By Dr. Larry Keig
All whimseys are derivatives. But not all derivatives are whimseys.
Ambiguity has long shrouded what whimseys are—and are not. Descriptions are vague or imprecise: “a creative expression which deviates from the norm,” “unusually shaped pieces of glass,” “odd fancies that weren’t part of regular production.” It’s not that these descriptions are inaccurate; it’s that they’re insufficiently specific.
Definitional lack of clarity has led to what might be called “whimsey creep,” the casting of increasing numbers of non-whimseys as the real thing. Wittingly or not, collectors and sellers have been complicit in perpetuating the muddle, playing fast and loose with the term.
In a nearly thirty-year-old (early ‘80s) Pump article, Don Moore noted that whimseys “are largely one of a kind [or] one of very few.” Two decades later, Richard Cinclair observed that “[c]ollectors usually consider a piece to be a whimsey rarity . . . when fewer than six are known to exist” (Pump insert, June 2000). Quantitative limits like these are helpful in distinguishing whimseys from another, related genre. But numbers alone are definitionally insufficient.
First we’ll tackle the matter of definitions. Then we’ll take a broader look at whimseys and the never-before-made-explicit related category and at the items from which both classes were derived. Next we’ll turn to a classification framework based on shape and availability. Finally we’ll track examples at each point of that model.
What exactly are whimseys? They’re unique or nearly unique pieces derived from line-item counterparts. Unconventionally, unusually, or oddly shaped, they were neither mass-produced nor mass-marketed. Consequently, a single example, or a couple of or a very few slightly different examples, are known.
What then are pieces in the other category, what I call “line-item derivatives”? Like whimseys, they’re unconventionally, unusually, or oddly shaped pieces crafted from line-item counterparts. Unlike whimseys, they were likely mass-produced, in relatively small runs. But apparently they weren’t mass-marketed, for they’re not illustrated in trade journals or wholesale catalogs. In sum, line-item (or production-line) derivatives were made in small numbers but in quantities exceeding the Moore, Cinclair, et al. upper limit for whimseys.
And finally what can be said about the line items from which derivatives came? Both mass-produced (usually from mould shapes) and mass-marketed via trade journals and shows and in wholesale catalogs, they form the bulk of pieces producd in carnival. Many of them were cranked out in voluminous quantities in familiar patterns, shapes, and colors; others were made, for a variety of reasons, in much smaller numbers.
Adopting a three-part division—line item, line-item derivative, whimsey—rather than holding on for dear life to the longstanding (and anachronistic) dichotomy of line item or whimsey should help to reduce the confusion with what should be considered whimseys and what, most would agree upon reflection, should not. But even the trichotomy somewhat simplistically pigeonholes the array of standard and atypical shapes. It’s probably better to think in terms of a continuum with several placeholders and gray areas in between (see Figure).
Lore has it, as Dr. Cinclair nicely puts it, that the “unusually shaped pieces of glass [whimseys] were . . . treasured by the glass makers themselves[,] . . . that workmen made these rarities—usually one-of-a-kind pieces—in their spare time for their own enjoyment or as a gift for friend or family member. Indeed, a fair number have been discovered in homes near the factories or acquired from families whose members at one time worked in glass.”
But Richard also noted that “Frank Fenton has stated that he doesn’t think workers would have been inclined to spend any extra time working in a hot factory making odd pieces of glass. He thinks the pieces we now know as whimseys were originally made as part of a complete run—100 or more similar pieces. There is, of course, plenty of evidence that carnival glass was ‘whimsied’ in much greater runs.”
I’d bet the pieces to which Mr. Fenton was referring were line-item derivatives, for they show up from time to time, indicating they were likely products of small runs. By contrast, whimseys hardly ever surface, suggesting they were made in miniscule numbers. It’s inconceivable to me that the Puzzle “thing” (derived from a bonbon), the Wreathed Cherries spittoon (from a sugar bowl base), the collar-based Ski Star basket (small bowl to which handle was attached), or the Beaded Basket with handles lopped off were production-line pieces. Thus, I submit there’s truth to the whimsey legend. That verity, of course, is predicated on the assumption there’s a category of shapes that lies between production-line items and whimseys.
The Line Item-Derivative Framework
In the early years it was line items and line-item derivatives (not whimseys) which found their way to wholesalers’ show rooms, retailers’ store shelves, and costumers’ shopping bags. Nowadays it is whimseys (and the rarest line items) which are the most carefully bubble-wrapped before being boxed or bagged.
Technically, most carnival pieces (including line items) are derivatives. That’s because so much was configured from proofs, their shape upon removal from the mould, before being formed into items produced en masse or in shorter supply. If it weren’t that derivatives are by definition unconventional, unusual, or odd in shape, any distinction between them and line items would be made meaningless. With the delimitation, bowls and plates can usually (although not always) be ruled out of derivatives discussions, because they’re standard shapes.
Line items lie on the left side of the continuum, derivatives on the right (see Figure). Line items occupy Points 1 through 5 and areas in between. The most easily found of these are at Point 1, the most desirable at Point 5. The two derivatives categories (line-item derivatives, whimseys) occupy Points 6 through 10 and adjacent areas. Production-line derivatives are positioned at Points 6, 7, and 8, the most available at Point 6 and the least often found at Point 8. Whimseys of which more than one or two have been reported are positioned at Point 9, the unique or nearly unique at Point 10. The framework is flexible enough to accommodate the positioning of items between fixed points (see Table) and the shifting of items from one point to another should this be warranted by a changing knowledge base.
Figure. Line Item-Derivative Continuum
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Line Items | Derivatives
Line Items | Line-Item Derivatives | Whimseys
Most Available – Least Available | Most Available – Least Available
Line Items, Line-Item Derivatives, and Whimseys
In what follows, the focus is on line-item derivatives and whimseys in relation to their production-line counterparts. The line items mentioned (Points 1 through 5) correspond to one or more derivatives (Points 6 through 10). Information in the text below is summarized in the accompanying Table.
In recent years, collectors have been blessed with photos that appear at Dave Doty’s and the Carnival Glass 101 websites as well as illustrations in books and newsletters. I refer readers to those sources in the following paragraphs and hyperlink to many photos posted at the Carnival Glass 101 site. All collectors are indebted to Diane and Dean Fry and Donna Adler for the valuable content and fine photography they provide. I am grateful to several collectors who have so willingly provided photos for this article: Neal and Sue Becker, Dick and Sherry Betker, Carl and Eunice Booker, Dave Doty, Don and Becky Hamlet, Jerry and Cleo Kudlac, and Larry, Mary Helen, and John Yung. I also thank Brian Pitman for making a professional web version available.
Line items make up the lion’s share of most collections. They range from the prosaic to the sublime, from the pedestrian to the seldom seen, from the subpar to the spectacular.
Line items at Point 1 are easily acquired. Quintessentially “low-end” in the eye of the elitist, truth be known these pieces are pretty much panned by plutocrat and proletarian alike. While a number of their derivatives fall at Point 6, the most accessible group, some are more difficult to find, a couple among the rarest of all. Line items at Point 1, all marigold, are: Apple Blossoms and Daisy Dear bowls, Band hats, Beaded Baskets, Wreath of Roses rose bowls, and tumblers in Floral and Grape, Grapevine Lattice, Lattice and Daisy, and Stork and Rushes tumblers.
Pretty plentiful, line items at Point 2 are considered more collectible than those at Point 1 but are hardly connoisseurs’ delights. Some of their derivatives are highly sought; one is even an only-known. Line items in this category include several commonly configured peach opalescent bowls: Caroline, Jeweled Heart, Petal and Fan, Single Flower, Ski Star, and Stippled Petals. They also include some “average” amethyst: Band and ruffled Ten Panels hats, Daisy Dear bowls, Wreath of Roses rose bowls, and tumblers in Grapevine Lattice, Heavy Iris, Lattice and Daisy, and Stork and Rushes. Another is the marigold Golden Grapes bowl; the other is the white Persian Garden small ice-cream-shape bowl.
Items at Point 3 are either available in limited quantities or desirable for pattern, shape, or color. Their derivatives are located all over the map in terms of collectability: some are but scarce, others rare, a couple the only reported examples. The line items include peach opal banana-shape bowls in Jeweled Heart, Ski Star, and Stippled Petals and ruffled bowls in Dogwood Sprays (amethyst) and Five Hearts (marigold). Also among them are white Beaded Shell mugs, marigold Big Basketweave bases/vases (more in demand as bases than vases), Nautilus sugars and creamers in peach opal and purple, white Grapevine Lattice and Heavy Iris tumblers, cobalt Puzzle/Floral and Wheat bonbons, (nicely iridized) amethyst S-Repeat punch cups, tri-cornered/tightly-crimped Ten Panels hats in amethyst, and marigold Wreathed Cherries sugar bowls.
Pieces positioned at Point 4 are uncommon patterns and shapes or choice colors. Among them are Caroline bowls in amethyst opal, celeste Double Stem Rose bowls, peach opal Flowers and Spades and Heavy Web bowls, large broadly ruffled Heavy Grape/Compass bowls in purple, marigold Heavy Iris tumblers, and large marigold Four Flowers and Garden Path Variant salad bowls (non-ruffled, with flared sides). Most of the derivatives are scarce or rare; a couple of them are lone known examples.
For this discussion on derivatives, a single pattern is positioned at Point 5. It’s the acclaimed amethyst Farmyard bowl in typical shapes: six- and eight-ruffled, three-and-one, square-ruffled, non-ruffled square, and diamond-shaped. Its derivative is an only-known.
Line-item derivatives rarely receive raves. But building a collection of them presents challenges and yields over time many hard-to-come-by and fascinating pieces.
The least sought after of the derivatives include two each of rose bowls, hats with two sides pulled in, and ruffled hats; also among them are four jack-in-the-pulpit shapes. The Apple Blossoms and Golden Grapes rose bowls, fashioned from standard bowls, are unconventional shapes but not unusual or odd by any means. Reported only in marigold, both are scarce but inexpensive to buy. These might best be described as “borderline derivatives.”
Floral and Grape and Grapevine Lattice JIPs in marigold are attractive small pieces. Crafted from tumblers and likely intended as receptacles for short-stemmed flowers, as Don Kime noted in “Items Made from Tumblers” at the Air Capital website. They sell infrequently but rarely command much money, probably because base color and iridescence are usually light. The scarce marigold and amethyst Daisy Dear JIPs were shaped from bowls of moderate size. Somehow these have always struck me as crudely proportioned, and this may have adversely affected their salability.
Marigold Stork and Rushes hats with two sides pulled in, made from tumblers, are reasonably available. It was to these a handle was sometimes attached. The Big Basketweave hat, also with sides pulled in, is the least often found of items at Point 6. They were shaped from the Persian Garden fruit bowl base/vase. Why so few hats are known when baskets are quite plentiful is an unanswerable question. Marigold and amethyst Lattice and Daisy ruffled hats have been reported as selling. Since no photos are available, it’s possible these are instead Lattice and Points with Daisy interior.
Three peach opal baskets – Caroline, Jeweled Heart, and Single Flower – are among the most desirable items at Point 7. Each has a clear handle attached to a banana-shape bowl. Marigold Stork and Rushes baskets, crafted from tumblers by way of hats, are scarce but not rare. Amethyst hats in the same pattern, with two sides turned in, are available, but no corresponding baskets have been reported.
Collectible as well are “giant” and, putatively, small rose bowls in Four Flowers and large rose bowls in Garden Path Variant; all are marigold, with Soda Gold exteriors. (The giant Four Flowers has a four-inch base diameter; the small would have a base diameter of three inches.) Rose bowls in both patterns were purportedly crafted from the salad bowl shape, tops cupped in. However, the derivation of the Four Flowers rose bowls is in doubt, as marigold bowls are so few and far between.
Marigold and amethyst Wreath of Roses tri-cornered occasional pieces, made from rose bowls, are attractively shaped and infrequently seen. White Grapevine Lattice JIPs are found even less often than the marigold. Also reported every once in a while are amethyst S-Repeat creamers, formed by pulling a spout from the edge opposite the handle of a punch cup.
The other two items at Point 7 are perhaps the most intriguing. The first is a Dogwood Sprays vase. Reported in amethyst, these were created from bowls via compotes, with narrow (just over seven-inch) top diameter. The other is a small Persian Garden nut bowl in white. Sides pulled straight up, it was probably crafted from an ice-cream-shape bowl. But it’s also possible it is a proof, the shape as it was upon removal from the mould.
Five of the derivatives at Point 8 are baskets, the other three JIPs. The Band baskets, created by adding a clear handle to marigold hats and an amethyst handle to the amethyst, are very difficult to find. The three large baskets – amethyst opal Caroline (lavender handle) and dome-footed peach opal Ski Star and Stippled Petals – are also hard to come by, the latter extremely rare.
The jack-in-the pulpit pieces at Point 8 are hardly ever seen. The amethyst Grapevine Lattice is even rarer than its marigold and white counterparts. The marigold and white Heavy Iris are almost as rare. All three were turned out from tumblers.
Bona fide whimseys elicit extraordinary excitement. Dugan and Diamond craftsmen created more of them than most collectors realize.
Five of the pieces at Point 9 qualify as whimseys by virtue of small number as well as by definition. The other two aren’t actually whimseys, as outlined in this article, but are unusual enough to merit mention.
The Five Hearts rose bowls, of which at least a half-dozen have sold, are elegantly shaped. All marigold, they were fashioned from bowls. (Five Hearts compotes are also known but probably don’t qualify as derivatives as their shape is not all that different from non-ruffled bowls and sell accordingly.) Fluted Scrolls spittoons (a.k.a. rose bowls) are also distinctively configured. Shaped from spooners, a precious few in marigold are known. These were made from a mould left from the Northwood years of the Pennsylvania plant’s production; no iridized examples of the spooner have been reported.
Until Harold Cox and Larry Yung called my attention to the Heavy Web basket (see the March 2007 issue of the Pump, p. 12), few collectors were aware this basket existed. Known only in peach opal, like the bowls from which they were derived, a couple in perfect condition and a damaged one have been reported. Also very rare are marigold Wreath of Roses spittoons. Shaped from rose bowls, they are not to be confused with occasional pieces in the same pattern (see Point 7). A very few large ice-cream-shape Heavy Grape/Compass bowls have been reported. Great in size and amethyst in color, these are variants of the broadly ruffled examples. One is pictured on the Doty website; another, with electric highlights, is illustrated in Sherman Hand’s Encyclopedia (p. 234, where it’s called “Millersburg Heavy Grape”).
The other two pieces listed at Point 9 are probably mould proofs rather than derivatives. Both rare, maybe only-knowns, one is the alluring celeste Double Stem Rose. It was in Bob Bishop’s collection for years and is pictured on the Carnival Glass 101 website and in Dugan/Diamond (Heacock, Measell, and Wiggins, No. 488). The other is a small peach opal Petal and Fan. It’s illustrated in the Edwards-Carwile Encyclopedia (7th ed., p. 406).
All the whimseys listed at Point 10 are, as far as I can determine, only-knowns, with one possible exception. The marigold Beaded Basket, sans handles, was created when a finisher snipped off the appendages and smoothed away the rough edges. The white ruffled-top Beaded Shell mug is described in Carl O. Burns’s Dugan-Diamond book but has not been pictured, to the best of my knowledge, in widely circulated sources, if anywhere. The amethyst Farmyard ice-cream-shape bowl (the so-called plate) is one of few whimseys in a standard shape. Another of these is the tri-cornered Flowers and Spades bowl in peach opal; it’s pictured on Dave Doty’s website. The lone known amethyst Fluted Scrolls spittoon is the companion of the marigold examples (see Point 9); cracked, it’s illustrated in Burns’s book (p. 76) and on the Doty website.
The two reported Nautilus whimseys are distinctly different from each other. The peach opal is pictured on the Doty website. Flattened from a sugar bowl or cream pitcher, it’s about seven-and-one-half inches wide. Dave Doty described the purple as a bowl with two sides turned up. No doubt also created from a sugar or creamer, it evidently has not been illustrated in print or online; thus, it’s a bit difficult to conceptualize. A peach opal Petal and Fan rose bowl was reported as having sold in 1998 for $235. I have no way of knowing if it was large or small or if it was a rose bowl at all.
The cobalt blue Puzzle/Floral and Wheat “thing,” at once a clumsy curiosity and a baroque beauty, is a flattened out bonbon (see Dick Betker’s article in the September 2008 issue of the Pump, p. 6; note that the pattern is misidentified in accompanying pictures). Another whimsey mentioned in the Burns book but apparently nowhere illustrated is the small peach opal collar-based Ski Star basket with applied handle. The amethyst round/tightly-crimped Ten Panels hat (5.25 inches in diameter, 20 crimps) was created by flattening a more conventionally shaped hat; it sold on eBay in 2009 for $50. The captivating marigold Wreathed Cherries cuspidor, configured from a sugar bowl base, can be viewed at the Doty site as well as the Carnival Glass 101 photo hyperlinked above. The Wreath of Roses spittoon in lavender is a counterpart of the very few known marigold examples (see Point 9).
There may well be line-item derivatives and whimseys besides those identified above. I may have missed examples, unaware of unconventional, unusual, and odd pieces in cabinets and cubbyholes, chests and closets—maybe in yours. It’s likely there are collectors who would correctly consider other pieces to be non-whimsey derivatives (e.g., tri-cornered bowls in several patterns, including Dogwood Sprays and Wishbone and Spades) and would add those to items at Points 6, 7, or 8. And there are surely those who would quibble with my placement of pieces on the continuum. Comment on the missing and the misplaced is welcome.
Writing in the Pump a few years back, Richard Cinclair used the phrase “whimsey rarity.” I have no doubt he employed that expression purposefully, explicitly mentioning one category while perhaps subtly alluding to the other, and not redundantly. My guess is he chose to leave untold the rest of the story, the part about line-item derivatives. The tale is unfinished without that part.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of The Carnival Pump, the newsletter of the International Carnival Glass Association.
Table. Line Items, Line-Item Derivatives, and Whimseys
|Band||Hat, Both Versions||Marigold|
|Beaded Basket||Basket, Straight-up Handles||Marigold|
|Daisy Dear||Bowl, Ruffled||Marigold|
|Floral and Grape||Tumbler||Marigold|
|Lattice and Daisy||Tumbler||Marigold|
|Stork and Rushes||Tumbler||Marigold|
|Wreath of Roses||Rosebowl||Marigold|
|Band||Hat, Both Versions||Amethyst|
|Caroline||Bowl, Common Shape||Peach Opal|
|Daisy Dear||Bowl, Ruffled||Amethyst|
|Jeweled Heart||Bowl, Small, Ruffled||Peach Opal|
|Lattice and Daisy||Tumbler||Amethyst|
|Persian Garden||Bowl, Small, Ice Cream Shape||White|
|Petal and Fan||Bowl, Small, Ruffled||Peach Opal|
|Single Flower||Bowl, Common Shapes||Peach Opal|
|Ski Star||Bowl, Common Shapes||Peach Opal|
|Stippled Petals||Bowl Common Shapes||Peach Opal|
|Stork and Rushes||Tumbler, Both Versions||Amethyst|
|Wreath of Roses||Rose Bowl||Amethyst (2.5)|
|Beaded Shell||Mug||White (3.5)|
|Dogwood Sprays/b>||Bowl, Ruffled||Amethyst|
|Five Hearts||Bowl||Marigold (3.5)|
|Heavy Grape/Compass||Bowl, Large Broadly Ruffled||Purple (3.5)|
|Heavy Iris||Tumbler||White (3.5)|
|Jeweled Heart||Bowl, Small Banana Shape||Peach Opal|
|Puzzle/Floral and Wheat||Bonbon||Cobalt|
|Ski Star||Bowl, Large Dome-Ftd, Banana Shape||Peach Opal|
|Stippled Petals||Bowl, Banana-Shape||Peach Opal|
|S-Repeat||Punch Cup (Nice Ones)||Amethyst|
|Ten Panels||Tri-Cornered/Tightly Crimped||Amethyst|
|Wreath of Roses||Rose Bowl||Amethyst|
|Double Stem Rose||Bowl||Celeste|
|Four Flowers||Bowl, Large Salad (Flared Sides)||Marigold (4.5)|
|Flowers and Spades||Bowl, Ruffled||Peach Opal|
|Garden Path Variant||Bowl, Large Salad (Flared Sides)||Marigold|
|Heavy Web||Bowl, All Shapes||Peach Opal|
|Wreath of Roses||Rosebowl||Marigold|
|Farmyard||Bowl, Typical Shapes||Amethyst|
|Apple Blossom||Rose Bowl||Marigold|
|Basketweave||Hat, Two Sides Pulled In||Marigold (6.5)|
|Floral and Grape||JIP||Marigold|
|Golden Grape||Rose Bowl||Marigold|
|Grapevine Lattice||JIP||Marigold (6.5)|
|Lattice and Daisy||Hat||Marigold|
|Lattice and Daisy||Hat||Amethyst|
|Stork and Rushes||Hat, Two Sides Pulled IN||Marigold|
|Caroline/Smooth Rays||Basket||Peach Opal|
|Dogwood Sprays||Vase||Amethyst (7.5)|
|Four Flowers||Rose Bowl, Giant||Marigold|
|Four Flowers||Rose Bowl, Small||Marigold (7.5)|
|Garden Path Variant||Rose Bowl, Large||Marigold|
|Grapevine Lattice||JIP||White (7.5)|
|Jeweled Heart/Smooth Rays||Basket||Peach Opal|
|Persian Garden||Nut Bowl, Small||White (7.5)|
|Single Flower/Plain||Basket||Peach Opal|
|Stork and Rushes||Basket||Marigold|
|Stork and Rushes||Hat, Two Sides Pulled In||Amethyst|
|Wreath of Roses||Occasional Piece||Marigold|
|Wreath of Roses||Occasional Piece||Amethyst (7.5)|
|Band||Basket, Both Versions||Marigold|
|Caroline||Basket (With Lavender Handle)||Amethyst Opal|
|Grapevine Lattice||JIP||Amethyst (8.5)|
|Ski Star/Compass||Basket, Large Dome Ftd.||Peach Opal|
|Stippled Petals||Basket||Peach Opal|
|Double Stem Rose||Proof||Celeste|
|Five Hearts||Rose Bowl||Marigold|
|Fluted Scrolls||Spittoon (Rose Bowl)||Marigold|
|Heavy Grape/Compass||Bowl, Large Ice-Cream Shape||Purple|
|Heavy Web/Grape Clusters||Basket||Peach Opal (9.5)|
|Petal and Fan||Bowl, Proof||Peach Opal|
|Wreath of Roses||Spittoon||Marigold (9.5)|
|Beaded Basket||Basket, Without Handles||Marigold|
|Beaded Shell||Mug, Ruffled Top||White|
|Farmyard||Bowl, Ice-Dream Shape (“Plate”)||Amethyst|
|Flowers and Spades||Bowl, Tri-Corner||Peach Opal|
|Fluted Scrolls||Spittoon (Rose Bowl)||Amethyst|
|Nautilus||Bowl, Two Sides Pulled Up||Purple|
|Petal and Fan||Rose Bowl||Peach Opal|
|Puzzle/Floral and Wheat||“Thing”||Cobalt|
|Ski Star/Compass||Basket, Small Collar Based||Peach Opal|
|Ten Panels||Hat, Round, Tightly Crimped Top||Amethyst|
|Wreath of Roses||Spittoon||Lavender|