Heart of Glass - Blenko Glass
Blenko Glass is a West Virginia treasure that spans generations. Nothing symbolizes the state of West Virginia better or more beautifully than Blenko Glass. We will discuss current and former craftsmen and designers and how important it is that Blenko and West Virginia glass be appreciated and valued by the younger generation.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Blenko History - William John Blenko
Early in the 1880's he went into business for himself making what is known as rondels (Round Window Panels), while experimenting with other processes of making glass superior to his competitors.
At the age of 36, he came to New York to experiment with the wonder fuel natural gas. Hearing that this fuel was abundant around Kokomo, Ind. he went there and started up one of Americas first gas - fueled operations. In l893. While in Kokomo, William became very good friends with Eugene Debs who was considered one of the foremost labor speakers of the early 1990s and was the only man to run for the office of President while in prison. He was imprisoned because of his inflammatory speeches to US Laborers. The friendship would last until death.
The year was 1893, he was producing glass but it would not sell. The American window makers would not accept the product, although it was made by Old World Methods. There was a natural prejudice against a domestically made glass. The Stain glass studios were European and wanted European glass. This was later know as "the Cleveland Panic'. Discouraged by this he decided to return to England and export the same product he was making in Indiana. He came back to Indiana in 1899 and started a trans-Atlantic shuttle that would end in Milton, WV some 23 years late.
He chose the little farm town of Milton, WV on the banks of the Mud RIver because The Industrial Development Department of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad sold him on the area of Milton as a good place to work. It was a dependable source of sober, industrious labor and natural gas was cheapley priced: this gas powered all the glass furnaces.
In the spring of 1922 William arrived in the small town of Milton with the intention of having a suitable place to make glass. Within a short time " he was unloading the tools of his trade into a small hillside barn. He then went to work building a furnaces with the help of a newly recruited crew of locals. Within a few weeks glass was being made.
This was the beginning of the EUREKA ART GLASS COMPANY. The name 'Eureka" is from the Greek meaning " I have found it." This is what Archimedes is suppose to have exclaimed when he found out how to determine the purity of gold.
Information taken from Blenko Visitors Center Upstairs Museum.