A Short Overview of Glasbak & Its Competition with Pyrex
While there is no denying the collector’s market for vintage and antique Corning Ware and Pyrex brand bakeware, a markedly smaller but equally passionate niche of vintage kitchenware collectors have fallen in love with a lesser known bakeware called Glasbak.
“Glasbak Ovenware” was introduced in 1917 by the McKee Glass Company from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. Glasbak was specifically designed to compete with the Pyrex product line, which was created by Corning Glass Works and enjoying major success at the time.
In the first half of the 20th century, women all around the world were pushing for modernized kitchens. They were turning away from the demands of a full days’ work spent in the kitchen in order to provide meals for their families. Housewives were looking for kitchen products that saved time – and glass bakeware provided notable solutions.
Billed as “A sanitary baking ware and serving ware combined”, Glasbak was designed to go from the oven, to the table, to the refrigerator, thus liberating housewives from the piles of dishes that accompanied the preparation of every meal. The idea was that the same dish could be used to cook, serve, and store meals.
Glasbak Fun Facts:
- The Glasbak spelling was introduced in 1917 and changed to Glasbake sometime later that same year
- The spelling of the name has undergone two changes: Glasbak and Glasbake
- While Glasbak may have a revolving “e” on the end, it never has a double “s”. If you spot bakeware spelled “Glassbake”, it is not McKee
- Another interesting characteristic worth nothing is the “gravel-like” finish on the bottom of Glasbak dishes. I’m not sure if every piece has this finish, but in my own experience, I’ve never seen a piece without it.
Dating by the Backstamp:
- Glasbak or Glasbake: 1917-1953
- Glasbake by McKee Division of Thatcher Glass Corp.: 1951-1961
- Glasbake by Jeannette Glass: 1961-1983 (Often, Jeanette Glasbake will have a “J” prefix at the start of the product code)
Handling & Care:
So, can you “nuke” it? With all glass bakeware, (and particularly with vintage or antique glass bakeware), you should proceed with care. While glass bakeware is billed “heat resistant”, we have to remember that microwaves didn’t exist when Glasbak was introducted. While later Glasbake kitchenware may state that it is “microwave safe”, earlier dishes will not – and if the piece you’re about to microwave is vintage or antique, you should test it carefully before you proceed by placing the dish in the microwave and heating it for ten seconds. If the piece is hot to the touch after the ten seconds are up, we would not recommend proceeding.
Glasbak(e) patterns include: Safe Bake, Flamex, Wild Rose, Currier & Ives, Cameo with Urn, Cameo, Blue Fruit, Blue, Red, Green & Brown Floral patterns, Fleur de Lis, Ivy, Daisy Days, Wheat, Mushroom, Grecian, Queen Anne, Snowflake, & Hen patterns.
Other Glasbake Items:
Glasbak(e) also made other glassware products, such as patioware, hottles (individual carafes for soup or hot drinks), cereal bowls, measuring cups, cook, serve and store platters, loaf pans, apple dishes, mixing bowls, mugs, saucepans, casseroles, coffee percolators and more.
So, in summary: what makes Glasbak so special? It just comes down to the eye of the beholder and the collector’s mindset. Some people collect vintage and antique Glasbak because they love the patterns. Some people collect it because they love the history, or the idea of a smaller company taking on the big players. Other’s collect it because it’s harder to find than Pyrex and Corning Ware. For me personally, I think a combination of all of those reasons.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention the overall sentiment of today’s world and how that effects the collector’s mindset. As our society moves towards a “renew/reduce/recycle” way of thinking, a single dish that offers three specific uses has obvious benefits. Younger collectors, (and those young at heart), are once again gravitating toward collectible kitchenware that compliments that mindset. Perhaps this is why we are seeing the popularity of glass bakeware on the rise once again. The next time you’re out hunting for Pyrex, don’t forget to keep and eye out for Glasbak!
Thanks for reading!
Whispering City RVA
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