McKee’s “Innovation”: Glass that was truly ahead of its time.

While unpacking antique glass from our Janvier Road bungalow, I began to notice something.

A lot of the pieces had these flowers and cut leaves!

Detail of hand-cut and etched flowers and leaves.

Detail of hand-cut and etched flowers and leaves.

A bowl…

A vase.
A celery.

Someone in my family sure must have loved this pattern!

The pieces resembled American Brilliant, but the sharpness and clarity were missing. It didn’t look entirely pressed, either.

And the motifs! At first glance they all looked the same – but yet, they were slightly different on each piece.

It took a while, but I discovered that it’s McKee’s Innovation line.

A mixture of EAPG and Brilliant, the “Innovation Cut Glass Line” was launched in 1916, and could be considered the forerunner of Elegant Glass, whose era began in 1920.

Each piece started out as mold-pressed glass. Then, McKee used hand wheel cutting to create the floral motifs that had been made famous on American Brilliant glassware.

One line, many patterns.
Innovation is easily recognized (once you know what it is) by its heaviness and those distinctive flowers, leaves and buttons, which appear on just about all of the various patterns.

Innovation Sugar Shaker, pattern #410. Photo courtesy of Toby Aulman

Innovation Sugar Shaker, pattern #410. Photo courtesy of Toby Aulman

Some patterns (most have numbers instead of names) feature a band of “buttons” (#410, for example.)

"Button" motif, common on American Brilliant and EAPG.

“Button” motif, common on American Brilliant and EAPG.

Others, such as 407, have stars.

"Star" motif. The jagged rim is called "sawtooth."

“Star” motif. The jagged rim is called “sawtooth.”

But virtually all have daisy-type flowers with varying numbers of petals, and deeply etched leaves – and the patterns complement each other, creating a lovely display or table setting.

Colors are cystal, rose, green, blue and Vaseline.
Some experts claim that Innovation was also produced in milk glass, probably by Thatcher Glass Mfg. who bought the McKee company in 1952.

Interesting facts about Innovation.

  • The pieces are not signed – a paper label was used, and most have disappeared.
  • The term “Innovation” referred to the hand-cutting technique; some lines within Innovation had their own names, such as “Beacon” and “Snappy.”
  • “Snappy” was a miscellaneous cut glass line, and closely resembles Innovation #412. However, Snappy’s flowers are small, with six petals. The ONLY items in the Snappy line are a rose bowl, 10” footed fruit bowl, ice bucket and apple bowl.
  • There is a cylinder vase in #410 (“Beacon”), but no square vase (pattern #15175, made by Tiffin). This misidentification has been corrected by Bill & Elaine Henderson.

The Duncan & Miller question.
Did McKee patent the Innovation process? One source states that Duncan & Miller held a joint patent with US Glass for this unique pressed/cut process, and that McKee simply got permission to use the process. The site shows a Duncan & Miller candy dish #38 that does look a lot like the McKee pieces.

To me, it looks too much like Innovation to be anything else.
And the Duncan & Miller factory burned to the ground in 1892 – well before Innovation was created in 1916. I’ll have to do a little more digging to resolve this issue, and will update this article when I get to the bottom of it!

In any case, Innovation is a terrific, relatively easy-to-find line of beautiful EAPG. Its lovely lines, substantive feel and sparkling hand-cut motifs will add a delightful accent to any décor.

If you love learning about antiques as much as I do, follow the blog so you won’t miss the next article.
 And enjoy the hunt!

About sarathurston

I'm a marketing communications writer who also loves antiques and collectibles. You can find my shop on Etsy at
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5 Responses to McKee’s “Innovation”: Glass that was truly ahead of its time.

  1. Gina says:

    I’m having a problem identifying a cream which has six petals on it and most places are calling it “innovation”, then there is another place where I found the exact piece and they called it, “U.S. Glass. Can anyone tell me the difference?

  2. Paul Kirk says:

    Duncan and Miller did not burn to the ground in 1892. That was the George Duncan & Sons factory which became a part of U.S. Glass Company in 1891. In 1893, a new factory was built in Washington, P.A. called George Duncan’s Sons & Company. They reorganized and became Duncan & Miller in 1900. The company lasted until 1955. Yes, there was a joint patent assigned to U.S. Glass and Duncan & Miller. It had to do with the technique of molding the pattern before it was cut over.

  3. Jauquetta Lynn says:

    I found a pink creamer in this and love it. Thank you for the info. I’m looking for the sugar bowl now. Any leads?

  4. Pingback: Tackling the Tecs: McKee’s 18 most famous patterns. | Janvier Road: Where old becomes exciting and new

  5. Pingback: Is it Pressed Glass or Cut Glass? | Janvier Road: Where old becomes exciting and new

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