Frederick Carder designed more than 6000 different shapes while he directed Steuben from 1903 until about 1931-1932. He numbered the shapes starting presumably with number 1 and continued until he reached 7749 at the end of his tenure. A cruet which is number 97 is the first number for which records exist. Within Carders numbering system there are now many small gaps and some large ones. The small gaps exist because either the records are now missing from the archives or, in some cases, there are notes in the records indicating that some numbers were not assigned. Paul Gardners book The Glass of Frederick Carder reproduces almost all of the existing drawing shapes with their corresponding numbers.
It is not known why the large gaps occur in the existing records. There is a gap from 3678 to 5000 and one from 5233 to 6000. A supposition has been made that Carder had reached number 3678 in about 1917 when Steuben was acquired by the Corning Glass Works. When production began again after the acquisition the numbering sequence started with 5000. The dates for the design of these shapes appear to correspond with this explanation. It has been suggested that the 4000 series was reserved for special orders but very few pieces are known to exist in that sequence. One Blue Aurene vase in the Rockwell Museum collection is numbered 4920. This piece is thought to be legitimate because it was collected before the Gardner book was published. One tactic of Steuben signature forgers is to add an unassigned number to an illegitimate piece. This makes proving that a piece is not Steuben much more difficult.
There is an additional set of numbers starting with 8001 and ending with 8578 that were used for special orders. In some cases when the special order was filled that shape might be made a part of regular production. The best example of this is vase 8508.
The numbers for the drawings have been called shape numbers or drawing numbers or catalog numbers. None of these names are perfectly accurate descriptions. Most collectors now call these numbers shape numbers even though it is somewhat of a misnomer. A Steuben shape number does not uniquely determine a Steuben shape. For example, bowls and compotes and candlesticks were often made in sets with similar characteristics but they all carried the same shape number. Examples are shapes 6043, 6044 and 6045. Additionally, stemware sets would often consist of 6 or 8 or more pieces each of which would have a somewhat different physical shape but carry the same shape number. Examples are shape 3550 and 3551. Even more confusing, there are fingerbowls and sherbets that were used with several different stemware sets. When this occurred the fingerbowl or sherbet would carry the shape number of the set with which it was originally found. It is now very difficult to determine the shape number of some of these rather common fingerbowls and sherbets because they have been separated from their original stemware set.
Occasionally the question is raised concerning the accuracy of the drawings. For the most part, the drawings are quite accurate and well represent the shape of the actual glass. That said, there are a few drawings that are quite poor. Several of the Cologne shapes are poor. As an example, Cologne shape 3425 shown on page 241 of Gardner actually looks like Atomizer shape 6135 shown on page 239 except the very top is shown differently. The drawing for Vase shape 3273 is also not very good.
Two New Stemware Sets
The factory records confirm that in at least one case Steuben used the bowl of one goblet and the foot and stem of two others to make up two sets of stemware that do not seem to have their own numbers. The drawing shown here is an attempt to demonstrate this documented technique. The drawing on the left is the factory drawing for goblet shape 5088. The drawings in the center are the factory drawings for shapes 6268 and 6869. The factory records indicate that the two new sets of stemware were made by using the bowl of the 5088 and the stem and foot of either the 6268 or 6869. The drawings on the right which are NOT factory drawings are attempts show what these two sets may look like by joining the 5088 bowl with the stem and foot of the others. Since these two new sets have no known drawing numbers they have been called here 5088/6268 and 5088/6869. It should be noted that the scale of the three factory drawings may not be quite the same so the proportions seen in the composite drawings may not be entirely accurate.
New Stemware Set
There have recently come on the market several set of goblets with either champagnes or sherbets. Included with the set was a 2028 8.5 inch plate in the same colors and engraved in the same pattern. Although none of the pieces has been found signed there can be little doubt that they were made by Steuben. The bowl shape and the shape of the stem and foot are very characteristic of several different Steuben shapes. The engraving pattern seems to be the same as the engraving pattern shown on the drawing for shape 7301. There does not seem to be a drawing for this shape in the factory records. There are two possibilities. Either the drawing for this set is missing from the factory records or this set may be a combination of parts as mentioned in the section above. The bowl of this goblet is proportionately the same as the bowl for shape 6268. It is about 92% of the size of the bowl shown in the drawing for a 6268 goblet which may mean that what is being called a goblet is really a wine glass. The stem and foot appear to be the same as the stem and foot for shapes 6936 and 7384. There is no inclusion in the documentation for shapes 6268, 6936 or 7384 that this combination was ever made but it is an interesting possibility.
Additional photos of the stemware set shown above have been found. These pieces are a tumbler and a fingerbowl. Each are engraved in the same pattern and are cased with Gold Ruby over colorless glass.