The Imperial Glass Company was founded in 1901 by an ex-riverboat captain Edward Muhleman who had many years' experience as a director/ manager/ investor in glass companies. The aim was to build a very large, modern glassworks close to the river in Bellaire, Ohio, where there were so many other glassworks that Bellaire was already known as "Glass City". After three years of planning and building, this new glassworks went into production in 1904, and within a few months became a major player in the glass industry in the USA.
Starting with clear glass in an extensive range of new tableware and imitation cut designs, they moved on to colored glass and carnival glass in 1909. The early Imperial trademarks were Nuart and Nucut (see left). From 1920 onwards the fourth trademark shown on the left, a double I with the word Imperial, was introduced. Early colored glass from Imperial is not usually marked with a trademark, however.
In the 1950s the trademark IG (see below) was introduced and in the 1960s the company began to re-issue some of its old designs in Carnival Glass. Imperial was careful to apply the IG trademark to most of its re-issues of old designs, but not necessarily to designs that were in continuous production over a long period, like Candlewick (approx.1936-1980s) and Cape Cod (approx. 1931-1980s).
Imperial bought the assets of the A. H. Heisey glassworks in 1958 and two years later, those of the Cambridge Glass Company. This brought hundreds of molds for some very successful lines into Imperial, and they continued to produce them under the old identities, as "Heisey by Imperial" and "Cambridge by Imperial".
In 1973 the diverse manufacturing company Lenox Inc. bought Imperial Glass and over the next few years Imperial moved more into the glass giftware market, and away from its traditional tableware market. An L was added to the Imperial IG trademark during the Lenox years, and it also seems there was a lack of investment in repairs and renovations at Imperial during this period.
In 1981 Lenox sold imperial to Arthur Lorch (who added an A to the trademark, making it ALIG), and after a few more years of struggling against bankruptcy, the company finally closed in 1984 and its assets were sold to Lancaster Colony and Consolidated International.
At the liquidation sales which followed this final closure, the Heisey molds which had belonged to Imperial were mostly bought by Heisey Collectors of America and the Cambridge molds by the National Cambridge Collectors Club.
Imperial is famous for a wide range of types of glass, including its imitation cut glass, Depression Glass, Carnival Glass, slag glass, decorated glass, novelty glass animals, stretch glass, milk glass, opalescent glass, black glass, and even for a short time, hand blown art glass.
Another trademark, NI superimposed, was introduced very briefly in the 1980's standing for "New Imperial". Here are some more illustrations of the Imperial trademarks referred to above.
Above from left to right:
a) 1951-1970s - Imperial's trademark used to identify re-issues and later items.
b) LIG trademark from the Lenox period, 1973-81;
c) ALIG from the Arthur Lorch period, 1981.