Authentic Retro Kitchenware

"It was all her idea"


History of Pyrex

Back in the early 1900's, Corning Glass Works was working on a request from the railroads to produce lantern glass that would not break when the hot glass was struck by rain or snow. In response to this request, Corning developed globes made from low-expansion glass that could withstand the abuses of weathering and handling which readily broke the flint glass globes. Ironically, the shatterproof lantern globes generated were so good that Corning's managers witnessed a decline in sales of replacement globes. This super-tough "fire glass", as it was called, was resistant to temperature fluctuations, chemical corrosion and even breakage.

In July 1913, a series of events involving Bessie Littleton, the wife of the company's newest scientist, forced Corning managers to focus their attention on the consumer venture. Apparently, Mrs. Littleton had used a Guernsey brand casserole only twice when it fractured in the oven. Knowing the strength of the glass her husband worked with on a daily basis, she implored him to bring home a substitute from the Corning Glass Works plant. He returned the next evening with the bottoms of two sawed-off battery jars made from low-expansion glasses. Mrs. Littleton cooked a sponge cake in one of the surrogate baking dishes. She noted several remarkable findings:
The cooking time was shorter
The cake did not stick to the glass; it was easy to remove with little adhesion
The cake was unusually uniform
The flavor of the cake did not remain in the dish after washing
She could watch the cake bake and know it was done by looking at the underside.

Mr. Littleton brought his wife's creation to work the following day. Laboratory researchers inspected the cake, which was a "remarkable uniform shade of brown all over." The men deemed it delicious and very well baked. Thus began a two-year process to perfect this new invention. The notion of baking in glass was a whole new concept to the public. In 1915, a wondrous new line of "glass dishes for baking" appeared in the nation's hardware, department and china stores. On May 18, 1915, Boston department store Jordan Marsh placed the first PYREX bakeware order.

Sold under the PYREX trademark, this transparent ovenware seemed to be the perfect material, for it was "swift, clean, and economical." Ordinary glassware easily chipped, cracked and broke. PYREX glass was different. This bakeware was not only sturdy, it was nearly unbreakable, eliminating the hassle and cost of replacement. (The durability factor would become even more important as resources grew scarce during the Great Depression and World War II.)

The early 1910's were a time when many homes had servants who prepared the meals. The "servant problem," as it was called, was a concern that servants would mishandle utensils and house products, resulting in the need for continuous replacement. The durability of PYREX bakeware alleviated this problem. In fact, in a letter of that time addressed to Alanson Houghton, R.H. Husted writes, "I bought several pieces of your new PYREX glassware which have performed satisfactorily in my cook's kitchen. I have an insane desire to chuck a piece of it on the floor to see if it is unbreakable, but haven't quite the nerve."

PYREX glassware was incredibly durable and easy to clean. Unlike earthenware, porcelain or enameled dishes, PYREX glass absorbed, rather than reflected oven heat waves. This sped up the cooking process and saved energy. Selling this new, wonderful baking product to a skeptical public was not easy. No sane housewife would believe immediately that a material known to be so fragile could withstand the excesses PYREX glass claimed to tolerate on a regular basis.

In 1915, Corning enlisted the help of Sarah Tyson Rorer, Ladies Home Journal editor, Good Housekeeping columnist and founder of The Philadelphia Cooking School, to act as a spokesperson and advertiser. Initially, she too was doubtful that glass bakeware would work in the kitchen. But soon after trying several samples of the product, she was promoting the baking ware at Corning-sponsored demonstrations at retail stores across the country.

Advertising became an extremely important tool to inform consumers about the benefits of baking in glass it saves labor and fuel, it makes food more appetizing and the table more inviting, for you to bake and serve in the same dish. Advertisements promised that baking in glass dishes would eradicate "the drudgery of scouring and scrubbing, the fruitless and endless efforts to clean things which seem to resist cleaning." Finally, advertisements convinced the consumer that cooking in glass not only saved fuel and metal, but PYREX bakeware also helped stretch another precious wartime commodity food. Bread baked an inch higher and even cheap cuts of meat tasted better when cooked in glass. PYREX glass was not only scientific, it was also patriotic.

Durable and attractive, the new bakeware was soon produced in many shapes with various uses and became so popular that by 1919 more than 4 1/2 million pieces of PYREX bakeware had been sold. For that time in history, the numbers were staggering, especially considering that during the first few years of PYREX glassware's existence, America was deeply involved in World War I. By 1927, it was estimated that 30 million pieces of PYREX bakeware were in American homes.

Specific attributes of PYREX glass that were important back in 1915 are still important to consumers today:
Ease in cleaning
Does not stain or retain food odors
Baking and serving in the same dish
Storage in refrigerator and freezer

In 1995, PYREX PORTABLES bakeware was introduced - a food transportation system that included an insulated carrying bag and hot and cold packs ideally suited to fit informal and mobile lifestyles. PYREX PORTABLES products allowed busy, on-the-go consumers to take their favorite meal wherever they went (hot or cold) sealed in the dish it was cooked in.

Over the 90+ years since it was introduced, PYREX products have seen many changes in design, color, decoration and accessories to keep pace with constantly changing fashion and cooking practices. PYREX glassware is now available in a large assortment of products perfect for preparing, baking/cooking, taking, serving and storing food.

It is estimated that nearly 75 percent of all U.S. households own PYREX products. Just as Kleenex tissue has defined quality paper tissue and Thermos container has defined quality thermal vacuum containers, PYREX is an American product that has defined quality, heat-resistant bakeware, prepware and serveware to several generations. When asked to name a glass bakeware brand, consumers most often reply "PYREX" products.

PYREX is a registered trademark of Corning Incorporated under license to World Kitchen, LLC

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