People Behind the Glass
Louis C. Tiffany staffed his studios with a corps of talented chemists, designers, and artisans who worked together to realize his artistic vision and keep pace with the demand for his leaded-glass objects. Creating these objects was a collaborative effort. From making sheet glass to sketching designs to selecting, cutting and assembling windows and lampshades, various departments and numerous hands contributed to the finished product.
Henry M. Wahlers (1870-1936)
German-born Henry Wahlers was employed at the Tiffany Furnaces in Corona for at least twenty-five years. According to census records, he began as a color mixer, worked his way up to foreman of the glass blowing department, and eventually became the foreman of the entire glass factory. As foreman, Wahlers was responsible for keeping the furnaces burning around the clock so his close proximity to the glasshouse was essential. He and his family initially lived behind the glasshouse on Hunt Street (now 42nd Avenue), and when the factory expanded, his two-story frame house was relocated to the next block. Wahlers was also a longtime member of Corona’s volunteer fire department, Pioneer Hook and Ladder No. 6 and, for a time, served as Battilion Chief. Because the firehouse was located a few blocks from the Tiffany site, Wahlers was also responsible for protecting the Tiffany properties.
Christian Wahlers (1842-1915)
Henry’s father worked for Tiffany in Corona for eighteen years. He was a laborer in the glass factory and photographs suggest he was also involved with the metal department. Described as a kind, genial man, Wahlers was “a familiar figure to many Coronaites as he passed on his way through the streets from his home to his employment with a smile and nod for all.”
Arthur J. Nash (1849-1934)
The superintendent of Tiffany’s glasshouse, Arthur Nash oversaw all aspects of Tiffany’s sheet glass and blown glass production. Born in England and trained as a chemist, Nash worked at leading British glasshouses before immigrating with his family to America in 1892. He supervised the construction of Tiffany’s Corona glasshouse the following year. Nash was instrumental in Tiffany’s success. He developed inventive glass formulas to yield the spectacular colors and artistic effects Tiffany desired. His contributions to Tiffany’s decorative glass and lighting were recognized with three silver medals at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Nash’s sons, A. Douglas Nash and Leslie H. Nash, also worked for Tiffany and held important managerial positions.
William B. Wiley (1877-1951)
According to census records, William Wiley spent much of his professional career as a brass worker. He lived in Corona and worked in Tiffany’s metal shops as early as 1913. Photographic evidence suggests that he also worked in the bronze department where many notable sculptures were cast. Wiley is pictured among a group of men working on the monumental Women of the Confederacy sculpture by Belle Kinney, which depicts Fame crowning a southern woman as she honors a dying confederate soldier. Kinney received a commission for ten castings of this sculpture, each to be installed in front of capital buildings across the South. Tiffany Studios was well-equipped to handle commissions of this size and quantity because of its extensive foundry facilities, skilled workforce, and proximity to the railroad.
John Dikeman (1882-1967)
Hired at the Tiffany Studios in Corona around the turn of the century, John Dikeman became skilled in every step of making Tiffany’s famous leaded-glass shades, including cutting, foiling, and soldering the glass. By 1920 he had worked his way up to Foreman of the Shade Department; his additional responsibilities included providing cost estimates for new work and repairs. Surviving ledgers indicate Dikeman kept meticulous records of each job that came through the department, noting the type of work and number of hours each man spent assembling or repairing a shade.
Agnes F. Northrop (1857-1953)
A Flushing native, Agnes Northrop was the foremost female artist at the Tiffany Studios. She shared Tiffany’s love of nature and, during her five decades at the Studios, she designed nearly all of the firm’s floral and landscape windows. Northrop’s position at Tiffany Studios was unusually privileged – like her male counterparts, she had a private studio and received international recognition for her work. She was awarded a silver medal at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900 for her stained-glass designs.
Clara Driscoll (1861-1944)
(Married name: Booth)
The manager of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department for nearly twenty years, Clara Driscoll supervised a team of female artisans who selected and cut glass for Tiffany’s windows, mosaics, and lampshades. Driscoll was also a skilled designer. She designed numerous lampshades, including the iconic Dragonfly and Wisteria, as well as bronze lamp bases and small fancy goods. Encouraged by the Tiffany Studios’ management to create affordable objects, Driscoll successfully balanced artistry and profitability in her designs. She was recognized at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900 with two bronze medals, one for the Dragonfly lamp and one for metalwork.
May Faller (1891 - 1975)
(Married name: Mae Kelley)
May Faller’s tenure at Tiffany Studios is uncertain. According to her family and census records, she assisted with mosaic work, including the 1909 mosaic curtain for the National Theater in Mexico City. Composed of nearly one million pieces of glass, it took twenty workers fifteen months to cut and assemble the design. Faller also worked on windows in the Ecclesiastical Department and later served as the department secretary. She posed for The Bathers window, designed by Tiffany and installed at Laurelton Hall, his grand estate on Long Island. Tiffany considered this window the crowning achievement of his stained-glass career.
Emma Stanley (1885-1966)
(Married name: Kelly)
Like many of the women who worked for Tiffany, few details about Emma Stanley’s employment are known. A group photograph of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department confirms that Stanley was one of the “Tiffany Girls.” According to her family, she worked in leaded glass. Census records list her as “Artisan, Glass Works” and “Artist, Studio Worker” between 1910 and 1920. When Stanley married and left Tiffany Studios, she moved to Ozone Park, Queens, but remained close friends with coworkers, including May Faller.