The True Story of Tiffany Lamps

Louis Comfort Tiffany is remembered as the lead designer of handmade glass lamps known as  Tiffany Lamps in the early 20th century. These ornate lamps that he made for his family’s business, Tiffany and Co, would become immensely popular around Europe and America. The lamps were made primarily by young, unwed women in factories who were known as the “Tiffany Girls”. In 2007, though, it was discovered that a majority of the designs of the Tiffany Lamps were in fact made by Clara Driscoll. 

Clara Driscoll moved from Ohio to New York City to find work,  and spent much of her professional life working for Tiffany Studios. Like many other young women during this time period, she worked in a factory until she got married because after marriage it was seen as unfit to work outside the home. However, unlike the other Tiffany Girls, Driscoll was a lead designer who was paid $10,000 a year making her the highest paid woman at the studio with her salary rivaling that of her male designer counterparts. It was very rare in the early 20th century to see a woman earn an equal salary to what a man earned. So it was clear that Driscoll was financially paid for the work she put toward the lamp designs. 

Driscoll was the creator of some of the lamp’s most famous designs such as the dragonfly lampshade and the daffodil lamp. Her contributions, though, were not widely known until 2006 when Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer published their research that Tiffany and fellow male designers had taken the credit and had not publicly acknowledged and given credit to Driscoll. The discovery of Driscoll’s work came partly out of luck around fifteen years ago when Nina Gray was researching at the Queen’s Historical Society and discovered Driscoll’s letters to her mother and sisters while she worked at Tiffany Studios. Clara Driscoll not being recognized as the designer of these beloved lamps is an example in history of men getting credit for the achievements and accomplishments of women. If not for sheer luck, the world may have never known that these beautiful floral designs were made primarily by Driscoll and not Tiffany. 

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Tiffany Lamps and a public desire in learning about the contributions of Driscoll. There have been some book publications about her contributions and there are museums that collect and display the lamps that she helped to produce. One such museum is the New-York Historical Society which has a gallery on their fourth floor devoted to the lamps. These lamps are absolutely gorgeous and are something people should visit and learn more about this summer. 

To learn more about Tiffany Lamps and Clara Driscoll’s work, please consider going to look at the website or visit the New-York Historical Society this summer: