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Gay Fad Blog

From Pat:

Hello,
Every once in a while I look up Gay Fad Studios out of curiosity. I came across your question as I was browsing on the internet.

My Aunt, Fran Taylor, started the Gay Fad Studio company. I grew up hearing stories about her life and visited her home and business when I was about eight years old. That would have been in 1956. My father was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio at the time and we drove to Lancaster, Ohio to visit.

Her parents were Agnes and Andrew Habrat. They moved from the Western Pennsylvania coal mine area to Detroit when Frances was a young girl. She was the oldest of five children. My father Joseph (named changed to Hobart) was the second oldest. There were three other brothers.

Aunt Fran’s second husband was Bruce Taylor. There was a daughter Stephanie, my cousin, who I would like very much to locate.

My Mother’s oldest sister, Gladys, lives near Detroit and was about Fran’s age and still can tell me stories about their life and times.

We still have a number of lovely pieces of glassware that we have kept in our family.

Fran was very intelligent, tall and attractive. She lived in a strikingly modern home. Her life had a bit of the makings of a Charles Dickens story.

Sincerely,
Pat

Dear Pat,
Ol’ Swaphos forwarded your email to me, knowing that it would make my day. Wow! Was he ever right! Thank you sooo much for telling us about your aunt, Fran Taylor. As you know, all I had discovered about Gay Fad Studios was that one little book excerpt I quoted on our site that told the intriguing story of an unnamed woman who turned an artistic idea into big business – in the ’40’s no less! Since female entrepreneurs weren’t exactly a dime a dozen back then, I’ve been dying to know who this remarkable woman was. Now you’ve not only named her, you’ve added wonderful family history from a very personal viewpoint!

One of the best things about being the proprietress of Santa Fe Trading Post™ is that, in researching our antiques and collectibles, I get to indulge my passion for history. As if that weren’t fun enough, I also get to meet great people like you who take the time to email us with information and stories we’d never otherwise know. What more could I ask? I can’t thank you enough for providing your fascinating piece of Americana!

We’ve put your information on our site, while of course protecting your personal identity. Who knows? One of our Trading Post visitors may be able to help you locate your cousin Stephanie! Is she the daughter of your Aunt Fran and her second husband Bruce Taylor? Was she born in Ohio? Approximately when?

You mention that Fran’s life had “a bit of the makings of a Charles Dickens story.” That certainly piques my historical curiosity. If you’d care to elaborate, we’d love to hear from you further, and if you have no objection, tell our SFTP site visitors more about your extraordinary aunt.

Thanks again for your email. It really did make my day!

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

From Rose:

I was surfing the net and came across your inquiries regarding Gay Fad Studios.

Although I don’t recall meeting her, ‘Pat’ was correct in her assessment of Fran Taylor. She was beautiful, personable and incredibly talented. My grandmother, Rose Lopusnek Martin, and Fran’s mother, Agnes Lopusnek Hobart, were sisters, and she was very close to my father, Ron Martin. I,  too, visited her extraordinary home in Lancaster, I would guess in the late 60's. Unfortunately, Fran’s story didn't have a happy ending.

While she of course did beautiful hand painted work, she also discovered how to apply the paint in mass production, and actually invented a sort of ‘silk screening’ for glass. Somehow, a glass company (I won’t mention who, but they were also based in Lancaster) got hold of and stole the idea, and Fran spent years fighting them to get it back, losing everything she had in the process. She moved to California to live with relatives in the 70's where she died about 10 years ago.

I remember her daughter Stephanie, who was as beautiful and generous as her mother. Last I heard, she had married and had a son, Lincoln I think was his name, but that was many many years ago. I, too, would love to talk to her; there is a great book in this story.

~Rose

P.S. I just noticed your question regarding Stephanie. Yes, she was the daughter of Fran and Bruce Taylor. My parents visited them on their honeymoon in October of 1951, and had home movies of her at about 10 months old, making her born in late 1950.

Dear Rose,
Thank you so much for your email giving additional information about Fran and her daughter Stephanie. I agree with you that there’s a great book in Fran’s story, and I’m surprised that no one has written it, given Fran’s amazing entrepreneurial success as a woman in the 40's and 50's. And when this is sadly followed by “Female Entrepreneur Crushed by Big Business,” Pat was right – a Charles Dickens story indeed!

We’re still searching for Stephanie, and since we heard from you less than a month after posting Pat’s story on our site, I’m hopeful we’ll hear from others soon. We’ve added your email to our site, too.

Thanks again for your email.

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

 


** Attention SFTP Visitors **

By golly, we found Stephanie! Actually, she found us. See her email below. Isn’t the internet just a fantastic thing???
Miss Kitty
 

 

Dear Miss Kitty,

 I was telling my mother's story to a friend today and thought to google Gay Fad and found your site. Apparently, everyone is looking for me. I had no idea. Thank you for keeping her work alive. She was very special.

All best regards,
Steph (Fran Taylor's Daughter)

Dear Folks,
I was surfing and found your site selling Gay Fad Glassware. The emails say that you are looking for the owner, Fran Taylor's, daughter. I am she and would like to contact Rose and Pat. I emailed Miss Kitty but have not heard back. I am thinking about writing up a history of my mother and would love to gather more information.

Thanks,
Steph

Omigosh!!! Hellooooo Stephanie! I can't believe we found you! Or, more to the point, that you found us! Sorry it's taken me 3 days to answer you -- we were out of town and just walked in the door to find both your emails.

First things first -- your cousins: [I gave her Pat’s and Rose’s email addresses] They're going to be tickled to death to hear from you!

I sure do hope you write that history on your mom. The little snippet I found about her in that 1949 book and quoted on our SFTP web site really intrigued me. What a remarkable woman she must have been!

Hope you and Pat and Rose have a great reunion!! Glad we could help bring it about.

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

Hi Miss Kitty!
Just a note to let you all know that I did indeed hear from Fran’s daughter Stephanie, and I'm very excited about the lines of communication opening between us! Something tells me we'll be hearing a lot more about Fran Taylor in the near future...

And to think, you and your wonderful readers made it all possible! Thank you for your help!

Sincerely,
Rose

Hi Rose,
We're so glad that you and Pat and Stephanie found each other again. This is just too cool! And how thoughtful of you to email us again. Of course I've put this fascinating continuing saga on our SFTP email page.

Isn't life amazing? We're really excited for all of you and can't wait to read the book you put together about Fran. Be sure and let us know when and how we can get a copy.

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

Dear Miss Kitty,
Thank you so much for being there and connecting Stephanie Taylor to my email. I recently sent her a reply and hope to further the dialogue in the near future. What really surprised me was that Stephanie lives about two hours away from where I live! I also sent Rose a reply. It will be very interesting to hear the history of the Gay Fad Studios.

Thank you so much for being the internet "good fairy".

Best wishes,
Pat Beatty

Dear Pat,
Thanks for the update. You were the first to email with some family history on Fran Taylor and say you were looking for Fran’s daughter Stephanie. It just snowballed from there! Ol’ Swaphos and I are thrilled that we were able to help you and Rose and Stephanie reconnect after all these years and we certainly look forward to learning the complete Gay Fad story that the three of you will be able to tell from such a unique personal perspective.

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

 

From Kim:

Hello,
I was  wondering if you might know if there is a list of artists who worked at the Gay Fad Studios. I have a cookie jar signed Pokee' . The scene is of Hansel and Gretel. The cookie jar is frosted white with a brown lid, the scene is also in brown. I have attached a few pictures, not the greatest photos, but I think you can see what I'm talking about. Any info would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time,
Kim

Hi Kim,
When I looked at your photo, the Hansel and Gretel design just didn’t look like a Gay Fad design to me, so I’ve done some more research on Gay Fad Studios. From what I can determine, your cookie jar was made by Bartlett Collins, an Oklahoma glass company that is still in business today. As you probably know, Gay Fad Studios was located in Lancaster, Ohio, and although I’ve discovered that they decorated Anchor Hocking, Hazel Atlas, and Federal blanks, I’ve never found a connection between Gay Fad and Bartlett Collins. Today I found this cookie jar for sale online. The seller says it was made by Bartlett Collins and “these cookie jars have, at times, been mistakenly referred to as Anchor Hocking Fire King due to the Gay Fad design.” Frankly, I don’t think this is a Gay Fad design either, although it is similar in style. I’ve found absolutely nothing about an artist named Pokee.

Fran Taylor started Gay Fad Studios in the mid 1940's, and if you’ve read our Gay Fad email pages, you know that we have heard from Fran’s daughter and two of her nieces. I’ve emailed these ladies to see if they might have a list of the artists who worked for Gay Fad or any information about the Hansel and Gretel design. If they do, I’ll certainly let you know. In the meantime, I’ve added your email and photo to that page.

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

Hi Stephanie, Pat, and Rose,

How are you coming on the Gay Fad history? I’m sure a lot of people – not just me – would love to know more about Fran Taylor and Gay Fad.

For instance, we got an email from Kim, another SFTP site visitor, who’s wondering if there’s a list of the artists who worked for Gay Fad. She has a frosted glass cookie jar, photo attached, with a Hansel and Gretel design that she believes to be by Gay Fad. The artist’s signature is Pokee’. I’ve been unable to discover anything about this artist or even to verify that Gay Fad ever had a Hansel and Gretel design. However, I did discover that the cookie jar was produced by Bartlett Collins, an Oklahoma glass company.

So, I’m turning to you three experts! Any chance you might have some answers for Kim?

Hope everything is going well with all of you, and I do hope you’re working on that history!

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

From Pat:

Dear Miss Kitty,

Thank you so much for your email!  I've had a chance to visit with my amazing cousin several times since last summer. She has a delightful family and a practice focusing on Women's Health.  She is also a Tai Chi master! I was fascinated by a lovely glass serving tray that Stephanie had created in her Mother's Gay Fad studio and that is now displayed in her China cabinet.

There is a page on Fran Taylor at the National Women's History Museum website. It is in the Chronicles of American Women section. Stephanie did a nice job of writing a mini bio. I have also located the site by Googling: Gay Fad Fran Taylor.

My brother ordered a disk on “The Gay Fad Studios” from a P.L. Hopper who has the Anchor Hocking Glass Museum in San Antonio, TX. I found the information on the disk fascinating. I believe a lot of the information came from a Mrs. McGrady who was an avid Gay Fad collector. The disk not only has pictures of many of the patterns of glass products produced over the years but photocopies of business related papers as well. Mrs. McGrady may have knowledge of the artists who worked for the Gay Fad Studios. Aunt Fran had great talent as a designer and business woman.

I recall my Mother referring to Aunt Fran's business as one specializing in "frosted" glassware at one period of time. Also, Aunt Fran invented a silk screening process that worked well on the glass blanks that she purchased. On a number of pieces, it appears hand detailing was applied after silk screening. I don't know the chronological order of these various steps through the years.

My boyfriend ordered a 1949 book from Amazon titled, “How to Make Money at Home” by Polly Webster which references Gay Fad Studios on page 82. It begins, “Her friends said she was foolhardy, but that didn't stop an Ohio woman who gave up dress designing and bought twelve dozen tin wastebaskets for thirty dollars. She went to work painting them with bright oil paints and opened the Gay Fad Studios.”

Fran's oldest brother, Joe, was my father. He was an engineer and businessman. As a wedding gift for him in 1941, Fran painted flowers on frosted glass cylinders which were signed and made into lamps. I even came across a hand painted metal (tin?) recipe box which my Mother used over the years.

Another interesting reference to Gay Fad is in a lovely book, “Designed & Signed” ('50s & '60s Glass, Ceramics, & Enamel Wares) by Leslie Pina, 1996. Although the book is largely a tribute to Russian/Polish immigrant Jascha Brojdo (Georges Briard), Chapter 5 contains pictures and a tribute to Fran Taylor's Gay Fad Studios.

I am not aware of any cookie jars produced by the Gay Fad Studios of Lancaster, Ohio. I know a lot of Bartlett Collins items show up on the eBbay site under the phrase Gay Fad. Bartlett Collins may have had a pattern that I thought I came across once called Gay Fad? If so, that may have led to a bit of confusion.

The cookie jar you sent a picture of is lovely. The fact that it is frosted glass and appears to be silk screened (?) makes me wonder if there was “cross pollination” among the various glass companies? Perhaps Mr. Hopper might know who Pokee was?

Warmest greetings,
Pat

Dear Pat,

Thank you for your marvelous email! I don’t have to tell you what a fascinating person your Aunt Fran was, and every time I get on one of these Gay Fad research kicks, I wind up with a whole bunch of new nuggets that even then doesn’t tell her full story. It’s just never-ending! I found the National Women's History Museum website you mentioned and was so happy to find a picture of Fran Taylor. Wow! Not only was she smart, talented, and entrepreneurial, she was also beautiful! [Note to readers: that site is www.nwhm.org/get-involved/chronicles/women/fran-taylor/ ]

When I did my original research on Gay Fad, I found that excerpt from Polly Webster’s 1949 book online. What bugged me about it was that she never identified your aunt by name. You’re the one who solved that mystery in your very first email to us. We’ve all sure come a long way since then, haven’t we?

It’s also interesting that you mention the information from Mrs. McGrady on the Gay Fad CD your brother got from the Anchor Hocking Glass Museum in San Antonio, TX. Prior to receiving your latest email I’d discovered a blog site with the following entry from a Donna McGrady:

“I am a long time Gay Fad researcher and collector. I find it interesting that many collectors are confusing hand painted fruits done by Bartlett Collins Company with Gay Fad fruits. Gay Fad never decorated any cookie jars that I'm aware of. Gay Fad hand painted the fruits on Hazel Atlas plates as well as on Fire King. As most collectors know, Gay Fad was a hand decorating company and used blanks from several different companies for their beautiful decorations. For "hardcore" Gay Fad collectors there's much Gay Fad out there that's not on Fire King.”

I think your speculation about “cross pollination” among the glass companies is dead on. As for Bartlett Collins, I found out some more about them. They were a division of Indiana Glass and located in Sapulpa, OK. They went out of business in February of 2008. Whatever other kinds of glass pieces they produced, they made lots of cookie jars, both clear glass and frosted glass. I found a website offering this yellow one for sale, saying “Although made by Bartlett Collins, it is often categorized with the Fire-King Gay Fad patterns.” Considering that the artwork is strikingly similar to that of your aunt’s Gay Fad Studios, I’d say “cross pollination” is a very polite term for you to use!

Regarding Gay Fad’s “frosted” period your mother remembered, I’ve recently found a couple of new nuggets. Gay Fad had a “Gay Nineties” line of glassware that included these Hazel Atlas whiskey decanters.

I also ran across a website featuring Gay Fad frosted Currier & Ives glasses with the following information:

“These glasses were hand painted by Gay Fad Studios in Lancaster, Ohio owned by Fran Taylor. Their work has become some of the most highly prized in the Kitchen Glass category. These glasses were made as an accessory to all colors used for the Currier & Ives china. We are only aware of 8 different C&I scenes on the glasses.”

Royal China Company of Sebring, Ohio introduced their Currier & Ives dinnerware in 1950. It was given away as premiums at A&P grocery stores, with extra pieces available to complete the set, and it was also sold at department stores. Both Hazel Atlas and Federal Glass produced the coordinating glasses, and Gay Fad did the frosting and artwork on blanks from both companies. The glasses are in three color combinations: pink and white, blue and white, and multi-colored as shown in the photo.

By any chance does that lamp your aunt created as a wedding gift for your parents still exist? Could you possibly send me a photo of it? Likewise with your mother’s recipe box. I’d love to see those one-of-a-kind family treasures your Aunt Fran created.

Thanks again for your latest email. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from you, and of course I’ve added everything to our Gay Fad emails page. At the rate we’re going, our SFTP site may itself become a great resource for Gay Fad collectors!

Best wishes,
Miss Kitty

 

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