During the height of the Great Depression, Libbey Glass Company, a commercial glass manufacturer based in Toledo, Ohio, released several new lines of stemware including this Knickerbocker set. The 1933 Libbey Glass catalog heralded this introduction of products as a “New Era of Glass” and promoted these objects as “the highest point that has yet been attained in the glassmaker’s art.”
After World War I, cut glass largely fell out of style and the firm began to produce machine-made glassware for restaurants and bars. This commercial market provided long-lasting financial success for the company. Arthur Nash, the primary designer of this set of glassware and a former manager of Tiffany Furnaces, however, wanted to produce works that took on a more artistic quality and demonstrated Libby Glass’ ability to produce luxury glassware. As the 1933 catalog indicates, these products, sold under the “Libbey-Nash” label, were available in popular retail outlets, though the company produced a limited range. The original release of the Knickerbocker line included a twelve-ounce tumbler, a ten-ounce tumbler, a sherbet bowl, a cocktail glass, and a cordial glass. At an additional cost, the buyer could have his or her monogram etched into the glasses.
Each item merged a solid square base with the cup—a highly modern design at the time. In 1942, Libbey released additional products in the Knickerbocker line such as a sugar bowl and a cream pitcher, though they were not designed by Nash. The geometric forms and clean lines of this glassware reflect a machine aesthetic that was popular at the time, even though they were not actually produced by a machine. Although the Libbey Glass Company is most well-known for their mass-produced glassware, these works demonstrate the company’s capacity to produce works of exquisite craftsmanship.
Ben Green is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. He is a Fellow in the museum’s Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.
 The New Era of Crystal [catalog] (Toledo, Ohio: Libbey Glass Manufacturing Company, 1933), foreword.