News-Antique.com - Oct 19,2009 - In the mid-to-late 1930’s, when the country was struggling under the Great Depression, public interest was sparked by an ambitious roadway project, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Financed by FDR’s National Recovery Act and supported by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the parkway caught the imagination of many, including Fenton Art Glass.
At the time, they were struggling too, to keep the company going during hard times and had begun producing French opalescent glass in spiral optic. When they began developing their crest glass, which features a line of colored glass at the lip of a vase or bowl, the Blue Ridge came to mind, and so their first crestware features a cobalt-blue crest and was dubbed Fenton Blue Ridge.
The original Blue Ridge line was produced only in late 1938 and through 1939. The pieces included baskets, bowls, candle holders, vases, a hurricane lamp, top hat, pitcher & tumblers, and ‘nymph’ bowls. The opalescent glass alternates clear and white spirals, with deep blue crests, handles and sometimes bases. This glass combination was developed by Fenton artist, Pete Raymond in 1938. Today, these pieces are quite valuable. Pictured is a Blue Ridge rose bowl, which is available for sale at Art Glass & Collectibles Shop.
In 1985, for the Fenton 80th Anniversary, Blue Ridge glass was reissued, in ten new shapes and a limited edition 4-pc. vanity set was produced in 1986 as part of the Connoisseur Collection. The anniversary items included baskets, vases, lamp, bowl and a fairy light. Not to be confusing, but there’s a French Opalescent pitcher with a blue handle that’s often photographed alongside Blue Ridge pieces, but it does not have the all-important blue crest. The Connoisseur Collection vanity set is really a combination piece – the two perfume bottles are Blue Ridge, but the tray is French Opalescent, and the puffbox is French Royale (blue and white spirals, rather than opalescent white and clear). I happen to know that some experimental pieces were also made in blue and white spiral satin. The Connoisseur Collection was limited in production to 1986 and only 1000 sets were made.
Pieces from either production are valuable, but of course the 1939 issue is quite a bit more difficult to find and therefore, highly prized. They’re a nice combination of American history and Fenton Art Glass history, and at all times, quite lovely pieces that would be a great addition to any collection.