It is estimated that nearly 75 percent of all U.S. households own PYREX products. Just as Kleenex® tissue has defined quality paper tissue and Thermos® container has defined quality thermal vacuum containers, PYREX is an American product that has defined quality, heat-resistant bakeware, prepware and serveware to several generations. When asked to name a glass bakeware brand, consumers most often reply "PYREX" products.
Back in the early 1900's, Corning Glass Works was working on a request from the railroads to produce lantern glass that would not break when the hot glass was struck by rain or snow. In response to this request, Corning developed globes made from low-expansion glass that could withstand the abuses of weathering and handling which readily broke the flint glass globes. Ironically, the shatterproof lantern globes generated were so good that Corning's managers witnessed a decline in sales of replacement globes. This super-tough "fire glass", as it was called, was resistant to temperature fluctuations, chemical corrosion and even breakage.
In July 1913, a series of events involving Bessie Littleton, the wife of the company's newest scientist, forced Corning managers to focus their attention on the consumer venture. Apparently, Mrs. Littleton had used a Guernsey brand casserole only twice when it fractured in the oven. Knowing the strength of the glass her husband worked with on a daily basis, she implored him to bring home a substitute from the Corning Glass Works plant. He returned the next evening with the bottoms of two sawed-off battery jars made from low-expansion glasses. Mrs. Littleton cooked a sponge cake in one of the surrogate baking dishes. She noted several remarkable findings: • The cooking time was shorter • The cake did not stick to the glass; it was easy to remove with little adhesion • The cake was unusually uniform • The flavor of the cake did not remain in the dish after washing • She could watch the cake bake and know it was done by looking at the underside.
Mr. Littleton brought his wife's creation to work the following day. Laboratory researchers inspected the cake, which was a "remarkable uniform shade of brown all over." The men deemed it delicious and very well baked. Thus began a two-year process to perfect this new invention. The notion of baking in glass was a whole new concept to the public. In 1915, a wondrous new line of "glass dishes for baking" appeared in the nation's hardware, department and china stores. On May 18, 1915, Boston department store Jordan Marsh placed the first PYREX bakeware order.
Sold under the PYREX® trademark, this transparent ovenware seemed to be the perfect material, for it was "swift, clean, and economical." Ordinary glassware easily chipped, cracked and broke. PYREX glass was different. This bakeware was not only sturdy, it was nearly unbreakable, eliminating the hassle and cost of replacement. (The durability factor would become even more important as resources grew scarce during the Great Depression and World War II.)