Gay Fad: Fran Taylor’s Extraordinary Legacy, Volumes 1-2
By Donna McGrady and Kitty Hanson
Reviewed by Tom Felt
These two volumes are a labor of love and one that will be richly rewarding for collectors of mid-century decorated glassware. The authors have amassed an extraordinary amount of information telling the story of Gay Fad Studios and the huge number of decorated designs turned out by Fran Taylor, first in Detroit in the early 1940s and then in Lancaster, Ohio, between 1945 and 1962. The story of her career is recounted in detail in volume 1, followed by an illustrated listing of 246 documented patterns, several with variations shown, and another 49 designs that have been authenticated as Gay Fad, but for which documentation cannot be found. The remainder of volume 1 reprints four complete catalogs from 1951-1954 and dozens of price lists, some illustrated. Lists of employees and sales representatives make up an appendix, concluding this 296 page volume.
If volume 1 is the heart of this reference set for collectors, it is nevertheless just part of the story. Volume 2 follows the same format and illustrates Gay Fad’s nine largest design lines, including novelties, plastic ware, ceramics, and souvenir and promotional glassware. Publicity photographs, not shown elsewhere, appear in a chapter of their own, followed by reprinted advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles devoted to Gay Fad, and even a sampling of invoices. An important chapter presents the various insignia, signatures, labels, and other identifying materials that help to document pieces not shown in catalogs. And finally, there is a section on what is not Gay Fad – showing similar decorated wares by Bartlett-Collins, Federal, Hazel-Atlas, Libbey, and the Washington Company. Another 298 pages comprise this volume, heavily illustrated throughout.
The amount of information in these two volumes is amazing and meticulously documented. Over 1,500 full-color photos of 900+ Gay Fad designs! So what is the down-side? Unfortunately, it is the price. With the dearth of publishers today willing to take on book projects devoted to specialized glassware-related subjects, authors who write for the sheer love of those subjects, with a desire to share their hard-won research, have no choice but to self-publish. And the cost of doing that is steep. For those who can afford this set, I highly recommend both volumes. And I definitely hope that institutions with glass research libraries will order copies for their collections. These books fill a small, but important, gap in current glass research.
Both volumes are spiral-bound, 8-1/2" x 11", and priced at $99.99 per volume. The authors are currently offering 20% off this price ($79.95) for the individual volumes or you can save 25% and order both volumes for $149.95, which includes priority mail postage.