The museum’s collection reflects the broad range of glass produced by Christian Dorflinger’s companies from 1852-1921. A highlight of any tour is the Dorflinger Timeline—three display cases in which glass is arranged chronologically from the earliest examples of Dorflinger glass (made in the 1850s) through glass made near the end of the factory’s production. Printed guides to the exhibit give detailed information about many items and discuss the history of the company allowing visitors to take a self-guided tour at their own pace.
Visitors see firsthand the differences in Dorflinger glass through the decades. The earliest examples are relatively simple patterns cut with only a few motifs. The middle case illustrates the peak production period of the company when it was best known for a richly cut (brilliant) series of deep cutting in ornate, geometric patterns. The later glass reflects the change in popular taste after the beginning of the 20th century when lighter cutting and etching took place creating more floral designs.
In addition to the timeline, displays show glass on long-term loan from several descendants of Christian Dorflinger. This family glass has many examples of historic glass and several important pieces that belonged to Christian Dorflinger and members of his immediate family.
One display case is dedicated to examples of Presidential glass and also items made on order to the Tiffany silver company for the wedding of William Vanderbilt to Virginia Fair.
The first Dorflinger glass for the White House was ordered by Mary Todd Lincoln. In 1891, a new Dorflinger design was selected by Caroline Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison. Dorflinger glass was ordered for the White House through the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.
The Vanderbilt piece was designed by Tiffany’s in New York, who subcontracted the blowing and cutting of the glass to Dorflinger in White Mills. All the pieces had elaborate silver holders and were done in either green or red glass, lightly cut in a rock crystal floral pattern.