Designer Biography, Mid Century Modern

Mid Century Modern Designer Spotlight: Dorothy Thorpe

Dorothy Thorpe was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1901. She began her young adult life by attending the University of Utah as a Music major.  However, a chance finding of an empty beer bottle changed the course of her life forever!

Dorothy Thorpe with some of her glass pieces

As the story goes, Dorothy found a broken beer bottle or wine bottle, depending on which version of the story you are reading, lying in the street and had the brilliant idea to turn the bottom of the bottle into a drinking glass tumbler. Talk about true DIY works of art! She gave one of them to her brother who in turn took it to work at MGM Studios.  Clark Gable happened to see it and immediately ordered 6 dozen sets.  Dorothy C. Thorpe, Inc. was born!

She sold her pieces in a small Hollywood gift shop and before long her works of art were highly sought after by Hollywood Studios and stars and wealthy and famous people, including Princess Grace of Monaco and the Shah of Iran.

It’s important to note that Dorothy Thorpe did not manufacture glass, rather she decorated glass pieces that she purchased.  The finely etched detail of some of her floral work is so life-like it’s hard to believe she had no formal art training.

Art Deco Acid Etched Vase with Maple Leaf Motif by Dorothy Thorpe

To identify a truly authentic Dorothy C. Thorpe piece look for the sandblasted trademark like the one pictured below:

Dorothy C. Thorpe sandblasted trademark

Some of her designs had paper or foil seals and have since been lost so it’s especially important to know something is really a Dorothy Thorpe creation before purchasing.

Most recently her Allegro Sterling Silver Rimmed glassware was seen on the TV show, Mad Men.  These glasses had a 1″ band of sterling silver all around the top.  The Allegro design was on decanters, pitchers, and several different types of glassware such as rocks glasses, footed cocktail stems, roly poly glasses and stemless martini glasses like these:

Martini Glasses

Dorothy Thorpe also decorated dinnerware for companies such as Crown Lynn in New Zealand as well as her own tableware lines. The design below is a glorious cobalt and azure wash with slightly offset gold metallic floral and leaf pattern.

Dorothy C. Thorpe China Set

Dorothy Thorpe’s beautiful creations are featured in museums and are highly sought after.  She was listed in “Who’s who in American Art. And even had done glass decorations and lamps for the Mormon Temple at Idaho Falls, windows for St. John’s Academy at Camarillo.

She died on September 4, 1989 in Carlsbad, California, but her timeless works of art still live on.

Below is a list of resources I used in writing this article and will provide much more in-depth information about the life and career of Dorothy C. Thorpe.

Dorothy Thorpe – Retro Solstice

Dorothy Thorpe Designs – The Hour

Who is Dorothy Thorpe and What Glassware Can Be Attributed to Her? – The Hour

Dorothy C. Thorpe-Mid Century Sand Artist Extraordinaire – High Class Glass

Dorothy Thorpe and Her Ivy Leaves Collection – National Depression Glass Association

Until Next Time,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s