Colonial Art Glass Company, Chicago

This page is an introduction to Colonial because their background is not well documented, and the Company's duration even less so. Research has discovered that during the 1904-1920 period, at least 4 companies traded under this same name. These are listed below in order to avoid confusion when encountering them in future.

Colonial Art Glass in Ottawa, Canada, Bank Street
Colonial Art Glass in Meriden Connecticut on Springdale Avenue (Bent Panel Lighting, Rainaud President)
Colonial Art Glass in Pittsburg Pennsylvania, Whitfield Street
Colonial Art Glass in Brooklyn, on Fulton Street, New York

So far, these other companies appear to have primarily been window makers, but their details are sketchy. In 1893 William Lees Judson, a successful portrait painter and art teacher, moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and started Colonial Art Glass there. It ultimately became known as Judson Studios, a respected firm still in operation today.

So, the Chicago based Colonial Art Glass Company may have been late to the market with their first venture into lighting. However, the Midwest market was in no rush to embrace household electrification as the east coast certainly was. As Paul Crist has pointed out in Mosaic Shades Vol 2, large areas of the Midwest were blessed with colossal amounts of natural gas so there was less incentive to join the trend towards electrification, and trailed the east coast studios into this new frontier. The well publicized stock market crash in late 1907 also was less of an issue to the Midwest lamp makers unlike their counterparts in New York.

Just as with some of their peer companies, there is some evidence to suggest that they too made stained glass windows before venturing into lighting, but this has yet to be fully investigated.

January, Annual Electrical Show, Chicago

One year after the company exhibited their impressive lineup at The Electrical Show in Chicago during January of 1908, their only catalog (as of this writing) appeared. One advertisement (shown below) placed in Sweets Architectural Catalog during 1907 has also been found, but nothing further.

They were listed and represented among other well known leaded lamp makers at The Electric Shop in Chicago which opened in 1909 and may have initiated the need for their catalog. The very large range may have required a modest number of crafts people to make this happen. However they entered the leaded lamp market when demand for their relatively expensive high end models was fading. From these existing leaded examples, we see they were superbly made, and Colonial would have been formidable competition to their competitors.

As an example of the struggles experienced by their peers, by 1909, Suess's lighting business at their Wabash Avenue establishment had failed in early 1908, and D. L. Neuhauser was about to enter its first bankruptcy in 1911. Colonial's range was deep and many examples were complex and costly, no doubt their sales were taking a downturn in these years.

During April of 1914, Colonial Art Glass Co. declared bankruptcy.


Principals of the Company

From the few mentions of the company in newspapers and other journals, only the first 4 of the the following names are listed, and all in attendance at The Electrical Show. They are C. Eugene Parkhurst, an E. C. Gmelin, R.F Warner and a B.P. George.

Clifford Eugene Parkhurst

Parkhurst's name first appeared in the Los Angeles Herald in January of 1909. He was advertising as an independent decorator in furnishing and design of lighting fixtures. A synopsis of his career is described in the next tab.

Benjamin P. George.

Born in 1863 in New Hampshire, married to Lydia Harland in 1895. He was Treasurer at Colonial, and in 1920 appears in the census as the Treasurer of a Glass Company.

Eugene C. Gmelin

Born in 1873 in Wisconsin, married to Ada. In 1893 Milwaukee directory shows that he is a Glazier. By 1910, the census simply shows him as a manufacturer of art glass shades, but later records show him as the President of Colonial Art Glass. In 1915, he is listed as President of Imperial Glass and Electric with a business address of 407 Wells Street. Colonial workshops were at 40-42 Wells. By 1920 he appears in the census as a Glass Sign Manufacturer. As his core skills were that of a glazier, further research into Gmelin may yield more details about the company.

George D. Wighton.

Born 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland and immigrated to the US in 1880. He was the Accountant at Colonial

R. F. Warner

As of this writing, we are unable to find any record of this person. As he was in attendance at the 1908 show it is likely he was, like the others, a senior member of the firm

Frank Orloff

Secretary of the firm


Advertising

While Colonial kept a low profile in the popular press press, they did advertise in trade journals to a small degree. Aside from a limited retail presence at the Electric Store in Chicago, so far we have no evidence of other retail representatives, local or regional.

Sweets Architectural Catalog, 1909, Courtesy Paul Crist
Sweets Architectural Catalog, 1907
Inland Architect, October 1907
Electric City, February 1908, Page 12, Courtesy Paul Crist
Cut from the 1909 Catalog. Note the company logo (top right) that sometimes appears on the inside of the aperture plate
Electric City, October 1907, Page 10. Courtesy Paul Crist

Clifford Eugene Parkhurst

Clifford Parkhurst

Clifford Parkhurst and family were from Toledo Ohio. His father, Thomas, was a well known painter, and Clifford was blessed with similar skills, no doubt under the tutelage of his father. Sometime around 1907, he made his way to Chicago and became a designer of leaded shades and fixtures for Colonial.

Various trade journals carried advertising from Colonial. The first, during 1907, Offered Designs and Estimates, noting: "We will gladly render every assistance to architects, furnishing water color designs of art glass goods and special designs and estimates for fixtures."

As Parkhurst was the head designer for their lighting it is reasonable to assume his relationship with Colonial perhaps started in 1906. Electrical Review of January 1909 covered the 4th Annual Electrical Show at the Coliseum in Chicago, reporting that Colonial's lamp designs were "executed on water color designs by C. E. Parkhurst". Another trade journal, Electrical World, mentions:

"The Colonial Art Glass Company of Chicago, had a magnificent display of art glass designs in domes of various sorts, box fixtures and table lamps, the design of C. E. Parkhurst. Besides the shades actually on exhibition, illustrations of various other handsome designs were shown."

The company catalog that highlights their impressive booth at this show of January 1908 no longer mentions Parkhurst. Eugene Gmelin, a glazier by trade, now President of the Company, is credited as designer. This firmly suggests that Parkhurst provided the ideas and Gmelin the huge task of translating Parkhurst's watercolors into real executable designs that could be built. So Parkhurst's tenure at Colonial was short, and suggests that, as a designer, he was employed on contract rather than as a permanent hire, a common practice.

During 1908 he was established in Blanchard Hall, Los Angeles. This was a purpose built theater that included showrooms for artists and others. There he attracted business designing general furnishings and lighting fixtures. The Los Angeles Herald in January of 1909 shows an interesting advertisement for his services. Although establishing a foothold in Los Angeles as an independent decorator, there may have been insufficient business to sustain him. After he left Los Angeles, details are sketchy. In Ohio during 1914, he married a well known orchestral singer Della Maloney and by March of 1915 he was working at Sterling & Welch Co. of Cleveland. Later they are living in New York with Parkhurst working at Wahle-Philips & Co. designing fixtures. Subsequently they returned to Ohio, and Clifford took a position at Enterprise Electric Construction and Fixture Co. in Cleveland.

By 1918 his WW1 registration shows he held an instructor position at the Art Institute of Chicago. His name subsequently appears in the trade journal, Illuminating Engineering Society Volume 13, No5, July 20th 1918. There, he is affiliated with The Gorham Company as designer of lighting fixtures and architectural metal work. In this trade journal three items are credited to him, including 2 lighting fixtures in the Italian Renaissance style.

By 1924, he had created his own company, Parkhurst Forge Inc. in New York. He was a designer of metals and brasses. From advertising he placed in the trade journal The Architect, it appears his work was now moving away from the residential and more towards commercial customers. It is currently not known how long this business lasted.

In 1945, his WW2 registration shows him working for Gibbs & Cox, marine architects. He developed his art to include sketches and paintings, largely of maritime scenes. It is this part of his career that today he is more known for as a listed artist, his work is seen at auctions and in the art market.

Parkhurst died in Tampa Florida in 1959.

Lighting

With the appearance of a Colonial catalog and trade advertisements, we are able to recognize some of their leaded shades. However, it is likely that many of the grape hangers and smaller shades are commonly seen yet unattributed. Click the images to get to their detail pages.


  • Sweets Architectural, 1907