Biographical / Historical
Frederick Carder was born in Staffordshire, England on September 18, 1863 to Annie and Caleb Carder. He was the second son in a family of five boys and one girl. His father and paternal grandfather owned Leys Pottery, which produced salt-glazed stoneware articles. By the time he was fourteen, Carder was top of his class but he eventually quit school to work in the family business. However, he enrolled in night classes at the School of Art in Stourbridge and he also took evening classes at the Dudley Mechanics Institute in chemistry, electricity and metallurgy.
When Carder learned that the renowned artist and sculptor, John Northwood, was the father of a fellow student he decided to visit the artist’s studio. Northwood was so impressed by a small marble head that Carder had just finished carving that the artist invited Carder to spend Saturday afternoons at his studio learning the art of cameo glassmaking. Carder showed such promise that Northwood recommended him to the Brierly Hill firm of Stevens & Williams for the position of glass designer. Stevens & Williams hired Carder in 1880 and he quickly began designing original glass forms and cut decorations. Carder also wanted to revive colored glass and eventually, the principal of the factory consented to have some colored glass designs produced on a trial basis. These designs proved to be very popular and sold quickly. Carder remained at Stevens & Williams for the next two decades.
In 1887, Frederick Carder married Annie Walker at the Parish Church of St. James, Dudley, Worcestershire. They had a daughter and two sons: Gladys, Stanley, and Cyril.
Carder qualified as an entrant in the national art competitions in London in 1891 and won an Art Master’s Certificate and the Gold Medal of the Year for his thirty-inch copy of the heroic bronze, “The Archer,” by Hamo Thornycroft. This achievement also entitled him to a national scholarship, which would have enabled him to study for three years in Paris, Rome, or London. However, Stevens & Williams refused to release him from his contract, and he missed this opportunity. Nevertheless, the scholastic committee arranged for Carder to use some of the funds to travel during his annual vacations. On these trips, Carder was able to study glass collections in museums in England and other parts of Europe.
Also in 1891, Carder established the Wordsley School of Art in order to train glassworkers in the basics of drawings and in advanced glass production techniques. As a result of this institution, the numbers and skills of glassworkers available in the Stourbridge area increased. Therefore, to show its appreciation, the local Stourbridge government sent Carder on a tour of the glassmaking centers of Germany, Austria and the United States.
In 1903, Carder visited glasshouses in Pittsburgh, Washington D. C., and Corning, New York. While in Corning, he met with Corning Glass Works officials and was taken on a tour of the plant. He also met with Thomas G. Hawkes, who was the president of T.G. Hawkes & Company—a glass decorating firm established in Corning in 1880—and who had been buying glass blanks from Stevens & Williams for many years. It has been generally assumed by scholars that the two men were previously acquainted and “that prior to Carder’s arrival in Corning, they had already laid out the basic terms of agreement to start a new company in Corning—the Steuben Glass Works, named for Steuben County in which the town was located” (Madigan, 2003, p. 49). While Hawkes provided the financial backing for the new company, Carder emerged as the administrator, production manager and artistic head of the Steuben Glass Works. He also developed the various innovative glass formulas used at Steuben.
Due to financial restraints caused by World War I, Carder faced either shutting down Steuben or selling it to Corning Glass Works. Carder chose to sell and in 1918 the Steuben Glass Works became the Steuben Division of Corning Glass Works. Another major change to the company occurred in 1932 when Carder was relieved of his duties as manager of the Steuben Division and assigned the title of Art Director of Corning Glass Works. Carder remained with the company until his official retirement in 1959.
Frederick Carder died in his sleep on December 10, 1963.
Gardner, P. V. (1985). "Frederick Carder: Portrait of a glassmaker." New York: The Corning Museum of Glass.
Gardner, P. V. (1971). "The glass of Frederick Carder." New York: The Corning Museum of Glass.
Hotchkiss, J. F. (1972). "Carder’s Steuben Glass handbook & price guide." New York: Hotchkiss House Inc.
Madigan, M. J. (2003). "Steuben Glass: An American tradition in crystal." New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.