black and white photo of Ethel Maude Howell in white dress lampworking at a table full of glass

Ethel Maude Howell in the late 1930s.

Also known as: Ethel Maude Pauley, Ethel Howell, Maude Howell, Mrs R. M. Howell

Born: August 15, 1882, Green, Iowa, United States

Died: December 24, 1966, Plainfield, New Jersey, United States

Nationality: American

Family: Howell

Glassworking relatives:

Active: [1900]-1966

Associated acts:

Brief biography

Little is known about Ethel Maude Howell’s early life.1 She was born Ethel Maude Pauley in Green, Iowa, on August 15, 1882, and attended school through eighth grade. Around 1900, she met Robert M. Howell at the Saint Louis Exposition2 where he was demonstrating lampworking. They married in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1900. The two had four children together: Grace M. Howell, Robert M. Howell, Jr., Nona H. Deakin (née Howell), and Leigh B. Howell.

Howell learned glassworking from her husband, and the two toured the United States with their growing family. She was a member of Howell’s Troupe of Glass Workers in the early 1900s, specializing in glass spinning and crocheting glass.3 While traveling, the family lived in a housecar complete with a lampworking setup. During the off-season, they rented or purchased a home and made glass for sale.4 Howell and her husband taught their children how to lampwork, generally between the ages of five and eight, and included them in demonstrations when they decided the children were ready. They toured as the Howell Family of Bohemian Glass Workers and made appearances at schools, clubs, churches, lodges, and other groups.

In 1939, the family made perhaps their most notable appearance at the New York World’s Fair, demonstrating at the Glass Blowers of the World pavilion. There, more than 44 million people had the chance to see their lampworking skills.

As their children grew up and left home, the elder Howells continued to make appearances, often billed as Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Howell. After Howell’s husband died in 1957, she continued to demonstrate. She was admitted to Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey, on December 23, 1966, and died the next day. She is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Union, New Jersey.

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