The Museum of American Glass features work from 500 businesses
As lingering winter snows continue, chills chase us toward indoor destinations. We yearn for moments of brightness and warmth not unlike those in our grandmother’s kitchen where as children we were entertained.
Less than an hour away, The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia promises to do just that. Equipped with a large parking area on Weston’s Main Street, one can visit without admission fee and remind themselves of the joys they experienced when glass filled home cupboards.
It is no wonder that glass enthusiasts have developed this museum and supplied it with more than l5,000 pieces. Early West Virginia settlers realized the state’s minerals included pockets of 99 percent silica sand and 98 percent pure limestone, both essential for glass production.
According to “West Virginia Yesterday and Today” by Conley and Stutler (l952), Charleston was the home of not only the largest bottle factory in the world, but also the largest plate-glass window manufacturer. New York City’s United Nations building is encased on two sides by windows from our Capital City.
More than 500 glassmaking businesses began their production in the Mountain State since the l800’s and supplied glassware for settlers who found it impossible to transport glass from their native lands through the rough Appalachian terrain.
A very good feature of the museum’s displayed glass items is that all are grouped onto shelves housing glass from one particular factory. Seneca Glass from Morgantown, Akro Agate and Hazel Atlas from Clarksburg and West Virginia Glass from Weston are but a small sampling of factory exhibits.
Glass owners from all parts of the United States have donated to the museum collection. A lady from Washington State brought her 910-piece sherbert collection to be preserved there according to Sharon Pickens, who serves as a volunteer guide.
Children will be delighted with the marbles that can be seen, as this is also the home of the National Marble Museum. Nesting hens fill display cases, as do paperweights, goblets, and candy dishes.
A large collection of dining dishes can also be seen. If you want to recall a special holiday meal where most of your relatives attended and settled at the dining table for lively talk and well-prepared foods, wander through this place and visions of yesteryear will fill your mind.
For those seeking names for dishes they have inherited, the museum is a marvelous source of help. Hundreds of donated books assist with identification information in a resource library open to the public. Additionally, many paperbacks are for sale describing assorted glass topics.
To celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Glassmaking in America, many activities are on the calendar for this year. The American Paperweight Circle will meet March 23 at l0 a.m., a Spring Auction of West Virginia-made Glassware will take place on May 31 and a Bottle Show is scheduled for June l5 beginning at l0 a.m. Other Autumn Shows are planned and a complete list can be obtained at the Glass Museum.
The five existing glass factories in West Virginia are each preparing a piece for a collector’s box to be sold in commemoration of this 200th-year remembrance. As few as a hundred boxes will be sold to guarantee their worth.
Handblown glassware is certainly an art and an important part of our heritage. Its production teaches us to appreciate our ancestors’ skills and the hard work they performed to develop our early economic successes. Be uplifted by stepping back into time and visualizing what life was like before paper and plastic.
Nobel Laureate in Literature Romain Rolland wrote of the artist, “It is the artist’s job to create sunshine when there is none.” Your Museum of American Glass in West Virginia visit will assure you a brighter day.