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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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blenko Made In the USA

Note: BLENKO is the only Glass Company on this list currently operating.

Some time ago - March 2007 I wrote about WV Glass Company that were no longer in business. Used an article that a Blog Reader sent to me. Stated it made me very sad to know these wonderful plants were gone, and there was no recorded history of the workers and perhaps little documentation of their wares.

Well, I was WRONG! The following is a note from a reader who is attempting to preserve the history of glassmaking in West Virginia, she has an award winning website which I will give you a link to - I spent 2 hours just drooling at the number of photos and the wealth of information. This is one terrific site . Visit the site immediately then bookmark.

Her son is her webmaster, the website is a gift of love. http://www.memories-in-glass.com/

Hi Hillary,
I ran into you article and think it’s great. I wonder if you have any information about the predecessor of the A. F. Bischoff Company, which the blog of March9, 2007 says was founded in 1922.
I know this is a common belief, but A. F. was my uncle Anthony, and while he did indeed found the above mentioned company, I believe in 1922, my grandfather B.F. Bischoff, moved the original Bischoff Glass Company to west Huntington, WV. It was variously called B.F. Bischoff Glass, B.F. Bischoff and Son, and B.F. Bischoff and Sons Glass and/or Glass Company.
After a fire, the glass plant moved to Culloden, WV and after the death of my grandfather, it was run by his 3 sons- Anthony, Bernard, and William. Uncle Anthony was the business head, Uncle Bill was the mold maker and Uncle Bernie was the chief gaffer. After Bill retired and Bernie died, Anthony bought out the heirs and started the A.F. Bischoff Company, which, as you report, was eventually sold to Lancaster Colony, then to Sloan, and finally closed.
I think it is important to realize the A. F. Bischoff glass factory, like so many of the glass plants in WV were part of a continuing tradition. B.F. Bischoff Started in Pittsburg, Pa and had glass factories in Marion, In, as well as Steubenville, Ohio before coming to Huntington, and hence to Culloden. May people like you keep our memories alive that long before the west coast was civilized, we West Virginians were blowing glass.
Sincerely,
Abby Moran Robinson

AMERICAN VENDORS

• B L E N K O An American company based in Milton, West Virginia; founded in 1921 (after three attempts and failed companies) by William John Blenko. The company was named Eureka Art Glass Company specializing in colored stained glass. In the late twenties and thirties the company changed names and Blenko started making decorative tableware. In 1946 Winslow Anderson was hired as the first design director and elevated the level of artistic achievement. 1952 Wayne Husted came on board as the second design director and introduces oversized stoppered bottles and other fifties icons. 1963 Joel Myers begins as design director. These first three designers were the beginning of a Blenko tradition that is still alive today. Subsequent designers have been and are; John Nickerson, Don Shepherd, Hank Adams, Chris Gibbons & Matthew Carter. Blenko is still doing business out of Milton, West Virginia.Blenko colors include: Amethyst, Antique Green, Aqua, Azure, Charcoal, Chestnut, Cobalt, Crystal, Desert Green, Ebony, Emerald, Grass, Honey, Jonquil, Kiwi, Pine, Plum, Rose, Ruby, Sapphire, Sea Green, Sky Blue, Surf Green, Tangerine (amberina), Teal, Topaz, Turquoise, Violet and Wheat.
• B I S C H O F FA.F. Bischoff Glass Company was founded by A.F. Bischoff in Huntington, West Virginia in 1922. The company moved to Hurricane, West Virginia and again to Culloden, West Virginia where it produced glass from 1942-1963. Bischoff made items very similar to those of other West Virginia companies. In addition to using some unusual, even bizarre, original; shapes, Bischoff copied designs from leaders like Blenko. Lancaster Colony, of Columbus, Ohio, purchased Bischoff in 1963, keeping the Bischoff name and molds. (Blenko’s fifties designer Wayne Husted, joined Lancaster in that year to head its design and production department.) The following year, 1964, Sloan Glass bought Bischoff, and Sloan closed in 1996.Bischoff colors include: Amberina, Amethyst, Charcoal, Copperette, Crystal, Emerald Green, Gold, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Peacock Blue, Poinsettia Red and Wisteria.

• E R I C K S O N G L A S S W O R K S Carl Erickson was a Swedish-born glass artist who brought the spirit of Swedish design to his Bremen, Ohio Factory. This defunct glass factory was purchased by brothers Carl and Steven Erickson in 1943. Carl designed most of the mold-blown glass, distinguished by heavy casing, controlled bubbles, and frequently, a heavy ball of glass for a base. They were identified by a yellow and blue paper label, and free-formed pieces had an engraved signature. The company closed in 1961
.• H A M O N Robert Hamon founded Hamon Glass in 1932 in Scott Depot, West Virginia, where it continues operating today. The company produced crackle glass from the late 1940’s until the mid-1970’s. In 1966 Hamon merged with Kanawha Glass Co. and, although the production was separate, Hamon items were included in the Kanawha catalog. Features which help identify a piece of Hamon include the handles will have a ridge across the end on most Hamon crackle pieces. Like Pilgrim’s style of crackle, the Hamon finish is extremely fine. This easily identifiable finish is also called “onion crackle” or “Swedish crackle.”Hamon colors include: Amber, Amberina, Amethyst, Blue, Crystal, Green, Ruby and Smoke.

• K A N A W H A When Dunbar Glass Company in Dunbar, West Virginia closed in 1953, production head D. P. Merritt and others joined to form the Kanawha Glass Specialties Company. Named after nearby river, The Kanawha, the company opened in 1955 and made blown crystal in addition to cutting and decorating purchased glass. In 1957 they changed the name to Kanawha Glass Company. By 1960 they began production of the colorful decorative wares that have become so familiar, especially crackle glass. Soon Kanawha was making 350 production items in seven colors. In 1969 Kanawha purchased Hamon Handcrafted Glass in Scott, Depot, West Virginia. The Hamon Crackle Glass that was added to the Kanawha line retained its identity, which explains why Kanawha catalogs often show two different types of glass-molded and hand-blown. Production continued until 1987, when Kanawha was sold to Raymond Dereume Glass Inc. in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This lasted for only two years, closing in 1989.Kanawha colors include: Amber, Amberina, Amethyst, Authentic Cranberry, Blue, Cranberry, Crystal, Green, Ruby and Yellow.

• M O R G A N T O W N The Morgantown Glass Factory (1899-1971) operated under several names-The Morgantown Glass Works, Economy Glass Company, and Morgantown Glassware Guild. Under the leadership of Joseph Haden and his sons J. Richard and Samuel, Morgantown produced high quality handmade traditional “Depression Era” glass and several Art Deco stemware designs until the 1950’s and 1960’s brought a new emphasis to the company. J. Richard Haden, the last vice president, introduced the D├ęcor Line of glassware in modern, often angular, shapes and vibrant colors. But their most typical fifties items were the freeform vases and bowls designed by Steve Britvec in the 1960’s.

P I L G R I M The Pilgrim Glass Corporation in Ceredo, West Virginia was founded by in 1949 by Alfred E. Knobler. He purchased Tri-State Glass of Huntington, West Virginia and then land in Ceredo (near Huntington) and built the Pilgrim facility, which opened in 1956. From the beginning they specialized in free blown crackle glass in vivid colors. Like other producers of crackle glass, Pilgrim made large quantities of it in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Generally they used colored handles in the 1950’s and crystal handles in the 1960’s. Some items can be identifies as Pilgrim by a mark impressed in the center of the base-either a group of little dots (“strawberry marks”) or a group of wavy lines (“water waves”) Like other companies in the area Pilgrim made a range of decorative objects in both crackled and plain colored glass. Two brothers Alessandro and Roberto Moretti introduced Murano style to Pilgrim in the 1950’s. Their introduction of glass animals, figurines, and other Venetian style items gave Pilgrim another desirable line. Pilgrim colors include: Amber, Amethyst, Blue, Crystal, Emerald Green, Lemon-Lime, Olive Green, Ruby, Sea Green, Sky Blue, Smoke Crystal, Tangerine and Topaz

.R A I N B O W The Rainbow Art Company was founded in 1942 in Huntington, West Virginia by Joseph Goudeket and Henry Manus. Originally a glass decorating business, the Rainbow Art Co. turned to producing its own hand blown glass in 1954, and it became the Rainbow Art Glass Company. Like other neighboring companies, they produced blown glass in vivid colors, often with a crackle finish. Rainbow made crackle through the 1970’s, which was later than most competitors. In 1973 they were purchased by Viking and continued to make crackle glass until 1970. The Rainbow factory burned down in 1983, and all operations ceased.Rainbow colors include: Amber, Amberina, Amethyst, Blue, Crystal, Golden Amber, New Turquoise, Olive Green, Orange/Amberina, Pink, Ruby, Smoke, and Tangerine

.V I K I N G Based in New Martinsville, West Virginia, the Viking Glass Company emerged from the New Martinsville Glass Company in 1941. They were known for manufacturing hand-made, quality glassware of the Swedish type. Viking was predominately a pressed glass factory. In the fifties Viking introduced colored glass to compliment their crystal lines. Over time a number of people created designs for Viking; Dick Schnacke, Gail Docktor, and Bill Prindle. In the late 1950’s Billy Reinbeau arrived at Viking and developed the “spun mold.” This was an important development at the time and remained so until the factory’s closing in the 1990’s. A spun mold used centrifugal force to raise hot glass up into the sides of a moving mold. The results were abstract and very graceful fluid forms. Color complements form and design. It was critical to Viking’s successes. Kenneth Dalzell, former head of the Fostoria Glass Co., re-opened Viking as Dalzell-Viking in 1987, but it finally closed in 1998.Viking colors include: Amber, Amberina, Avocado Green, Amethyst, Bluenique, Crystal, Honey, Lime Green, Persimmon, Thistle, and Ruby.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

OVERLOAD OF INFORMATION HILLY!
SOL

Anonymous said...

Hilary
I have bits and pieces from each of
these factorys
my wedding crystal is morgantown glass i have 64 pieces. also have some seneca glass from morgantown do you know seneca?
From the others I have 10 or 12 items each and now since knownn you I have a lot more Blenko. Many ladies at my senior center collector or have Blenko. We all enjoy the beautiful colors of Blenko.
Margie Hale

bridgett said...

Four hours and 10 bookmarks later I finished researching each of these companies. West Virginia was very fortunate to have had so much glass work? Why did the glassmakers settle in WV? What was the attraction?
I do not mean this question in a disrepectful way Car Girl.

Phani said...

Bridgett,

For your 'why WV?', ofcourse this is just guesswork, but didnt WV had a lot of mines? which may result in a lot of raw material (mineral form) is extracted and be used in local glass shops? Coloring in glass requires different types of silica etc.

Anonymous said...

Too much info
Sol