One hundred years ago, a new kind of cookware entered the American market. It was called Pyrex. Today the Pyrex name is well known in the United States. The heat-resistant glass products are still being manufactured. And early Pyrex products are now considered collector’s items.
Heat-resistant glass was invented in Germany at the end of the 1800s. But the glass was used mostly in lanterns because the lighting produced heat. It also was used in containers for telegraph and telephone batteries.
The usefulness of heat-resistant glass as cookware was discovered by accident. It started at the Corning Glass Works manufacturing company in New York. A scientist working there gave his wife a battery jar made of borosilicate glass. Borosilicate glass is resistant to heat and very strong.
Kelley Elliott is with the Corning Museum of Glass. She says the scientist’s wife used the jar while cooking, and noted something unusual.
"She proceeded to bake a cake, a sponge cake, in this battery jar. And she discovered that the baking was much more efficient, and much more even than baking in ceramic or metal was."
Ms. Elliott says that when Pyrex products began appearing in U.S. stores in 1915, the cookware quickly became popular.
At first, Pyrex dishes were only made of clear glass. But the Corning Glass Works soon started producing dishes in colors. Kate Halasz is the owner of Aunt Katie’s Attic, in Scotia, New York. Her store sells vintage household items to cookware collectors. She says the dishes with different colors and designs are popular among collectors.
"It's kind of crazy! But the popular patterns are the pinks, the turquoises. The friendship pattern is a pattern that came out in the 70s. That's highly collectible."
Borosilicate glass is also being used for astronomical instruments because the material is not affected by temperature changes. One example is the 5.1 meter telescope mirror at the Mount Palomar Observatory in California.
Pyrex dishes are still being manufactured today by companies that bought the rights to this recognizable brand name.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
VOA’s George Putic wrote this story in Washington. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow edited it.
Words in This Story
battery – n. a device that is placed inside a machine to supply it with electricity
collector’s item – n. an object that people want because it is considered rare or valuable
cookware – n. the pots and pans that are used in cooking
vintage – adj. something that is not new, but considered valuable because of its condition, design or monetary value.