Why is Pyrex So Popular?

Pyrex has been a staple in many households for a century. Walk into a home, and you’ll most likely find some Pyrex, the almost-indestructible glass bowls, baking dishes, and measuring cups. You can’t even go around estate sales without stumbling on a piece of Pyrex. So why exactly is Pyrex so popular? Read on to find out about what makes Pyrex so prevalent among households, especially in the kitchen.

What is Pyrex?

Pyrex was originally created from borosilicate glass, which was made for usage in science labs since it didn’t contract or expand with heat. The glass was then sold in 1915 to Corning Glassware and was branded under a new name, “Pyrex,” which was used to make different types of kitchenware. Ever since, Pyrex became popular, even after swapping from borosilicate to the even more thermal resistant and cheaper tempered glass in 1998. 

In 1915, when the clear-glass ovenware emerged, it was deemed a blessing to every kitchen because now, housewives and chefs could keep an eye on what they’re cooking. The Pyrex line featured 22 distinct pieces by 1922, which served different purposes.

Where Did Pyrex Come From?

When Corning Glass Works first began creating thermal, shock-resistant glass, the glass was mainly used to make industrial glass and railroad lanterns. The company searched for means to enhance that glass into a brand new product that could help them make more money. At the time, they sold stuff to companies that make scientific equipment and hardware stores, so consumer products were an unusual market for them.

It Was Initially a Hard Sell

In 1915, Corning Glass Works launched its Pyrex brand, but it didn’t flourish at first. It was initially hard to prove to people that they could put a glass inside the oven without melting or shattering it. As a result, Pyrex looked to marketing and depended on “domestic professionals.” The Good Housekeeping Institute’s Mildred Maddocks and an editor at Ladies’ Home Journal, Sarah Tyson Rorer, did nationwide demonstrations at department stores and primarily promoted the new cookware’s profile. Their efforts bore fruit came 1919 when Corning Glass Works sold more than 4 million pieces of Pyrex to buyers. But it wasn’t until the introduction of the Flameware line in 1936 that consumers, for the first time, can cook with glass on their stove burners. And, because the process of manufacturing Pyrex had been automated during 1929, stocking Pyrex in the kitchen became affordable for the first time.

Why Glass Grew Popular

Compared to ceramic, glass was more economical and a lot easier. The reason being you could see things, and there were no residual odors that would be trapped in ceramic. And what makes it better? You could cook food in the same dish you’re serving it in. It’s no longer an unsightly tin pan that comes out of the oven. The dish has style and elegance, and you can place it right at your table. It shifted people’s thoughts about cooking dishes. The item looked luxurious but was created in an automated process, so they priced it for the ordinary American. 

The First Test Kitchen

glass baking dish, pie in the oven

Women were the first users of Pyrex, so they featured them in the ads from the very beginning. The company did lots of marketing that promoted Pyrex to be what you need to have in the kitchen to become a successful housewife. What makes it interesting is that women were also the leading influencers in the background. For example, Bessie Littleton, physicist Jesse Littleton’s wife, was the first to experiment using Pyrex; she baked a sponge cake, among other recipes. Bessie basically did the very first test kitchen.

Another example is Lucy Maltby, a scientist and home economist who, in 1929, was hired by Pyrex to improve the design and functionality. After talking to consumers, Lucy put handles on baking dishes to grab them easier and decreased the size of cake dishes so they could fit two on one oven rack simultaneously. In addition, Maltby pushed the idea that elegance and beauty should and can be affordable to the general public. She had a whole staff of women out in the field, talking to consumers and department stores about what they wanted. There was an entire army of women working behind the scenes.

Pyrex Can Break (But It Rarely Does)

Another reason that makes Pyrex so popular is that even though it can break due to it still being glass, it almost never does because glass is a pretty strong material. The U.S. Army negotiated with Corning in World War II to create mess-ware they are free to fling against a wall. This is what turned into Pyrex opal ware, which is produced from tempered soda-lime opal glass and the foundation for more than 150 different Pyrex patterns from 1956 to 1987.