From its first use by the Romans in a Pompeii bathhouse to the present day, the development of windows has hinged on three important elements: economics, technology and fashion.
Experts at Andersen Corporation, whose Andersen® brand is the most recognized brand name in the window and patio door industry, say that the first glass windows were collections of small panes secured in bronze frames. Windows remained in this basic design for centuries, with individual glass pieces separated by metal glazing bars and protected from the elements by wooden shutters.
The 15th and 16th centuries saw some important changes in home design: The wall fireplace replaced the central hearth, exterior and interior decoration became more important, and the overall comfort level of most dwellings markedly grew.
Of course, up to the late 16th century, only the richest homes had glass windows. Smaller houses had to wait until the late 17th century, when leaded glass became commonplace. Even then, window glass was filled with obvious distortions and imperfections. But windows changed with the times. Larger, more expansive windows appeared - and because of their improved quality, shutters weren't needed.
The decline of shutters points to the increased reliability of the glass panes and the emphasis on window light and decoration that would define fenestration design up to the present day.
As their use spread, windows became accents and adornments. Styles such as half-round and picture windows became the mark of important homes. And windowpane configurations, as with the homes themselves, followed distinct patterns and styles. From the nine-over-nine designs of the Federal Period to the high, narrow patterns of the Baroque Period to the vast expanses of glass featured in Bauhaus architecture, windows changed dramatically with the whims of fashion.
During the 19th century, the technology used in making window glass advanced exponentially and, though windows were still primarily handmade, the glass was produced with more uniformity. The result was fewer pits, imperfections and distortions. Improved glassmaking techniques produced larger, stronger and less expensive single panes of glass, which needed far fewer metal supports.
In addition, the abolishment in 1851 of an English window tax encouraged more widespread use of glass. Victorian window designers started using technology to the homeowner's advantage, creating glass patterns and decorative glazing bars to cut down on interior glare and fabric fading. This, in turn, had an effect on interior design, allowing homeowners to take advantage of the increase in light by showcasing art and furniture.
The process toward mass production is seen clearly in the development of windows. As the 19th century drew to a close, the use of peg joinery in window frames gave way to glue and nails. Windows could now be sold as separate units -- and the modern window industry began.
Andersen Corporation began manufacturing standardized window frames in 1904, one year after its founding. Within five years the company was selling 100,000 frames a year, and its annual output reached 1 million frames by 1928.
Four years later, in the midst of the Great Depression, Andersen introduced the first fully assembled wood casement window to the U.S. market. Today, Andersen annually manufactures millions of windows and patio doors.
The Andersen® brand is the most recognized and most used brand in the window and patio door industry. For a local dealer, more information, or a copy of the Andersen 20/10 limited warranty, visit www.andersenwindows.com or call 1-800-426-4261, ext. 3018.