management Assistant. For a more detailed synopsis of the exhibition, read “A Century of Pyrex.”
About The Corning Museum of Glass
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, 19 and under, receive free admission. www.cmog.org.
The Museum is currently adding a North Wing, designed by Thomas Phifer, which will open March 20, 2015. The 100,000-square-foot North Wing addition will include a new 26,000-square-foot contemporary art gallery building, as well as one of the world’s largest facilities for glassblowing demonstrations and live glass design sessions.