In celebration of the 150th anniversary of glassmaking coming to Corning from Brooklyn, New York, the Museum reinstalled the Crystal City Gallery which reopened on May 5, 2018. This refresh shares the story of how Corning became one of the premier centers for glass cutting in the United States, a trend in American luxury glass that developed as the Corning Glass Works was getting established in its new home.
The story of glassmaking in Corning begins with Elias B. Hungerford, a Corning businessman with a patent for glass window blinds. Because there were no glassmaking facilities in the region, he found a manufacturer elsewhere by forming a relationship with the Houghton family, owners of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company.
In 1868, the Houghtons decided to relocate their company from Brooklyn to Corning. The town was a transportation center for canal and railroad networks, making the abundance of natural resources, like coal for fueling glass furnaces, more accessible. Corning was far enough west to escape the rising costs and growing unrest of established labor on the East Coast. All these factors convinced the Brooklyn-based company to move, and the new company was named Corning Glass Works.
At the same time Corning Glass Works was becoming established in its new home, a growing trend in American luxury glass developed—masterfully cut, high-quality lead glass tableware we know today as brilliant cut glass. Corning, New York, became the leading center for this style of glass. Dozens of new cutting firms were started, achieving international recognition for their inventive designs. An influx of talented glassmakers from Europe and America spurred the growth of the city and region, and the “Crystal City” was born.
The renovated Crystal City Gallery features iconic objects from the Museum’s collection of cut and engraved glass as well as selected private loans. Together with updated LED lighting, digital displays, and a newly commissioned contemporary glass sculpture featuring the topography of Corning, the refreshed Crystal City Gallery connects people to the stories about Corning’s origins as a center for glass with a focus on the history and innovations that led to its emergence as the “Crystal City.”