They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it took a mother’s frustration with old-style bakeware for Pyrex glassware to become an American kitchen standard.

The Beginnings

Pyrex glassware is made by Corning, Inc. Corning originally made glass for railroad lanterns that were able withstand temperature extremes. In the early 20th century, Bessie Littleton, the wife of a Corning executive, got her knickers in a knot because the bakeware she favored broke after only a couple of uses.

She knew the glass that her husband’s company made could handle temperature extremes, and she begged him to make her a baking pan out of it. He brought home a glass globe cut in half and she baked a cake in it. And that was the beginning of Pyrex glassware.

In the Kitchen

Pyrex has been a standard American kitchen item for nearly a century now. Very few American kitchens don’t have at least one piece of Pyrex. It took a little while for American housewives to believe that Pyrex glassware really could withstand the oven heat, but once they became convinced, they fell in love with it.

Pyrex glassware not only can withstand oven heat, it can also withstand freezer cold. One of the selling points of Pyrex in the 1950’s was that it went “from the refrigerator to the oven to the table.” It was heat and cold resistant and pretty enough to serve from. Nowadays it can go in the microwave, as well.

Pyrex is also easy to clean, especially in comparison to other types of bakeware. Soaking briefly in warm, soapy water is usually all that is needed, and any stuck-on residue can be easily removed with an abrasive cleanser.

Pyrex glassware is sturdy, and there are pieces that have been in constant use for over 50 years.

Collecting Pyrex Glassware

Collecting Pyrex glassware is part of a nostalgia movement. Nearly everybody remembers some kind of Pyrex mixing bowls, baking bowls, coffee pots, or other items in their mother’s kitchen. The colors and designs of Pyrex changed with the decades, so it is relatively easy to date pieces.

Pyrex is also relatively inexpensive to collect…at least for now. As more people collect it, it may become more expensive. However, since millions of pieces have been made, and since a lot of them are still around, collecting Pyrex glassware could continue to be affordable.

From Bessie Littleton’s kitchen to today’s ultramodern kitchens, Pyrex glassware is a standard item. It still goes from refrigerator to stove—or microwave—to table beautifully and is an American kitchen standard.