black and white newspaper photo of Grace Howell lampworking glass

Grace Howell in 1962.

Also known as: Grace Marguerite Howell, Mrs. Santa Claus

Born: May 17, 1901, Waterloo, Iowa, United States

Died: January 30, 1976, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, United States

Nationality: American

Family: Howell

Glassworking relatives:

Active: [1906-1976]

Associated acts:

Brief biography

Grace Howell was born to Robert M. Howell and Ethel Maude Howell (née Pauley) in Waterloo, Iowa, on May 17, 1901. Her parents taught her to lampwork as early as the age of five, and she joined their demonstrations around the age of twelve. Howell completed high school, and by 1920 she was working as a contractor for a mail order house company (perhaps during the off-season). She became the family’s business agent, booking performances across the country.

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. Howell claimed it was here that she first created the “Bluebird of Happiness,” the glass object she is best known for making. Later, when demonstrating solo, Howell started every show by making this piece. She stated she made the first piece for Shirley Temple and her upcoming film, The Blue Bird. Howell later sent bluebirds to Mamie Eisenhower, Princess Elizabeth, and the Corning Museum of Glass.1

During World War II, most of the Howells made scientific glassware for the war effort. Howell was no exception, making glass tubes for the electrical controls on planes and boats.

By 1953, and possibly earlier, Howell was demonstrating on her own, up and down the East Coast. She performed for scout troops, day camps, schools, and PTAs. She made regular appearances at fairs, craft shows, festivals, and banks. Howell worked at New Jersey-area attractions like the Gingerbread Castle and the Cannon Ball House, and appeared on television variety shows (including those of Johnny Carson and Dave Garroway). Her most recognizable appearance, however, may have been as a lampworking Mrs. Claus in the window of the Manhattan Savings Bank.

Howell died at her home in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, on January 30, 1976. She is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Union, New Jersey.

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