Pyrexia: Addiction to Pyrex

Pyrexia. It's the irresistible need to purchase cheerful bowls, casserole dishes and refrigerator containers made by the Corning company. It affects one in ten.

How does it start? Oh, it's often hereditary, but it can sneak up on you over time. It might start when you spot one bowl at a thrift store or yard sale that reminds you in a flash of the very baking bowl your mother or grandmother used for her special tollhouse cookies. And at a price of a buck or two you buy it. It's worth it for the fond memories, as well as the functionality.

Then you realize how good it looks in your kitchen. How durable it is. How versatile. And when you spot that refrigerator container that matches it, well, you rather like that, too. And that comes home.

Three years later you have 20 different pieces in five different patterns and you're looking around wondering exactly how it came to pass.

According to the company web site, Pyrex was invented in the early 1900s by Corning Glass Works, originally as a shatterproof, weather-resistant glass for railroad lanterns. But in 1913, when Bessie Littleton's casserole dish was unable to withstand the high temperatures and broke in the oven, she asked her husband-- a Corning scientist-- to bring home a replacement dish made of the same durable glass he worked with every day. And Pyrex ovenware was born. By 1915, Pyrex bakeware was in the Boston-area Jordan Marsh department stores.

It is estimated that nearly 75 percent of all U.S. households own Pyrex products.

Because of Pyrex's great durability, it's easy to find vintage pieces in good condition second-hand, in a wide variety of patterns. And the more I pay attention to it, the more it seems there's something to suit just about everyone's style. From florals, country and early American themes, to pop art and streamlined looks, the choice is amazing.

Me, I tend to stick to the few patterns of pink Pyrex-- called Gooseberry and Pink Daisy-- but I recently got sucked in with these bright green and butter yellow bowls. The patterns are Spring Blossom and Butterfly Gold respectively.

Prices for Pyrex vary greatly, so it's good to check around. I've seen antique malls selling large Pyrex vintage mixing bowls for as high as $30. But I've seen the same bowls as low as $5 or $10. Smaller pieces, like refrigerator containers and casserole dishes might run from $1-$5. (I recently got my lidded Daisy patterned dish with lid for $3.) So if there's a particular piece you like, it's not a bad idea to get a sense of the going price before shelling out the dough.

If you visit forum, you'll see whole threads dedicated to collecting Pyrex:

And the PyrexLove web site is entirely devoted to the line of products, with an excellent page identifying popular patterns. So if you were curious what the name of that old Pyrex bowl you have is, this is a great way to find out.

Pyrexia. Currently, there is no known cure. But then again, you'd also have to WANT to be cured. And no one I know is really seeking out help for this kitchenalia addiction. Are YOU Pyrexic? Feel free to discuss your mania. :)

  • Missed Treasure Box, er, Thursday of this week? See the recently thrifted goodies. Click here.
  • And check out Wednesday's post regarding a couple of very special emails I received regarding 30s actress Curigwen Lewis! Click here.


Jenn with 2 enns said...

I am a closet Pyrexic. Every time I see a certain pattern in a certain color (I'm going to have to look up the name now!), I get very nostalgic for my mom's chocolate pudding and my dad's chocolate fudge frosting. I'm always tempted to buy the dishes, but have no storage room - maybe I should get rid of the boring stainless steel bowls I currently have and replace them with cheerful, pretty Pyrex!
They ARE cheerful and pretty, aren't they! :-) Thanks for the memories and the info!

RecycleCindy said...

What an enjoyable post.! I love my Pyrex and have several pieces in cornflower blue and butterfly gold.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Jenn- My mom baked and made great meatloaf using her big pink Pyrex mixing bowl. Also, on of the little white and pink gooseberry fridge containers was the perpetual dish for cranberries. It's funny how we have these associations of dishes with, well, food dishes.

Cindy- I like the cornflower blue a lot as a pattern. I can see that working well with the butterfly gold in a blue and yellow kitchen.

Amy said...

I'm the same with Pyrex but alas it's very hard to find here in NZ

Rosemary said...

Hi Jenn,
I love pyrex!!
I have the gold and white. I have had it since my wedding in 1976. My mom still has hers as well.
I love all of the colors that you have. Have a great week.

Shirl said...

I love retro pyrex - unfortunately, you see it very rarely in charity shops over here .... :0(

C. said...

Another big pyrex admirer here! Love to look at the patterns, I haven't seen most of those before.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Amy- Oh wow, yes, I can imagine it being from an American company, that Pyrex would have to travel quite a bit to reach you. Kinda fun to think of Pyrex as a housewares delicacy!

Rosemary- Ah, I bet the gold and white goes well with your French Shabby Chicish abode!

Shirl- But based on Cash in the Attic and other shows, you do get some really interesting pottery and other glassware in your charity shops. I always enjoy seeing the sorts of things you have there.

C.- There really are a ton of patterns, aren't there? And I think there are possibly more beyond what that site lists, too.

Kathy said...

I collect the peach lusterware I just love the shimmer of it!

Jenn Thorson said...

Kathy- It hadn't occurred to me, until you'd said it, that the peach luster was Pyrex. I bet your collection is beautiful!!

I know what you mean about the shimmer-- I love luster china and carnival glass for the same reasons. That extra bit of shine!

Lois said...

I still use the set of pyrex bowls that I got for a wedding gift in 1972. They are great for the oven or the micro. I love them.

A Lovely Thing said...

Gorgeous! A collector here as well. I adore the pink, red and a pattern called Amish Rooster or Butterprint.

I have a few pieces of butterfly gold to trade for your pink pieces ;)

Just a reminder to your readers to never put Pyrex in the dishwasher.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Lois- Gosh-- how many products does a person get 30+ years of good use from like that? Very nice!

A Lovely Thing- That's a great reminder, thank you! As I am my own dishwasher, I hadn't thought to focus there. Good tip for the dishwasher owners, definitely!!

I really like the Amish Rooster pattern... It must look great in your kitchen.

Ms. A said...

It doesn't shatter, and it takes a lot to break it -- but when it breaks... watch out!!!

I have a nice scar on my right pinky from a tragic collision between a casserole dish and a cast iron skillet.

The effect of this disaster is a slight complication of my already increasing Pyrexia: I still love the stuff, but every time I even look at a piece of it, I have a reflexive flash back to the pain and injury. I think maybe that could be called Pyrexilepsy?

shirley said...

i have a pyrex dish with a country house and a horse grazing in field, can anybody tell me anything about ti


Brenda said...

JUst found your blog. I also love pyrex. anything with roosters. See the ones I've gotten lately.

Pasadenadude172 said...

I too am a Pyrex Nut. I have so many pieces that I don't know where to put most of them. I have made sets of the Original Primary Color Nesting Bowls for Loved ones. They cost as much as 100 a set. They are costly but oh so treasureable.I like the hard to find pieces. Just recently found a Yellow Cinderalla Butternut Set of Nesting Bowls. I have never seen one of them. They were adorable. My house is all yesteryear and the Pyrex from the Midcentury is what holds my Kitchen together.
Pasadena, TX

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Ms. A- Wow, war wounds from Pyrex! Who'd've thunk it!!?

Shirley- I'll have to look that pattern name up. I don't know it off the top of my head.

Brenda- Ah, the rooster patterns seem to continue to be popular. I bet it looks really cute in your kitchen.

Pasadenadude- You sound like you seriously enjoy your Pyrex-- as a fellow Pyrexic, I welcome you. :) The house sounds really adorable!