In the early 1900’s Corning Glass Works had developed a lantern glass made from a low-expansion glass for the railroads that would not shatter when it was struck by rain or snow. As a result they saw a decline in sales as replacements were not needed as often. The tough glass was resistant to temperature fluctuations, corrosion and breakage. Corning was looking for a way to expand their business when in 1913 Bessie Littleton, the wife of company’s newest scientist, Dr. Jesse Littleton, became very frustrated with her Guernsey brand casserole which had fractured in the oven after only two uses. She knew the strength of the glass her husband had been working with on a daily basis and begged him to bring home a substitute from the Corning Glass plant. The next evening he brought home the bottoms of two sawed-off battery jars made from the low-expansion glasses. She baked a sponge cake in one of the glasses. Her findings were remarkable.
1. The cooking time was shorter 2. The cake did not stick to the glass 3. The cake was uniform 4. She could watch the cake bake and see that it was done by looking at the underside.
Dr. Littleton took his wife’s creation to work with him the following day. Researchers inspected the cake noting it was uniform in color, delicious and well baked. Thus began a two year process to perfect this new invention. On May 18, 1915 the Boston department store, Jordan Marsh, placed the first Pyrex order.
This glassware, sold under the Pyrex trademark, seemed to be the perfect material. It was sturdy and nearly unbreakable which eliminated the hassle and cost of replacing it. These attributes would become even more important during World War II when resources were scarce.
Selling the product was not easy since most housewives would not believe that glass would be so durable and would withstand the stresses that Pyrex claimed to tolerate. People were skeptical despite the fact that Pyrex was easy to clean, absorbed rather than reflected heat waves and was not fragile. In 1915 Corning enlisted the aid of Sarah Tyson Rorer, editor of ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping columnist and founder of The Philadelphia Cooking School to be their spokesperson and advertiser. She was soon promoting the product at demonstrations across the country. By 1919 more than 4 1/2 million pieces had been sold. That was an enormous number for that time period as America was involved in World War I.
Pyrex attributes that were important in 1915 are still important today.
1. Dependable 2. Versatile 3. Durable 4. Value 5. Easy to clean 6. Does not stain or retain food odors 7. Bake and serve in same dish 8. Refrigerator/freezer storage
Since Pyrex was introduced the products have seen many changes in design, color, decoration and accessories to keep pace with changing cooking practices and fashion. Pyrex Portales, a part of changing times, was introduced in 1995. It is an insulated food transportation system that allows for carrying hot or cold food sealed in the dish it was cooked in. Pyrex is now available in a wide assortment of products for baking, storing and transporting food.
Imagining a kitchen without this durable and versatile cookware is almost impossible. Whether it is used for baking a cake, roasting or preparing a casserole, Pyrex is reliable, easy to clean and can be used to refrigerate the leftovers. It is truly a workhorse in the kitchen.
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