Goofus Glass is pressed glass which has been “cold painted” – that is paint has been applied but not fired in a furnace afterwards. Consequently the paint tends to chip and come off, unlike enamel painting on glass, which is more permanent.
The most common kind of Goofus Glass has red or green paint on the flowers and a dull gold or silver background, painted onto clear glass.
Most Goofus Glass dates from the period of about ten to fifteen years around the turn of the last century, (1897 to around 1912) although it continued to be produced into the 1920s.
It was popular for its bright colors, and being cheap and affordable by most people, it was produced in large volumes in the US by companies such as Imperial Glass and Dugan Glass. It went out of fashion when Carnival Glass became very popular (from 1908 onwards).
Goofus glasswas originally marketed under far more glamorous sounding appellations such as “Oriental Art”, “Egyptian Art”, “Khedive”, “Golden Oriental”, “Intaglio Art”. It became considered old fashioned and worse yet, it was found that the paint had a tendency to flake off with handling and washings. Early slang for Goofus was “Mexican ware”, “Hooligan hoolies”, “Bridal glass” “Gypsy glass” and even “Carnival glass”. Indeed, it was the first legitimate Carnival glass.
Various patterns were produced by mold makers so that the distinguishing fruit, flower, vine, insect, animal or whatever was raised above the surface of the surrounding glass; i.e. a ” relief embossed” pattern, or, indented beneath the surface of the surrounding glass- in hollow relief; i.e. an “intaglio” pattern. The distinguishing factor that makes an item considerable for inclusion into the “Goofus” family is that along the way, manufacturers of pressed glass commenced to apply paint to these pieces – what is referred to as “cold-painting” i.e. not fired on.
Early aerographing processes and combined with hand applied decorating took two forms as well. One form we refer today to as “All-over decorating” or “AOD”. One side or the other of the piece was completely covered with paint. The second type of decoration is referred to as “Pattern decorated” or just “PD”. Only the distinguishing pattern of the piece was painted and the remainder of the glass remained untouched.
The glass itself generally was clear, although milk glass is often seen with both types of decoration. Frosted (acid etched) pieces are known in Goofus but less commonly. Surface patterns were imparted by the mold used. The more frequently seen surface textures are various “basket weave”, “fish net”, “stippled” ones. Paint colors encountered are most commonly predominantly gold with red decoration but items such as vases can display almost any color imaginable. Paint is applied to the back of dishes, the outside surface of oil lamps and items such as trays and puff boxes.