Harry Northwood - Triumph and Tragedy (Part Two)
In Part One we looked at how a new and potentially profitable niche had opened in the market for the production of glass lampshades and associated items, for the new electric lighting, and how one glassmaker, Macbeth-Evans, invented a translucent style of glass, "Alba", to exploit this massive new market.
Here in Part Two, we look at Northwood focus on lighting and his Luna glass - leading to Harry's big mistake!
Harry Northwood also saw the potential for meeting the newly developing, and potentially huge, demand for electrical shades. He developed, and put into production his version of Macbeth-Evans' Alba range - Northwood's Luna.
Northwood’s 1913 Luna Illuminating Glassware catalogue was both romantically poetic and highly technical. It ranged from lyrical descriptions of the glass (“soft as moonlight, restful to the eyes”) to graphs, tables and diagrams of spectral analysis from the Electrical Testing Laboratories!
The cover of Northwood's 1913 Illuminating Glassware catalogue, right, had a very similar appearance to Macbeth-Evans' 1912 ad for their Alba range.
Extract from Butler Brothers catalogue, 1913. Here is just a small selection of the electric light fittings on offer. They certainly needed a lot of shades!
"Luna" lighting on the cover of Northwood’s 1913 catalogue
As well as plain translucent Luna glass, there were also iridescent effects on Luna shades described as “lustre” finish. The well known Pillar and Drape shade was referred to as “Venetian Type” in the catalogue, while the Pillar Ribbed, aka Flared Panels shade was referred to as “Sheffield Type” by Northwood. The iridescent finish used on both was either a rich marigold, or a pastel effect. Some of these Carnival shades can be found with NORTHWOOD in raised letters on the rim.
Above: Pillar Ribbed, aka Flared Panels
Below: Pillar and Drape. Both courtesy of Seeck Auctions.
Luna #42 and Luna #45 shades
In 2011, Greg Dilian, a Carnival collector in the USA found five matching shades with pastel iridescence on a milky white base glass (shown, right). They were identified as Northwood’s Luna shades. Greg has mounted the shades in a metal fixture from around the same time period as when the shades were made.
The smaller shades (a set of four), around 5 inches high, are Luna #42, as shown in the catalogue. Greg was able to capture the number 42 as moulded on the shades (below). The larger shade is intriguing: the catalogue image would suggest that it is #45, but Greg can make out a number 39 on the shade (which is impossible to photograph). So it remains a bit of a mystery.
A moulded "42". Courtesy of Greg Dilian
Northwood Luna shades (2 sizes). Courtesy of Greg Dilian
There is also another mystery: Luna #42 and #45 are also known as Louis XIV (Louis Fourteenth). This is probably because a large bowl shaped shade with this name appears on the front and inside Northwood’s 1913 lighting catalogue (right). The Louis XIV pattern looks very similar to #42 / #45 and it is possible that it is the same pattern, adapted to fit the bowl shape, rather than the traditional shade.
Greg Dilian's Luna shades looking fantastic in a metal
ceiling fixture from around the same time period as the shades.
Louis XIV in Northwood's 1913 lighting catalogue.
Start of the Downward Path (for Northwood)
Make no mistake, illuminating glassware was hugely popular and a very profitable business for many glass firms, and indeed, most of them were almost certainly using Macbeth-Evans' 1903 translucent glass invention! Various accounts in glass journals and legal reports explain some of the nefarious goings-on. In 1910, a disgruntled Macbeth-Evans employee “who had been entrusted with the secrets of the invention, left the company’s employ … and disclosed these secrets to Jefferson Glass Co” (reported in the Crockery and Glass Journal in 1918).
That was just the start of course, and was surely the way that other firms also acquired and developed the formula. Macbeth Evans lawyered up, and also decided they had better register a patent for their glass formula. Perhaps this was a response to Northwood's Luna Illuminating Glassware catalogue (shown at the top of this page), or the increasing demand for electrical shades that was evidenced by ads in Butler Brothers and elsewhere - who knows? In any event, in May 1913 Macbeth-Evans' patent was filed – a year later, in May 1914, it was granted. What was Harry Northwood going to do?
In Part One: Lighting - a new and potentially profitable niche.
In Part Three: Harry's disastrous error of judgement ends up in court.