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W.Va.'s glass-making history to be explored at Culture Center lecture

Post Time:Dec 31,2011Classify:Industry NewsView:385

Glass has been a part of West Virginia's economy since before the state was a state. 


Since 1815, hundreds of glass companies have operated within the Mountain State, employing thousands of people and providing both industry and consumers with products they needed.


In honor of the state's rich glass tradition, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and West Virginia State Museum will host a Jan. 12 lecture on the industry and the companies that operated here.


The lecture will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center on the state Capitol Complex. James R. Mitchell, the state museum's chief curator, will be the featured speaker.


According to a news release from the Division of Culture and History, approximately 450 glass factories, including well-known names such as Blenko, Fenton and Pilgrim Glass, operated in western Virginia and West Virginia since 1815. Another 50 craftsmen who made glass in larger companies and marked their ware with their names or initials have been identified.


So why did the state become such a mecca for glass producers? The answer is easy — the state had an abundant supply of silica, limestone and natural gas.


However, many of the state's manufacturers have disappeared over time. The first hit was the Great Depression, which resulted in many companies shutting their doors. Mechanization also changed the way glass was made and reduced the number of employees needed to create everything from tableware to containers. Many more closed due to increased competition from both foreign and domestic manufacturers as well as increased cost for the essential supplies needed to make glass.


Currently the state is home to approximately two dozen glass manufacturers, according to Industries of the Future—West Virginia. Those companies make everything from marbles to art glass to fine tableware to glass needed in manufacturing and heavy industry.


The State Museum's collection of glass objects, which began with a number of donated items, now includes a number of pieces from a wide range of factories and craftsmen. When the museum's glass exhibition opened in 1996, 92 factories and craftsmen were represented in the collection. Today, the number is 175 and growing. As part of his "West Virginia Glass in the State Museum" presentation, Mitchell will provide a video tour of the museum's glass collection and have some samples on hand as well.


Advance registration for the workshop is not required, but is encouraged. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, archives library manager, at


The Archives and History Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. The library is closed on Sunday.

Source: www.statejournal.comAuthor: shangyi

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