Frederick Ralph Glass was born on August 6, 1879 in Illinois. His father was Fritz Glass, and his mother was Enna Glass. His parents were both born in Switzerland and spoke German. He was their only child.
In 1894 the family moved to Newport, Kentucky. They lived on Monmouth Street, which is just a few blocks over the Ohio River bridge from the downtown business district of Cincinatti.
In 1898 he began to take art classes at the Cincinatti Art Musuem School, where Frank Duveneck was teaching.
In 1910 he moved to New York City and studied at the Art Students League. He lived at 359 West 57th Street, which is only a few blocks from the school
In 1914 he began to work as a scenic artist. He joined the Scenic Painters Union, Local 829. He worked as an artist for William J. Moore, a scenic arts company, at 331 West 44th Street.
On September 12, 1918 he reported for draft registration and was recorded to be tall and medium built, with brown hair, brown eyes, and "right foot broken." At thirty-nine years of age, he was not selected to serve in the military.
In 1919 he married Anna B. Glass, who was three years younger and was also born in Illinois. By 1920 he and his wife were lodging at 358 West 57th Street.
In 1926 he designed a sensational waxworks exhibition for the Venice Beach Amusement Park, in California. According to the park's historian, Jeffrey Stanton,"One of the most unusual attractions was the waxworks of Chinatown and the Underworld, designed by F. R. Glass of New York City. Each of the twenty-nine exhibits featured realistic scenes, such as an opium den, slave girls, tong hatchet men, murders, beheadings, and torture scenes. The entire wax exhibit was a work of art."
From 1923 until 1932 he sold freelance pulp covers to Aces, Action Stories, Battle Stories, Fight Stories, Frontier Stories, Lariat Story, Mystery Stories, North West Stories, Secret Service Stories, Soldier Stories, Triple-X Stories, and West.
In 1933 he worked in Chicago for the Century of Progress World's Fair to design and build a sensational display in an exhibition hall on the midway that recreated the infamous 1812 Indian massacre at Fort Dearborn. His fifty-foot-long panoramic scene was hung in a massive silver frame hung on walls that were draped in black. But unlike conventional murals, his innovative artwork included intricate motorized figures and 700 electric lights that projected eerie effects onto a foggy curtain of steam, while a phonograph record told the story of the massacre. His work was a popular success and was featured in newspapers nationwide as well as an article in the June 1933 issue of Popular Mechanics.
F. R. Glass died at age fifty-seven on May 1, 1937 in Manhattan.
© David Saunders 2009