Quezal Art Glass and Decorating Company began in Brooklyn, New York in 1901 under the direction of founders Martin Bach, Sr., Thomas Johnson, Nicholas Bach, Lena Scholtz, and Adolph Demuth. Bach Sr. and Johnson had previously worked for Tiffany & Co. prior to starting this new glass company, according to The Collector’s Encyclopedia of American Art Glass by John A. Shuman, III.
The Company's Struggles
The company struggled to remain solvent after 1905, but operated through 1918 with Martin Bach, Sr. buying out the other investors who originally started the business. Shuman reports that Conrad Valshing, Bach’s son-in-law and vice president, and Paul Frank who was a glass gaffer for the firm, started Lustre Art Company making glass virtually identical to Quezal’s through 1929.
Martin Bach, Jr. eventually inherited Quezal's glassware formulas and the operation of the company from his father who had passed away in 1921. The business closed in 1924 leaving him available to consider employment with Vineland Flint Glass Works in New Jersey working in Durand’s "fancy shop."
After accepting the position of heading up this new art glass venture, he asked several former Quezal workers to join him. The art glass made by Durand often duplicated Quezal’s most popular designs, but the team developed original concepts as well. Transitional pieces combined Quezal's influence with new techniques. But even though the fancy shop eventually produced wares distinctive to Durand, many Quezal elements can be traced throughout the new company's production.
About the Art Glass
Quezal’s wares are known for the use of bold iridescent colors, particularly blue, gold, purple, white and green. These can be compared to Tiffany's Favrile or Steuben's Aurene glass. And, in fact, Martin Bach, Sr. used the formulas he had learned while working with Tiffany to manufacture this glass, according to Shuman. Thomas Johnson, one of the company’s founders, was also a master glass craftsman who worked in Quezal factory alongside other skilled gaffers and glassblowers early on. He left in 1907 to work with Union Glass Company in Massachusetts contributing to the firm’s Kew Blas line.
Designs were sometimes created by rolling, or marvering, hot glass to create a unique outer surface. Quezal was known for gold lustre glass, agate glass, feather, and peacock eye designs, patterns with trailing leaves and flowers, and applied shell décor among others. "The enduring hallmark of Quezal art glass is its unique expression of the Art Nouveau style, based on organic shapes and naturalistic motifs coupled with technical perfection in the execution. Vases, compotes, drinking vessels, and shades for lighting fixtures were often fashioned to resemble flowers such as crocuses, tulips, calla lilies, Casablanca lilies, and jack-in-the-pulpits," as shared by The Journal of Antiques website.
Items produced include a number of vase styles along with lamp shades, plates, tumblers, baskets, salt dips, bowls and compotes among others. All in all, though, wares made by this company were limited in production in comparison to many of their contemporaries.
The Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Alvin Silver Manufacturing Company in Sag Harbor, Long Island were known to purchase Quezal art glass. These pieces were embellished with silver overlay decoration in Art Nouveau styles and marketed independently, as noted by The Journal of Antiques.
Prices for Quezal glass rivaled that of Tiffany when it was new, and far exceeded those paid for items made by Emile Gallé and other imported French glassware brands sold in the United States in the early 1900s. In other words, they didn't come cheaply to those who could afford to purchase them.
The Quezal name, trademarked in 1902, references the colorful plumes of the exotic Central American bird known as the quetzal. This moniker was engraved in silver in block letters within the polished pontil on the base of some pieces reading just "Quezal." Other marks can read "Quezal N.Y." or Quezal along with a decorative scroll or a letter and numeral. Shuman notes that early pieces were not marked, and can sometimes be confused with Steuben's Aurene and Tiffany's Favrile glassware due to the similarly lustrous finish.
Paper labels were also used from about 1907 on. These were clover-shaped stickers and also attached to the bases of the glass. When they were removed or wore away, the glass was left unmarked.