Goofus goes to the museum

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Goofus glass was cold-painted instead of fired-on enamel.

Goofus Glass, produced in the late 1800s through the early 1920s, had distinctive patterns and often garish, vivid colors. The unusual glass was cold-painted instead of fired-on enamel. The process didn’t work well and the paint peeled, creating a nickname of “Goofus Glass,” because of the “goof” in the production process.  

Northwood, Dugan and Indiana Glass were the three major production companies, and Goofus Glass became a competitor of Carnival and Depression glass on shelves and displays. Often used in advertising memorabilia, the pressed glass design was either embossed (blown out) or intaglio (cut in).

But what happened to Goofus Glass and why have so many people still never heard of it?

G. David Ballentine, a long-time Goofus enthusiast, still maintains an extensive, informative web site at www.goofus.org and Steve Gillespie, an avid collector, continues to house a wide variety of over 5,000 pieces.

However, only one reference book was ever written specifically about the unusual glass. Carolyn McKinley authored Goofus Glass, published by Collector Books in 1984. Her personal collection consisted of 376 pieces.

Marty Davis, a Texas attorney, purchased the McKinley collection, and in October 2006, the Yana & Marty Davis Goofus Glass Collection was donated to Museum of the Big Bend.

The museum, located on the campus of Sul Ross State University, will feature Goofus Glass in a fall exhibit presented by assistant museum director, Elizabeth Jackson. According to Jackson, “Mr. Davis’s wish was to have the collection put on exhibit instead of being locked away in storage.” His choice was the University’s museum in Alpine, Texas.

Alpine, cradled between the towering Davis Mountains and the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert, is listed among The 100 Best Small Towns in America. The remote area offers numerous recreational attractions, and as the “gateway” to Big Bend National Park, it is an extremely popular tourist destination. Sul Ross State University, also considered the home of collegiate rodeo, hosts many cultural events. The area, rich in art, ranching and geological history, is often described as the “Last Frontier.”

Fortunately, for antique glass enthusiasts and collectors, the “Last Frontier” in southern Texas is not only a traveler’s delight it’s also the place to rustle up an abundance of Goofus Glass information once again.

The Museum of the Big Bend exhibit of Goofus Glass runs through mid February 2009. Admission is free. For details visit www.sulross.edu/~museum or call 432-837-8143. 

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Goofus glass.
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Goofus glass.
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Goofus glass.
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Marty Davis, a Texas collector and attorney, and assistant museum director Jackson. Davis donated the Goofus collection, plus others, to the University.

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