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Ladle made for 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair reunited with famous Libbey punch bowl

The made-in-America story is a point of pride for Toledo. The famous punch bowl was created in 1903-1904 by master glassmakers and successfully used to promote the Libbey Glass brand around the globe.

TOLEDO, OH.- A massive cut-glass punch bowl produced as a showstopper for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and its matching silver and glass ladle have been reunited after being separated for 111 years. The Libbey Glass Company punch bowl and matching cups have been part of the collection at the Toledo Museum of Art since 1946. Now the ladle is part of the collection as well.

“We are truly grateful to local benefactors George and Leslie Chapman who made it possible for us to recover this beautiful ladle and put it on display with a punch bowl of extraordinary beauty and significance in the history of American enterprise,” said Brian Kennedy, director of the Toledo Museum of Art.

The made-in-America story is a point of pride for Toledo. The famous punch bowl was created in 1903-1904 by master glassmakers and successfully used to promote the Libbey Glass brand around the globe. It was in the same period that Toledo earned the nickname “Glass City” for being home to a large number of glass manufacturers. Edward Drummond Libbey, who led Libbey Glass, would not only found the Toledo Museum of Art in 1901, but he and his wife Florence Scott Libbey would become its major benefactors.

Two of Libbey’s top glasscutters, J. Rufus Denman and Patrick W. Walker, did the delicate fine cutting that finished the punch bowl’s design, a variation of Libbey’s Grand Prize pattern. The punch bowl, which weighs 134 pounds and holds 60 quarts of liquid, dazzled the fairgoers and the judges, who awarded Libbey the Grand Prize Medal for cut glass.

A description of the bowl in the 2009 book “Toledo Museum of Art: Masterworks” notes: “In receiving the grand prize, the company confirmed the judgment of Edwin Atlee Barber, who in his 1900 publication on American glass wrote that Libbey, having ‘brought the art of cutting glass to the highest state of perfection,’ set the standard of excellence in this field. ‘Its fabrications,’ Barber claimed, ‘are now world-famous for the depth and richness of their cut designs, their simplicity and complexity of pattern, purity of color and prismatic brilliancy.’”

The ladle was commissioned by the Libbey Glass Company from Mermod Jaccard & Co. in St. Louis. The jewelry and silverware firm served as a sales agent at the St. Louis World’s Fair for Libbey, which had about 1,800 items in glass on view in the Palace of Varied Industries. The punch bowl, although offered for purchase, remained unsold and returned to Toledo with other unsold Libbey merchandise.

What happened to the ladle? When the company gave the punch bowl and matching cups to the Museum in 1946, there was no ladle with it, according to Jutta-Annette Page, the Museum’s curator of glass and decorative arts. She thinks that since its intrinsic value was in the sterling silver used for its fabrication, it likely remained the property of Mermod Jaccard when the 1904 World’s Fair was over.

The Libbey punch bowl has continued to dazzle those who see it on display at the Museum, its home for the past 70 years, but the existence of the ladle only came to light again 10 years ago. That’s when Page was contacted by an American cut-glass collector in Texas, who said it was shown at the Portland conference of the American Cut Glass Association (ACGA).

“At that time Museum archivist Julie McMaster consulted documentary photographs of the Libbey Glass Company’s 1904 World’s Fair display. Digital enlargements proved that indeed there was a ladle with the punch bowl,” Page said. “The pattern of the cut glass knob made by Libbey is unique and matches the cut pattern of the 1904 punch bowl.”

In October 2006 the ladle’s owner contacted the Museum, asking for further information on the punch bowl. The following April, an ACGA committee visited the Museum, brought the ladle with them to compare the patterns first hand, and later officially authenticated the ladle as belonging with the Libbey punch bowl and cups.

The ladle remained in private hands until last fall when the widow of the owner contacted the Museum, offering it for sale.

“We were able to purchase it with funds donated for this purpose by Museum Board member George Chapman and his wife, Leslie,” Page said.

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