VIOLETS EMPIRE

By Bert Kennedy


As Most Morgantown collectors know, there is precious little information on Morgantown designers. We do know a little about J.C. Bragdon, an etching designer for both Morgantown and Cambridge. We do know a little about August Christoph, a mold maker and designer. We do know a little about John Funfrock, glass designer and mold maker who taught August his trade. But how many of us have ever heard of Violet Dorthea Shumaker? Not many of us I bet.

All of this information on Morgantown designer Violet D. Shumaker came to me through the internet back in September of 2001. Susan Barr, from Pennsylvania contacted me about purchasing two Morgantown stems. She wanted to purchase an example of line 7660, Empire, and line 7673, Lexington. I asked why she was interested in these two Morgantown stems. Susan went on to explain that her Aunt Violet, had designed these stems back in the 30's. Susan told me that Violet did not have the money to buy the stems back in the thirties when she had designed them for Morgantown Glass. Being the curious sort, I asked how she knew that her Aunt Violet had designed these stems. Susan went on to explain that Violet had entered a design contest while she was a student at Philadelphia school of design for women. Susan said she would mail me the documents and I told her I would search through the boxes for an example of the stems her Aunt Violet had designed.

Total excitement overtook me when I opened up the information packet from Susan. It contained the following items:

1. A photo of Violet Dorthea Shumaker as she looked in 1931.
2. A small booklet titled Enchanting glassware for the Modern Home
3. A copy of Ruby glassware that included a stem designed by Violet.
4. A copy of the George Dougherty letter dated Dec. 13, 1935.
5. An account of Violets career

All of the items listed above came to me courtesy of Susan Barr, Violets niece, and Violets daughter, Judy Suchy. Additionally, Aniceta Zamborsky provided me with some documentation on the Design school and a photo-copy of the stems designed by the students at the Philadelphia school. The files she shared with me were provided to her by Jerry Gallagher some years back. When we share the piece we have with each other the puzzle comes together quickly. Please notice in the photo that some of the stems were filament types.

Big "THANKS" for all the information provided by these "Rare Glass Ladies."

Here is a photo of the stems design by the students for the contest.


Can you see the fancy feet on the stems? I can see stem 7664 Queen Ann filament goblet, a Wingfield etched filament Empire goblet, a Paragon goblet with frosted stem, Fairwin etched Lexington goblet and footed tumbler, a 7675 Paula filament goblet and 7685 1/2 Ashcroft, one vase and a few other tumblers. All these items were designed by students at the Philadelphia school. From this picture we can see that the wondrous filament stems were the product of the rich imagination of these student designers. Can you imagine that some of Morgantown's best know and highly collected stems were designed by students that could not afford to buy the stems they had designed?

As classes opened for the 87th year on October 1, 1931 at the Philadelphia school of design for women, students were greeted with over crowded classes, higher tuition fees, and many new challenges for scholarships and design contest. One such contest was a new prize competition offered in design by a Morgantown, West Virginia glass Manufacturer sponsored by George Dougherty. Mr. Dougherty had become interested in the school when his daughter registered in Fashion classes. Mr. Dougherty went to the school to layout the rules of the contest and the guidelines for the project that would include the technical side of the design as it related to the mass production of elegant glassware.

At this time Violet was a Junior at the school. 1931

 

Violet entered and won first prize for two years running. Her winning designs for her Junior and Senior years were the 7673 Lexington and 7660 Empire stems. As a result of an inquiry by the family in December of 1935, George Dougherty mailed this response showing the two winning stems Violet had designed.

What a great reference for collectors of today. Not only a letter of documentation for the designer but a hand drawn version of the winning stems by Mr. Dougherty.

The stems that Violet could not afford to buy even though she was the designer were priced at $6.00 to $12.00 per dozen. I hope we value the work she did for us as Morgantown collectors. Violets family now has an example of the stems. I sent them a Lexington Goblet with Eileen etch and a Ritz Blue Champagne from the Empire line to be a part of Violets Empire.

Both stems are wonderful examples of the design imagination of Violet and skill of the workers at Morgantown. It is great to know that these stems were designed by "Violet Dorthea Shumaker" or later "Sally Armbruster". .

One other item that the family sent, but that was not directly related to the stem design, is a small booklet showing many of Morgantown's glass products of the 30's. Here is the front page of a booklet that was included in the information packet from Susan Barr.

The booklet is full of wonderful Morgantown glass. And now we know a little more about one of the designers of that wondrous glassware. I hope you have enjoyed the article. It was a great honor to share this new information with all Morgantown collectors.

 

Below is a link to a summary of Violet's career…..

An Account of the Student Career of Sally Armbruster