Hot Glass, Cool Characters: Vitrolite Visions

Posted on October 3, 2017

by Suzanne S

In a 1940 Libbey-Owens-Ford article from their in-house publication, “The Batch,” it is noted that along with Vitrolite, many LOF products were used in the new library including plate glass, Blue Ridge glass, and Extrudalite. People were excited to see the grandeur of the new library in downtown Toledo, Ohio. A “Toledo Times” article from July 23, 1940, stated that hundreds of visitors attended an evening open house to preview the murals at Main Library.

All of the murals at Main Library were created by inlaying “puzzle pieces” of hand-cut art glass onto large panels of colored Vitrolite. The majority of the work took place in Parkersburg, West Virginia. However, the finishing work was completed in Rossford, Ohio.

Vitrolite panel from the Main Library in Toledo, Ohio.

Displaying more than 80 colors of glass, the breathtaking murals in Main Library’s Central Court illustrate the history of arts and sciences in a variety of fields such as architecture, painting, music, philosophy, and industry. Designed by New York Artist John Benson (with the exception of the “Philosophy” panel, which was designed by Frank Sohn) the murals are six feet tall, and surround the atrium in a continuous frieze. The massive columns in the court, as well as many other walls throughout Main Library, are surfaced with Vitrolite.

Frank Sohn of Toledo’s Libbey-Owens-Ford Company (LOF) chose the subjects to be used in the Children’s Library murals from books hand selected by the librarians of that department. Sohn made the original drawings from which the LOF staff artists and draftsmen determined colors and created the finished murals. Josef Kossof was the staff artist responsible for most of the plaques in the Children’s Library. Marjorie Grace, a New York illustrator, created the drawings for the Toddler Room.

The Delightful Murals in the Children’s Library

Picture Book Room

Includes depictions of characters such as:

Toddler Room

You’ll discover nursery rhymes and fables such as:

Please visit your Main Library to view this reflection of the past and celebration of the present! While you’re there, listen to our self-guided audio tour to learn more about the intricate Vitrolite panels and the care taken to install them.

Below, you’ll find a variety of titles you may enjoy. The selections celebrate the varied history of glass and Toledo’s longtime association with it. You’ll also find a handful of books exploring glass art, artists and glass craft.

Glass History and Its Connection to Northwest Ohio

The Glass City: Toledo and the Industry That Built It by Barbara L. Floyd

The glass city : Toledo and the industry that built it / Barbara L. Floyd

The headline, “Where Glass is King,” emblazoned Toledo newspapers in early 1888, before factories in the Ohio city had even produced their first piece of glass. After years of struggling to find an industrial base, Toledo had attracted Edward Drummond Libbey and his struggling New England Glass Company to the shores of the Maumee River, and many felt Toledo’s potential as “The Future Great City of the World” would at last be realized.

The move was successful—though not on the level some boosters envisioned—and since 1888, Toledo glass factories have employed thousands of workers who created the city’s middle class and developed technical innovations that impacted the glass industry worldwide. But as has occurred in other cities dominated by single industries—from Detroit to Pittsburgh to Youngstown—changes to the industry it built have had a devastating impact on Toledo. Today, 45 percent of all glass is manufactured in China.

Well-researched yet accessible, this new book explores how the economic, cultural, and social development of the Glass City intertwined with its namesake industry and examines Toledo’s efforts to reinvent itself amidst the Midwest’s declining manufacturing sector.

Glass: A Short History by David Whitehouse

Glass: A Short History by David Whitehouse

Portrays a concise history of glassmaking from ancient times in Mesopotamia to the present day. Beautifully illustrated with copious color photographs.

Michael Owens and the Glass Industry by Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr.

Michael Owens and the Glass Industry by Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr.

The first comprehensive biography of the visionary and craftsman who defined the modern glass industry. With nine companies and 49 patents bearing his name, Michael J. Owens is a paradoxically inconspicuous influence on daily life. His invention of the Owens Bottle Machine revolutionized the container industry, making mass-marketed food and beverages both sanitary and consistently proportioned. A big-picture, true-to-life Horatio Alger character, his automated inventions were vital to electric lighting, food and beverage packaging, advanced optics, and automotive safety. The reduction of child labor was a direct and significant outcome of his inventions. Born in 1859 to an Irish West Virginian mining family, Owens, himself a child laborer, ultimately became known as the father of project management. Quentin Skrabec’s engaging account is the first biography on this unpretentious, resourceful, colorful, and dynamic industrialist and inventor.

Edward Drummond Libbey, American Glassmaker byQuentin R. Skrabec, Jr.

Edward Drummond Libbey, American glassmaker / Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr.

Edward Drummond Libbey was a glassmaker, industrialist, artist, innovator and art collector. Both practical and creative, he forever changed the glass industry with the automatic bottle-making machine and automatic sheet glass machine. This work examines the long career of Libbey, particularly his innovation of American flint cut glass, his contributions to the middle-class American table through affordable glassware, and his enormous art glass and painting collections, which eventually formed the basis for the Toledo Museum of Art’s collection. Libbey single-handedly revolutionized glassmaking, a craft which had gone virtually unchanged for 2000 years.

Glass in Northwest Ohio by Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr.

Glass in northwest Ohio / Quentin R. Skrabec Jr

The discovery of natural gas around Findlay in 1886 started an industrial rush in northwest Ohio. Within five years, over 100 glass companies had moved into the region for free gas and railroad connections to the western markets. Unfortunately the gas ran out in just a few years, and many glass companies moved on, but those that stayed changed the nature of the glass industry forever. A brilliant inventor, Michael Owens of Libbey Glass automated the glass-making process after 3,000 years of no change. His automated bottle-making machine changed American life with the introduction of the milk bottle, beer bottle, glass jar, baby bottle, and soda bottle. It also eliminated child labor in the glass factories. Owens also automated the production of fl at glass by 1920. By 1930, over 85 percent of the world’s glass was being produced on the machines of Michael Owens, bestowing the title of “Glass Capital of the World” upon northwest Ohio.

Glass Art and Artists

The Art of Glass: Toledo Museum of Art by Jutta-Annette Page (curator)

The Art of glass : Toledo Museum of Art (2006)

Covering the art of glass from ancient times to the present day, and published on the occasion of the opening of the Glass Pavilion, this work illustrates the magnificent collection of glass from the Toledo Museum of Art.

Glass Art: 112 Contemporary Artists by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney

Glass Art: 112 Contemporary Artists by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney

Visually stunning, this title covers a wide range of emerging glass artists whose work challenges the boundaries of familiar techniques. Intriguing!

Color Ignited: Glass 1962-2012 essays by Jutta-Annette Page, Peter Morrin, Robert Bell; foreword by Brian P. Kennedy

Color ignited : glass 1962-2012 / [essays by] Jutta-Annette Page, Peter Morrin, Robert Bell, foreword by Brian P. Kennedy

This is the catalog published as a companion to the exhibition, “Color Ignited: Glass 1962-2012,” held at the Toledo Museum of Art, June 13-September 9, 2012.

Masters: Blown Glass: Major Works by Leading Artists curated by Susan Rossi-Wilcox; senior editor Ray Hemachandra

Masters : blown glass : major works by leading artists / curated by Susan Rossi-Wilcox ; [senior editor, Ray Hemachandra]

A breathtaking collection of blown studio glass, featuring 40 artists and artistic partnerships.

The Essential Dale Chihuly by William Warmus

The Essential Dale Chihuly / by William Warmus

Part biography and part technique, this work explores Chihuly, the glassmaker termed “the new Tiffany.”

Chihuly: Garden Installations foreword by Mark McDonnell ; essays by David Ebony and Tim Richardson.

Chihuly : garden installations / foreword by Mark McDonnell ; essays by David Ebony and Tim Richardson

Shows the fascinating connection between art and nature with Chihuly’s glass installations.

No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass by Paul J. Stankard

No green berries or leaves : the creative journey of an artist in glass / by Paul J. Stankard ; with a foreword by Virginia Eichhorn

This is a collection of autobiographical essays by Paul J. Stankard, recognized widely as one of the world’s master glass artists and dyslexic. He is particularly renowned and respected for his flameworked floral motifs expressed in crystal paperweights, rectangular columns, and orbs.

Studio Glass in America: A 50-Year Journey by Ferdinand Hampson

Studio glass in America : a 50-year journey / Ferdinand Hampson

The American studio glass movement can be traced to 1962, when Harvey Littleton, a professor of ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, had a dream to alter molten glass into unique forms in a studio setting and teach his techniques. For the first time in its 3,500-year history, glass production, that had been limited to factory settings, moved to the artists’ studios and became a part of an academic program in the fine arts. Since then, glass has become the fastest growing studio art medium throughout the world. This book takes us from the first workshop in a Toledo, Ohio garage, to reveal decade by decade the unprecedented growth of studio glass. Through high-quality, detailed images and stories, this retrospective of 50 top artists is a collector’s dream. Noted art dealer Ferdinand Hampson offers a unique perspective on this exciting evolution.

Harvey K. Littleton: A Life in Glass: Founder of America’s Studio Glass Movement by Joan Falconer Byrd

Harvey K. Littleton : a life in glass : founder of America's studio glass movement / by Joan Falconer Byrd

The son of a Corning Glass Works scientist, Harvey Littleton (born 1922) first studied physics and industrial design, before becoming a teaching ceramicist. In the late 1950s, he turned to glassblowing, which was then restricted to the factory floor: devising a small furnace, he introduced hot glass into the artist’s studio. In 2012, exhibitions at the Corning Museum of Glass, the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, and elsewhere will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the two historic Toledo Museum glassblowing workshops that Littleton led in spring 1962. At those workshops Littleton put the ancient medium of glass into the hands of today’s artists.

Benefiting from close access to the artist and his personal archives, the engaging text is illuminated by many unpublished archival photographs and a detailed chronology. Littleton’s early ceramic and glass vessels and his richly colorful glass sculptures, among them the late “Lyrical Movement” series—twisting, twirling forms—illustrate this beautifully designed book. It also includes work by his close friend and European counterpart Erwin Eisch and his former student and much-celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly. Littleton’s work is represented in museum collections worldwide, including: the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Glass Craft

Creating Glass Beads: A New Workshop To Expand Your Beginner Skills and Develop Your Artistic Voice by Jeri L. Warhaftig

Creating glass beads : a new workshop to expand your beginner skills and develop your artistic voice / Jeri L. Warhaftig

Provides instructions for creating 10 types of eye-catching, flame-worked glass beads, in a book that includes full-color photos and introduces new skills, techniques and materials.

The Complete Book of Glass Beadmaking by Kimberley Adams

The Complete book of glass beadmaking / Kimberley Adams

Offers instructions for how to make beads, directions for creating designs, and strategies for achieving different colors and patterns.

The Glass Artist’s Studio Handbook: Traditional and Contemporary Techniques for Working with Glass by Cecilia Cohen.

The glass artist's studio handbook : traditional and contemporary techniques for working with glass / Cecilia Cohen

This title offers readers a comprehensive and accessible guide, while challenging the artist to stretch their imagination, experiment with new styles, and explore materials.

Kiln-Formed Glass: Over 25 Projects for Fused and Slumped Designs by Gillian Hulse

Kiln-formed glass : over 25 projects for fused and slumped designs / Gillian Hulse

In step-by-step detail, this enticing book brings the magical qualities of luminous, color-rich glass to a wider audience. Covers comprehensive techniques in detail.

A Beginner’s Guide to Kiln-Formed Glass: Fused, Slumped, Cast by Brenda Griffith

A Beginner’s Guide to Kiln-formed Glass: fused, slumped, cast by Brenda Griffith

This comprehensive introduction features projects both beautiful and practical that are sure to appeal to all beginning glassworkers. It covers all of the fundamentals, such as fusing, slumping and draping, as well as some intermediate and advanced techniques.

Creative Glass Crafts: Painting, Etching, Stained Glass & More by Marthe Le Van

Creative glass crafts : painting, etching, stained glass & more / Marthe Le Van

Glass crafting can offer perfect projects for the beginner: each of these is small in size, with a limited number of pieces, and uncomplicated to assemble. The projects reflect a variety of styles, too, from luscious florals to Eastern minimalism, and unconventional ways of working with glass (such as decoupage, beading, and bottle cutting).

The History of Glass on DVD

The House that Glass Built” by WGTE Public Media

Focuses on Toledo’s glass manufacturing industry and its impact on the area, the studio glass movement, and the philanthropic movement that put the city on the artistic map.

Into the Fire: the Birth of the Studio Glass Movement” by WGTE Public Broadcasting of Northwest Ohio

Features glass artists from around the nation celebrating the work of three visionaries who led the original 1962 workshops: ceramics artist Harvey Littleton, chemist Dominick Labino and the Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, Otto Wittman.

Did you like this blog post? Keep up to date with all of our posts by subscribing to the Library’s newsletters!

Keep your reading list updated with our book lists. Our staff love to read and they’ll give you the scoop on new tv-series inspired titles, hobbies, educational resources, pop culture, current events, and more!

Looking for more great titles? Get personalized recommendations from our librarians with this simple form.